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CHAOS MANOR MAIL

A SELECTION

June 14 - 20, 1999

 

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Fair warning: some of those previous weeks can take a minute plus to download. After Mail 10, though, they're tamed down a bit.

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature.

PLEASE DO NOT USE DEEP INDENTATION INCLUDING LAYERS OF BLOCK QUOTES IN MAIL. TABS in mail will also do deep indentations. Use with care or not at all.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

If you want to send mail that will be published, you don't have to use the formatting instructions you will find when you click here but it will make my life simpler, and your chances of being published better..

This week:
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Monday June 14, 1999 FLAG DAY USA

 

An instructive anecdote about Cable Modem

 

This little story might save some of your readers some time. It cost me a couple of days.

Between myself and my roommates, we have six computers. TCI@Home limits you to three IP addresses. At the moment we're sharing those addresses. One of my machines is a 486 that I put Linux on to learn with. I decided to extend the learning experience to network administration by devoting that machine as a firewall/proxy.

I won't spell out the entire sequence of events, but at one point I changed the IP address on one of my machines to 192.168.0.2 in preparation to testing the firewall. Meanwhile, my cable modem was still plugged into the uplink port, and thus visible to everyone on the hub. At one point around this time, I reset the cable modem while trying to track down an unrelated problem.

After I thought I had the unrelated problem was fixed, I fired up my machines and continued working. Then one of my roommates told me that he still couldn't see the Internet. We dragged his machine into this room, tried different network cables, and even plugged it directly into the cable modem. We finally narrowed it down to a specific IP address. Any machine on that address couldn't see out. Through IPX, that machine could see the others in Network Neighborhood, so the hardware was working..

After talking to a couple of people at TCI@Home (long hold times, but generally knowledgeable people once you get through,) one mentioned something in passing about how the cable modem was configured for three addresses. That appears to be the key. Apparently, the cable modem (a Motorola CyberSurfer) knows how many IPs it is supposed to let through. But it doesn't know ahead of time which IPs. Once you reset it or cycle the power it'll watch for the first three IP addresses and save those off. Any new addresses are ignored. In my case, I happened to turn on my P166 with it's 192.* address before either of my roommates powered up and that ate up one of the cable modem's IP slots.

Drake Christensen

Thanks!

====

 

 

Dr. Pournelle,

Linux/NT/Solaris/Novel "shoot out".

You may have already gotten word about this. (You tend to be better "plugged in" than I.) If so, I apologize for the repetition.

Linux didn’t do very well in a PC Week "shoot out" of various Network Operating Systems. NT4 seems to be their winner.

I remember the last big "shoot out" was generally considered to be a Microsoft scam (optimized NT vs. vanilla Linux). I’m not sure about the methodology here—at least the explanation page seemed to take seriously the inherent difficulties of comparing one NOS with another.

"Scorecard":

http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/jumps/0,4270,2254356,00.html

 

Explanation:

http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/jumps/0,4270,401961,00.html

 

-Blair

Interesting. I'll have to examine those. Thanks for the pointer.

 

 

 


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Tuesday, June 15, 1999

A year ago you went on a trip to Israel. I know this, because you shortly thereafter posted on your web page a note that you’d be posting some photos from the trip.

Has this project been forgotten?

--

Steve Klein [klein@dcds.edu]

Not forgotten, but not done either. It's time and past time. As if I didn't have a lot to do... I think I am slowing down. Alas.

 

 

Hi, Jerry,

Well, here’s a question that I can’t answer being new to Outlook:

Is there a way to print an address list (mailing list) OTHER than to send a dummy message to everyone on it, CC yourself and then print the message with the address list in the header? It seems a bit insane to be unable to do this but I cannot find a way. Perhaps in all of your battles with Outlook you have found the way....

I do know about the ability to use an Outlook contact list as the source for a mailmerge - what a pain in the neck that would be - you would get as many pages as you have addresses.

Regards,

Mike

Detjen, Mike [mike.detjen@intel.com]

You know, I never tried to do that so I am not sure. I'd probably export the list to a text file and use WORD. If you don't know about wabmig as a way to make mailings lists, you should; it's back last summer here. One reason I am trying to get FP Extensions with search to work…

 

 

For some time you highly recommended some contact cleaner (magic stuff), and I think a couple of the engineers at the place I used to work swore by the same stuff. But I’m retired now, and out of touch (actually, the old work place disappeared, thanks to the Base Closure Committee’s work), and I can find no mention of it in your Recommendations page. Please, what was the stuff and where do you get it? My machine is beginning to make weird, seemingly random errors, and I suspect that going through, cleaning and re-seating everything up might make a big difference. Thanks!

Bob Ball

Stabilant 22. Here is a file I include in mail inquiries. I am in a tearing hurry. It sure makes my life easier if you don't put hard coded carriage returns in the mail you send me. I took them out but it costs time I don't have. Which is why the reply is badly formatted.

I still use Stabilant 22. It works for computers and sound systems.

 

Stabilant 22

D. W. Electrochemicals

97 Newkirk Road North Unit 3

Richmond Hills Ontario Canada

L4C 3G4

Conf: tojerry/queries #4995

From: ckuhlman@BIX.com

Posted: Monday, June 17, 1996 12:25:35 PM

Subj: comment on #4992 from ckuhlman

____________________________________________________________

found it after about a dozen calls....

the US distributer for DW electrochemicals including the Staiblant products:

Personal Computer Products, Pembroke, Mass (617)-829-2043.

The small eyedropper bottle of Staiblant 22a is no longer available. The

smallest size is 50ml for US$76.-

(it's worth every penny if you've ever had to chase down a series of

intermittant electrical or chip socket problems in a PC)

From: Richard Gray <rikgray@ix.netcom.com>

Date: Fri, 24 Jan 1997 18:46:25 -0800

Subj: Re: Contact cleaner

____________________________________________________________

Thanks for the lead to find Stabilant.

The manufacturer's address is

DW Electrochemicals Ltd.

97 Newkirk Road North, Richmond Hill, Ontario L4D 3G4 Canada

905-508-7500

 

Richard Gray

========

 

My wife stopped at a large chain grocery store in our neighborhood over the weekend. Her small purchase was $3.48, and she handed the 20-ish clerk the exact amount. However, at that same moment, another clerk was shouting a product code to yet another checker, and this fellow entered that product code number as the amount my wife had given him: $40.23.

Unable to cope with the math involved, the clerk insisted that my wife must pay him the $40.23, so he could give her $36.75 in change. Even with the intervention of a manager, the kid did not really understand that the purchase had been exactly and properly paid and the amount of cash in the drawer would be the same, without transferring the large amounts.

I shudder to think what would have happened if my wife did not have correct change and had given him a $5 bill.

--Chuck Waggoner [waggoner@.gis.net]

Wonderful. And the UN reckons the US literacy rate just about dead level with Iraq. Despite all the money we spend. I went to a 2 grades per room school in my youth, my cohorts were farmer kids, and we ALL every one of us learned to read, write, penmanship, and ciphering which is to say arithmetic. If anyone including the village idiot had been unable to learn basic skills the teacher would have been fired and her place taken by another farmer's wife, or a retired major, or anyone who would actually do the job. But that's another story for another time.

=====

 

 

Ha! This reminded me of a story I read on Usenet a short while ago. Unfortunately it was posted unattributed and I have no idea who the author is.

 

 

Cat Bathing As A Martial Art

Some people say cats never have to be bathed. They say cats lick themselves clean. They say cats have a special enzyme of some sort in their saliva that works like new, improved Wisk - dislodging the dirt where it hides and whisking it away.

I’ve spent most of my life believing this folklore. Like most blind believers, I’ve been able to discount all the facts to the contrary, the kitty odours that lurk in the corners of the garage and dirt smudges that cling to the throw rug by the fireplace.

The time comes, however, when a man must face reality: when he must look squarely in the face of massive public sentiment to the contrary and announce: "This cat smells like a port-a-potty on a hot day in Juarez."

When that day arrives at your house, as it has in mine, I have some advice you might consider as you place your feline friend under your arm and head for the bathtub:

  • Know that although the cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don’t try to bathe him in an open area where he can force you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom. If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift positions.)
  • Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all the skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect yourself. I recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket.
  • Prepare everything in advance. There is no time to go out for a towel when you have a cat digging a hole in your flak jacket. Draw the water. Make sure the bottle of kitty shampoo is inside the glass enclosure. Make sure the towel can be reached, even if you are lying on your back in the water.
  • Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule. If he does notice your garb, calmly explain that you are taking part in a product testing experiment for J.C. Penney.)
  • Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and squirt him with shampoo. You have begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life.

Cats have no handles. Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more than two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy. He’ll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing himself off. (The national record for cats is three latherings, so don’t expect too much.)

  • Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at this point and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the drying is simple compared to what you have just been through. That’s because by now the cat is semipermanently affixed to your right leg. You simply pop the drain plug with your foot, reach for your towel and wait. (Occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the cat.

In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psychoceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine.

You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn’t usually the case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and injure you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath.

But at least now he smells a lot better.

Stephen Schulze [smschulze@erols.com]

Actually, we used to wash our cat and while she probably didn't actually like it, she put up with it. We used the double sink. I filled each side with warm water, tepid actually, putting flea soap in one side and leaving the other with plain water.

I then put on a leather motorcycle jacket, siezed the cat, and before she knew what was happening lowered her into the soapy water, being careful not to let her head go under, and not to get soap in her eyes. The look on the cat's face was rewarding, actually: total shock. "You did this to ME? But I am a CAT!"  But once in the sink it was hard for her to get at me, and after a while she realized that she was getting a lot of attention, it was actually warm, and nothing all that awful was happening.

Come rinsing time I put her into the other half that was already filled. I figured running water was NOT a good idea. Got her all rinsed off and rolled her in a towel for drying. A thick towel, so that the claws couldn't get through. Dried her off and let her go. Streak. But after a while she came back, and since this happened once a week at least after that -- my wife is allergic to cats and this was the only way to keep both wife and cat -- Samantha got more or less used to it, and while I won't say she liked it, she didn't object. I didn't even have to wear the leather jacket.

The dog thought it was all very amusing to watch, and they'd get together and discuss it afterwards. (Our cat was grown when we got this dog, and she raised that puppy right; in fact if a strange cat invaded the yard, she'd use the doggy door to come in, get the dog, lead him out to the back, and have him chase the other cat.)

I miss that cat, but my wife's allergies are enough that I can't have another. Oh Well.

===

Jerry,

In reference to your recent Debates Home Page and the future of SMP, where cheap, Celeron-based SMP was mentioned: It’s already here.

Abit has recently introduced a low-cost dual Socket 370 motherboard; see:

http://www.abit.com.tw/english/press/1999/epress30.htm

 

Meanwhile, QDI has worked out a method of putting two Socket 370s on a

single daughter card, which fits into one Slot 1 socket. The URL is

http://www.qdi.ca/release/release990604.htm

 

From the information provided, it’s almost impossible to tell whether it requires their own special motherboard (which I suspect), or if it’s designed to work with other motherboards (but from the photo, the APIC appears to be on the MB, not the daughter card...).

This discussion was current about three or four days ago, on Slashdot:

http://www.slashdot.org/

 

(a search on "dual socket 370" should bring the discussions up).

These aren’t the first, but they’re both very inexpensive; sub-$1000 machines are mentioned. Altogether, it seems to be an idea whose time has come. The only downside is that Intel might disable the SMP support on the Celeron if it interfers with their higher-level processor sales (the Slashdot discussion covers this in detail; I gather that the Celeron Slot 370 processor doesn’t officially support SMP, that it’s still present as a side effect of the architecture, but is potentially disable-able).

Regards,

Troy Loney [tloney@eticomm.net]

Interesting. Thanks! So get your Celerons now…

 

The Proper way to bathe a cat.

1. Pick up cat by hair on back.

2. Dunk cat in warm water.

3. Place cat on screen window, where cat will remain due to having sunk his claws into the screen.

4. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

5. Lean window screen, (with cat attached) against wall outside in the sun to dry.

6. Cat will come loose of window screen when it feels like it.

(Caution, this only works once per cat)

claflin@trib.com

If that often...

 

 

 


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Wednesday June 16, 1999

 

This is long and well worth reading if you're at all interested in space.

Space Access Update #84 6/14/99

Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society

 

 

Editorial: Right Intentions, Wrong Direction -

NASA's Destructive Approach To Cheap Access

Let us be clear from the start: NASA has screwed up the cheap access initiatives entrusted to it to date, from the mismanagement of DC-XA into a crash (we still haven't seen full public release of the predictable blame-the-contractor report on that mess) to the muddled morphing of X-33 into a half-assed Shuttle II. As far as we are concerned, the current push to do "X-Ops" reusable rocket low-cost operability demos in Future-X is NASA's last chance - if they mess this up too, come 2001 we'll be pushing hard for removal of RLV technology development responsibility from NASA entirely.

We reluctantly came to this conclusion last fall, and started working quietly behind the scenes to advance Future-X X-Ops work. Why are we going public now? Because over the last two months the evidence has become overwhelming that NASA is reverting to malign old habits - they are once again pushing their internal agendas with reckless disregard for the interests of US industry and of the country as a whole, to the point of actively attacking the credibility and investment-worthiness of the reusable-launch startups. They have done so repeatedly, and (under the most charitable interpretation) factually incorrectly.

This must stop, NOW. If NACA in 1930 had been allowed to tell potential investors that Douglas and Boeing couldn't possibly build robust all-metal monoplane airliners without ten additional years of massive NACA research funding, we'd all still be taking trains. Assuming, of course that we survived WW II at all.

If NASA can neither usefully support entrepreneurial low-cost launch ventures, nor at minimum shut up and stay out of their way, then it's time to start looking carefully at the parts of NASA involved, constraining the ones still needed, and defunding the rest.

Why?

NASA is doing this to advance two major agendas that we see. One is to maintain the JSC/KSC manned-space Station/Shuttle bloatocracy into the indefinite future, by preempting all possible alternatives to some sort of massive full-employment Shuttle Upgrade or Shuttle Followon project.

The other is to fund a wish-list of blue sky launch technology projects (including hypersonic airbreathing launch vehicles - NASP II, anyone?) from most of the other NASA centers under the name "Spaceliner 100", by attacking current (rocket) technologies as simply not good enough.

That's our merely best estimate of their motives, mind. It's always possible NASA is attacking the commercial RLV outfits out of sheer random institutional bloodymindedness. But attacking they are - and in general, the main content of their attacks is, uh, incorrect.

In evidence, point #1

- The April 8th speech by Administrator Goldin to the US Space Foundation, in the context of supporting yet another expensive push for hypersonic "RBCC" (Rocket-Based Combined Cycle) airbreathers. (We suspect Dan Goldin has been getting very bad advice lately.) "At NASA, the technology barrier is the rocket." He goes on to state, more or less correctly, that Shuttle launch costs are about $10,000 per pound, and then says "Expendable vehicles are not significantly cheaper" (with the unspoken corollary that reusable rockets can't possibly be much better.)

It depends on your definition of "significantly", we guess - aside from the Titan 4, which involves almost as much bureaucracy as Shuttle, current medium-to-heavy commercial expendables cost from about half (Delta 2, Atlas 2) to about one fifth (ILS Proton) of $10K per pound to LEO. NASA's recent line that even reusable rockets can't make more than a factor of ten reduction over Shuttle launch costs looks pretty foolish when decades-old expendable designs already undercut Shuttle by factors of two to five. And at least two credible current expendable ventures are shooting for that factor of ten reduction.

It is indeed possible that rockets, *as conceived by NASA*, can never get much cheaper than Shuttle. There's considerable evidence to support this in NASA's recent RLV efforts. But, if we can keep NASA from strangling the innovative RLV startups in their cradles, there is no fundamental law of physics preventing clever engineers without NASA's forty years of bureaucratic baggage from undercutting Shuttle costs by factors of ten right from the start, getting down to factors of as much as a hundred once experience refines systems and flight rates rise.

In evidence, point #2:

- May 8th "New Scientist" magazine - from an article on Richard (Virgin Atlantic Airways) Branson's investment negotiations with Rotary Rocket Company, a quote from a top-level NASA official dismissing Roton and other such reusable rocket concepts as "...system gimmicks to overcome the unbelieveable lack of technology they [the startup reusable rocket companies] have."

Hmm. NASA, by implication, has far better technology. Oh, really. Who has full-scale graphite-epoxy LOX tanks? Who has access to the best (Russian) rocket engines in the world? Who can build composite fuel tanks, liquid hydrogen or plain old kerosene, that *don't* leak like sieves? Who knows how to tow-launch high wing-loading vehicles? Who has the biggest concentration of expertise in the world on vertical-landing rockets? On aerial cryo-propellant transfer? On rapid prototyping of high-strength ultra-light composites? On high-performance non-toxic storable propellants?

If you answered "NASA" to any of the above, you are *wrong*, chucko. The answer in every case is "private industry", and in most cases the startups. NASA still has pockets of excellence, but they float in a sea of mediocrity. NASA slamming the startups' technology in order to get more funding for their own endless noodling is, frankly nauseating.

That said, precisely what is wrong with "system gimmicks" if they *work*? Are they somehow impure, unclean, unworthy of the true scientific guardians of higher-tech-at-all-costs? A case in point: Modern military aircraft require a base with a ten thousand-foot concrete runway to operate effectively, right? No possible way to cut that to one-tenth the size and, better yet make it mobile, short of some ultra-advanced technology like anti-gravity? Right?

Uh... What is an aircraft carrier but a collection of "system gimmicks" - massive victorian-tech steam catapults for takeoffs, arrestor wires and tailhooks and mirror-and-light path indicators for landings, angled flight decks to allow both at once, plus the accumulated operational expertise to make it all work, a mobile airbase a tenth the size of fixed landbased versions. If the "system gimmick" RLV startups can make a major dent in launch costs, and it looks as if, given a chance, they can, we do not give two figs how "gimmicky" their technology is. To quote some anonymous Cold War weapons designer, "'better' is the enemy of 'good enough'".

In evidence, point #3:

This week's "Space News" - "Reusable Launch Vehicles A Decade Away, NASA Says." We mentioned in Update #83 that the results of an industry study on what to do about Shuttle (STAS, the Space Transportation Architecture Study) were out, and that while many of the proposals were (predictably) for massively expensive one-size- fits-all Shuttle replacements, at least some of the conclusions were sensible, IE gradually replace Shuttle with an EELV/CTV system that would meet NASA manned-space's basic needs with a relatively small investment while having (a major point to us) negligible impact on the commercial markets.

Now it seems the NASA/Aerospace Corp response to the various STAS reports has been leaked to Space News, and the gist of it is: NASA slams the various RLV proposals as unrealistic regarding schedule and budget (not surprising if they're geared to actually getting a contract to replace Shuttle; spending too much money over too long a time in all the right districts is an unspoken requirement for any would-be Shuttle replacement - still, it seems unfair to slam the proposals for soft-pedalling these unspoken specs) and proposes that NASA essentially micromanage a drawn-out process to eventually replace Shuttle sometime in the 2010's.

Previous intentions to encourage commercial RLV developments have evaporated; NASA Shuttle II will be the only game in town, at least by this tell-the-customer-what-they-want-to-hear custom blueprint.

Mind, we haven't seen this study ourselves yet; we're going on Space News's reading - but this agrees with the other recent evidence. By essentially dismissing the chances any of the current crop of RLV startups could succeed and thus position themselves to meet a significant part of NASA manned space's launch needs, NASA significantly reduces their chances of getting the investment they need to succeed, in a fine example of pernicious self-fulfilling prophecy. Meanwhile, by ignoring the meet-JSC's-needs-and-no-more EELV/CTV approach in favor of some flavor of massive-overcapacity Shuttle II, this study continues NASA's implicit threat of a subsidized grab of the core of the existing commercial launch demand, adversely affecting the investment climate for commercial space launch in general.

This is rapidly approaching the point where we'll be able to make a convincing case that this nation's future in space would be better served by a radically reduced NASA. We'd rather not find that road the only one left to us.

Fixing the problem

For starters, we'd like to see whoever's peddling this line at NASA HQ fired, or at least transferred to counting seabirds at some remote tracking station. Not that the person in question is more than a representative of widespread NASA tendencies, but it will at least serve as an example to the rest.

We'd like to hear an unambiguous repudiation of the totally unacceptable anti-RLV startup investment advice voiced in the May 8th New Scientist article.

We'd like to see a firm NASA commitment to "X-Ops", supporting interested startups in proving out and refining their low-cost launch approaches via low-cost subscale flight demonstrations on NASA's dime, in order to get them to the point where they are unmistakeably ready to raise commercial funds to develop full-scale commercial vehicles on an acceptable commercial timescale.

Under those circumstances, we would find it appropriate to support a minimal-investment approach to guaranteeing Shuttle's NASA-unique missions, and to support a moderate level of investment in getting the various "Spaceliner 100" technologies closer to ready for prime time - we note that the proposed RBCC engine in particular has huge remaining unknowns in terms of weight, cost, and speed range, and much work needs to be done before any Trailblazer-class (~$500m) flight vehicle program is appropriate. In other words, "show us the engine!" - given X-33's develop-a-whole-new-engine problems, this should go without saying, but it apparently doesn't.

We can understand why there might be disillusion with reusable rockets at top levels in NASA, given the reluctance of the post- consolidation aerospace majors to compete with themselves by commiting significant resources, and given the NASA managerial-level cluelessness in efforts to date. But stomping the startups in an effort to fund NASP II is not the answer.

Give the startups a real chance now - tight funding. tight schedule, tight accounting, but minimal engineering elbow-joggling - and in three years, we'll know what's really possible.

Stick with business as usual, and sooner or later the country will realize what damage NASA is doing, and will act appropriately.

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety.

Space Access Society http://www.space-access.org space.access@space-access.org

"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" - Robert A. Heinlein

If I haven't made it abundantly clear in the past, I srongly support the Space Access Society and urge everyone to do so.

Henry adds:

Jerry, it looks as if a draft of Space Access Update #84 inadvertantly got out here.

[My apologies: I took the permissions notice at the bottom for real. JEP]

We stand by the content, mind - NASA is behaving unacceptably lately, saying and doing things potentially severely damaging to the nascent commercial reusable launch industry. We'll be saying the same things in our final release version in a day or two - but likely a tad more diplomatically. (And with a bit more explanation for some of the arcane alphabet soup, and a few stylistic cleanups.)

Your support is, as always, hugely appreciated. Thanks!

Henry Vanderbilt, Executive Director

Space Access Society www.space-access.org  

 

====

The Front Page WOES

Hi Jerry,

Summary

  • I have seen the same problems with FP and I have an unpractical suggestion on how to get around them.
  • I have tried Dreamweaver and I am now a believer
  • This email should appear in Outlook Rich Text format using Tahoma, 8 point, bold. Please let me know if it did not. [It comes up in Arial 10, but that may be due to Outlook and Word? JEP]

 

Front Page

I used to do a lot of web site development work. My two tools of choice were my favorite text editor and FrontPage. FrontPage was the first really useful web page editing utility.

Like you, I was putting the pages onto a Unix machine where I discovered, much to my chagrin, the same identical problems that you were having. The worst of FrontPage abuses were:

  • change the case of the names, seemingly at whim and at random
  • force absolute paths into the HREF statements where I had specifically put in relative paths

 

I had to write Perl scripts (sorry, I no longer have them) that would force all file names to lower case, and flag places where FP thoughtfully put in absolute paths. The absolute paths even caused problems on NT hosted web sites.

Some of the other annoyances were:

  • FP would rewrite any custom html unless special precautions were taken.
  • Linking graphics required going through hoops to get to the images stored on disk
  • Linking the same graphic in to different pages would cause FP to save a copy of the image into the subdirectory where the page was stored resulting in the same graphics being stored all over your web site increasing the site size, load times, and resulting in a management mess if you wanted to change that "1" graphic
  • FP would become incredibly slow (I see that the problem has been solved on your web site by deleting the cache)

 

In order to get the best results from FP, you should

  • Be using the Front Page webs to organize your web pages during development
  • Be using N and IIS to host your web pages

 

This avoids problems with linking, file names, absolute paths and problems with the front page extensions. Unfortunately, this comes at a "high price" so it was easier for me to use my Perl scripts and suffer the extra management headache. I never did get the front page extensions to work properly under (any kind of) Unix. I obviously was not determined enough.

Dreamweaver

I just read an email from MSDN that mentioned Dreamweaver as a tool for developing web pages. At 10 MB for a 30 day trial, it was worth the effort to download and install.

I have only used it for the last 5 minutes and already I feel that it is a better tool than FP because it suffers none of the above problems that I had with FP. It is intelligent in handling graphics, links and appears to support uploading the pages via FTP to the web site (not tested yet).

Given more time to evaluate all of the features of the software, I will be able to make a more informed decision on whether to adopt Dreamweaver or not. If you are interested, I will let you know what I find.

FYI, I never was never keen on using the word HTML converter, Netscape Communicator or Pagemill for developing web pages. I just found them too clunky to use and get exactly what I want. Maybe Pagemill is better now. I have heard of other tools that people swear by, but I just want a simple tool that works as easily as FP without the hassle.

  • Paul

pdwalker@quagmyre.com

 

PS: I thank (insert whatever power of your choice here) that I was born with a natural aptitude and talent for working with computers, and I feel sorry for those people who have to suffer through this "easy to use, intuitive" software.

Thanks. I may have to convert to something else, and use a commercial indexing tool for search functions. Something has to be done. I put too much time in this. Thanks for the nicely formatted letter. Took no trouble at all to post...

===

Jerry -

It’s been a year or two since I played with it, but when I tried to set my Alpha up as a web server using NT 4 it would not run FP extensions. Buried in the fine print was something to the effect that IIS would run on an Alpha, but not FP extensions. So even though Microsoft releases Intel and Alpha NT versions at about the same time, the Intel one is always more complete.

They may have caught up by now, but I would check with Microsoft on this.

Dan

Dan Kinsella [kinsella@eznet.net]

Thanks. You may have put your finger on Darnell's problem and saved us all a lot of work!

 

====

From Paul Schindler, BYTE.com Editor in Chief:

 

After a period of struggle more appropriate for a large mammal than a small newsletter, the Byte.com newsletter was born June 14. There was a lot of reader demand for weekly e-mail notification of the new content we post at Byte.com. That’s all there is to the newsletter now, and will always be the core of its content. We may add some news bulletins, column excerpts and other content as time goes on. The newsletter goes out Monday mornings, a few hours after new content is posted at the site. You can subscribe (or unsubscribe) at:

http://www.byte.com/newsletter

====

 

===

Now for something you may have seen before. Two warnings. There's mildly scatalogical language, and it's irreverent to its subject. You can SKIP PAST IT. I found it amusing.

STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE: THE ABRIDGED SCRIPT

 

By Rod Hilton

 

 

FADE IN:

 

INT. SPACESHIP

 

LIAM NEESON

It is vitally important we enter trade negotiations with the

federation.

 

EWAN MCGREGOR

I agree. This one planet and how it trades with other planets is

certainly an important enough topic to be the entire plot of a Star

Wars film.

 

INT. SPACESHIP - MAIN DECK

 

EVIL ALIEN

Werr. What wirr we do now? My evil, obviousry Asian race must prevair.`

I wirr not face de Jedi. Send de droid.

 

INT. SPACESHIP - BACK TO THE JEDI

 

A droid enters.

 

LIAM NEESON

I sense a disturbance in the force.

 

EWAN MCGREGOR

Well, shit.

 

Suddenly, numerous pieces of CGI enter and begin attacking the Jedi.

The Jedi use the high concentration of midichlorians in their bodies to

use the force to destroy the CGI. They run outside.

 

EXT. NABOO

 

They run until they smack into some more CGI.

 

JAR JAR

Who might you be?

 

LIAM NEESON

(staring in the general direction of Jar Jar, but not really staring at

him)

I am a Jedi. There are bad things coming. Take me to your homeland.

 

JAR JAR

I see. That is quite interesting. I will guide you to the land from

which I have come.

 

Suddenly, GEORGE LUCAS realizes the Jar Jar toys aren't selling well

enough.

 

JAR JAR (cont^Ed)

Oh! Meesa sorry! Meesa ment to saysa: Weesa can go back to Jamaica mon,

okeyday?

 

EWAN MCGREGOR

(staring at something right above Jar Jar)

Good. Do you have a hotel room for me and Liam? We have..uh..Jedi

business to attend to.

 

JAR JAR

Weesa can smokesa some ganja, mon.

 

AUDIENCE

Die. Die, Jar Jar. Nobody likes you.

 

INT. SPACESHIP - MAIN DECK

 

The queen appears over some kind of thing which appears to be better in

technology than the kinds of things in the original trilogy.

 

NATALIE PORTMAN

I am the queen. You've gone too far this time. I will tell the senate

and you will be in a lot of trouble.

 

EVIL ALIEN

I'm so sorry, Amidala.

 

NATALIE PORTMAN

No, no, I'm Padme now.

 

EVIL ALIEN

I thought when in the makeup, you were the queen.

 

NATALIE PORTMAN

No, I'm whoever is playing the queen at the time. The voice changes

don't help you figure this out?

 

EVIL ALIEN

Stop trying to confoose me! Droids, capture the queen.. or Padme.. er..

just capture everyone!

 

LIAM and EWAN and, JAR JAR too take NATALIE PORTMAN and other members

of her staff onto a ship and they escape. They go to Tatooine.

 

INT. TATOOINE - SOME SHOP WHERE JAKE LLOYD IS HELD SLAVE

 

JAKE LLOYD

Hi there! Golly I'm cute.

 

NATALIE PORTMAN

You certainly are, little boy.

 

JAKE LLOYD

I'm the only one disturbed by the fact that I'm gonna bone you in

episode two?

 

LIAM NEESON

Jake, I need you to have a pod race so I can get the parts I need and

free you.

 

JAKE'S MOM

No, I won't allow him to pod race. He'll get hurt.

(pause)

Ok, I will. Nevermind. Good luck.

 

They pod race. It looks really COOL.

 

GEORGE LUCAS

(attempting subtlety)

Oh! Look! There's a video game of this scene... uh.. buy it! Hey, I had

to sacrifice a part of my grand vision for these movies to include a

part that could be turned into a game, so buy it or I'll do it even

more in episode 2.

 

JAKE wins! He has to leave his mother, which will become very important

in the next movie. He also has to leave his protocol droid, THREEPIO.

 

AUDIENCE

He built C-3PO? Why wasn't this ever mentioned in the original trilogy?

 

GEORGE LUCAS

Because I just made it up. Speaking of stuff I'm just making up, how do

you like the midichlorian bullshit I pulled out of my ass?

 

They all get into their ship and go to Coruscant.

 

INT. CORUSCANT - JEDI COUNCIL

 

LIAM NEESON

I want to train this boy.

 

YODA

Nope. Sorry. Too old the boy is. Clouded his future seems. Vague my

worries are.

 

LIAM NEESON

Well, he is the chosen one. He will bring balance to the force. I'm

training him.

 

SAMUEL L. JACKSON

Yoda told you no, muthaf--ka. What the f--k is wrong with you,

bitchass? I'll f--kin' kill you! I'm gonna be a f--kin bad ass in the

next two f--kin movies, you know. My toy has a f--kin lightsaber.

 

LIAM NEESON

I'm going to go over your head and train him myself, then. So there.

 

He exits.

 

INT. GALACTIC SENATE MEETING

 

IAN MCDIARMID

Damn I'm evil.

 

Suddenly, we see E.T! This does not make the film HYPER-CUTESEY like

Return of the Jedi, but CLEVER.

 

EXT. NABOO

 

NATALIE PORTMAN

I am either the queen or Padme now. Regardless, your cheesy-looking

race of annoying, unrealistic characters need to ally with our badly

acting race of creatures so we can capture this one guy.

 

BOSS NASS

One guy? The climax of this film revolves entirely around us capturing

one, pretty insignificant guy? Doesn't that make this whole thing kinda

pointless?

 

NATALIE PORTMAN

No more pointless than the fact that this entire film revolves around

taxes on trade and the cutting off of one, pathetic little planet

half-filled with annoying creatures.

 

They go after the bad guy or whatever. Who cares?

 

Finally DARTH MAUL shows up for a prolonged fight sequence. Darth wears

black boots, a black cloak, a black shirt, has a red lightsaber, wears

red and black face paint, and has horns. He is EVIL.

 

Meanwhile, the Naboo people go after this one insignificant guy and we

really don't care.

 

Meanwhile, the Gungans go against a bunch of droids and we really don't

care except we want the Gungans to die.

 

Meanwhile, Anakin takes off into space to join the space-battle, which

is mostly over by the time he arrives. We care a little bit.

 

INT. SOME KIND OF THINGY WITH SOME RED FORCE FIELDS

 

MAUL, LIAM, and EWAN all have a huge lightsaber battle which has had a

lot of effort put into the choreography and is thousands of times

better than any other lightsaber battle in a Star Wars film.

 

AUDIENCE

Whoa! This is really cool!

 

Suddenly, we go back to one of the other three stupid battles going on

at the time. Eventually, we return to the good one.

 

DARTH MAUL

(menacing as hell)

Grrr.

 

Eventually, MAUL stabs LIAM, which is very surprising, especially to

those of us who bought the film score which has a song whose title

gives away the ending. He then kicks EWAN into a shaft. EWAN grabs onto

something on the side and holds on for dear life.

 

EWAN MCGREGOR

Well, you certainly are an experienced fighter and there is little

question you could kick pretty much anyone's ass.

 

DARTH MAUL (cont^Ed)

Muahahahaha.

 

Slowly, EWAN uses the force to grab LIAM'S lightsaber, jump up out of

the shaft, over MAUL, press the button on the saber, and slice MAUL in

half while MAUL stands there like an idiot and does nothing at all. He

dies.

 

EXT. SPACE

 

JAKE LLOYD

Whoaaaaa! I'm in space! Now this is pod racing! Yipee! Uh oh! Man, I'm

so cute.

 

JAKE goes into a hangar, where the main reactor for the ship is kept.

He accidentally blows it to HELL.

 

JAKE LLOYD (cont^Ed)

Uh oh! I better leave! Let's leave Artoo!

 

They exit quickly. The ship explodes, which stops all the droids and

just makes everything great, because it's always enjoyable when a

serious conflict is resolved with a slapstick accident.

 

EXT. THE STREETS OF NABOO

 

The Gungans are dancing and such, still alive. A huge party ensues.

 

AUDIENCE

Wow! Watching this party and all this celebration has convinced me that

the tiny, pathetic problem that has been taken care of is actually

really significant! Hooray!

 

Suddenly, the AUDIENCE realizes that behind all the mindless

celebration and kiddie cartoon bullshit, what actually happened was the

future-emperor has actually manipulated everything, come into great

power, and that one tiny problem has actually been resolved, but

thousands more have been created.

 

GEORGE LUCAS

Three years, suckers. I'd make them come out sooner, but I work very

hard on my films, as I am an independent filmmaker due to my disgust

with Hollywood's commercialism. Now go buy some Star Wars toys!

 

THE END

===

Jerry

I bought Stabilant 22 at my NAPA Autoparts store! It is sold under the Echlin line of chemicals for cars! Comes in a tube with the 15ml bottle, some cotton swabs and instructions inside. Very expensive, around $80 with tax. My NAPA dealer had to order it, it took 2days to get here from Fresno. It really worked. I had washed my Camry engine with soapy water at the coin car wash and did not rinse it, what a mistake that was, I started having more intermittant electrical problems than I could keep up with! Opened all connectors, cleaned with alcohol, applied Stabilant 22 let it dry, put connector back together and pressed on with the next. It worked, no more problems. On another subject: What do you think of the Russians idea to take the Pristina Airport? What a bold move, as an American Veteran I do not like it but those Russians sure do have guts.

Glenn J. Hansen

gjhansen@earthlink.net

Good news. Thanks!

==

THE FRONT PAGE HELL:

From Talin:

 

Jerry,

I’ve been reading about your Front Page woes for a while, although I haven’t had the time to really sit down and think about the problem for a while. I’ve used Front Page quite a bit, and while I’ve experienced a lesser version of the problems you’ve had, I’ve never had to deal with the volume of material that you normally publish. Even so, I have a few thoughts on some possible strategies for dealing with Front Page.

One thing I noticed is that you generally publish to your site in a way that is very different from what I do. In particular, I have no local/personal Front Page web on my workstation. Nor do I ever have to do an explicit "Publish" step. Instead, I use Front Page to edit the live content on the site. Basically, when I want to edit my web, I say "Open Front Page Web" from the menu, and then I select "Open Existing Front Page Web" in the dialog box. I click on the "More Webs..." button, which brings up another dialog. In that dialog is an editable combo-box; Into that I type the URL of my web site, and then click on the button that says "List Webs". Assuming that this web site is running the Front Page extensions, it will then show the various webs that can be edited. Generally there is only one entry shown, and unless you rename it it is called "<Root Web>". Select that, hit "OK", then hit "OK" on the first dialog, and you should be able to see the documents that are on the site in Front Page Explorer.

At this point I can then double-click on any html file, which causes Front Page to download that one file from the web site; I can then edit the page, and when I hit "save" it publishes that one page back to the web site.

The advantages of this method is that you don’t have to upload the entire site each time, but instead can edit individual files incrementally. However, there are a number of disadvantages as well. For one thing, previewing the file causes it to be automatically saved, which may not be what you want when you are editing live data. Also, this method makes it substantially more difficult to backup your site.

In general, I would only use this method of publishing for a corporate intranet or similar site that has a fairly small amount of traffic. The risk of someone coming along and viewing the site while it is in the middle of being updated it much higher with the method of publishing the entire site as a single operation. Of course, even with your current method, the updating of the individual documents is not going to be atomic, but the chances of hitting the site mid-update are fairly small I would think.

Now, I should mention that the above paragraphs describe how I go about maintaining web pages in my job. When dealing with my own personal site, however, I use a very different method. In particular, I don’t use Front Page for editing my personal site. Since my home site is very simple, I generally use Netscape Composer, which is a simple WYSIWYG editor that doesn’t have very many features. If I want a page that looks fancy, I’ll generally code up some HTML by hand; HTML is considerably easier to learn than Visual Basic, for example.

To update the site, I use a pair of Unix tools called ssh and rsync. "ssh" is part of the Secure Shell Package, which is available for both Linux and Windows (abeit from different companies). Secure Shell is similar to telnet, except that it’s encrypted, so that no-one can steal your passwords or other sensitive data as you’re typing them. The version I use is 1.2; There’s a 2.x version, but it’s commercial, while the earlier one is free. In order for ssh to work, the host machine has to be running a program called sshd, or Secure Shell Daemon. My machine runs sshd, and in fact my firewall will not allow ordinary telnet connections from the outside world, but only ssh connection, which is a practice I would recommend to anyone running a publically available server. The Secure Shell package also contains scp, a secure copy program, that lets you copy a file from your local machine to a host machine running sshd, or vice versa.

The other program, "rsync", is written by the same people who created Samba. It stands for "remote sync", and what it does is essentially to synchronize two directories. The arguments to rsync are a source directory and a target directory; What rsync does is to make the target directory identical to the source directory, with the absolute minimum number of bytes transferred. For example, if you change just a few bytes in a file, rsync will only copy the bytes that have actually changed.

The beauty of rsync is that the source directory and the target directory don’t have to be on the same machine, you can transfer the files over the network. The other great thing about rsync is that you can specify how rsync should connect to the other machine, and one of the available options is to use "ssh".

What this means, then, is that as long as the host machine is running sshd and has a copy of rsync installed, and your client machine has rsync and the ssh client program, you can enter a command which copies all of the changes you’ve made to your web site - and only those files that changed - over a secure encrypted link to your public directory. This is essentially how I updated my site while I was travelling in Europe.

Another advantage of this method is that the target machine doesn’t have to know or care about Front Page extensions, although I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to have those installed if you wanted to use their hit counter or search facilities as part of your site. However, there are many other ways to get those same kinds of features without using Front Page. although none of those methods are quite as simple as Front Page purports to be.

And of course, there are no arbitrary size limitations when using rsync;

My own site is nealy 400 megabytes (almost all of which is the JPEGs from my trip), and the only size problems I had was running out of disk space.

(A quick search of Alta Vista reveals that there is also a version of rsync for Windows NT, although I’ve never used it.)

-- Talin (Talin@ACM.org) http://hackertourist.com/talin/

Thanks. I begin to fear that FP 98 isn't going to do it, and I apologize for anyone I misled into trying it. Peter Kent says FP 2000 is considerably better. I'll report on that when I have it up and running.

Apparently, at any real complexity, FP Extensions eat CPU cycles enough that unless you have a VERY Fast connection from your local site to the web site, the system never finishes updating. In my case I get completion on the small sub webs I have built at 216.92.73.36 but the main web never initializes and thus the search function never works. I decline to continue chopping my site into ever smaller pieces. Peter Kent says it may not be necessary with 2000 so that's my next attempt.

It also appears you can't run FP extensions on NT on a DEC Alpha even though you are led to believe that you can. This explains why Darnell gets them installed and they appear to work to him, but never do in fact work. This is a VERY BAD defect.

All in all, I cannot recommend Front Page.

 

 

 


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Thursday June 17. 1999

Sir,

We have a EPSON Stylus COLOR 1520 printer. For large format printing we normally plot our drawings in pieces of 13.5" x 44" and paste them together. We have encountered an error that 44" long line in not straight In the middle it is deflected about 1 to 2 mm from its actual position in the middle, and whole 44" line seems like a big arc. we have tested our printer while printing through Excel but its long vertical lines are absoultely straight.

If we pan the drawing so that it disappears from screen and print it using previous settings, or we increase the resolution of our display from 800x600 to 1024x768 and print long wider length then error becomes reduced from 2mm to 1mm.

We have also used "Epson Plot" printing utility while using HPGL2 printer driver provided by AUTODESK but we face the same problem. So please advise us that where is problem and what is solution.

THANKS

MUHAMMAD SUHAIL

CAD CONSULTANT

AMS ANIMATION LAB

amslab@yahoo.com

Muhammad Suhail [amslab@hotmail.com]

 

Anyone have a solution for him?

===

 

 

Thanks for the info on Stabilent 22, and my apologies for the hard-coded carriage returns in my message.

Unfortunately, I'm using Windows 2000 with it's version (5.0) of Outlook Express. I think that you may have uncovered, well, not exactly a BUG, but, rather, a programming disconnect. I have chosen to send my mail, by default, as plain text, not HTML, because a number of my correspondents have mail readers that don't handle HTML, and they complain bitterly. If one digs down into the options for plain text, one finds that one MUST set a text wrap at some value between 30 and 132 characters (the default value is 76); there is no way to disable this! That is, there is no way NOT to have carriage returns embedded in Outlook Express plain text messages. That seems a little dumb to me, but I wasn't hired to do the coding or specifications. Maybe there's a logical reason to require hard returns.

 

I have experimented a little and found that messages I send in HTML format (which I don't do, by default) seem to have the "soft" returns at the end of a line. (I think I betray my preference for WordPerfect by calling them "soft"...)

 

Anyway, I hope the format of this message would be of less trouble. Darn it, I thought GUIs and such-like were supposed to simplify all this stuff!

 

Regards, Bob Ball

Yeah. Wonderful, ain't it? But so long as messages end with 2 cr's there's a macro to take care of it.

===

Mr Pournelle,

So far I have supported you in the best way I know how to support a writer, I buy just about anything you print, and give copies to friends.

In earlier view you mentioned a book under development with a working title "burning city" I have been keeping an eye out for it and so far it hasn’t made it down under (I am based in Sydney, Australia) A search for that title on Amazon came up empty.

When you get a chance next can I ask for a brief mention of the progress "in despatches"?

In an Australian slant on "Bob’s your Uncle" the expression goes through waves of popularity in Oz whenever the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister has the first name "Bob". Bob Menzies, and Bob Hawke are two examples.

If you like to collect odd sayings a new one in in the Australian IT

industry is "It couldn’t be better if I could call Gates ‘uncle bill’"

Thanks

paulbeaver@csi.com

We just finished the final submission draft of BURNING CITY for our editor John Ordover at Simon and Schuster abut two hours ago. It goes off to him and should appear next spring, with, we hope, some big publicity. There will also be maps which I am still working on, but the text is done, cut, edited, changed to editorial specs, and FINISHED hurrah…

 

 


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Friday June 18, 1999

 

A draft version of this appeared earlier. This is the final and official release.

 

 

Space Access Update #84 6/17/99

Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society

Editorial: Right Intentions, Wrong Direction -

NASA's Destructive Approach To Cheap Access

Let us be clear from the start: NASA's leadership may well share our vision of the importance of cheap access to our future - but their organization has screwed up the cheap access initiatives entrusted to it to date, from the mismanagement of DC-XA into a crash (we still haven't seen full public release of the predictable blame-the- contractor report on that mess) to the muddled morphing of X-33 into a half-assed Shuttle II. As far as we are concerned, the current push to do "X-Ops" reusable rocket low-cost operability demos in Future-X is NASA's last chance - if they mess this up too, come 2001 we'll be pushing hard for removal of RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicle) technology development responsibility from NASA entirely.

We reluctantly came to this conclusion last fall, and started working quietly behind the scenes to advance Future-X X-Ops work. Why are we going public now? Because over the last two months the evidence has become overwhelming that the NASA old guard is reverting to malign old habits - they are once again pushing their internal agendas with reckless disregard for the interests of US industry and of the country as a whole, to the point of actively attacking the credibility and investment-worthiness of the reusable- launch startups. They have done so repeatedly, and (under the most charitable interpretation) factually incorrectly.

This must stop, NOW. If NACA in 1930 had been allowed to tell potential investors that Douglas and Boeing couldn't possibly build robust all-metal monoplane airliners without ten additional years of massive NACA research funding, we'd all still be taking trains. Assuming, of course that we survived WW II at all.

If NASA can neither usefully support entrepreneurial low-cost launch ventures, nor at minimum shut up and stay out of their way, then it's time to start looking carefully at the parts of NASA involved, constraining the ones still needed, and defunding the rest.

 

Why?

Our evaluation is that NASA is doing this to advance two major agendas. One is to maintain the massive NASA Shuttle/Station bureaucracy into the indefinite future, by preempting all possible alternatives to some sort of huge full-employment Shuttle Upgrade or Shuttle Followon project.

The other is to fund a wish-list of blue sky launch technology projects (including hypersonic airbreathing launch vehicles - NASP II, anyone?) at most of the other NASA centers under the name "Spaceliner 100", by attacking current (rocket) technologies as simply not good enough. (For a NASA Spaceliner 100 briefing, see http://www.reston.com/nasa/congress/06.09.99.spaceliner.html)

That's only our estimate of their motives, mind. It's always possible NASA is attacking the commercial RLV outfits out of sheer random institutional bloodymindedness. But attacking they are - and in general, the main content of their attacks is, uh, incorrect.

 

In evidence, point #1

- From the April 8th speech by Administrator Goldin to the US Space Foundation (at http://www.nasa.gov/bios/goldin_speeches.html) in the context of supporting Spaceliner 100 (by the way, we totally agree with the grand vision expressed in this speech, of the importance to coming generations of investing in cheap space access now. It's the proposed implementation that we vehemently disagree with. We suspect Dan Goldin has been getting very bad technology advice lately): "At NASA, the technology barrier is the rocket." He goes on to state, more or less correctly, that Shuttle launch costs are about $10,000 per pound, and then says "Expendable vehicles are not significantly cheaper" (with the unspoken corollary that reusable rockets can't possibly be much better.)

It depends on your definition of "significantly", we guess - aside from the Titan 4, which involves almost as much bureaucracy as Shuttle, current medium-to-heavy commercial expendables cost from about half (Delta 2, Atlas 2) to about one fifth (ILS Proton) of $10K per pound to LEO. NASA's recent line that even reusable rockets can't make more than a factor of ten reduction over Shuttle launch costs looks pretty foolish when decades-old expendable designs already undercut Shuttle by factors of two to five. And at least two credible current expendable ventures are shooting for that factor of ten reduction.

It is indeed possible that rockets, *as conceived by NASA*, can never get much cheaper than Shuttle. There's considerable evidence to support this in NASA's recent RLV efforts. But, if we can keep NASA from strangling the innovative RLV startups in their cradles, there is no fundamental law of physics preventing clever engineers without NASA's forty years of bureaucratic baggage from undercutting Shuttle costs by factors of ten right from the start, getting down to factors of as much as a hundred once experience refines systems and flight rates rise.

 

In evidence, point #2:

- May 8th "New Scientist" magazine - at http://www.newscientist.com/keysites/netropolitan/19990508netro.html From an article on Richard (Virgin Atlantic Airways) Branson's investment negotiations with Rotary Rocket Company, a quote from a top-level NASA official dismissing Roton and other such reusable rocket concepts as "...system gimmicks to overcome the unbelieveable lack of technology they [the startup reusable rocket companies] have."

Hmm. NASA, by implication, has far better technology. Oh, really. Who has full-scale graphite-epoxy LOX tanks? Who has access to the best (Russian) rocket engines in the world? Who can build composite fuel tanks, liquid hydrogen or plain old kerosene, that *don't* leak like sieves? Who knows how to tow-launch high wing-loading vehicles? Who has the biggest concentration of expertise in the world on vertical-landing rockets? On aerial cryo-propellant transfer? On rapid prototyping of high-strength ultra-light composites? On high-performance non-toxic storable propellants?

If you answered "NASA" to any of the above, you are *wrong*. The answer in every case is "private industry", and in most cases the startups. NASA still has pockets of excellence, but they float in a sea of mediocrity. NASA slamming the startups' technology in order to get more funding for their own endless noodling is, frankly, nauseating.

That said, precisely what is wrong with "system gimmicks" if they *work*? Are they somehow impure, unclean, unworthy of the true scientific guardians of higher-tech-at-all-costs? A case in point: Modern military aircraft require a base with a ten thousand-foot concrete runway to operate effectively, right? No possible way to cut that to one-tenth the size and, better yet make it mobile, short of some ultra-advanced technology like anti-gravity? Right?

Uh... What is an aircraft carrier but a collection of "system gimmicks" - massive victorian-tech steam catapults for takeoffs, arrestor wires and tailhooks and mirror-and-light flightpath indicators for landings, angled flight decks to allow both at once, plus the accumulated operational expertise to make it all work, a mobile airbase a tenth the size of fixed landbased versions. If the "system gimmick" RLV startups can make a major dent in launch costs, and it looks as if, given a chance, they can, we do not give two figs how "gimmicky" their technology is. To quote some anonymous Cold War weapons designer, "'better' is the enemy of 'good enough'".

 

In evidence, point #3:

This week's "Space News" - "Reusable Launch Vehicles A Decade Away, NASA Says." We mentioned in Update #83 that the results of an industry study on what to do about Shuttle (STAS, the Space Transportation Architecture Study) were out, and that while many of the proposals were (predictably) for massively expensive one-size- fits-all Shuttle replacements, at least some of the conclusions were sensible, IE gradually replace Shuttle with an EELV/CTV system that would meet NASA manned-space's basic needs with a relatively small investment while having (a major point to us) negligible impact on the commercial launch market.

(STAS public non-proprietary results are at http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codea/codeae/stas_results.html ) (EELV are the heavy-lift versions of the Enhanced Expendable Launch Vehicle, aka Delta 4 and Atlas 5. CTV is a proposed Crew Transfer Vehicle version of the X-38 Station "Crew Rescue Vehicle" lifeboat.)

Now it seems the NASA/Aerospace Corp response to the various STAS reports has been leaked to Space News, and the gist of it is: NASA slams the various RLV proposals as unrealistic regarding schedule and budget (not surprising if they're geared to actually getting a contract to replace Shuttle; spending too much money over too long a time in all the right districts is an unspoken requirement for any would-be Shuttle replacement - it seems unfair to slam the proposals for soft-pedalling these unspoken specs) and proposes that NASA essentially micromanage a drawn-out process to eventually replace Shuttle sometime in the 2010's.

Previous intentions to encourage commercial RLV developments have evaporated; NASA Shuttle II will be the only game in town, at least by this tell-the-customer-what-they-want-to-hear custom blueprint.

Mind, we haven't seen this study ourselves yet; we're going on Space News's reading - but this agrees with the other recent evidence. By essentially dismissing the chances any of the current crop of RLV startups could succeed and thus position themselves to meet a significant part of NASA's space launch needs, NASA significantly reduces the startups' chances of getting the investment they need to succeed, in a fine example of pernicious self-fulfilling prophecy. Meanwhile, by ignoring the meet-JSC's-needs-and-no-more EELV/CTV approach in favor of some flavor of massive-overcapacity Shuttle II, this study continues NASA's implicit threat of a subsidized grab of the core of the existing commercial launch demand, adversely affecting the investment climate for commercial space launch in general.

This is rapidly approaching the point where we'll be able to make a convincing case that this nation's future in space would be better served by a radically reduced NASA. We'd rather not find that road the only one left to us.

 

Fixing the problem

For starters, we'd like to see whoever's peddling this line at NASA HQ fired, or at least transferred to counting seabirds at some remote tracking station. Not that the person in question is more than a representative of widespread NASA tendencies, but it will at least serve as an example to the rest.

We'd like to hear an unambiguous repudiation of the totally unacceptable anti-RLV startup investment advice voiced in the May 8th New Scientist article.

We'd like to see a firm NASA committment to "X-Ops", supporting interested startups in proving out and refining their low-cost launch approaches via low-cost subscale flight demonstrations on NASA's dime, in order to get them to the point where they are unmistakeably ready to raise commercial funds to develop full-scale commercial vehicles on an acceptable commercial timescale.

Under those circumstances, we would find it appropriate to support a minimum-investment approach to guaranteeing Shuttle's NASA-unique missions, and to support a moderate level of investment in getting the various "Spaceliner 100" technologies closer to ready for prime time - we note that the proposed RBCC (Rocket-Based Combined Cycle, a hybrid rocket-airbreather) engine in particular has huge remaining unknowns in terms of weight, cost, and speed range, and much work needs to be done before any Trailblazer-class (~$500m) flight vehicle program is appropriate. In other words, "show us the engine!" - given X-33's develop-a-partially-new-engine problems, this should go without saying, but it apparently doesn't.

We can understand why there might be dissatisfaction with reusable rockets at top levels in NASA, given the reluctance of the post- consolidation aerospace majors to compete with themselves by committing significant resources, and given the organizational cluelessness in efforts to date. But stomping the startups in an effort to fund NASP II and/or Shuttle II is not the answer.

Give the startups a real chance now - tight funding, tight schedule, tight accounting, but minimal engineering elbow-joggling - and in three to four years, we'll know what's really possible.

Stick with business as usual, and sooner or later the country will realize what damage NASA is doing, and will act appropriately.

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety.

Space Access Society http://www.space-access.org space.access@space-access.org

"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" - Robert A. Heinlein

I support Space Access Society and urge you to do so. Jerry Pournelle

===

your original comment was:

> ..... the goal was to integrate with Office and NT.

>A year ago this seemed like a good idea.

>

>Now I am not so sure, but I have a lot of sunk cost here;

>I would hate to rebuild this site page at a time. If I

>were to change I would need a program that can import

>Front Page webs.

Those of us over endowed with satiric insight would probably remark how this is another victory for Microsoft Marketing. The rest of us could probably think of any number of ways to reward such wit and wisdom properly .....

Personally I would want to pull down the site to a local hard drive in order to do data archeology - just to see how bad it is .... this is the type of thing I love to do, right in line behind doing my own dental work. (although I sometimes pick up unusual projects just for the one time only please learning experience.)

You might want to try the following experiment ....

(Before doing the following experiment, you would need to verify that the links on the pages are all relative links when pointing internal to the site.)

Try downloading the whole website down to a zip drive or similar media inside it's own sub sub folder, and try going through the website on the local media using netscape. Make sure that all the links are relative links in advance (as far as links to places inside the site) .... use an independent freeware/shareware FTP client such as LEECHFTP, or WS_FTP, etc. for the download.

A very very quick look at the source code in one or two pages of your site does not reveal any of the Front Page extensions in actual use by the site. Even though it is Front Page generated. I could be wrong, of course.

Therefore, if the site runs on the local media without using the Front page webserver, etc. then all of this stuff loaded by Front Page is not required. and you could manage it by another system. The jargon such as "webs" etc. might only be MS jargon for common types of site architectures, sub folders, etc ....

The only caveat is the filenames.... since windows supports long filenames with spaces in the names, and spaces in links will break the links on the net.

If you can run it in a subfolder on a local drive without the webserver software, then it should run just fine on the web itself. You also have the further test of being able to pull the local zipdisk out of the drive to test the upload on an actual website. All links being relative also allows you the luxury of uploading to a self-contained subfolder for testing purposes. This test folder can be hidden someplace on your website, with an obscure name like 39he7xhf8, etc.

As an experiment, this would show how much would need to be changed when making any such conversion.

Which might not be as bad as feared, if you are not using many proprietary features of Front Page to begin with.

Michael Z. [michaelz@alphasoftware.com]

This seems an appropriate first letter to post with Front Page 2000. Note that I did not go through WORD before doing this; it's a direct operation. We will see if that works.

The first nuttiness is that bookmarks aren't under edit, nor are they under Insert. They are under INSERT and then you have to pull down some more. Meaning that you cannot see the darned things, and have to go for help to find them. Stupid.

 

 

 


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Hi
"I am pretty disgusted with web tools."

You have seen the light grasshopper. The pros
do it by hand!

CC
--
Upgrade to Linux...the penguins are hungry!
Chris Carson aka "GreyDeth"
250-248-0142
http://carnagepro.com
cc [cc@bcsupernet.com]

Yes, I know; but I have not the time. I am not in that sense a "pro" meaning that I don't do anything else. I wish Front Page 98 worked again as it did yesterday; to go back to it I will have to scrub this machine to bare wood and start over. I don' t much fancy doing that, but it's easier to do it and get it over with than to update every darned link every time I change the names of currentmail and currentview.
I will have to come up with a better scheme. What I don't know.
I understand the undisguised glee of many Microsoft haters here. Me, I wish the damned tools worked. I don't want to be macho, I just want to get the job done. I will certainly get less done in the time I have now that Front Page has failed. But failed it did.
Visual Page isn't much better, which is why this has to have a special page!

 

 


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I probably won't get to a lot today. Too much to do. I'll try to get a slug of this up tonight, though.

Jerry- It was known that NT4 had a problem with Ofc2000, I think I saw it on both the MS newsgroups and a few other sites. I haven't bothered to install on NT4, and probably won't after reading yours and other's problems. There is an SP5 for NT4, and many recommend it in place of SP4 due to all the problems SP4 creates.

[I don't have SP 5 and haven't been offered it; SP 4 happened with the Y2K updates.]

MS appears to be in the same mode as Novell was in the early 90's, they create as many or more problems with each bug fix. I use FP98 all the time and rarely have any problems. It's so easy to maintain a site for novice users with small sites (50 megs - mostly jpegs of products). I use it on both WIN95/98 machines with the personal web server. I never did like it on NT4, due to problems on both sides (server and client). I agree your site is probably too big to upload all the changes with a 56k modem, have you tried to make small changes so the upload would be smaller?
[All the changes I make are "small", never more than a page or two. The problem is that FP 98 with Extensions takes an HOUR on the server to update the changes, probably because it is checking links; all I know is that many internal links will inevitably break FP with extensions.]

Most folks who use FP98 do have small sites and many IPS's who don't use NT servers have a terrible time getting it setup. I think I saw that you're up to more than 180 megs, that's huge for FP98 and is not a small site by any measurement.

[More like 30, but it appears that it's the number of links that drives it nuts.]

I think you've crossed the line in size if nothing else. Most of the big time software brands do take a lot of learning and are very unfriendly to users. It's not like it used to be in the eighties. I, like you, could figure out most packages in a few hours or at worst days. Now the size and depth of just getting the darn software to install and work can be a battle. I can only suggest that you step back and reduce the size of the upload, go back to WIN95/98 box, and back off from the bleeding edge. I know it's not a pretty picture but the KISS philosophy does work especially well with computers and software.
Hope it all works out. I'm a big fan of your books. John H. Dow
jdow@icsi.net


I make a living at the bleeding edge, alas. "I do all these silly things so you won't have to..." is a macro here.

=====

This is a long answer to a good letter. The answer was also put into VIEW.


 In light of the following quotes (and earlier problems you have had), especially the last quote, I just have to ask: Have you actually used Dreamweaver, Hot Metal or GoLive? Do they work? As far as I can tell from 'View' you have used 2 versions of FrontPage and Visual Page, neither works, yet you continue to suggest FrontPage is (mostly) ok. Huh?
Please remember that you have resources, contacts, and internet-wide help that almost none of your readers have; that we have to have a working solution, not a continual hack; and that we buy our software. If FrontPage doesn't work, fine. You "do all these silly things so [we] won't have to...". Now, tell us what does work. If you continue hammering hacks and fixes and undocumented tweaks onto FrontPage and get it to kinda, sorta work most of the time, don't be surprised if I, and others, continue to think you an apologist for Microsoft.
If it doesn't work, dump it and use a program that does work, and tell us. That is useful and helpful.
Hope whatever solution you find works better than in the past.
Scott

Quotes from you in one week:
"I can no longer recommend Front Page 98, and my apologies to anyone I may have led into trying it. My advice is GET OUT NOW if you still have a small enough site."
"With any luck I am going to be able to get out of Front Page altogether and into some other kind of Web Design software. Understand, I don't really LIKE doing that. Front Page, while I had a smaller web, did work; and it did sort of publish; and it did sort of do things for me. But once it decided to die, it decided to DIE."
"DO NOT INSTALL FRONT PAGE 2000. You may never get FP 98 working again. And if you have not got stuck with Front Page then DON'T. Try something else. Try almost ANYTHING else. I may change my mind another time, and I may not."
"I am pretty disgusted with web tools. If Front Page worked, it would still be the best of the bad lot I have worked with; but in fact it doesn't work."


I suppose that's a fair assessment, so let me try to be more coherent.

First, I don't recommend Front Page if you plan a large web. However, Front Page works very well with small webs. I have no exact definition of small: it involves not merely number of pages, but number of hyperlinks, and both of those are more important than sheer size in megabytes.

But as you get up to where my site is in size and complexity, THE FRONT PAGE EXTENSIONS will not work properly. What happens is that it takes so long for Front Page on the Host Server to "update" once you have "published" anything to it, that it times out. Timing out involves settings at the server end, and are not under your (or at least my) control. With PAIR.COM this is set at about 15 minutes; they tried setting it to somewhat longer for me, and it was still not enough. On one site they have with a Front Page Network and FP Extensions it takes 3 hours; that is a big customer and has his own server, not shared, and they can indulge that size customer. They can't indulge me (or perhaps they could but I declined to discuss it since that's a favor much larger than any reader could ask for).
There are two possible remedies to this. First, Microsoft could cause Front Page to send signals to the Server that it is busily thinking and should not be shut down; progress signals sent to the home host on updating would probably do that job, although I don't know that much about internal workings of servers; in any event no progress signals of any kind are sent, so it's moot. This appears to be the case with both FP 98 and FP 2000.
The other remedy is to chop your web into subwebs, and only publish the subweb you have been working on. The other subwebs won't be changed, there will be no need to list their pages, and no need to "update". I tested this with FP 98 and a small subweb on the Pair.com site and it worked: about 4 minutes to upload and update "sciences" which has about 4 pages. That's at a 44,000 connection (yes I know that's a figure of speech, and I haven't time to discuss it). It does work, and when it works, the FP SEARCH function works for that subweb.
The problem is that FP 98 makes it a LOT of work to chop your web into subwebs. You can do it but you will not like doing it. I did it for a few chunks and said zum Teufel mit ihm. Enter Peter Kent, who has FP 2000 working; presumably NOT on an NT4 SP 4 machine! FP 2000 makes it extremely easy to chop a web into chunky subwebs, and does it almost invisibly. You really can't tell that it has done it, but it publishes only the subwebs you worked on; so that if you kept things small enough, in my case say MAIL as a subweb and possibly two of them, ditto with VIEW, Strategy of Technology as another subweb, and so forth, things would go swiftly.
I tried this only to find that FP 2000 WILL NOT WORK with NT 4 Service Pack 4. I don't have Service Pack 5: I am not sure why. I don't ever recall problems with SP 4 before although I have heard of many; in any event, I believe I got SP 4 as part of the Y2K upgrade to NT I put in some time ago and reported on in VIEW.
Worse, in my case at least, I cannot return from Front Page 2000 to Front Page 98, which I was willing to do given the hurry I am in just now; it wouldn't have been a permanent solution to the problem but it would have got me through the week, and I could have carried SP 4 installed on my portable and used it to do some web updates while I was in New York for PC Expo. I won't be doing that because I can't: when I uninstalled FP 2000 from my system (actually I uninstalled Office 2000 including some parts I'd have as soon kept) and uninstalled every trace of extensions and web server software, then reinstalled FP 98, I was given a message (with no options) that FP 2000 extensions were running and FP 98 extensions would not be installed, see my net administrator; and when I tried to get FP 98 to open a web or create a web it would not, complaining that it had no extensions running. This happened twice, with installation of Office 2000, uninstallation of Office 2000, installation of FP 98, uninstallation thereof, and having to go to DOS to get rid of SQL7 which began running and cannot be uninstalled because of sharing errors: eventually I booted up in DOS 6.3 and used DOS to erase the MSSQL7 directory as the only way out. Thank God I hadn't converted this machine to NTFS!

I then went to Symantec Visual Page, which is a direct editor, has some nice features, will open pages and let me edit them, and which I am using now. It's not a permanent solution for a number of reasons. It doesn't do links as easily as Front Page and it isn't as convenient for fixing broken references and such. It doesn't have the FP link checking, and there is a lot missing. It doesn't integrate with Word and Outlook as well as FP did. It loses formatting information when you paste into it. The 'select' mechanism sucks dead bunnies if you have to scroll while selecting. I do not recommend Visual Page, and note too that it won't handle files when they get long enough, which is why this week's mail is broken into two pages.
It also won't handle page name changes propagation: when I change page names you may be sure I will get a lot of broken links. So it goes.


A while ago I tried Dreamweaver. I abandoned it for Front Page for what I thought at the time were good reasons. I have it (latest I think: 1.2), and I am about to try it again. It may do the job nicely. What I purpose to do is install Dreamweaver, and begin to build a new web site: with links at the top to this one, but with the index page of this one given a different name. The internal links of this one that refer to index.html will of course send you back to the "new" index page, but that's all right: I'll design it so you know which path to go down. This will, in other words, be a subweb, more or less, as I experiment with different styles and pictures and such in a new web. I may go to the "modern" style of a fixed width text screen. I may do away with my parchment, and try other colors. I may copy other webs. We will see. I will, in a word, beat on Dreamweaver which seems the candidate for the job.

But let me be clear: if Front Page actually worked, it would be very good. It did link checks well, it did links well. It also produces messy code that other programs have problems with, and the Extensions suck dead turtles through soda straws. The necessity to chop into subwebs is probably a 'feature' of the link checking and the ability to do global search and replace, and file name changes: it really does a neat job of going through and finding every link to a file and changing that when you change file names or move a file to a different directory. That I think has the great cost of requiring the "updates" that take forever, and is why sometimes it can take more than a minute to save a page with many links in it.
I could live with all that if it worked properly, and I could even live with FP 98 and "publishing" by ftp (If the server you publish to does not have the FP extensions running, then FP 98 uses "web post" which as near as I can figure is an ftp connection). However, I have some aversion to fragility and I get the impression that FP 98 is fragile. If FP 2000 had worked on this machine I would be using it now.

What next? First, I will experiment with Dreamweaver, which is a good thing and will give me something to write about. Second, I will be setting up a new NT Workstation here anyway: Princess is a couple of years old, and a very good machine: Compaq made a real winner with their dual Pentium professional workstation and I can recommend it highly -- but Princess has 4 gigabytes of storage and needs more, and being a table top has limited room for new assets like a ZIP and a CD/RW drive. She'll probably be relegated to Larry Niven's work station area here as a super reliable machine far more than good enough for writing, merging novels (big merges of several megabye Word Documents with changes all through them take a fair amount of CPU to do quickly) and other such work.
My new system will use either NT 4 SP 5 or Windows 2000, and Office 2000; I'll then test FP 2000 on a copy of the new web I have built with Dreamweaver. "I do all these silly things so you won't have to…"
But that's for later. For now I am just trying to make do as I get ready to catch an airplane. And that's a long answer to a letter, so I'll put it in VIEW as well, if it doesn't blow up VIEW…

I WILL BE AT PC EXPO most of the week, so there won't be much updated here. See the INDEX PAGE if I get a chance to update.

NOTE Monday June 28, 1999: much of this is historical only. Many things have happened, and I am now running Windows 2000 with FP 2000; for that saga see View and next week's mail.

 

 

 


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Entire contents copyright 1999 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.
Comments and discussion welcome.

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