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Mail July 26 - August 1, 1999
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Gee Jerry, I thought you would
be one of the people who would have a good idea of what the world would
look like if only one company could be used to get to the Internet.
But I guess you want Microsoft to run our access to the Net...too
bad, the Net was probably the last great democracy, but under MS it is
going to be the world’s first digital dictatorship..
“Evil flourishes when good men do nothing” Cameron Huff.
Cameron Huff [CameronH@is.teltrust.com]
This is one of many responses to the headline of the current BYTE column. I can only conclude that someone is passing around the headline and people are commenting without reading the column. I don't retract a word, but clearly I don't actually want Netscape to die: but that hardly makes them immune to criticism, either.
What I really don't want is companies getting too big for their britches so that they can do as they like and no one calls them on it. Netscape gave me good reason to be unhappy, as detailed in the column, and the problems went away when I used Startup Manager to eliminate some of what Netscape set up without my knowledge or consent. You may like the little AOL man, but I don't. Among other things.
I just read your article where
you simply stated that Netscape should die, primarily because NT blows up. shouldn’t be the other way around? IMHO NT blows up quite easily, so perhaps it is not just
Netscape’s fault or (enter pretty much any other software vendor
here)’s fault. Have you
ever considered that the OS itself is prone to exploding from time to
Big-D Construction Corp.
Another example. I have quite a few more. And if NT 4 blows up often, it's because there is something wrong with the installation. I had Mr. Dobbins over here all day one day (God knows what he would have billed me if he'd been here as a consultant and not as a friend) and he showed me things I never knew. Now if the complaint is that Microsoft makes it a bit hard to find some stuff, and you must read all the various announcements and get the upgrades and even follow the professional discussions in closed newsgroups -- that it takes some heavy duty professionalism to make NT work in big networked settings -- I agree. it could be a lot easier. But then that is true of OS/2, and very true of UNIX. Professional OS work is hard work which is why people like Dobbins and my son get paid so much to know how to make it work...
Concerning your experiences with RealPlayer crashing WinNt: how interesting. I had a similar problem when I recently upgraded my WinAmp MP3 player. In my particular situation, the error seemed to be a combination of WinAmp and IE5, and I found that if I was very persistent, I could occasionally use the keyboard to get the task manager visible for a few seconds. The problem appeared to go away after I disabled WinAmp as the default audio CD player. I've also found that some of these audio/video programs have problems when running in non-administrator mode on WinNT. It's as if they were written for Win9x and then ported to NT. In one specific case with MusicMatch Jukebox, the code bombed due to WinNT's security settings for registry keys. I'm wondering if this is the root of the problem you experienced. -- Chad Cloman
Could be. Haven't tried that. Thanks!
If you upgraded from the $20
version—did your Microsoft nag-screen that interrupts boot (‘Your beta
software has expired...) go away?
Yes, I am currently running the
beta...so have definite monetary interest in your answer.
Thank you, sir...and just what IS going on with SciFi today?
YES: the nag screen goes away with either upgrade, and the $20 upgrade works fine; I even installed that over the original Beta without problems, although in general that's not a good practice; better to reinstall from scratch. But in fact I have had no difficulties putting the release product in over a Beta final.
by Mike Juergens
07/26/99 02:11 PM
can still run Real Player when I want to, so precisely what Real Jukebox
and Real Player thought they were doing running on startup, I don't
know. I can only tell you that running them on startup can blow up the
system, and that's a problem I don't need.>>
we've had the same problem with the RA upgrade on Win98 and Win982E
boxes. After running some random amount of time (generally 2
or 3 days), system resources get zapped. Disabling Real Jukebox
and Real Player so that they do not start and do not show in systray
seems to solve the problem. And, as you say, the programs are
always there when needed
up the great work ... always enjoy your columns.
OK, that was my experience too. Thanks.
I just wanted to add a remark
that the power down problems with PCs are not all on the Wintel platform.
An early problem with the Mac OS
8 operating system would cause the machine to power down or put the
processor to sleep. The problem was that the system would then often not
want to wake up and would require a hard boot. During this process the OS
would sometimes become lobotomized and give the question mark of death
(kind of like NT’s blue screen of death.) and the OS would have to be
restored. The problems would go away if you just turned the seep mode off.
I figure the Mac guys have prob. fixed this by now but I always turn the sleep mode off during
installation even now with OS
8.6 so I couldn’t say.
It only takes one time.
Sounds similar to your
In any event:
I find the sleep function as
useless as you do.
Right on. Thanks.
If you copy the win98 se cabs to a
separate directory (ie c:\machine instead
of c:\windows) you can delete a bothersome windows with deltree c:\windows
and reload from c:\machine. Remember
there is nothing like a clean win install.
Phil Holmes [firstname.lastname@example.org]
All true, but I remember Windows/Options/Cabs and I can erase all but that. Still, you have a point. Thanks.
You wrote in techweb that Netscape should die because of the fact that it blew up NT when you were trying to upgrade it using the Smart Update feature. My question to you is: What the hell were you thinking? You look like you’re quite a moron! Why didn’t you just go to ftp.netscape.com and download the entire 4.6 professional install? Was that too hard? Too much typing for your weak little hand? There is nothing wrong with the Real Player startup stuff as long as you have the resources to run it. Also, you didn’t need some lame ass program to get it out of startup. All you need to do is navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENT_VERSION\RUN or RUN SERVICES
another place to look is:
or RUN SERVICES this is very simple and it shouldn’t require so
much pouting on your part. Also,
what could you be possibly running that would take up so many resources on
a dual-processor machine that it would screw it up?
How much RAM do you have? 1
byte? You need to get with
the program and quit griping. It
sounds like you don’t know anything about computers and so you
shouldn’t write about them if you’re too lame.
The Erazer [email@example.com]
Get Free Email and Do More On The Web. Visit http://www.msn.com
Golly. I can only be comforted by the fact that I am not alone in having had the problems despite my great deficiencies in understanding. In any event, thank you for sharing that with us.
In the 7/26/99 column you complain, rightly, about the maze Netscape makes you navigate in order to obtain their software, and about the agony of their Smart Update process the answer is twofold:
o don’t use Smart Update - just install the new versions wholesale
o don’t get their stuff via http but rather via ftp, e.g.:
ftp://ftp.netscape.com/pub much faster and easier, esp. if you use one of the nice ftp client pkgs.
I use AbsoluteFtp from http://www.vandyke.com/, mainly because I was already using their excellent telnet/ssh software, CRT and SecureCRT
btw, I had lots of trouble with RealPlayer on NT as well.
All of a sudden I’d notice that it was using 100% of one CPU (I have a dual PII setup) finally I just uninstalled it altogether this was after deleting the startup process related to RealPlayer, I think
-- John A. Turner, Ph.D. Senior Research Associate Blue Sky Studios http://www.blueskystudios.com/ One South Road, Harrison, NY 10528 http://www.lanl.gov/home/turner/ Phone: (914) 381-8400 http://john.turner.org/Info on Blue Sky’s fully computer-generated film Bunny , winner of the 1998 Academy Award in the Short Animated Film category: http://bunny.blueskystudios.com/
Thanks. That has got to have been one of the oddest format messages I ever got; how did you DO it? But it's good information, so thanks.
Thanks for your article on Real
Player problems. Like you, I have an NT machine that I use for my basic
communication at work. I downloaded the latest version of Real
Player about 6 weeks ago and my NT 4.0 systems started acting funny.
It was erratic and got progressively worse. I looked for any other
possible cause and finally wound up re-formatting and re-building NT. This
time I did not download Real Player (EVEN
THOUGH I PAID FOR A LICENSE) and the system is fine. I am not enough of a
computer expert to trace the cause precisely, so I welcomed your
It’s a shame because I enjoed
following the Microsoft trial on Real Video. Watching
Bill Gates stammer through his failing memory made me feel better about my
own aging memory, but that’s another story ...
Right now I am building a second
machine from scrounged parts that I will just use for fun. I will download
Real Player there and, in the words of Bill Cosby, “hope the plane
Alan R. Mattson
I haven't had any problems running Real Player so long as it and Real Jukebox don't run on startup. I don't know why; those who purport to know prefer to send insults rather than information. Of course that's much easier to do. Anyway, I keep Real Player available for listening to techweb and such like. Thanks.
As a metaphore “wrapped around
the axle” had a distinct flavor welcome in the higher tech world of
computing. I’m borrowing it :)
I went to the Netscape site in
question to download version 4.61 and noticed
the link to do so was right under the smart update button. And the
download address so the rest of your readers don’t have to wade through
all the commercials is:
If you scroll down a little you
can get the 128 bit encryption version, the one the gubbermint down want
the world to have.
Also the Wobbler Virus is a hoax
so you’ll want to update the web page to reflect that as well.
No need to thank me. I do this
so you don’t have to.
“Netscape must die” ? Ok,
you didn’t do the headline but it was your opening sentence. I can’t
say I’ve experienced smart update since I usually download the whole
thing, sometimes by clicking on the link right below the smart update
button. That way I can migrate it over the network or burn it cdr. No need
to throw stones just because you got some G2 gravel in your gearbox.
Wasn't a very large stone. And that headline does seem to have got some attention, anyway...
thanks. Glad others are doing odd things so I don't have to.
I read the various emails
you received regarding the SPAM problem, and I thought I would add my
First, I primarily do what
Lawrence Person recommends - that is, when I get a spam message I look at
the internet headers in Outlook and determine the IP address (usually the
domain name is forged) where the spam originated.
9 times out of ten, it
originates from one of the big backbone providers that also have dial-up
internet service: PSI, Sprint, GTE, etc.
All of these companies have an email address “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
I copy the Internet headers, paste those into a forward message,
and send it off.
In many cases,
Your mileage may vary.
Of course, this requires a lot
of time that most people don’t have.
My second and more enjoyable
option starts when I get a spam mail that has a toll-free number in the
email. I’ve set up a rule in Outlook to flag any messages that
contain the numbers 800, 888 or 877.
I have an extra PC and an old
28.8 modem sitting here at work, and about once a week I walk up to the
PC, fire up an old DOS comm program (remember ProComm?) and give it a list
of toll-free numbers to dial. The
redial is set to go off every minute, and the numbers rotate about every 6
hours through the use of a script.
The great thing about this is
that the people on the other end have to PAY for those toll-free calls.
With any luck, their high phone bills will bankrupt the buggers.
If we had enough people doing
this... well maybe that would make a difference.
Maybe not. It sure
gives me some great personal satisfaction.
But you want to be VERY careful. Some of those look like toll-free and are not, and at least one spammer had a "remove from this list" phone number in a country that charges $24 a minute! Which the phone company will bill to you. So be careful.
Such people have in my judgment removed themselves from any protection but the law: they have no ethical or moral rights of any kind. Actually that's an extreme judgment that I don't really mean, but it's a very strong temptation anyway.
Re the Wobbler Hoax:
Apologies to you and your
readers. I remain a reliable
source in that I didn’t and won’t say anything on line that I don’t
believe to be true.
Precisely. And I would rather warn people and find that needless than fail to send out a warning; I was burned badly enough on Melissa to pay attention.
Your recent mention of reading Sir Walter Scott's "Kenilworth" gave me pause. I subscribe to the The Library of America and recently read their volume entitled "Mississippi Writings:" a compilation of Mark Twain's books on the subject.
Although I enjoyed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi, my favorite was the long neglected Pudd'nhead Wilson. Of course, I had read the first two in school and they were just as good the second time, despite their use of the non-pc "n" word. (in fact, when I was in Hannibal a few years ago, I noticed that "Nigger Jim" on the historical marker by the river was altered to read "----- Jim" -- the offending word plastered over to protect the easily offended).
Given our "modern" sensibilities, I can see why Pudd'nhead Wilson might be shunned since its plot hinges on a black/white mix-up -- kind of a racial Prince and the Pauper. Nevertheless, it is one of the earliest American works I've read that uses science (finger prints) to resolve a criminal case -- kind of a rural Law and Order -- and it's short and to the point.
There are, alas, many works today forbidden by the Politically Correct madness, which I hope eventually will go away. I understand that Huckleberry Finn is now forbidden because it is supposed to have in it "hate words" which it certainly does; apparently the fact that it is one of the few genuine American masterpieces is no longer important. Pity, but I suppose to be expected in these times.
Wednesday July 28, 1999
but what a nice surprise for a fan!
(Name withheld by request.)
I say it after administering NT
for 1 year (and Unix for 7), finding a lot of clever little anti-netscape
tricks, such as disappearing bookmarks which i actually witnessed on
ntexplorer as the file auto-deleted, and LOTS of memory leaks (microsoft
“engineers” never could me a straight answer). I wonder what’s
hidden in that source code, but we can’t possibly blame MS for these
problems. Service pack 4? maybe we should call it a Major-patch #4, but as
an admission that it is a crappy single user OS, that may not be good
marketing, which is about all microsoft is good for. Unix has been a lot
easier to administer and true total-cost
has always been cheaper when you take into account Basic (email ;)
NT add-ons. Hopefully LINUX will succeed where other Unix OS’ failed and
with enough momentum, maybe we’ll see office apps ported or written for
it, and then users may actually enjoy a solid working OS. I can feel
Nihad Shuaib, Unix SA
[capitalizations and spellings
unchanged from original; JEP]
Well, that is certainly a view. As Mr. Dobbins points out, many NT Administrators seem less than anxious to review all the available information flowing from Microsoft, although they will go to extraordinarily lengths to find new wrinkles and old bug fixes to UNIX and Linux.
I don't recall ever saying I thought NT was perfect. I do think the average user finds it a lot easier to get work done with NT than with UNIX unless there is a resident wizard, and that has been the case for decades; for long enough that one wonders whether the obscurantism of UNIX is simply impossible to overcome, or that those who understand it have a vested interested in keeping up the requirement for a resident wizard to make it useful? I do know that I have been promised user friendly shells for UNIX since 1979, and I haven't found one yet. Perhaps this time for sure.
In any event, I certainly would not undertake installing NT in a large office setting without an administrator who didn't hate the system and wish I had installed something else. Perhaps the solution is not to use NT at all; but in any event, I would think it better to have administrators working in the systems they prefer.
Incidentally, while my servers continue to run on NT 4 SP 4 with Y2K fix, I am using Windows 2000 for this workstation, and so far it seems not to have the memory leaks that plagued me about NT 4 (and which I wrote about several times). The best remedy for the memory leaks is that memturbo program I have mentioned before.
I do not use Netscape. I hate
Netscape because I have had a few problems with it, primarily with trying
to make practical changes to the settings. I liked Mosaic, but it was
ruined. Now I use Explorer, because I figure I need to use what comes with
the OS to better serve my clients- I can’t answer questions on a subject
I don’t know about. The Boss uses Netscape, however.
He needs to reboot occasionally because it corrupts the registry,
and he can’t add new software or make registry changes without playing
with registry copies and multiple reboots. I am waiting for him to throw
the PC out the window, because he gets pretty mad at Netscape.
Does Netscape need to die? As it is, yes. (And take some of those
fanatics with it!)
Should Netscape go away? No. Fix
it, be better, and move on. I
believe the problems lie primarily with Microsoft, but Netscape shares
some of the blame.
Just because processors are
faster and memory is cheap and we have large HDD’s doesn’t mean we
want bloated code and inefficient programs- as you well know. I look bad
in the customers’ eyes when even I can’t get things to run, and I can
see the frustration as they pay me to watch Windows reboot and try to
reload a program that won’t play nice.
I have fewer troubles with NT, but I still have them.
Trouble shooting a Mac is an
exercise in futility. Linux (XWindow
specifically) is a pain to configure with a lot of hardware but the most
popular (not necessarily the least expensive).
They all have problems. Lets
take off our rosy glasses and look at this industry again.
George A. Laiacona III <email@example.com>
“Megalomania is it’s own reward.”
“How should I have known he
wasn’t any good? He said he was equally skilled with all weapons.”
· Louis Anvil
Thank you. Agreed, Netscape should be repaired and continue to compete with Microsoft. I use both, although Internet Explorer 5 is now my default browser; I got sick of the popup secondary windows AOL/Netscape seems to delight in, advertisements that are separate processes, separate windows, shouting at me with moving advertisements unrelated to what I was looking for on the web. IE sometimes does that but seems to do so less frequently and with less use of resources than Netscape.
I do not like companies starting processes I didn't ask for. It is a bit frightening to see a window I did not open with moving advertisements in it, spawned off because I looked at something on the web. It uses resources (with Windows 2000 and lots of memory that is no longer a problem but it has been ); and if they can make that happen what else can the make happen?
We live in interesting times.
From: Tim Lewis [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Just a short note to say I agree 100% with your
comments regarding the Netscape "upgrade".
My experience seems similar to that of your other readers.
I've now downloaded a copy of startup
manager and it looks really useful - thanks for the tip.
As an additional thought, as my work in testing
requires that I have Netscape and IE browsers installed, the other day I
loaded IE5 - Netscape is my default browser.
Even though the install knew that Netscape is installed and asked
whether it should remain the "default" browser, the install
still *updates* all the file extensions so that they start up IE5.
It gets worse, because uninstalling IE5 puts you back to IE4 AND it
doesn't fix the extensions!! So,
double clicking on eg. html files in windows explorer starts up IE5 and
not Netscape. Much worse, for
all those highlighted URL's on the net and in email, a single click now
This is very frustrating and I often feel like
*killing* someone at Microsoft too. I'd
be grateful for any thoughts / suggestions / etc. as to how I can get the
settings back to default to Netscape.
I suspect it may require a full install of Netscape?
This is going to be a real pain if every time I upgrade
IE I have to re-install Netscape just so my machine carries on working the
way I like it.
Development Support Engineer, Tradezone International
email: Tim.Lewis@tradezone.co.uk www: http://www.tradezone.co.uk
Well, Impaling Microsoft people seems a LITTLE extreme, but people who mess with my computer without my permission deserve something of the sort. Perhaps drawing and quartering would be sufficient.
I have no brief nor apology for companies that make changes to fundamental settings without telling me they have done it.
I think you missed the point
about Netscape. You needn’t chant “Netscape must die” because
they’re already dead. Their flagship product is now two years out of
date. It was grossly inferior to Internet Explorer 4, and that much more
so to IE5 (although I don’t think much of IE, either). I keep Navigator
on my system only to check my own web pages for appearance. I wouldn’t
even think of actually using it. The Browser Wars are long over, and IE
won. Opera isn’t much of an alternative, either. For better or worse,
mostly worse, I’m stuck with IE. But I’d drop it in a minute for
Robert Bruce Thompson
Well, I find little to disagree with there, either. Thanks.
comment regarding the important nature of Huckleberry Finn is well taken,
but doesn’t go far enough. Don’t
schools and school boards realize that ignoring unsavory language or
incidents won’t make them go away?
In fact, they merely allow ignorance to replace informed
discussion. I often wonder
why works such as this aren’t used for the dual purposes of teaching a
wonderful work of fiction, and as a starting point for debate on race and
I can’t imagine we would do
worse to talk about past mistakes/ misconceptions than we do now.
Does anyone in school actually talk about the history, and the way
people thought of minorities back then?
Don’t they think it may help young children understand why there
is such resentment? Growing
up knowing the facts is almost never a bad thing.
Make people talk about it, and increase their awareness early, and
you avoid problems later.
Just a thought.
I can hardly argue with that.
Thank you for
writing Jerry Pournelle. I get several hundred mail messages a
day, and this is
an automatic reply. If the message is urgent, please resend
with the words
“priority one” (without the quote marks) in the subject
line. The rules
wizard should intercept that and put it into a box I read
before I read
all the other mail.
hmm, replying to your auto
replier. I wonder how strange I am. However,
I digress, I am replying cause you might want to
turn off the smart quotes in your e-mail, because even though they look
nice for someone using windows, they dont come out for people that are on
Unix (and maybe even Mac) for reading their e-mail. Even though I use windows extensively at home, a lot of my
e-mail I read on a unix box using pine.
For a little more info on this (mainly in
respect to MS applications making HTML, but applicable to e-mail a bit),
Shaya Potter [email@example.com]
I went there, and after two screens of vituperation about Microsoft I had not found what I was supposed to do other than a reference to a PERL script. It didn't (in the part I read; I get weary of people who spend lots of time denouncing Microsoft and being proud of the fact that they use no Microsoft products, but they are going to tell me how to do something) -- it didn't tell me if this were going to be a plugin, or something I will have to run against all my systems, or what.
Outlook does odd things, and I use Word for other stuff as well as mail; apparently I must set WORD for turning off smart quotes everywhere in order to get it off for mail.
I guess that's "all right" and this "should do it" but it is going to make it harder to use this machine for anything EXCEPT Outlook. Thanks. This goes in the column as another Microsoft silliness that needs fixing.
I would have done this long ago, but no one suggested "turn off smart quotes"; instead I would get paragraphs of smug or hate mail (or both) telling me ha ha I needed demoronizer and such like; but since I couldn't see what the problem was, and when I would try to find out I would simply run into more spleen venting -- isn't there a superhero call The Spleen? -- I didn't pay a lot of attention. Thanks. "I hope this has fixed it."
Your netscape assault savages
are probably mostly from Slashdot.org readers.
Slashdot.org has a “feed” from Byte.com (don’t ask me how
that works) which means your name and the title of your column (Netscape
must die) are prominently displayed at the site for anyone who has their
profile set up to do so.
Slashdot is the Mecca of
content, but a lot of them are less than polite. Often, their forum threads degenerate to the same tone as the
letters you’ve been getting. Don’t
know what you can do about it other than set up some judicious rules in
Outlook and hope for the best.
BTW, I vote no on automatic
reload. It’s trivial to hit F5 when I’m looking for something new.
All the best.
David Mazzotta [dmazzotta@CreativeSolutions.com]
Oops. I had forgotten slashdot. I know it is supposed to be an important place, but the few times I went over there it was unpleasant, and the smog to data ratio was fairly large, so I let Eric do those honors. I can filter anything if I have to. As a novelist I find some of this rather interesting.
Heartfelt sympathies are clearly
in order, since you are being persecuted by the litignorant (literate
(semi), yet ignorant (semi)) crew out there...
While I do not know how many of the linux’en are being
“mobilized” against you, I have seen no reference to this particular
column in my local (very active and vocal) linux user group (Silicon
Valley Linux User’s Group). Clearly what concerns the litignorant individual is that
while Netscape may not be perfect (I have a number of gripes myself, and
have never, Never, NEVER used smart download, just because some marketing
yahoo said to call it “Smart”), it is supposed to be “Our Last
Defence against Micro$oft” or some such silliment.
unenlightened ones will not see your explanations, your POV or any such -
just bomb you with flames until they head off into the sunset, like a pack
of rabid lemmings after their next “victim.”
An apology from me for the
behaviour of others online is less than meaningless, but on their behalf,
I apologize to you - you do good work, and clearly can’t please some of
the people any of the time. Maybe
you could set up a filter with a few very specific phrases that seem to be
repeated in these messages, and pipe them to /dev/null.
A warping of a good phrase found
in Foundation’s Fear (the continuation of the Foundation series, written
distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.”
When first I read that, meesa
justa hadda grin.
Well, thanks. It ain't all that bad; I get a certain perverse enjoyment from posting some of the odder mail I get. And buried in some of that are some good points, but defending Netscape/AOL isn't, it seems to me, one of the better ways to spend time. They don't need a lot of help; they have the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, although why they are favored of Government I am not certain.
Anyway, I don't intend to abandon Linux or Apple or any other alternative to Microsoft; as I have been saying for about 20 years, the instant Microsoft stops running scared they stop working, and then we REALLY get bad stuff.
And way back when they changed from NT 3.5 to NT 4 I warned people that they had moved some IO functions in such a way that bad apps could now crash the system when previously this was not possible. (Has to do with Kernal rings and such like.) This was done in the name of performance. Now that the hardware is so much faster, I can hope that in Windows 2000 Server they will put things back the way they was so that bad drivers and bad apps can't do in the whole system.
As long as you’re on the
“must die” thing, how about doing a “NSI delenda est” thing? These
problems we’re having are typical of any interaction with NSI/InterNIC.
I hate NSI. I’ve always hated
NSI. Domain registration was bad enough back when it was free and
government subsidized. Once NSI got their world-wide monopoly on domain
registrations, they set the price at $100 for two years, which was about
$90 more than was reasonable, and service went down the drain.
I hate government-granted
monopolies, but I really hate InterNIC and NSI. If NSI’s teeth were on
fire, I wouldn’t pi** in their mouth.
Robert Bruce Thompson
Well I confess that until recently my thought was that it wasn't broke and didn't need fixing: the $50 a year isn't onerous at least not to me. Alas, now that I have had to actually deal with them, and discover there are no human beings involved there at all, only badly programmed machines, I may have a different view. I presume this can be made to work with competing registration systems? It is not obvious to me how that would work, but then I haven't thought about it much either. It wasn't a problem until today...
Once again this day...
I have had the blues more than
once attempting to migrate a domain registration, or simply to change some
of the information listed since people have this awkward tendency to move
when you fill out the web form
at NSI, they massage it, send it to you in email format, and ask you to
send it to firstname.lastname@example.org,
neh? well, the problem I had,
when all was said and done was - their automated domain modification
system had some formatting problems with the template generated by their
automated web template generating system.
blah blah blah
had a tab between the “2.”
and the rest of the line - this was causing the dom-mod system to vomit.
have a look for that, as I spent two days of email, and 1.5 hours
of musak on hold time to learn this one...
That may be the problem! It is certainly the symptom. I will now see if this fixes it. Thank you! I was ready to send a gift of stinking fish to those wonderful people at NSI. I may yet. There are apparently no human beings working there; they have taken all those fees they get and used them for profit rather than to hire people to actually do the work they are paid to do.
ALAS that was NOT the the problem. Nothing I do will be aceptable to those fiends in computer form (there are no humans at NSI). Fiends. Evil. But boy are they good at returning your applications without telling you why they are rejected!
Eventually they accepted the change as mysteriously as they rejected it. Insane.
Good one Jerry.
I have just had similar
experiences following an unscheduled reformat.
The only browser I had after
starting up was IE. At first I thought maybe Netscape just did the - press
button for unwanted commercial - routine to IE browser users: to make them
Then I found IE has a download
file-size limit just big enough to exclude recent versions of Netscape.
Eventually, using a searcher I
found another site from which I could download Netscape 3, which I
installed. Then I used it to
get a more recent version. Whew!
Am I boring you yet?
I won’t start on my Music
Match Jukebox and Real Juke Box saga, except to say that I think some sort
of territorial battle between these
two and my CD player software, combined with Netscape memory hogging and
the generally malignant environment of Win98 caused the downfall of my
system, prior to the reformat. I even tried using Norton Utilities to sort
things out at one time but it seemed to make matters worse. In fact it
seems to have developed a malignancy too, since Symantic took it over.
In rebuilding, I went back to
Win95 and I am making a point of not letting any software become the
default-anything unless it is absolutely essential. So far playing
hard-to-get seems to be working well.
All of my serious-work applications are chiming along, response
rates are better than ever and I have
One last point. This experience
has really started me thinking about malignancy as a real topic of
interest. For too long our
attentions have been diverted to little things like computer viruses,
trojan horses and the like. We
are entering the era of the Trojan world. It seems to me that there is
something quite evil in the way major applications are becoming sneakier
and sneakier. They insinuate their way into your computer, lull you or
frighten you into selecting options that increase their control, allowing
them to take over your computer, until you wind up working for them.
What’s a poor chump to do? And this is just the beginning.
There is plenty more to say
about this, if you dare.
I saw your column at www.byte.com
today, and thought you might be interested to hear that I had a similar
problem installing RealAudio G2 on my Windows 98 system. Things seemed
fine for a few hours, and the system locked up. Rinse and repeat; same
result. Eventually, through trial and error (what else?), I found that the
G2 Jukebox was the source of the problem.
Too many people feel free to add
things to the startup. Bad enough when it’s an icon in the Startup
folder, but really annoying when it’s buried in the registry. I got a
free CD of 103 MP3s from MP3.com. I installed it, tried to uninstall it,
and now two instances of the DUN applet start up every time I restart
I agree with you on the Netscape
update process. It’s not merely irritating; it’s downright offensive.
Microsoft’s Windows Update feature is reliable and easy to use.
Thursday July 29, 1999
Working on a book proposal.
Friday July 30, 1999
Tons of stuff, but again it will be a mixed bag with not too many comments.
Subject: Thank you for the article
I did not even have to read your article to get the anger that I share about Netscape and RealAudio. Same experience here. Since AOL got them Netscape is a zero. I hate Microsoft, but at least their stuff works. I wanted to add that the RealAudio’s download loop of ad banners is the worst thing I have ever encountered at this level.Madha, Abraham [Abraham_Madha@bmc.com]
Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say worst thing ever, but those ad banners that propagate without your starting them are a revolting development.
way to AVOID all that ad mess is to go to www.browsers.com,
and download from there.
One mouseclick on the “PC”
link there and you’re off to the “Downloads” page.
One more click, and the download’s running with no “Smart
Download” (ewww) to deal with.
I went thru that “Smart
Download” process myself, here at work, and I agree, it stinks.
Jack Furlong, Programmer,
Feather Fine Printing
Home address: email@example.com
For another view:
You have to be kidding ... I
have Netscape 4.6.1 installed everywhere ...
Win’98, Win’NT, AIX, Solaris
It is Microsoft I want to kill. If you ever want to destablize your machine, put IE 5.0 on
it. I opened a problem report
with Microsoft, they fussed around with it for a month ... couldn’t fix
it. Because I run Norton
Utilities, I told them the names of the files that they downleveled with
IE 5.0 ... they wouldn’t believe me.
I removed IE 5.0, and my machine
is back to normal.
Got Office 2000, and decided to
reinstall IE 5.0 from CDRom ... and there goes my nice stable machine
again. Reported it to
Microsoft again, and you know what I got back ....
Sorry, we can’t help you. Your time for support has expired.
Off comes IE 5.0 (the third
time), and I am NEVER buying another Microsoft product again.
I have never had so much trouble with a machine or a company in my
life, and I’m good at what I do ... diagnosing problems.
I do know what you mean by the advertising on Netscape site ... but that is an AOL trademark, not Netscape. (I did some consulting work to Netscape ... good folks).
For the record, I have never had any problems with IE5, which seems quite stable and usable. I also have the latest Netscape up. That used to be my default browser, but I find IE 5 preferable. I use Netscape to look at my site to be sure that FrontPage didn't do something that requires IE. So far I haven't found any such thing. JEP
This next isn't quite on the subject but it came in concerning the article:
I LOVE NT... what a fantastic
opportunity to clean up after people who don’t find out what they’re
doing ahead of time. Money! Money! Money!
CaChing!!!!Byron Stumbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]
But I am not entirely sure what it means. Certainly any large scale operation will require expertise to set up; it's the long term operating costs that are important. My experience has been that once NT is set up and working, it doesn't take a lot of guru time to keep it that way unless you are making major changes. UNIX may or may not work that way: many find that they need a wizard on station most of the time, not because the system doesn't work but because the users can't figure out how to make something happen.
=== Another letter:
is the way I received it:
like the problem with netscape 4.6 may have been real audio,
follow the link.
Let me know what you think.
Column - Netscape Must Die!, Jerry Pournelle.url>>
My situation was on an NT 4.0
SP4 Server. While using the
4.6 install, the machine just froze.
I rebooted, uninstalled,
Ever since then, the
system locked up 3-4 times a day.
Removed it, rebooted....
Now it locks 2-3 times a
I’m at the point that
I’ll reload the machine from scratch.
collect enough complaints that Netscape will look into it.
I think your problem is Real JukeBox and Real Audio running on startup; that kills my system every time. You can RUN them, after your system has started, but you should not allow them to run on startup. They must usurp resources needed by the operating system itself. Now I agree this is an operating system flaw, but there is a work around: Don't let Real Audio and Real Jukebox run on startup. I believe I covered that in the article. The Netscape install is a separate problem, which I'll get to in a moment with another letter. JEP
1. You’ve never used a
KEYBOARD in your life .... Task Manager will work with a keyboard, Jerry.
You’re a novice at downloading software ... particularly from
Netscape .... you can
download a complete version of Netscape
You’re a computer novice if you’re running a dual-processor
machine and run out of system resources .... memory is cheap, Jerry.
You’re ignorant if you click on an Advertisement without knowing
5. You’re a fiction writer ..... a bit too much drama.... your b.s. only works with novices.Stephen Wilde [email@example.com]
My thanks for your courteous advice. My system has 196 megabytes of memory, which I suppose is too little; I'll think about increasing it. Since I began this work in 1978 I do have some familiarity with keyboards, and in fact I did try that in the situation I encountered; alas, sometimes even that won't work properly because NT is deeply flawed in one respect: some trouble windows have priority, but are covered up so that you cannot see them.
As to clicking on advertisements without knowing it, two things: first, I did not ask for a separate advertisement window to be opened. It just happened. Second, sometimes processes start just as you are trying to do something else, and you find you have done something you hadn't intended. Finally, some advertisements masquerade as what they are not, so that you click on them expecting to download a product but get instead not only an advertisement but a cookie that follows you until killed.
I know this isn't the official Netscape response to my column because the Product Manger has written a courteous letter asking for details, and I am responding to that. With luck all or much of this will be fixed.
Netscape and and Software Installation
Hello Dr. Pournelle,
I have read with interest yours and others commentary for some time now and can say I have enjoyed the debates. Time to add my voice, such as it is.
My experience with Netscape overall is good. Installation is tricky, but I cope. IE 5 is no different in my book, however. To be specific, both products have their flaws. I live with them. IE 5's installation nearly crashed my NT workstation, re-iconed my desktop (lost the correct pictures and went to default icons), would and will not let me keep IE 4 despite my efforts, forced a total uninstall of IE 4 and two reboots to upgrade to IE 5, and thoughtfully upgraded many controls and DLLs that in a production environment blow up other required applications. You, and others, have noted the Netscape issues well enough.
I build software tools that support building and deploying software electronically. Imagine building a 'package' that installs Netscape or IE without a reboot (if possible) or user intervention across tens of thousands of computers. I see many install problems. Netscape is not the sole owner of poor installation practice. Much software exists that is far worse. I do not see an improvement in some of the new products now in beta testing.
Despite the problems with products, I continue to use both Netscape and IE, grit my teeth over the flaws, and enjoy their strengths. IE 5, when used behind a firewall, on a network with plenty of bandwidth, can timeout before it displays a page where Netscape speeds along painlessly. Netscape has mysterious crashes that kill all open instances when maintaining several open windows. The list goes on.
Is any of this good news? Not really. What I see is a terrible need for all development companies to slow down feature additions and focus on reliable product improvement. Yes, I like the new stuff in the new browsers. I would much more prefer they run correctly and predictably. Until such a time that a perfect product exists, I will continue to use all of what is out there. Hooray for capitalism.
Thanks for the venue and the good literate,
We are in complete agreement: what amazes me is that if I criticize Netscape I am automatically assumed to be defending Microsoft, when in fact I have many times pointed out flaws in both. I once even wished for a missile ship to bombard Redmond, but no one seems to have noticed that.
I will say that in general Microsoft has been far more responsive to criticisms, and has tried to work with me to find things to fix. I have found many problems in Microsoft stuff that were taken care of in bug fixes, and I have never had a vituperative letter from a Microsoft official despite some pretty harsh language over the years.
Incidentally, I am finding Windows 2000 to be stable and to have overcome some of the problems of NT 4.
The big problems with NT came when, to enhance performance, they moved some of the IO into the kernel in such a way that IO driver flaws can crash not merely the application but everything else. Secondly, some of the error messages take system priority, but can be overlaid with other windows; but you CANNOT SELECT the other window in order to close or minimize it until you have dealt with the error message, but you can't SEE the error message. My work-around for this is to right click down on the tool bar and MINIMIZE ALL WINDOWS; often this works, the other windows vanish, and you see only the error message. Sometimes Task Manager will work and let you see the error message also; and sometimes keyboard commands (which I know about despite the Netscape message above accusing me otherwise) work.
In general: I do not pretend to infallibility, but to accuse me of inexperience is a bit naive. I have after all been at this long enough to have my first PC on display in the Smithsonian. I do sometimes forget things, but then the subtitle of my computer work as always been "The User's Column"; I USE these things to try to get work done, and I often make the same mistakes my readers do; and I will say that Microsoft seems a bit more appreciative of my efforts despite some severe criticisms I have made than have been some of those whose letters I have published.
My task as I see it is to get my work done and document problems; and as always, "I do all these silly things so you won't have to..." [JEP]
You write: “I had forgotten
slashdot. I know it is supposed to be an important place, but the few
times I went over there it was unpleasant, and the smog to data ratio was
Try Linux Today and Linux Weekly
News. They’re far more
sober than Slashdot, they are light on graphics, flamethreads are put out
of the way so that they’re easily ignored, and both of these Web
journals have extremely good (comprehensive yet concise)
daily and weekly overviews of all things Linux.
Thanks. If I had more time I would spend more looking at many sources; there is some good stuff at slashdot but I don't have time to wade through it. Fortunately some of my subscribers weed out the gems and send to me. Thanks to all of you; I'd never be able to do all this alone. [JEP]
How interesting that you should
post the above slogan from Robert Bruce Thompson!
We had an “experience” with
NSI recently. I started
getting complaints from users here that their email was being bounced back
from some other systems. I
investigated a bit, and found that the other systems were checking on our
email address ... and claiming “biostar.com” did not exist!
I called the contact name for
Storage Tek (one of the refusing mail servers), and had a nice long
conversation with him as he checked around (and enlightened me about
“root servers”). Finally, he said “check with your ISP” (AT&;T, in our
I called AT&;T, and after a
few minutes was told “call Network Solutions”.
I called Network Solutions, and
after quite a wait on hold (not a toll-free number, BTW), was told
“sorry, you haven’t paid your bills”. That
was news to me, but it seemed possible, so I forwarded that information to
our accounting people.
One of them spent an hour
holding on that same number, and proved to NSI that we were, in fact, paid
up until early next year.
And ... it took NSI three days
to fix this problem AFTER they realized it had been their mistake!
(the joys of tech support never
When I first heard about the notion of taking NSI's monopoly away, I thought that things weren't broke and didn't need fixing; it's clear that was an uninformed opinion, and I apologize for what I said in the techweb broadcast; I fear I am sometimes a bit too glib when on the air live. It's clear things do need fixing.
I have eventually managed to get a template to NSI that they will accept; but it took HOURS and many tries, using their own stuff. They put spaces and tabs in places they shouldn't be and then won't accept that format when you send it back. Sigh.
Dear Jerry: I just upgraded to a new 19 inch monitor, and you were certainly right: bigger IS better! I always sort of wondered how you did it when you'd talk about having "too many windows open at one time" - now I know. Anyway, I seem to remember in a not-too-long ago column or View or Mail that you mentioned a way to set a monitor for in-between 1024 by 768 and 1280 by 1024; I think it was something like 1152 by 896 or thereabouts. That would be perfect for me, but I can't find any way to make such a setting in Windows 98se. Can you let me know how you did it, or point me to the information? I'd certainly appreciate it, All the best, and thanks, Tim Loeb
Tim Loeb [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I don't recall that one, and alas I don't have time to do the experiments.
Saturday July 31, 1999
on replacing and / or patching certain components of Netscape
Communicator. In order to get them installed, Communicator has to be
restarted on NT, and on Win 95/98, Windows has to be restarted. If you
don’t follow instructions it may seem like SmartUpdate didn’t work.
Overall SmartUpdate saves download time, because it doesn’t
download the whole package, but only what is needed. In addition,
SmartUpdate makes it easier for end users because the installation
immediately follows download and
the users don’t have to locate the files they downloaded.
SmartDownload solves a problem that many of our users have
complained about, and that is failed downloads. It allows users to stop
the download in the middle, disconnect, speak on the phone, reconnect and
continue the download. Also if for some reason the download is
disconnected, double clicking on the SmartDownload icon will resume the
download from where it left off.
Once again we have to
find a balance between power users like yourself and many readers of your
column and more novice users who don’t want to worry about where the
file downloaded to and just want everything to work.
I hope that makes things
a little more clear from the Netscape perspective. Thanks for the feedback
- it always helps to be reminded about how important the download and
install process is.
Regarding the problems
caused by Real, I can’t really comment on them and can forward those
directly to Real.
Uri Blackman [email@example.com]
One major feature of Windows 2000 is that you generally do NOT have to reboot the system after an installation. Of course I was writing about an experience with NT 4.
The problems came about, I think, as an interaction between NT 4 and Netscape: as I've observed before, sometimes trouble windows pop up but are hidden by other windows that will not get out of the way. All the highly distracting advertisements didn't help, and the pop-up advertisement windows use up resources as well. For whatever reason, there were enough factors to make this the installation from Hell, and it happened just as I was doing the final part of the column; I wrote that section about two hours before my deadline.
If it had only been me having problems I would have put it down to my own mistakes, but a quick check of some of my subscribers showed they had many of the came problems; and of course my recent mail shows that I was hardly alone on this.
Note that as originally written, the "Netscape must die" tag was merely the opening sentence of a paragraph buried deep in the column. Byte.com has taken to breaking my column into parts, and running each part separately; this time they broke it at the "Netscape must die" sentence so that became the lead, which it wasn't intended to be, then became the headline which I didn't write. (Columnists seldom write headlines. Editors reserve that privilege for themselves.) Thus what was intended to be an eye catcher followed immediately by the disclaimer became a headline followed by its repetition, giving it an emphasis I never intended. I mostly wanted to get the story out so readers would know what to expect. A good part of this column consists of war stories so that readers won't make the same mistakes I do. It's a bit unfortunate that this got blown up quite so large.
I freely admit (and did at the time) that had I been a lot more careful in the installation I probably wouldn't have had so much trouble
For that matter I wouldn't have given this so much space here in mail if I hadn't got a bit irritated by the tone of the first mail I got in response to the headline. That in turn drew out a number of user experiences which I felt obliged to publish if only in defense of my own actions.
Anyway, we've now provided you with enough user experiences to show what may be needed for the next iteration of the install program; and it's probably time to drop this.
In response to the message from
Tim Loeb regarding the setting between 1024x768 &; 1280x1024. The
resolutions offered are determined by the driver, and to a lesser degree
by the monitor capabilities. You can sometimes get a better picture
(better contrast, brighter, new resolution choices, etc.) by selecting a
monitor other than what you are actually using. Of course, an incompatible
scan rate can result in a destroyed monitor. My 21” DEC monitor, for
instance, looks much better when I use the “Standard Monitor Types:
Super VGA 1600x1200” selection instead of the Digital 21”. A system
with a Jazz Multimedia G-Force 128 card allows the 1152x864 setting, my
Digital HiNote Ultra 2000 notebook does not.
Many years back while writing
a video control driver for the original Compaq portable, I made an error
that resulted in the final horizontal drive transistor frying. I had
previously (naively) believed that software could not destroy hardware. So
I fixed the monitor and did it again. And fixed it again. I still have
spares of those transistors on hand...
(John G. Ruff)
I have had a number of responses, some of them sent directly to Tim Loeb with copies to me, so I think this takes care of that question. Thanks.
Subject - Lens to magnify screen and improve viewing
Dick Moncure firstname.lastname@example.org
a 21" monitor, but I'd like to know if you or your readers have any
opinion on the Bausch &; Lomb MagniViewer -
Fresnel lens mounted between user and screen, and the claim is that is
makes the monitor appear to be a 40-inch screen viewed from 33 inches
away. This is supposedly much
better on the eyes, refocusing, body position, and so forth.
! not cheap
! ! $ 300 !
I tend to
believe the claims since Bausch &; Lomb is a reputable old-line optics
firm, but unfortunately the device is not made for any screen larger than
17". I'm going to go for
a 21" Nokia, but with your interest in good viewing I wanted to pass
your interest the following dismal assessment of what bombing really
accomplished, from a fine Website - the UK Electronic Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk:
admits air campaign failed
1999: RAF admits
failings in Kosovo inquiry
you very much for one other thing - my ten-year-old loves, " Then up
spake brave Horatius …"
Thanks for the kind words. I'd be inclined to view this as a distraction, and put the money to some other use, but I have had no experience with this. I use a 21" monitor and computer glasses, and I really wouldn't care to have other lenses in the way; but perhaps I am being obtuse. Anyone have experience with this?
The following is in answer to a question I asked over in view:
Try www.mail-abuse.org for as much information as you can stand; in baby talk the RBL (Realtime Blackhole List) is a list of IP addresses which MAPS (the Mail Abuse Prevention System) has identified as being used by spammers. Sites (like ISP's) can refer to the RBL to selectively block traffic from those IPs, that's "blackholing". There's a lot in there about how MAPS is not setting out to pick on anybody, but some of their methods (e. g. "blackholing" sites that are victims of "third-party relaying" by spammers) seem a little wholesale to me. They make the point that use of the RBL is by choice, and that the RBL doesn't operate on domain names. Jim Griebal
MAPS is a service to which one
can subscribe; they maintain lists of known spammers, and if you subscribe
to their service, your mail is routed through them.
They then auto-delete email from sites designated as spam
originators so that it never hits your mail exchanger.
It’s generally ISPs and
corporations who subscribe to this service, not individuals.
Now, I’ve never received spam
from NSI, nor do I know anyone who has.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t do it; however, the type of
people who constantly agitate against NSI, just like those who agitate
against Microsoft, in general seem to be the sort of fever-eyed and
sweaty-palmed fanatics who view any and all actions of their
self-designated nemesis to be mortal insults.
To read about MAPS, visit the
I gather that
MAPS, whatever that is, has a service, RBL, which filters
origin sites or domains as Spam sources, and thus doesn’t
pass along mail
from those. I have no notion of how many people
whatever this is, or how one subscribes or does not, or
find out who
does subscribe or does not.
MAPS stands for Mail Abuse
RBL stands for Realtime Blackhole
The web site is at http://maps.vix.com/rbl/
MAPS was essentially created by
Paul Vixie who wanted to cut the number of spam messages arriving on his
system. He started setting
his mail program to refuse to accept emails from computers which were
seldom the source of legetimate mail and often the source of spam.
In time this expaned to an online database of known spam sources
which can be used by any comuter on the Internet which uses Sendmail or
one of a dozen less-popular mail programs.
claims that 20,000 ISPs use the RBL.
The exact number is hard to pin down because there is a method for
using the list without registering (or paying).
As you might imagine MAPS is on
the receiving end of a lot of legal bluster complaining about censorship.
The defense is that the RBL doesn’t block spam on the Net in
general, it merely prevents it from entering a computer owned by the
person who elects to use the list. When
the compuer is the main mail computer for a large ISP it also blocks spam
from reaching thousands of customers’ personal computers.
An ISP owner would be foolish to not make it plain when signing up
customers that some email is blocked... particularly when you can call
this a feature and use it to justify charging a couple extra bucks a
I use a different method to stay
away from spam... I use disposable email addresses when putting my address
on the Web or when posting to USENET.
Replies sent to these addresses are auto-forwarded to my ‘real’
email address. When an
address gets harvested by a spammer I just turn it off and select a new
one. You could do that—tell
only your publisher and your family your real address and start with email@example.com
for the one you give on your Web site.
After a month switch to aaab.
AOL customers could do the same with screen names.
This method works wonderfully ;
I haven’t received any spam since March.
By the way, if you want to
follow discussions on Slashdot, you have the option of seeing only
messages which have a higher score as selected by a fairly large group of
moderators. If you surf with cookies enabled and register yourself at the
Slashdot site this will all happen automatically when you go to the site.
Scores are set to 1 for any user who has registered (anyone other
than “Anonymous Coward”), so in the example you show:
Re:Geek hypocracy make me sick
by Chameleon on Saturday July 31,
@12:01PM EDT (#44
one of the moderators went out
of the way to lower the score. Viewing
only messages with a 2 or higher will reduce the number of messages by
60-75%, or you could go to 3 or 4 and cut it down even more.
--- Rich Brown ---- http://www.FreeMars.org
--- (currently) rabmar@FreeMars.org
MAPS stands for
Mail Abuse Prevention System
RBL stands for
Realtime Blackhole List
The web site is
aspect of the list, and the reason it is a database, is that the owners of
any computer can get their machine removed from the blackhole list within
seconds of convincing the MAPS administrators they’ve reformed.
--- Rich Brown ---- http://www.FreeMars.org
A quick search at Google (http://www.google.com)
revealed the following (as usual, Google’s first hit was the one I
MAPS (http://maps.vix.com/rbl/) is the Mail Abuse Prevention System - a subscription-based service which identifies networks which are friendly to (or at least neutral toward) spammers. A good description of what they do can be found at http://maps.vix.com/rbl/candidacy.html
I didn’t know they had this
new mnemonic URL.
Thanks to all of you; this settles this matter, and I at least learned a lot.
The following isn't precisely related to the above but it fits here:
Dobbins reports that he has had no problems with NSI, and my reaction may
Mr. Dobbins is either remarkably
tolerant or has been remarkably lucky. I’ve been dealing with InterNIC
for more than a decade, and they’ve always been pretty bad. They’ve
been an order of magnitude worse, however, since the federal government
granted NSI (a for-profit corporation) a world-wide monopoly on granting
domain names. Roman tax farmers had nothing on NSI. I said the day the
monopoly was first mentioned that NSI would go into money-grubbing mode
immediately, grabbing as much as they could as fast as they could, and
providing as little service as possible. They were fully aware that
international outrage would soon mean an end to their monopoly.
As a matter of fact, I strongly suspect that the two-year
requirement for new registrations was implemented because they expected
their monopoly to be withdrawn before two years had passed. Their attitude
has always been “get while the getting’s good” and their service (or
lack thereof) is just one indicator of that. They have no interest in
serving their customers, only in getting as much money from them as
possible as quickly as possible. Fortunately,
we’re beginning to see some competition, although NSI still serves as
the clearing house for domain names, and still charges a monopoly price
for doing that. The time came long ago when the clearing house function
should have been delegated to a non-profit created and managed by all
NSI must die.
Robert Bruce Thompson
== == ==
To reiterate, my experiences
with NSI have been, on the whole, fairly unremarkable.
They’re very slow; other than that, I’ve no horror-stories to
relate. I’ve been able to
get not only my personal domains but those of my clientes regged with very
little hassle, other than a sometimes-interminable wait.
A very good friend of mine owns
a large hosting ISP (OC12 into uu.net, DS3 into MAE-WEST) and the single
most popular click-through service on the Internet, which name I shan’t
mention here. His people deal
with NSI constantly, and their comments are essentially the same as mine;
they’re a slow-moving bureaucracy, but they generally do get things
right, albeit lethargically.
Should there be competition in
the domain-registration business? Surely.
Is a fait accompli by ICANN, accountable to no one and consisting
of some of the most presumptuous and patronizing net.personalities around,
the best way to accomplish this goal?
I think not.
If I had to pick between NSI and ICANN as the final arbiter of the
DNS namespace, I’d pick NSI every time.
Anyone remember Esther Dyson’s
position on anonymity before she left the EFF?
This sort of arrogation of power because it’s deemed what’s
best for us proles is of a piece with the attitude which led her to take
such a stance in the first place, and ICANN seems, from my perspective, to
be staffed with people of like mentality.
A kindler, gentler Big Brother (Big Sister?).
Thanks, but no thanks.
Roland Dobbins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Null, void, invalid, iniquitous,
unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane and empty of meaning for all time.
-- Pope Innocent X, on the
Treaty of Westphalia, 1648
Sunday August 1, 1999
I read the banal comments
you’ve received regarding your Netscape column and I am reminded of a
comment a friend of mine was often heard to mutter - “Some people’s
But I digress...
I noted with interest that in
response to an email you’d received you mentioned wearing “computer
glasses”. Between my work and my life, I average about 8 hours a day
looking at computer screens. I wear trifocals and find it almost
impossible to look at a screen comfortably. To remedy this I had a pair of
glasses made-up with the entire lens being the same as the center
(intermediate/ transition?) section of my trifocals.
MUCH BETTER!!! WOW!!
The increase in comfort is
immediate as soon as I put them on and look at the screen. If I am working
mostly at one machine for long periods of time this solution is optimal.
Unfortunately, I am often leaving the PC, moving around the
offices, going to meetings, moving frequently from PC to PC. Since I find walking and moving around with my computer
glasses very uncomfortable , I find myself switching my glasses many
dozens of times a day. This is proving to be a royal pain, especially when
the switch is occurring every few minutes.
I have discussed this
‘problem’ with my optometrist and she has mentioned a lens, which I
believe she called a “Technica”. As she explained it to me, it is a
trifocal with the far distance prescription ground as the bottom half of
an oval at the very top of the lens and the closest distance prescription
ground as the top half of an oval at the bottom of the lens. The remaining
section of the lens is ground to the intermediate distance prescription.
As you can see (no pun), this would enable me to reduce, hopefully
greatly, the number of times that I would have to switch glasses. One
problem with them, which stopped me from ordering immediately, is that
they are not inexpensive. Not outrageous, but enough to make me pause
because if they don’t work for me, then I am stuck with them.
So, I am asking you, and my
fellow subscribers, if they have any experience with this type of lens?
Just how functional are they? I wouldn’t expect to be able to drive in
them, but how functional are they working around the office and, of
course, how are they when working at a PC?
Thanks, in advance, for your
I may have invented "computer glasses" back in 1976. I found myself looking at the 16 lines of 64 characters screen of Old Zeke through the bottoms of my bi-focals, and that was driving me nuts. I had my optometrist make me a set of glasses with my distance astigmatism prescription in the top half but with a focal length of 28 inches. This is what I use to this day. Now i can see at a distance with those enough to keep from running into the furniture but I can't drive with them. Still, for getting up and going to the can or even down to breakfast the computer glasses work all right, and of course I can read the paper with them. I don't see my wife at a far distance but if we are sitting at the same table I can see her all right. I tend to swap for the regular glasses when I leave the computer but if I forget to do it there is no tragedy.
I am not familiar with any other kind. My vision problems are not so severe that I can't manage to get around the room with no glasses at all; it's when I try to see small things that I can't do it. I have worn bi-focals for most of my life.
working on the Windows 2000 Logo program, developing the Test Plans that
our independent lab partner will use to verify that applications meet the
Specifications for Certification on Windows 2000. In
your response to the letter from Netscape you stated, “One
major feature of Windows 2000 is that you generally do
NOT have to reboot the system after an installation.” This is indeed one of the cool features of the new Windows,
but it may not have helped you in this case. System File Protection (SFP)
tries very, very hard to restore the originals of any protected system
files an application may replace (including Solitaire and FreeCell, by the
way). If a system file that’s in memory is NOT replaced, there’s no
need to reboot. So far, so good.
problem with installations on Windows 2000 will be the Vendor’s DLLs
(Dynamic Link Libraries), not the system files. If the Vendor needs to
update a DLL that’s already loaded in memory (because an application is
running, usually), they’ll still want you to reboot in order to remove
the old version from memory. In some cases, the DLL is from a third party
development library, and the application you’re trying to
install/upgrade doesn’t even have to be running for the version conflict
to rear its ugly head. Windows 2000 supports a feature called
“side-by-side DLLs” which allows two DLLs with the same name to live
in memory at the same time and will, eventually, solve the Vendor supplied
DLL reboot problem. But side-by-side DLLs must be specially written by the
Vendor, and until they are the norm, we’ll still have occasional reboots
required, even on Windows 2000. And some Vendors will find the
unnecessary, gratuitous reboot after installation a hard habit to break.
You also observed
that, “sometimes trouble windows pop up but are hidden by other
windows that will not get out of the way.” That’s
been a royal pain since a series of feature changes in the Windows NT4
product cycle. Apparently major enterprise users complained about messages
that “pop up” in front of your application that have nothing to do
with what you’re working on…network notifications or messages sent to
your computer by other users, perhaps. Those dialogs used to pop into the
foreground (perhaps a useful feature), make a noise (maybe a useful
feature) and get focus because they suddenly became the foreground
windows. The focus part was apparently a source of major frustration for
many users because they didn’t immediately notice the window and would
continue typing. The notification dialog, having focus, got all the
keystrokes and sometimes did inappropriate things because it assumed those
keystrokes, actually meant for the application the user had been working
on, were meant for it, the notification dialog, instead. Important
messages were lost and occasionally data was garbled or sent to the bit
So, the user gods
(the developers who ultimately determine the code in user32.dll that
controls the GUI part of Windows) made changes in how SetForegroundWindow
works. No longer do windows automatically actually come to the foreground
when they call SetForegroundWindow. Instead, their icon in the taskbar
(tray) assumes the “I have focus” color and flashes a few times. There
may be other effects as well, depending on your accessibility settings.
But the notification stays politely out of your face until you consciously
bring it to the foreground to dismiss it.
Well, that was the
intent anyway. We found quickly, as our automated tests for hundreds of
applications broke overnight, that things aren’t always that clean.
What’s worse, features were added to SetForegroundWindow to emulate the
old behavior, but they have to be invoked specifically and correctly. Some
Vendors use them, but not correctly or appropriately, and the mysterious
modal window that can be neither seen nor dismissed is the result. Since
each Vendor writes their own code in their own style, there’s no one
“right” way for the user to handle such things. Your idea of
minimizing all Windows often works. Occasionally walking through the task
list using Alt+Tab does the trick. I usually resort to using Task Manager
to kill running applications, one by one, until I can either get to the
blasted notification or it goes away in the process. Sometimes I lose the
latest changes to stuff in progress, but I’m a grumpy old tester and
I’ve come to accept that life is short and it’s usually cheaper for me
to reconstruct things than put up with excessive frustration.
Noel Nyman [noeln@MICROSOFT.com]
Perhaps naming one’s electronic appliances is something only a psych doctor would do, or understand. Rather cute, but it totally trivializes whatever message you are trying to impart. Since you insist on anthropomorphizing a human tool, do you also talk (not swear) to them? And do they talk back? Have you discussed this with a real Doctor (i.e., a “shrink”)? Do you do this only with PCs or do you also name your other house appliances? How about, “Tommy (the toilet)”, or “Teddy (the Toaster), or Bobbie (the bed), etc., etc.?? I am sure that you would use that keen intellect of yours to choose more imaginative names. Incidentally, I know it would never occur to you how boring your narcissistic meanderings are, but I wonder if you have ever added up how many magazines that you have written columns for - how many of those subsequently went belly-up and/or dematerialized into the impermanent ether of the Internet? Coincidence? I don’t think so.MkeLanyard@aol.com
Well, let's see: BYTE began in 1976, and lasted until 1998; Nikkei BYTE is still in print, while BYTE.com is making money. The only other magazine I wrote for was INFOWORLD which so far as I know is still around. I wrote a column for Analog Science Fiction which still exists. I did one for Galaxy Science Fiction which vanished back in the 70's but that was before the computer revolution, and I don't think I did any (certainly not many) columns for Galaxy after I got computerized. I wrote for the Natonal Catholic Register and for Twin Circle for many years, but they are still around and doing well, I think. Any others that have folded up are not my fault, although I did have a story, "Dear Istvan," that I sold to three different science fiction magazines. Each paid for it, and went out of business before the story was published. After the third time I stopped selling the story. Alas for your hypothesis, I never had a column in any of those magazines. So, of the ones I wrote columns, for, Galaxy vanished in the 1970's, and BYTE succumbed in 1998. With BYTE at least the circulation was quite high, the problem was sales.
As to naming computers: first, I always have, and about every 4 years I get a letter complaining about the practice, usually because the reader thinks it is too cute for words, and is upset about anthropomorphizing my machines; some fear I will lose my mind or something. Now in the very early days of Ezekiel, who is now on display in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I did tend to anthropomorphic stories, and I used to talk to my machine and publish the machine's answers. After my mad friend Mac Lean died we used to hope that one day we'd see his inimitable style in messages on my computers, but it didn't happen and we didn't REALLY expect it to; just that with Dan MacLean you never knew.
Now, the networks demand that I name them something, and while P-2-1 would do for the network, I see no great harm in using Parsifal as the name; why shouldn't I? As to Armadillo and later Royal Armadillo, the Compaq portables were called the Armada series, and I like Armadillos better than Armadas; why shouldn't I?
I am tempted to say at this point that reading Pournelle is a privilege, not a right, and I should instruct my web provider to set up some code that keeps you from accessing the site, to spare you the pain since you seem drawn to this embarrassing example of my senility. Ah well. Thank you for sharing this with us.
I just thought I’d let you
know that after initially doing the honorable thing, Consumer Reports
Online is back to practices that they would surely label
“Unacceptable” according to their own standards of review.
I know that you had had severe difficulties with the site about six
months ago, but a few months back I decided to visit the site to gather
info for some purchases I was about to make.
At that time, they had opened all content on their site to free
access, because they were having difficulties with their subscription
system. This seemed fair to
me; the other fair option would be to limit access, but not accept new
subscriptions until their difficulties were solved.
Unfortunately, my visit today
did not go so well. Apparently,
Consumer Reports has now decided that the lure of site subscription money
inflow outweighs their oft-self-noted scruples—they solicit new
subscriptions for a site that (1) is slower than molasses (over 3 minutes
per page, while nearly simultaneous visits to other sites were
normal-speed) and (2) even AFTER an apparently successful subscription,
produces a page with the following message: “Access Denied Cannot access
this content area unless the store adminstrator adds you to the access
Please contact the store
adminstrator. “ Of course,
there is apparently no electronic means to contact the store
administrator! In the
site’s FAQ section, they even make note of the quandry that the only way
to email them is by successfully logging in, as follows: “You can’t
e-mail us if you can’t access the subscribers-only area. “ (quote from
their unhelpful FAQ); no remedy, of course, aside from the USPS (!) postal
address they provide. This is
clearly the downside of the Internet—small, non-tech-savvy companies can
quickly and easily get into hot water by setting up sites that collect
money without the infrastructure to properly provide the services they are
On another note, I am a big fan
of the efforts toward cheap low-orbit access that you have often described
in passing in your column and web site.
I have found the names/links you provided useful, but get the
impression that there are more organizations at work toward this important
goal. Do you have a pointer to a fairly comprehensive list of such
groups for those of us not yet personally active in these circles?
Thanks very much,
I tried to withdraw my "subscription" when I found it wasn't working properly, but they charged my credit card anyway. I expect I had better notify American Express lest they automatically renew it. I cannot say that I have found Consumer Reports a pleasant outfit to deal with, nor have I found their web site useful in any way, but I am sure that others must have better experiences. As for me, they have my twenty bucks or whatever, and that was my doing although I did attempt to get them to cancel the subscription; but they ignored that communication as they have ignored every other I have sent them. It does behoove me to see they don't get an automatic renewal. Thanks for the reminder.
Jerry, I read Spinrad's article and he kind of missed the point. NASA could not have used the SDI funds because without the SDI program those funds would not have existed. Betting that the Pentagon would need to help fund NASA to get SDI in space is a pretty good bet. Some space scientists try to play the same zero sum game in the great manned vs. unmanned debate. They claim that money spent on the shuttle and space station would be better used for sending unmanned probes to the planets. What they fail to understand is that without the manned program there wouldn't really be an unmanned one. Killing a program filled with robots is easier than killing one with astronauts (though history has shown both can indeed be "defunded"). In any case, I don't think SDI took one penny from the regular NASA budget. In fact I think the push for SDI probably saved a few pet projects that would have been dumped otherwise. Chris Lopes
contents copyright 1999 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.