CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 60: August 2 - 8, 1999
REFRESH/RELOAD EARLY AND OFTEN!
CLICK ON THE Blimp TO SEND MAIL TO ME
The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.
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..
is an Internet demi-god who lives out in California somewhere.
Aside from having written the reference implementation of BIND, the
software that is run on better than 80% of the DNS nameservers on the
planet, he runs an organization called the “Mail Abuse Prevention
Service”, a limited-liability company whose purpose is to make life
easier for network operators (ISP’s, etc) who don’t want to receive
traffic from other networks which are flagrant spam-havens.
This service, the Realtime
Blackhole List, operates at the network router level, making the sending
network completely invisible to those people who
I quote from http://maps.vix.com:
The MAPS RBL is
a system for creating intentional network outages for
the purpose of
limiting the transport of known-to-be-unwanted mass
The MAPS RBL is a subscription system, such that no one is
connectivity to a non-RBL-subscriber. If your network seems
to have been
“blackholed” by us, be aware that the places you cannot
deliberately chosen not to exchange traffic with you. We are
network’s police force, but rather, a method to identify likely
The issue here is that Network
Solutions, regardless of what it’s spokesman Chris Clough seems to
think, is a government contractor, and it is on those terms that they have custody of
the information concerning their “customers”... they use this excuse
to send mail to these contacts promoting their commercial
services—things that they do as a commercial entity, not as a government
In short, they—as a commercial
entity—have kidnapped that list from themselves—as a government
contractor—and are using it as a marketing tool.
Since they’re the only people
you can go to for that service, and the service is not an option, people are
rightly incensed at the treatment they’re receiving from NSI.
The Commerce Department is not happy with them either; references
And the competition stuff
you’re hearing about?
Those people will be competing
with NSI as a
The former job can be split...
the latter cannot.
Now, the pragmatic aspect of
this is that if you blackhole NSI... no one can get to whois, or the
primary root and com/org/net nameservers.
Needless to say, this would not
Jay R. Ashworth
Member of the Technical Staff Buy copies of The New Hackers Dictionary.
The Suncoast Freenet Give
them to all your friends.
A fairly clear estimate of the situation. Thanks.
I get enough Spam that I want something done about it; I get weary of eliminating 30 to 50 unwanted solicitations, often multiple copies of the same inane offer sent from slightly different return addresses or no return address at all. What can be done and what I'm willing to give up in order to eliminate this onerous task I am not sure. I do know that those who cause this problem deserve little consideration, and if there were a way to annoy them as much as they collectively annoy everyone else, most of us would take it. Hmm.
Think on this: if you waste 5 seconds time for 5 million people, this is nearly 20 years; do you deserve 20 years imprisonment? Surely not; but if you do that 50 times?
Weeks tells us he collects 800, 877 and 888 toll-free numbers from Spam and then sets up a 28.8 modem to dial these automatically for hours so the spammer incurs big phone charges.
When I was in Oklahoma City some years ago there was a man in the news who did not like Oral Roberts [TV evangelist with a huge following in Oklahoma] and so set his PC and modem to repetitively dial the 800 number for funding pledges that Oral Roberts runs across the bottom of the TV screen during his show.
After 3 months, and I am surprised it took that long, he was arrested by the FBI on interstate tampering with the phone system, denial of service of a common carrier, and whole bunch of other very serious Federal communication charges.
He was convicted or course, since he forgot the 800 number trapped his home number the modem was calling from and the trace was trivial, he did time in the Federal pen and paid a very big fine. I think the modem was still dialing merrily when the FBI showed up at his house with the warrant...
Based on the Federal conviction, Oral Roberts' church sued him for the estimated loss of revenue for the 3 months the lawyers calculated his modem was seizing the 800 number and preventing one of the faithful from getting through and pledging money, and it was a big amount although I no longer remember how much. But since he had no job, house, car, bank account or wife anymore, i doubt they collected much...
So while it might be satisfying to charge a spammer a lot on his phone bill, is it worth a Federal felony on your rap sheet? Although I hear the food is better than in state prison...
So clearly the law is not on your side when you try to deal with the spammers yourself. Should it be?
I ask this seriously. For a long time the old ARPA Net policed itself. Not always wisely or well, but in general the community standards worked, and most actions were taken by a fairly large consensus. It was self government with all the advantages and flaws inherent in self government.
The alternative to self government is "professionalism" as for instance asking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tax, and Firearms to protect you from the Oklahoma City Bomber, but also from the Branch Davidians. Another word for "professional" in government is "bureaucrat." Sometimes you want bureaucrats: my favorite example is Los Angeles County Animal Regulation. I very much want all dogs in the county to be vaccinated against rabies. You must get a certificate of vaccination in order to get a license for your dog. It is in the interest of nearly all of us that you don't have an unlicensed dog. This requires snoops who go about finding people with unlicensed dogs. The kind of person who wants this job is not always or even usually the kind of person I want to know, yet it is in my interest that there be bureaucrats who like that sort of work. The question becomes, just how much bureaucracy do I want in my life? Or you in yours? And alas, I am not sure we have any answer to that when it comes to regulation of the Net.
I suppose I would rather err on the part of too much reliance on self government rather than too little. The harm done to me by spam is small compared to the potential harm from an overzealous bureaucracy. (For that matter, my view of the desirability of having bureaucratic snoops searching for unlicensed dogs is probably colored by my memories of just how terrible the Pasteur treatment for rabies was when I was a child; I understand that the new preventive for rabies after a bite by a rabid animal doesn't entail all the horrors of the classic Pasteur series.)
Once you "professionalize"; once you establish a bureaucracy; it is exceedingly unlikely that you will ever get rid of it. I recall about 40 years ago, when farm employment was much larger than it is now, there was an effort to get a fundamental law stating there could never be more employees of the Department of Agriculture than there were farmers and farm workers in the US. The government employees unions were horrified, and the law failed. I don't know what the ratio between DofA employees and farm workers is today, but I do know there is no such law. I also know that the Rural Electrification Administration continues to go strong, and there continues in New England to be a government owned factory making hemp hawsers for Navy warships; it was established in the Civil War after North Carolina, where those hawsers were formerly made, went to the Confederacy. I suspect that few of our warships need hemp anchor hawsers today, or that if they are needed, that private industry is incapable of supplying them.
All of which adds up to "Tread lightly..."
Dear Jerry, I've just read your article"Nescape blows up.." I'm a Tech Support Agent as well as Abuse Manager at a Southern California ISP. One of the things I make sure to tell my customers (when I walk them through upgrading Communicator) is to be sure and "click" on the link that says "Download without using Smartupdate." You then get a regular "Save As..." window and can download it in the directory of your own choosing. Now..I don't know if would have solved your problem, but I didn't see it anywhere in your article. If it would have solved your problem then you should have told your readers that, instead of leaving them hanging. P.S. I completely agree with you on the Star Wars review, I was completely diappointed. John sale PacificNet Technical Support 3rd Tier email@example.com PacificNet Abuse Department firstname.lastname@example.org ExcelOnline Technical Support 3rd Tier email@example.com ExcelOnline Abuse Department firstname.lastname@example.org
The problem is FINDING that link that says download without using the smart download feature. It wasn't obvious to me, at least. But thanks.
you mentioned that someone said “Feathersnake”
would repel female readers. I was intrigued by this statement, and did
a brief poll among the women of a list I susbcribe to.
The unanimous opinion was that
there was nothing repelent on that title. Many of them identified that as
being an “ancient” central-american God. A few provided the original
name, and a few declined to try to spell it. After seeing it, I can
understand the reluctance to spell it. A few expressed outrage at the
statement, a number said whoever said that was a complete idiot. Some said
they would buy a book by that name, being Aztec (Aztec?) related or
because of the word “snake” on the title being the reasons provided.
One expressed disbelief that someone who reads fantasy could
possibly be repelled by that title. One said she didn’t know anyone who
Now, granted, this is a
science-fiction list, which, according to some, would make “female
subscriber” an oxymoron (alas, there are more women than men on that
list—either that, or they are WAY more active).
So, I’m wondering... does
whoever said that knows what he is talking about? I’m seriously
Jordan, God, what’s the difference?
· God doesn’t belong to the -core.
Well, the original concern was by my literary agent who is one of the most successful science fiction and fantasy agents in the country; I hadn't thought about it until she brought it up. Then I asked Roberta, who's about the brightest woman I know, and she pointed out that serpents and women have been enemies since Genesis, and whether you take that story as real or symbolic it's a symbol taught to most girls from an early age.
I hadn't associated "feathersnake" with snakes and serpents either, but of course that's merely familiarity on my part. I think snakes in the title may well turn women readers away, not consciously, but when you're about to shell out $27.50 for my hard bound book I for one don't want any unconscious hampers either. Burning City is a big heroic fantasy; we like to think it is more than that, and of course it is "fantasy with rivets", which is to say we try very hard to make a set of rules and stay within them; meaning, we hope, that we will get some of the (largely male) science fiction readership as well as the (overwhelmingly female) big fantasy hardbound book readership.
Symbols work at levels below intellect, and when thought about the influence often vanishes; but that is not to say there wasn't an influence to begin with.
The pictures referred to were sent to subscribers, and will be available here in a day or so. I suppose I ought to put together a glossary of computer names used here. They're reasonably mnemonic to me, but I can see they might be confusing to anyone not a regular denizen of Chaos Manor.
22 July 1999: Nato admits air
25 July 1999: RAF admits
failings in Kosovo inquiry
Many thanks for a consistently
high-quality product over the decades.
John Bartley, PC Sys Admin [email@example.com]
Thanks for the kind words. I can't do anything about external links: when someone changes the source location, it's pretty early impossible for me to go looking for each one to fix. I expect if you need those articles you will be able to dig them out of the London Daily Telegraph site... Thanks again.
Wednesday August 4, 1999
Concerning snakes and serpents
(feathered and otherwise) and women—Vonda N. McIntyre wrote a story
called “Dreamsnake”. (Both short story and novel -- you’re probably
familiar with it.) I guess her agent hadn’t heard the theory about
snakes and women. It’s a damned good yarn; sold well too I think.
Noli Permittere Illegitimi
Decent story. Originally a novelette, expanded to book length. As to sales, Amazon reports it as "not available." Vonda has done very well with Star Trek novels, which is odd because in her other persona she is a serious and scholarly writer. Usually serious novelists don't do well with the adventure genre, because they don't take it seriously. American academia in general doesn't regard "adventure" writers like Sir Walter Scott or Robert Louis Stevenson (or me, although I more aspire to be in their company than think I have achieved it) as "real authors", although it is arguable that they have had at least a much influence as many -- perhaps most -- of the "real" novelists.
Heroic fantasy makes most of its sales in massive (and thus expensive) hardcover books, and about 80% of hardcover fiction is bought by women. And as Roberta points out, the conflict between women and serpents goes back to Genesis...
I was just
re-reading about your Death Valley adventure, and it occurred to me that
you ought to have an Eternalight flashlight . I just got one the other
day, and it is amazing. It is a rectangular box about the size of a pager
. They advertise it as having around a 700 hour (!) life on 3 AA
batteries. It has 4 solid state light emitting diode lamps and a
microprocessor control which will allow it to run in a timed auto shut off
mode, dimmable mode, an adjustable flasher mode,
strobe mode, dazzle mode, and automatic visual SOS . And they say
it is visible for 3 miles against city lights . The company is Technology
Associates, Inc. .
Very Cool .
reading you online since last summer, (much longer if you include the old
Genie readers’ forum) , but I felt it time to say this : If the death of
BYTE (paper) means I get to read you everyday instead of monthly, then
R.I.P. . Your subscribers’ fee is worth every penny.
everything and keep on writing.
I will look into that. Thanks! And thanks for the kind words.
You aren’t the only one
with problems with NSI. Check
out this web-based cartoon:
I have always enjoyed those cartoons...
Just thought I’d mention the
following - your Mail page still says “CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL
TO ME” even though you’ve replaced the blimp with a (non-animated)
Also, just my $.02, but I always
enjoy small animated gifs for things like ‘send me mail’ - they do
catch one’s eye and some show real creativity.
Keep up the good work.
I like my blimp too. I may go back to him. At least on some pages. Anyone else got strong opinions?
===> AOL recompresses your file images. That story is also in the column, but if some of my pictures look horrible when accessed through AOL, try looking at them through another ISP account. FYI, you don't need to sign into another ISP. You can fire up AOL, and then run IE or Netscape separately and they'll get to the net through AOL's TCP/IP interface. I have a friend who surfs the net that way most of the time. One trick, though. AOL uses IE via OLE, so it keeps a cached copy of images. Which means that any images you've seen under AOL will look bad under IE, too. You have to manually go into Internet Options and delete temporary internet files. Then you'll see the images correctly. > Earthlink seems horrible the last few days. It drops me every few minutes. I've been noticing similar behavior from TCI@Home here in Dallas the last couple of weeks. I have no idea if it's related, IOW if big pieces of the net are having problems. Drake Christensen
Don't know either. I expect I am merely complaining...
I was away on holiday and missed
your ‘Netscape Must Die’ column.
Needless to say, I am DYING to read it. But Byte.com now has your
new August 2 column ‘I Hate Small Computers’. And under Past Columns
for the week of 07/26 they also show ‘I Hate Small Computers’. Has the
deluge of vociferous mail from Netscape fans forced you and/or Byte.com to
hide this unforgivable indiscretion under the clever guise of a broken
Somehow I thought I should be
able to figure this one out myself and went spelunking on Byte’s site. I
noticed a certain logic to their file names and eventually found
‘Netscape Must Die!’. It’s at http://www.byte.com/column/chaosmanor/BYT19990720S0001.
And, as an added bonus, I discovered I could read your installments for
the next three weeks!!! Isn’t that swell? Keep up the good work!
See, I knew you'd find it. I confess they use a rather arcane scheme over there...
Thursday August 5, 1999
My poor blimp continues to generate mail:
Subject: Your throbbing blimp and the Corpse Flower
Perhaps you could animate the
flag on the mailbox. I found
your throbbing blimp to be juvenilely phallic, really unsuitable for
“the doyen of the computer (whatever)” and a bona fide Ph.D.
scientist. I think it sends a
message you’d rather not.
A note on corpse flowers: a
couple of years ago, while I was living in Germany, big news was the
blooming of a giant stinking lily, some sort of Arum, in the Kew botanical
gardens. Tourists came all
the way from Sumatra to see it; they’d never seen one in the land where
it is native.
Gosh. Is the poor blimp THAT bad?
According to the local papers, the Corpse Flower is indeed a member of the Lilly family (as is aspidistra) but it is not particularly rare in Summatra. Of course it is probably easier to get to Germany from a Summatra city than to the interior jungles of the island. And a lot more comfortable.
I make no doubt yours will not be the last word on my blimp.
Tuesday, August 3, 1999:
“....Still, two or three times a day I would like to find and beat
senseless some of these people: why would they be stupid enough to believe
that ANYONE would send them money or even respond to the imbecile offers?
Jerry, the spammers spam because
an economically rewarding percentage of their victims do, in fact, send
them money. Au pays des aveugles les borgnes sont rois. Those who
encourage the spammers to keep spamming the rest of us are also targets
deserving of your ire.
One thing you may want to try
is, to sort all the mail that is To or CC to you, into a To: mailbox, this
will leave you with a mailing list (that you presumably subscribed to) and
spam. You then sort all
the mailing lists based on their To: and Cc: lines, or better yet if the
mailing list puts in a special header, such as X-Resent-By:.
This should leave you with just the spam, which can be moved into
it’s own mailbox that you check maybe once a day to see if anything
slipped through, and then just do a select-all/delete.
Most e-mail clients should
be able to do this sorting, though you do have to keep the sorting rules
up to date based on the mailing lists you are subscribed to.
Also, if your e-mail server is a unix box, you can get a program
called procmail that can do this sorting easily enough so that you dont
have to even download the mail ever.
I know that in theory I can do that, but it's a fair amount of work. Perhaps one day I will; but in fact it's a great deal of work. Mostly I can tell at a glance which is Spam and just delete it, but it's still a quarter hour a day of decision time that I'd rather use for something else. If there were a way to make people pay a mill (.1 cent) for every email they send, that would cost me a few dollars a month, but it would be well worth the cost, since it would make spammers think twice about sending me five copies of the same imbecilic offer of a get rich scheme. A point made by the next letter:
You recently wrote: “Still, two or three times a day I would like to find and beat senseless some of these people: why would they be stupid enough to believe that ANYONE would send them money or even respond to the imbecile offers? Sigh” With a few important exceptions, spam is the same as junk mail. As you and Larry Niven have pointed out, no one likes junk mail either (Happy trash day). So why is the hatred that you and I and many others feel for spam so much more passionate than the dislike of junk mail? I think that the primary reason for this is spam is free. A mass mailer has to pay for the envelopes, paper, bulk mail postage and other expenses. They are forced by the market to evaluate the return based on that cost. E-mail is free. It costs the spammer nothing. If only one person is stupid enough to order something, the return on investment is very high. And like Bob Heinlein said “never underestimate the power of human stupidity”. There is no disincentive to sending you spam and if there is any incentive, however small, the spammer would be stupid to not send out to the widest possible distribution.This issue of internet resources appearing to be “free” to the user is impacting on areas other than spam. I have read reports that cable modem companies are experiencing bandwidth problems as their subscriber base increases. The cable is a shared resource and as more subscribers begin uploading huge files, the cable chokes. This is similar to the freeway problem where building more freeways often increases congestion rather than relieving it. I think there may not be a solution to spam in the short term, but longer term the internet is going to have to deal with how to control access to shared resources. As long as the resources appear “free” to the user their will be incentive to use the system until it chokes. Lets hope that a solution to this issue can be found before the call for government action becomes overwhelming.
Happy Trash Day, for those few who have not read Lucifer's Hammer, a novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, was a practice employed by a survivalist Postman (long before Brin or Kevin Costner thought about survivalist letter carriers).
My suspicion is that if the ISP's got together to agree to charge each other a mill per mailing or something like that (with a computerized scheme to credit each other and bill the original mailer) the government would call that a conspiracy and come down hard with anti-trust. Government wants to control because private agreements don't result in more government jobs, and the purpose of government is to pay the ruling class -- government workers -- more money. In order to do that they have to expand the jobs they do or claim to do.
Agreed, government suppression of spam is a cure worse than the disease. I think.
Just a quick comment; when you
moved to an Apache server, there was an alternative to renaming all your
upper-case foldernames. You
could have set up symbolic links so that directory “VIEW” was an alias
for directory “view”; thus the old names would still have worked
(indefinitely). I use this
trick quite a lot, being responsible for a website whose name includes a
word commonly spelt in two different ways.
head of technology
In theory I could, but it would take a level of
expertise I don't have time to acquire. It was easier to use ALLAIRE
Homesite, a wonderful little editor (thanks to all who suggested it) to
fix things. It does that wonderfully well.
Another charming note from Netscape. I should make it clear that the title NETSCAPE MUST DIE was the header supplied by the editors for the piece that I wrote, not something written by Mr. Osmont. The rest, though, was his:Netscape Must Die!
Your article is pathetic.
Anyway, the point is that people at Netscape or Microsoft deserve respect for what they have accomplished and for what they brought to the world.
On the other hand, whiners like you must die.
One assumes they have passionate employees.
I have added his December 2000 complaint in Mail for that week.
Friday August 6, 1999
Just a quick observation on your
site. It looks like you put
your observations for Friday that would usually go in currentview in
Also, as far as the blimp
controversy is concerned... After
you first put up the blimp I don’t think I would have ever looked at it
twice much less worried about it unless I wanted to send you an e-mail if
it weren’t for everything mentioned about it.
It has reached the point where it is actually kind of amusing just
to read the pro and con views. But,
my $.02 is that the blimp really doesn’t matter.
If you like it, then keep it.
If the blimp increases the download time significantly, then
consider removing it. Either
way doesn’t effect the readability of your site to me.
I immediately scroll down to the current day anyway.
Talk @ you later.
Tim (Timothy Werth)
Fixed that; thanks. As you say, the blimp is probably irrelevant. But I like it...
One of my all-time favorite
business reporters, Fortune’s Joe Nocera (his Microsoft trial coverage
is unmatched by anyone), has written a short essay on the trials and
travails of Iomega. It’s interesting both from an investor point of view
as well as for those us interested in the march of new technology.
the link is
Was devoured by locusts.,
Sunday August 8, 1999
contents copyright 1999 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.