THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
March 1 - 7, 1999
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 words.
|Previous Weeks of The View:||For an index
of previous pages of view, see VIEWDEX.
See also the New Order page, which tries to make order of chaos. These will be useful.
For the rest, see What is this place? for some details on where you have got to.
If you subscribed:
If you didn't and haven't, why not?
For the BYTE story, click here.
The LINUX pages are organized as the log, my queries, and your responses and advice parts one, two, three, and four. There's four pages because I try to keep download times well under a minute. There are new updates to four.
Highlights this week:
March 1, 1999
Two big news items. First, go over to www.byte.com and you'll find a link to the March Column, and all kinds of new stuff. BYTE is now on line, and while I don't know a great deal more than you do about it, I like what I have seen so far. BYTE IS BACK and with luck we will be creating the old magazine again. Wish us luck.
I am updating the page formerly known as fiasco; bear with me on that, as it gives a lot of history. History doesn't change. Attitudes can.
Second, I have just been out to the rollout of the atmospheric test vehicle at Rotary Rocket, Gary Hudson's private space venture, and it's impressive.
I'll be doing a report soon. Subscribers will get it first. Things are complicated because this is column week, and I spent the day at Rotary in Mojave, and I have to go to Seattle Thursday and Friday. And still work on fiction. It's a great life if you don't weaken...
Defnitive answers on ZIP drives and what to do: see mail.
There is a new report on AFTER EFFECTS by David Em.
March 2, 1999
Still clearing up some glitches and link problems in the new BYTE, which isn't my job except that if you find them I will pass them along. Understand, I am with the new BYTE much like the old one, an outside contributing editor, not an actual employee, although given my length of years with BYTE and my normal tendency to be a team player, the distinction doesn't mean a lot -- to me. To the company it may be a little different. So far it's all working very smoothly, and most problems seem to have got fixed in the night before I ever learned about them.
I also developed a cold out in the desert, and since I have to go to Seattle Wednesday, I am taking it easy today. As much so as I ever do, or can...
I have found this web site:
which has among other things a number of nice pictures of DC/X. Given that X-33 Venture Star is likely to be a disaster that far from demonstrating the feasibility of Single State to Orbit is used to denigrate the entire idea, this is all very fascinating. There are a number of links on the site. None come here, aothough DC/X was conceived in Chaos Manor and built due to the efforts of the Council I chair. Ah well.
March 3, 1999
I've still got a cold. It seems to be nothing more than that, and I'm sure I'll be in fine shape to catch my plane to Seattle tomorrow. Intellectual Capital is having a big dinner up there for Northwest leaders, and they've invited me since I am an IC columnist. If you're not familar with Intellectual Capital, it's pretty good, fairly conservative but they have colunists from many viewpoints, and at an intellectual level that Chaos Manor and BYTE readers ought to find congenial, which is to say, at a considerably higher level of difficulty than the usual run of the mill Internet magazines. This is one of the hopeful signs: that there are beginning to be magazines like BYTE and IC that fill niche markets, not just try to appeal to everyone. We had hoped that hundreds of TV channels would produce that kind of result but so far they have not. Still, it's early times, and as the mass market profit margins drop people will move into the niche markets; that's classical economics. Absent special circumstances, fungible goods tend to commodity prices, which is to say, very low profit margins. (You might say that one definition of a 'commidity' is that it is fungible, but I don't want to get into that argument today.)
Anyway, I will take the opportunity to spend a day at Microsoft finding out what's going one, and that should be in the next column. If you have not seen my February Column (which may be labelled March over there) have a look at www.byte.com which is where my columns will be from now on (as opposed to the day book which is here).
I recently told subscribers about the Rotary Rocket Rollout, with pictures. If you subscribe and did not get that notice, let me know. Every time I do this I get about 10 people who seem to have dropped out of the system, and I have to go look them up and so forth. And of course there are also perhaps a dozen who JUST subscribed right after I send out the emailing. Bear with me, please: I am neither malicious nor incompetent ("Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence," said Napoleon Bonaparte and it is good advice) but I am kept pretty busy what with columns and fiction and trying to have a life of sorts although for people like me it's hard to separate work from life.
The rollout report will be available to non-subscribers in a couple of weeks.
I am also preparing but have not prepared a picture report of my trip to Ames last week. And Talin has a report on the Linux world Expo.
I will not be here tomorrow. Returning Friday night, after which I go into column mode with all kinds of stuff, so there will be little here before the column is done.
Perhaps some interesting mail, but not before Friday night.
March 4, 1999
I was on airplane and then in Seattle to have dinner with the Intellectual Capital people.
March 5, 1999
I'm back home. Still have a stopped up head, and air travel doesn't help that much. Column is due Monday so this weekend will be a lot of work. Spent much of today at Microsoft campus, with the Office 2000 Developers Tools people, Windows CE, and Front Page 2000 product managers. Whatever people believe about Microsoft, the line troops are trying to do their best, and appreciate constructive observations. I found several things I wanted improved in Front Page, and at least a couple of those notions will be incorporated into the 2000 edition. Front Page 2000 is impressive, or at least I found it so, and the development tools for Office are going to make applications development a LOT easier; one suspects that VBA will be the tool of choice for a lot of business applications.
Integration of Office components continues, with Publisher and Front Page and Outlook all working together in the newest editions.
There are a number of CE serious rivals to Palm Pilot, and I was surprised at how good the handwriting recognition was in one of them until I realized this was Paragraph, developed by Dr. Stepan Panovich, whom I met in Moscow in 1989; at the time they took a sample of my handwriting, sloppy as it is, both print and cursive, to use as one of the tools to work toward for recognition, so I suppose I shouldn't be too astonished that when I scribbled on that pad it actually recognized it. You can put Graffiti into the system too, but frankly if it will recognize my writing...
there's a long discussion of whether this web site sucks. This is the second such time I have been so honored. I tried to read his reasons for hating this place, but I didn't find the writing that interesting. That may be prejudice, of course, but he doesn't seem to have any notion of what I am trying to do, and my guess is there's a tad bit of jealousy in there somewhere. In any event, he's absolutely right, I could get any number of professional web people to design and maintain this place, but that is not what I have set out to do.
And I continue to wonder, what is so horrible here? It appears to be readable, and while navigation is a bit of a problem that is improving as time goes on. You can read the text, and most of this IS text. I try to keep the pages short enough to have fast downloads, and I have been pretty scrupulous about following reader suggestions when that was feasible. I certainly don't have a lot of whizbangs, but I don't want them. I don't have that standard layout of a narrow strip of text framed on each side by solid sheets of color. And I think this is more readable than the "pages that suck" web site, which doesn't appear to me to have all that many desirable features, or have I lost something? I confess considerable curiousity here.
One of the criticisms"
This page is, I have to say, pretty bad. Mr. Pournelle should know
better than to TYPE IN CAPITALS, telling us to CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO EMAIL him. There's no
title graphic. He mixes font colors. Many elements of this page could be changed for the
Of course I put in the click on the blimp to email precisely because I was told that some people didn't figure that out. I will confess the silly blimp is an affectation, and not needed, but I like it, and I don't see any point in changing it. Another critcism is use of Times Roman. Instead of Verdana, or Arial, both recommended as "cleaner." Of course it would not be difficult to use either of those, but I don't find san serif fonts all that more attractive than Times Roman, and Lord knows there have been enough studies about readability of fonts, with variations of Times Roman winning out.
I suppose my poor home page really isn't very pretty, but it was never intended to be anything other than a way in. I suppose I ought to have a contest. What would be a great home page for this place that doesn't suck? It shouldn't take long to download, though, and it ought to have at least some indication of what the place IS. This is certainly not a place for people who are interested in pretty web pages. There are plenty of those around. It's mostly content, and if you're not interested in content there's no point in being here; buy why should that earn me so much vituperation?
Darnell keeps telling me my site sucks, too, but somehow people keep coming back. Maybe the new www.byte.com site will take care of all that, and be pretty, and people can spend their time there if they hate this place. But I confess confusion: what in the world have I done here that is so horrible as to warrant all that discussion? And what is there about the site that tells me mine is awful that is so good?
I can't find out by mail, because if there is an email address for the site I can't find it; and you have to register to send him any comments. I don't have any desire to be registered there, and I have no idea of what he will do with my address once he has it, so I am not likely to be able to ask what he is doing, or why he is so well qualified. I do know that it takes a LONG time to download his page, but whether that is design or a slow server I do not know. It's pretty clear you have to want mightily to see his page since you must wait so long for it. As for me, I guess I'll just have to suffer.
Looking at this site from a design perspective was painful. Poor alignment, poor use of colors and that boring font! It made me totally uninterested in the content.
It was from:
who clearly judges books by their covers, and then some. Ah well. I have sent her an inquiry as to what she thinks people should be doing with web sites and why all must do it in the same way. We will see if I get a reply. Looking at her web page, I would say she wants to convey a lot of information about her family, which will largely be of interest to people who know her; they seem charming enough, but there is no hint of intellectual content, and the last update was early February. Her favorite web places include a soap opera site and several on parenting data; admirable, and surely of interest to many, but I would not have thought that automatically makes my site something to be described vulgarly.
At least she HAS a web site. Many of those seem to have none. Some don't even seem to have email addresses. All are certain they can do better than me, but I haven't found one trying to convey any actual information: the "Susan" one above is one of the best of the lot. In fact, had I earlier cottoned on to the little buttons that let you see who these people are, I would not have spent so much time paying attention to this. Ah. Well. I will know better in future. And I still have found no way to send an email to the gentleman who maintains the sites that suck site.
But perhaps we should have a contest to design me a better home page?
March 6, 1999
Thank you to all who wrote about web pages that suck. I could have filled the entire mail section with kind comments from readers, and I refrain with difficulty; modesty doesn't always come easily to novelists.
It is time to get to work on the column, and I shall. However, I note that my new organization hasn't got across:
For the record www.jerrypournelle.com/view/currentview.html will always get you to the current view page and www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/currentmail.html will get you to the current week's mail page. You will have to skip down to the day, or to the topics index to go from there, but it shouldn't take long. You can with confidence bookmark the above addresses; I won't change them without discussion.
The papers say most of us who think we have colds don't: it's allergies from the hot winter and early spring. Perhaps so. It has certianly laid me out, so I have got little done today and deadlines are rushing upon me.
For links to the reports on China and MIRV, along with why this isn't treason, see alt.mail.
March 7, 1999
Off to the LA Opera's children's opera Bullwinkle or Les Moose; I'll try to get some pictures. Column day.
One of my machines keeps popping up with [unknown] performed an illegal action and will be shut down. There are no programs running I know of. I will have to go in and shut down all the processes one at a time and see if that does it, I guess. This is a Windows 98 system. It's a bit annoying. No, it's a LOT annoying. It's a page fault error, and I suspect it's something to do with Play's Gizmos which we thought we had killed on that machine but which keeps rising like a vampire. It's about time to take fire and sword to the registry since the machine was stable until recently. Bah. This is Eagle One which was change donly by changing the mother board to another case. That of course did mean I probably scrambled the order in which the boards were inserted.
Whatever you do if you upgrade KNOW WHAT SLOT each board is in and put the darned things back in the sme slots!!