THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
April 5 - 12, 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 - 7,000 words, depending. For more on what this place is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE.
|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:
April 5, 1999
WinHec tomorrow through the end of the week, and column deadlines. I'll be in here late at night if I get there. WinHec sessions start at 0800...
Following is from Blankenhorn's Clue, which if you don't get you should, at
http://www.a-clue.comor you can subscribe as I do. He's talking about AOL's acquisition of Netscape:
"The results are some subtle changes in Version 4.51 of Communicator, which I downloaded recently. Netscape Mail now has a "default" e-mail message from NetCenter, filled with ads and links, that remains on the screen until you click on a new note. The software has regular demands that you download "Instant Messenger" on starting Netscape, and the "home" page default's definition has been changed. It's now the page you reach when you click the "home" icon - this lets it occasionally default to another Netcenter page.
AOL's singular achievement since closing its Netscape acquisition has been to make Microsoft look good. "
Wonderful. And all true, alas. I'm reading Alan Cooper's THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM and a fair chunk of my column will go to issues he raises. It's fascinating to see a man write about a disease he suffers from. But a very valuable book.
WinHec plus getting the column out the door
April 8, 1999
WinHec all day. Party at Universal Studios last night. A great deal of information on RAMBUS and it's future, which may not be as assured as I thought. If you can get a deal on PC 133 certified DRAM memory, you might be well advised to lay in some. You may find you are going to need it.
Fixed the odd date thing on the Home page. Thanks to those who mentioned it. I'm pretty tired, and it's late. More this weekend. I did a good column. It will be doled out at BYTE over the month. I have a report for subscribers on WinHec but I am also way behind, so it may be a few days before I can get it to you. Thanks to everyone. I really am dancing as fast as I can. I fear age shows sometimes.
Several of you report being able to format ZIP disks on Windows 98 drives without problems. I have been able to now with an External SCSI. I am also told that there are some new drivers and since mine are at least 18 months old that may well be the problem. I will get the new drivers and see what that does. Thanks to all who wrore. One thing; if it formats to less than 100 MB, be very careful.
Regarding that Maxtor drive, we went to the Maxtor web site -- it's well organized -- and got all the information available. There is no reason why it cannot be a master alone on an IDE string, but it will not work that way. Termination problems? All I know is that with a slave on the string it works fine, and without one it does not. Period.
April 9, 1999
I will try to catch up today although there is still some WinHec left. My system is running like glue has been poured in this morning. I am letting GetRight do two big downloads of ZIP driver software, and apparently that is driving the system nutso. Why it should be this slow is a bit of a mystery since I don't have that many windows open. But then why you have to restart NT every now and then isn't clear to me either, since not everyone has that problem. Usually I don't notice when things slow down but they are really slow this morning. Ah. One of the Getright downloads has ended, and perhaps things will speed up?
I am trying to deal with three days of mail, but it will probably take me a while, and I do have to work on books today also. At least the weather is fine today. Last night at Universal Studios it was periodic rain. I hadn't been to Universal for a while. I am sure I was there sometime since Apple introduced the ill-fated luggable (well they called it portable) Mac, the one that you had to remove the lead-acid batteries from to reset; that was introduced at Universal. I must have been back there since, but I don't remember. I used to go to movies at CityWalk but there has been just enough trouble with teen gangs there that we don't go up there any more.
Both downloads have finished, and the glue is out of the system, so I guess GetRight takes up more resources than I would have supposed when working at 44,000 bps to get a file. Interesting: this dual Pentium NT system was slowed to a crawl while those downloads were going on in background.
Roland Dobbins tells me I must have some bad settings since his NT systems run for months without restart, and I believe him because I have an NT server that hasn't been reset for a year or more. Of course I keep installing and uninstalling stuff here, and the registry gets cluttered; I need to clean it up. And probably there are some bad processes running left over from some long uninstalled application. Now if I can figure out how to get rid of them. One of the things that irritates me about Windows and NT alike is that there is no simple way to determine what starts up on startup, or what makes it do it. At one time it was simple: you looked in the startup folder and there was an icon or at least a listing of all the things that started. Then they added them to WIN.INI but at least you could find them there. Now they hide stuff all over the place. AOL puts sneaky little advertisements into the registry. Heaven alone knows what is running in background on this system. I need to take a couple of hours and go through the logs on this NT system and see just what is going on. With NT at least you can do that.
One of the announcements at WinHec will come as no great surprise: there will be a Windows 98 Second edition (they are NOT calling it Windows 99) this year, and that will be in addition to Windows 2000 which is the upgrade of NT. The divergence between NT and Windows continues into the next millenium. Windows 98 Second Edition is in fact OSR1, mostly bug fixes. I'll have to go over the notes to see what the real changes are if any.
I gather it's mostly game support that has made them keep the dual system another year. The commercial/home/consumer market gets increasingly important, bigger than business/enterprise.
And I have a new set of ATI drivers that are supposed to fix the problem with font smoothing and ATI Rage Pro. I'll get them in today and we'll see.
The ZIP situation: I downloaded the ZIP tools from Iomega. My Celeron with internal IDE ZIP drive will format a ZIP to 98+ megabytes, and only it can read the disk is has formatted; no other ZIP drive can. However, the external SCSI on Parsifal the Pentium II system formats to 100+ megabytes and that disk is readable by anything. (Same disk, of course.) I have yet to get an internal IDE drive under Windows 98 to format a ZIP disk any other machine can read, but the internal IDE under 95 does just fine. No other data. i am using the right click on the Zip drive and iomega LONG format in all cases.
Talin's Travel Journal exists in a new location.
The ATI Rage Pro awful text problem is fixed. Go to:
and download both the drivers and the text file on how to install (although the installation went very smoothly for me). Eventually the system will want to restart. Let it. When it comes back up, you're done. Turn on font smoothing in the Display Properties. That's it. You'll have good looking text. This makes the SYS Celeron 333 MHz. system (http:// www.sys.com) with built-in ATI Rage Pro video board one of the best deals in town. Good sound, good video, not of course the hottest games machine known to man, but good enough. All told, good value for the money for both home and office, and a very trouble-free system now that the "ugly text" problem is fixed.
I have always been told that putting a slow slave on an IDE string slows down the Master. Bob Thompson says that hasn't been true for a long time.
Here begins a long disquisition on Kossovo. It may be pointless. To skip it, click here.
From the Washington Times:
"A Pentagon planner, who asked not to be named, said: "The Air Force convinced the administration that the administration's objections could be achieved without the use of ground forces. But even the Army underestimated the speed by which Milosevic would sweep through Kosovo and depopulate it of ethnic Albanians."
NATO's air attacks were optimum for killing Albanians, and anyone with any strategic sense could have predicted the results. First, we said we would never send in ground troops: this left Milosovec free to deploy his light infantry into Kossovo and work his will on the population. It isn't hard to persuade Serbs to be beastly to Albanians given the history of that region; whatever the sins of the present generation, memories are long, and there are atrocities in plenty stretching back hundreds of years. Albania and Kossovo were part of the Italian Empire in World War II, something everyone seems to have forgotten.
So, assured that he would not need his ground forces to defend Belgrade against a strike down the valley from Hungary -- that area from the border to Belgrade is good tank country and would be ripe for an AirLand battle scenario if we had threatened that -- Milosovec could do as he wanted in Kossovo.
Then came the air strikes. They were directed against air defenses. Big deal: the Serbs didn't turn on their radars, so we didn't hit much (it's very easy to hide an air defense system if it isn't going to be used), and we united the Serbs behind Milosovec. Now all his domestic opposition was ended. Every Serb in the land is a patriot, and Milosovec is the leader against attacks by all of Europe.
The early air strikes did NOTHING to inhibit his capability to work his will in Kossovo. How could it? We didn't hit bridges, fuel dumps, armored car parks, ammunition centers; just a few symbolic targets plus attempts to root out the air defenses. This is a bit like batting at the hornet's nest without doing anything about the hornets.
So, unable to reach any NATO target, Milosovec and the Serbs took out their frustration on the people they see as the cause of their problems, the Albanian immigrants into historic Serbian lands. Of course some of those immigrations were generations ago (although some are more recent than we in the US suppose), but it was pretty easy to persuade Serb troops that these "foreigners" had caused "their" allies to attack. But the attacks did nothing to inhibit the Serbian ability to be beastly to the Albanians.
Nothing was more predictable although apparently our Secretary of State did not predict it. Nor did the President.
The principles of war have been hammered and refined for thousands of years, and the most important one can be boiled down to Clausewitz's phrase: "In war everything is very simple, but the simplest things are very difficult."
The implication of this is that if you think it will take a platoon to do a job, send a company; if you think it will take a regiment, send a brigade. Or, never send one man to do a man's job. Send several.
A second principle was framed by Macciavelli, "Never do your enemy a small injury." This corresponds to the old maxim, never wound the king. The corresponding principle of war is that when you end uncertainty by actually striking at your enemy, go for the throat. Go for the center of gravity. Hit him where he lives; do him as near a mortal blow as you can deliver, and do it early, and swiftly, while he is still in a state of shock. The first wave of bombers and missiles should have taken out every major bridge, every major fuel dump, every armored car park we could locate. In particular, every police barracks in Kossovo should have vanished at dawn in the first minutes of the bombardment. This isn't bloodthirstiness, it's merely sense: if the goal is to protect the Kossovans, then one must strike at the people who can do them harm; not at Milosovec's air defenses! His air defenses aren't doing any damage to refugees.
Then we slowly escalated the war, and still did nothing to inhibit his light infantry in Kossovo; and continued to assure him that he didn't need any of his forces to defend Belgrade against, say, a commando raid to take over his TV stations and the Presidential Palace and install some NATO puppet (surely there are some Serbs in Europe who would play the role of Vidkung Quisling; perhaps even some sprig of the old royal family?) as a shadow government present in Belgrade and protected by the 101st Airborne, while armor raced down the valley from Hungary to support the conquest of Belgrade. THAT would have been decisive, and would have saved the Albanians. But we didn't do that.
What we did was guaranteed to bring about the destruction of the Albanian population; the Serbian response was so predictable that one wonders if it wasn't INTENDED. I know, never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Napoleon knew that, and it's even more true today. But how stupid is stupid? How could anyone be stupid enough not to know that we told Milosovec: "You are personally in no danger, nor is your control of the country; you may deploy your troops as you wish for internal control since there will be no external threat and no need to defend any border; and we are going to bomb hell out of you, so that eventually you will be unable to expel the Albanians from Kossovo. Do you understand this? Thank you." How could anyone not know that having told him that, he would decide to expel the Albanians while he had the chance? It takes no more than a room temperature IQ to understand that. Or so I would have thought.
So now what? What can we do, and what should we do? It is no longer what should we have done. We can't get back to where we were: the Albanians in their homes, with a working economy in Kossovo; UN observers and reporters on the ground ready to photograph atrocities; the threat of massive bombing in the background but not out in the open; the threat of more decisive measures like commandos in Belgrade; the Serbs still restrained by some sense of decency and some desire to avoid international condemnation even if not greatly restrained by them; and enough domestic opposition to Milosovec that he needed to take care in his actions. That is the world we destroyed with bombs. We now have: no economy in Kossovo at all; no crops planted, a damaged infrastructure that makes it difficult to distribute food and supplies brought in from the outside; refugees everywhere; homes burned; people terrorized so that many will refuse to go back unless taken there at gunpoint (a new Operation Keelhaul for refugees?) Refugees without papers, convicts and desperate criminals mixed in with middle class and peasants, families disrupted; instability compounded. No CNN on the ground in Kossovo, no restraint whatever on Serbian light infantry forces which now utterly control the area; no domestic opposition to Milosovec whatever; and a depleted arsenal of missiles and smart weapons so that all too soon we will have to resort to iron bombs with resulting collateral damage.
What can we do?
We can bomb Serbia into the Stone Age, and watch a couple of million Serbs starve to death. The ones that starve will not be the military nor will they be the nomenklatura that run the country. The New Class remains in power, and will remain so until the country is occupied and a de-communistization program similar to the de-nazification of Germany takes place under a proconsul (in Germany it was General Lucius Clay). The Albanians will starve first under Operation Flintstone, but eventually Serbia will have to surrender. It will not happen soon, and we will have to prevent well meant efforts to send in "humanitarian aid" while we reduce their capability to survive. We are unlikely to have the stomach for that, and half measures will result only in more misery for the Kossovo Albanians.
We can assemble a full armored force in Hungary and strike for Belgrade. This won't be a big surprise any longer: what could have been done by a brigade moving fast with AirLand battle tactics will take a corps and will be a meatgrinder; but it can be done. We aren't likely to do it, and if we do, given what I have seen happen so far, we'll do it badly, in driblets. The chance for one bold decisive stroke is I fear gone. Pity.
We can send in troops to Kossovo, but it's not terrain much suited to our style of warfare. It will take a big buildup and a lot of troops. Our tail to tooth ratios are very large, and we'll have to call up the National Guard to have enough support troops; and also Guard units just to have a garrison.
And we have today made automobile plants, which is to say any civilian economic facility, a legitimate target of war. I do not suppose the Serbs will counter with a satchel bomb attack on the Saturn plant in Tennessee, but I do not see why they don't. They have plenty of sympathizers in the US. Of course we will label that "terror" since a terrorist is someone without bombers and missiles.
And finally we can simply declare victory and leave, doing what we can for whatever refugees make it across the Albanian and Macedonian borders. Understand, much of the population of Albania tries to get to Italy every year. Imagine thinking of Southern Italy as a land of opportunity and you get the economic picture of the country that now has to accept half a million refugees. This is a formula for long term regional instability. The pressure to immigrate into Apulia and Sicily will increase. Look for lots of rafts on the Adriatic.
Or we can insist that Milosovec allow them all to go back to Kossove: where they will find themselves in a wasteland. We can try to rebuild Kossovo and make it an autonomous region, even a separate state: at which point the Palestinian Arabs ask why we did not do as much for them, and the Kurds call on us to bomb Turkey into submission. Presumably we will be able to resist those temptations.
I keep trying to think of other alternatives. All are expensive. None of them allow for even a glimmer of a budget surplus in the US, or any way to salvage our domestic programs. Empires need cannon, not butter. As Rome found out a long time ago. The price of Empire is high. It is profitable only if you occupy the land you take, as we did with the West. Colonial Empires may be prestigious, but they are profitable only if you go in as a wolf. And there is precious little to exploit in Illyria
So. What will we do? More bombing, more destruction of an already poor country, until it all trails off and we turn to the American elections as a source of diversion. And Baseball season has begun.
- 30 - (More below)
There is a new Moshe Bar's Opinion on Linux Scripting.
I just thought you might like to \see Microsofts latest shennigans
which is the annoucement that Microsoft intends to charge $89 for Windows 98 Second Edition which is mostly bug fixes. Astonishing. That they did not tell us at WinHec.
And indeed it turns out that this is wrong. This is the cost for a first time buyer of Windows 98; registered Windows 98 users will get the upgrade at a substantially lower price. Microsoft, having been castigated for not making the OSR2 edition of Windows 95 available at retail, will sell the 98 Second Edition; but they will also allow registered Windows 98 users to get the upgrade CD at something much lower. Once again the evil empire turns out to be not quite so evil...
Re: Kossovo, I am reminded that not everyone had the history classes I had; particularly since I was in school before WW II. One thing we understood was that Russia came to the aid of Serbia when Austria was trying to bully the Serbs. Today we hear that the Russians are retargeting their ICBM's to aim at the USA again. We are told that it is in the US interest to promote stability in that area. If having a few thousand nuclear weapons aimed at us is an increase in stability we have achieved it. If not, then perhaps we need to think again?
The Russians will happily provide the Serbs with intelligence, satellite photos, GPS receivers, and Stinger missiles, much as we provided those to the Afghanistan rebels. Payback time.
April 10, 1999
Roberta is out of town and I am batching it. I'm also trying to recover from WinHec, get my bills paid, get my taxes done, and make Winnie the WinCHip machine rund Windows 95 OSR2 properly. The latters I managed. The new Mijenix Fix-It wasn't up to that job (although it does a good job with Windows 98 registry problems) but Norton Utilities 4 seems to have done the job. The system even shuts down properly.
I wish my taxes and accounting had gone more smoothly. I also have enough old equipment and software and just plain clutter to fill a skip loader: I'll try to do some pictures tomorrow. This place is a worse mess than ever, and Something Must Be Done.
April 11, 1999
I got the following letter and it prompted a much larger response than I had intended to write; so I expect it goes here instead of mail. Today I must Clean Things Up some so that I can find anything, and there's Hornblower tonight, so don't expect a lot more today...
Your strategy for this war is based on the idea that we are there to help the Kosovo Albanians. I am convinced this isn't really the case. If it were, everything you said we should have done, we would have done. Nothing you said is news to those who wear uniforms for a living, and I presume they let the Boss in on such things. Clinton is if nothing else, a reasonably intelligent person (when he isn't thinking below the beltline). If helping those people were his real goal, he'd have followed a sensible plan to do that. He didn't, so it isn't What he really wants is to "look like" we are helping them. He wants history to record we made the effort. Oh I'm sure if bombing had worked, he'd have been delighted, but not having it work is OK too. We're fighting a war here just to look good.
Despite some parts of my disquisition above, I am nowhere as cynical as all that. The timing of many events may have been affected by domestic political needs, but I do not doubt the good intentions of those concerned. Indeed, good intentions explains why their actions appear to be so stupid, so bereft of thought about consequences.
I do not doubt, for instance, that the White House truly believed that the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was in fact owned by bin Laden and used to make war gasses, and that the camps in Afghanistan harbored a big meeting of terrorist dons all ripe for being taken out by cluster bombs. In both cases bin Laden's people tried to make us believe all this through cell phone conversations they knew would be overheard by the CIA.
The problem is that any competent CIA analyst knows that bin Laden's people are very much aware that we listen to and record all their cell phone conversations, and take that into account: but, the White House has surrounded itself with people who say what is wanted. This isn't done for cynical reasons: it is because they distrust anyone who does not have their views. Purity of intention is now the first criterion for getting the White House's attention. Purity of intention is measured by how strongly you want to accomplish humanitarian goals; if you doubt our ability to do something, then you do not want it strongly enough, and therefore do not have the right attitude; and therefore you need not be heard.
When General Curtis LeMay ran the Strategic Air Command (SAC) it was much that way. SAC had a mission, and you were expected to be gung ho for completing the mission. Everyone was expendable at maximum DEFCON and SIOP ONE, Tanker crews understood that they were to pump every last drop of fuel into the B-52's, leaving themselves one minute's worth of fuel to break away: after which they were dead stick over the North Pole. The mission was to get the bomber through. Once. And the first wave of bombers would be expended blasting a corridor through air defenses so that the second wave could penetrate. Some bombers will always get through if you lay down a rolling carpet of nuclear destruction.
Within SAC there was a maxim that was raised to the status of Holy Writ: "In this Command we do not have problems, we have opportunities." And there is a famous story of a Wing commander saying to LeMay, "General we have an insurmountable problem."
"Colonel, in this Command we do not have problems, we have opportunities."
"Sir! Yes, Sir! General, we have an insurmountable opportunity."
But that was a military command given a terrible mission: to be sure that no enemy leader survived ordering a nuclear attack on the United States. The mission was vengeance, the utter destruction of the enemy; and those who would carry it out were not those who could order it done. Great care was taken to prevent the Strangelove scenario. Given the horror of the mission, it was inevitable that some who questioned capability were really doubtful about desirability. Not only were their hearts not in the mission (whose could be?), but their minds and wills were not either. Advice was wanted only from those who intended to carry out the mission with all their power.
Today's White House, it seems to me, has inverted this. The mission is to disarm people like LeMay, to save humanity, to save the wretched of the Earth. Those whose hearts are not in that mission are not wanted, and their advice is contaminated: they say we cannot do these things because they do not want to do these things.
And thus you have all one view. The analyst who says "There is no big meeting in Afghanistan, and all you will accomplish will be to make enemies of the Taliban who at the moment think well of us; you are playing into bin Laden's hand, who wants the Taliban to hate the United States" is never heard at the top because at a lower level it has been decided that this analyst is not really on board, is not a team player.
The same is true with the Kossovo situation. The President has said that he is just now "reading up" on the history of the region. Had he done that earlier there would have been no surprises; he would have known that the only thing keeping Milosovec from simply depopulating that part of Kossovo (as the Israelis have depopulated certain much smaller strategic areas along the Jordan border) was the threat of US bombs. When the bombs began to fall, and did nothing to his ability to work his will in Kossovo, his domestic opposition vanished: he was free to do what he would. Anyone who tried to tell him that bombing could not accomplish the desired result never got within miles of the President. Generals who question the ability of the military to do whatever is wanted by the White House are dismissed and colonels who try to inject reality never make general.
It is the same with the War on Drugs: it cannot be won, we have more young black men in prison than in college, but it goes on and on because anyone who doubts our capability to use police to prevent drug abuse must be a secret advocate of drug use; perhaps a bigot who wants young blacks to take drugs and die!
Maximum leaders do not deal with the real world. They have no time for that. They are paid to be interrupted, and they deal with problems as they arise: and the world they work with is the world presented to them by their advisors. They know no other. Nixon was such a one. Wilson was another, and after his stroke, Mrs. Wilson. There have been others.
From Sun Tzu on military historians have emphasized the necessity for advisors who will tell the truth, particularly when the leader doesn't want to hear it. From his time to this day there have been leaders who pay lip service to that notion, but surround themselves with people who do not: the Palace Guard keeps all unwanted advisors out in the cold; and soon the leaders have no advisors who will tell them the truth. Such, I fear, is the present White House. It will not be the first time in our history that has happened; but it is the first time since we became the only superpower.
God help us.
To show how far behind I have got, I am just reading last Fall's Author's Guild Bulletin. It is full of information about Rocket eBook, Everybook DR, and Softbook, three electronic book publishing systems. All apparently expensive.
Oddly enough I have heard nothing about any of those from any other source. I'll have to do some web crawling, but does anyone out there know a lot about this stuff? I watch my contracts to keep my residual including electronic rights, but I haven't seen much about ebooks at all. I know there are ways to download books (or take Word files and jigger them) so they will store on Palm Pilot and can be read there, but I would think that an unpleasant way to read a book. Very unpleasant, actually. The Guild Bulletin says some of the others are nicer, although one, EDR, seems quite expensive. I'll go web crawling.
All this is a problem for authors: when is a book "out of print" if the publisher has it available for download to some specialized device? And of course contracts were drawn up before anyone knew of those.
It's worse. When I got into writing, publishers were still represented by gentlemen like Herbert Alexander, who took their word seriously. Publishers were still the class enemy of writers, but at least you could expect them to do no more to you than you had agreed to; sharp practice contracts were not usual. Now the companies are owned by bean counters whose lawyers insist that editors and publishers have a "fiduciary obligation" to skin writers alive if the contract leaves any ambiguity; ties go to the dealer, of course.
I have sent two mailings to all subscribers. If you did not get the mailing and you are a subscriber, send me email. It is GREATLY preferable that you send email whose return address is the one you want mailings from me to go to! If I have to enter a new address by hand, it takes a minute or so; so I accumulate them and to them in batches, and that TAKES TIME which means I do not really want to do it. If it comes from your real address, I drag it into a change of address folder, and it's just a LOT easier, both to change and to let the machine check against the subscriber list.
The subscribers get a picture report about WinHec. They previously got a picture story on Larry Niven's New Year 1999 Party. That is now available to all. I'm also preparing a short report on the Chaos Manor Environs. I have the pictures. I have found the easy way is to prepare the report in WORD complete with the pictures. I can mail that. When I want to bring it here, I open a Chaos Manor Page template; INSERT the Word html document; and let Front Page take care of the rest, including the location of images and thumbnails and the like.