June 14 - 20, 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 deleted because it made this cell too long...||
For an index of previous pages of view, see VIEWDEX.
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:
Also, Happy Birthday Roberta. We can't have been married forty years since you're not 40 yet...
Dow 10,657 and ? Fascinating.
Spent the day alternately trying to reorganize this place -- the problem is more UNIX than Front Page -- and trimming BURNING CITY in the early parts so that it reads faster. Pacing a very large book takes a good bit of work. I also need maps, which only I can draw. And I need to write a short QuickBasic program that parses Roberta's lesson files and extracts all the sounds that the text to speech generator is to say so that she has a list to check against all the stuff she has recorded. The lesson files were not organized sensibly (I didn't do it), proving that Wirth is right: spending time on data structures before writing code is always worth while.
So there is much to do. We will get there.
If you have any interest in what I am trying to do, there is a model of the site at 22.214.171.124 but since there are many references to www.jerrypournelle.com which is still at the binmedia host location, some of it doesn't work well. I think Pair.com gave me a very very very busy server. They answer support mail in about 3 days, so perhaps something will happen. Perhaps.
I have business appointments this evening. It's getting busy here.
I have created a new Debates Home Page, referencing a bunch of materials that have been here all along but have been very hard to find. In particular there is a NEW debate among the denizens of Chaos Manor on the future of SMP and what do you conserve with "elegant" software.
I spend far too much time here. Alas.
I have about had it with web site providers. I suppose I should be angry with Microsoft as well: Front Page seems to be one of the larger problems. On the other hand I get tirades against Microsoft when it's pretty clear that the people providing web sites have problems too.
Does anyone out there know of a Front Page site as large and complex as mine that is working? Can you point me to it? I have been told by Pair.com that my site is just too big for their capabilities, and it's all Front Page's fault. Actually what they said was that Front Page is so horrible that there's nothing that can be done about the problems I have had in trying to locate the site at Pair.
Darnell doesn't much do Front Page and has been hosting my place as much out of friendship as anything else. He does his UNIX based stuff well, and doesn't look for Front Page customers. We have been having a horrible time getting the FP extensions running on his DEC Alpha server and suspect there may be some Wintel specificity there. It's not his specialty, and it's kind of him to keep trying. I thought I would at least see what it looked like to have an FP site running where the FP Extensions were implemented, so I signed up with Pair.com. First of course there was the problem that their place is UNIX based, and that meant a lot of changed links due to case sensitivity. That meant a lot of name changes in my folder names. Bob Thompson was kind enough to try to help, but all that really meant was that both of us wasted darned near a week.
The problem is that when I publish to 126.96.36.199 it takes a long time, and eventually after all the files have been uploaded, their server starts to assimilate the changes. Before it can do that it dies and sends this:
500 Internal Server Error
Darnell at considerable cost to himself in time and effort is going to try a total reinstallation on the DEC Alpha. If anyone knows a lot about FP extensions on an Alpha running NT, please tell us. In particular, is there something we don't know about NT and the Alpha?
Meanwhile, I could probably revamp this whole place to Dreamweaver, and it wouldn't be that big a problem, but Front Page, when it is working properly, works well: it saves me a very great deal of time and effort. It really does do links well and finds broken ones. It is a bit stupid about name changes when there are a LOT of names to change, but it works, and so does the Edit/Replace function. All told, while I don't LIKE Front Page a lot, for what I do, it's pretty good; and I know that it's used by a lot of people, and I am told that my site is hardly one of the most complex FrontPage sites around.
I have spent a week playing at this, I have columns to do, and the final draft edit of a novel to finish. I wanted to do the Israel travel report, and there are other photo-essays I can do. I never get time because something always eats that time. I had thought to save Darnell and myself a lot of time by paying money to Pair.com but that isn't working. Does anyone know of a web host that understands Front Page and wouldn't find my site too big for it?
If you have any interest in space policy, be sure to read the Space Access Society bulletin over in mail.
I get mixed stories about my Front Page problems. The site provider continues to say that my connections to the web are too slow (typically I get about 44,000) and my site too large and that is why his servers time out before my site can initialize. Others say they have sites this complex without problems. It's a puzzlement. It may also be that FP 2000 solves the problem (but it may not; the big problem seems to be the FP extensions and those run at the Server end, not here). Front Page needs a way to order the server to initialize and adjust and update without contacting the local site at all. It doesn't have one.
I certainly cannot advise anyone to use Front page in its present condition. It is convenient in many ways, and saves a lot of work, but after a while it fails just when you need it. Pair.com says they wouldn't support FP at all except that so many people demand it. Since their support for it doesn't work this seems a very odd attitude.
Incidentally, Earthlink's response to my inquiry wasn't particularly responsive at all. Interesting. Peter Kent has some recommendations, and I take him seriously, as should you.
From Paul Schindler, BYTE.com Editor in Chief:
After a period of struggle more appropriate for a large mammal than a small newsletter, the Byte.com newsletter was born June 14. There was a lot of reader demand for weekly e-mail notification of the new content we post at Byte.com. That's all there is to the newsletter now, and will always be the core of its content. We may add some news bulletins, column excerpts and other content as time goes on. The newsletter goes out Monday mornings, a few hours after new content is posted at the site. You can subscribe (or unsubscribe) at:
Jess Sponable has sent me a copy of his Aviation Week Editorial; it's also very relevant to the space flight issue.
Spent the day doing consulting work. Remarkable concept presented. Perhaps. I have to study this. Sorry about being mysterious. You'll know when I have digested the ideas.
I can no longer recommend Front Page 98, and my apologies to anyone I may have led into trying it. My advice is GET OUT NOW if you still have a small enough site. Now it may be that Front Page 2000 will fix the problems. May be. But for the moment, a site even as large as this -- which is not really all that large or complex -- is too much for Front Page. See also Talin's letter on this, and my comments at the end, over in mail.
Any remarks I have made about Pair.com should be understood in the light of the above: they warned me -- after I signed up and had problems-- and I was, I admit, reluctant to believe them. On the other hand I find their attitude of "we wouldn't support Front Page at all if so many people didn't demand it" a bit odd: why support something that you KNOW will not work? Of course it does work with small and simple little webs; but what I signed up for was explicitly NOT to be small and simple, and I PAID EXTRA to have one that was not small and simple; they were happy enough to sign me up and set up Front Page extensions although they must have known that it wasn't likely to work since I told them the web size I needed in advance. But I suppose that is just good commercial practice: it MIGHT work, and if it does the customer need never know what danger he is in.
I will try again when I get FP 2000 going. Peter Kent says that may solve the problem. I hope so, because when it is working I LIKE FRONT PAGE quite a bit. That's partly just being used to it, but it does some things quite well, and automates quite a lot for me. I wish it had worked. But FP 98 does not work for anything anywhere near as large as what I have, and if you contemplate ever having a site this large DO NOT start Front Page as your web authoring tool.
More another time, particularly when I have FP 2000 going.
Confusions reign. Mr. Dobbins assures me that FP Extensions do work on Alpha systems with NT. Others tell me that my site isn't so complex that FP won't work. We do know that the timeout problems happened with two similar size and complexity sites at bigbix.com and pair.com so they aren't uncommon.
And Peter Kent says that 2000 may clear up all the problems. Stay tuned. When FP is doing right I like it. When it is good it is, if not very very good, then good at least; and when it is bad it is horrid...
A good day, Finished BURNING CITY final draft. Young Ransom did the basic blocks of the program needed to get Roberta's lesson speeches list done. Now to go to my club for a couple of hours. A good day.
Well, we have installed Front Page 2000 and indeed Office 2000. My opinion of Microsoft was VERY low for a while today, but we will see now. Front Page 2000 no longer has an explorer and an editor; they are both the same window, which takes a bit of getting used to, but I can survive that. The real question is, will be we able to publish to this easily?
NO. It doesn't work at all. Here are the notes I was making as it was attempting to run:
FP2000 is working smoothly, but it wants to republish everything. Every single page. Well, I suppose that's not entirely unexpected. We'll see what happens. I have 180 megabytes free space on this disk; Office 2000 installer didn't think there would be any. It clearly does not know how much space it will remove when it replaces older versions. Well, I can live with that, too. While this uploads, I am going to Staples to get a new printer cartridge and paper to print the final submission copy of BURNING CITY. Simon and Schuster is still talking about real print runs and promotion to rival Robert Jordan's hard bound sales. I have to work on the maps to get them just right. I have some tools to do that.
It is clear that I need a new main NT system or else a new hard disk in this one. Four gigabytes isn't enough any more. I'll have to get a 13 gig system
When this is done publishing every page, I'll see about making subwebs, which I gather is MUCH easier with FP 2000. That may get it small enough to put up at Pair where the search engine works. Maybe.
So far it doesn't work at all. It is "updating" forever, but it isn't getting the job done. There was one access denial sharing violation and it didn't publish then. Trying again has got it "updating" for ten or fifteen minutes.
God knows what this imbecile program thinks it is doing, but it's not doing it well. We will continue with it for a while, but right now I am all for uninstalling Office 2000 and putting Office 97 back and while I am at it, getting out Front Page 98. This is up to now not even close to an improvement.
What we have is a way to not publish anything. How wonderful. The "system violation" access error has no explanation and no appeal. It just won't work. I will use FTP to send this up to my web for the moment, but
DO NOT ATTEMPT FRONT PAGE 2000 as the solution to your problems. I at least CANNOT GET IT WORKING to publish anything. That's silly. It also has no SAVE ALL feature so you must save each updated windows one at a time. Ain't that wonderful?
Let me repeat this. I am updating BY HAND ONLY. I cannot PUBLISH from Front Page 2000. God alone knows if it will let me reimport my old web again when I go back to Front Page 98.
This is horrible.
Indeed it is worse. I have uninstalled Office 2000 -- if there is any way to uninstall just a part of it I do not know it -- in order to get rid of Front Page 2000. I then had to reinstall Office 97, and Outlook 97, I don't know if Word 2000 and Outlook 2000 work or not, because I had to get rid of them to get rid of the ghastly and awful Front Page 2000.
Front Page 2000 will not publish: attempts to do so get a long trundle, lots of time spent, and finally the message SYSTEM EXCEPTION ACCESS VIOLATION and there is no recourse, no option. In the typical Fascist manner it demands that you click "OK" to indicate that you like having wasted all that time. At that point NOTHING has happened.
It's all right, I haven't managed to get Front Page 98 to work again either. First I had to uninstall everything even remotely related to the Internet, and to web servers, and personal web server, and all the other stuff; until I did that I couldn't get ANYTHING to install properly, because there were components left over that Front Page 2000 doesn't really uninstall.
So I am able to use the FP 98 editor on this page, but I have not been able to get it to open this web. At all.
It's really neat, this stuff. With any luck I am going to be able to get out of Front Page altogether and into some other kind of Web Design software. Understand, I don't really LIKE doing that. Front Page, while I had a smaller web, did work; and it did sort of publish; and it did sort of do things for me. But once it decided to die, it decided to DIE.
Saving this also puts images in odd places. Everything is going to be messed up. I HATE THIS. I HATE IT. And at the moment I HATE MICROSOFT for doing this. Surely they could have released this horror with some instructions and some help? With some attempts at compatibility with previous stuff?
DO NOT INSTALL FRONT PAGE 2000. You may never get FP 98 working again. And if you have not got stuck with Front Page then DON'T. Try something else. Try almost ANYTHING else. I may change my mind another time, and I may not.
This is being done in Symantec Visual Page. It is NOT as satisfactory as an editor as Front Page was, and it sure as heck won't open a large web such as mine: it runs out of memory in the attempt. It may or may not be able to ftp this stuff up to the site. If you see this, then clearly I was able to get it there, although I may have to do what I did to get the earlier paragraphs up, namely, to use an external ftp program. But at least it is letting me type. It doesn't have spelling checking built in. I presume I will be able to cut and paste into Visual Page from Word as I did with Front Page. And in fact I can since that last sentence was done that way.
I am pretty disgusted with web tools. If Front Page worked, it would still be the best of the bad lot I have
worked with; but in fact it doesn't work. The reinstallation of Front Page 98 was a disaster. I now have more stupid
copies of my web site scattered around on this disk than you can shake a stick at, but FP 98 wouldn't really open
any of them. I am, I am afraid, now down to manual publishing my updates. No wonder people don't update often.
But that's all right, the site isn't working anyway. I don't seem to be able to connect to it at any acceptable speed with any browser. IE 5 may have been crippled in the Office 2000 disaster since it was installed by Office 2000, but Netscape shouldn't have been. I don't know.
I confess it: I miss Front Page. It did work well when it was working. But FP 2000 seems to have destroyed FP 98, and 2000 won't publish. Of course nothing else will.
And Symantec Visual Page seems to have a fatal flaw: there is a length of page that you may not exceed. All told, since apparently I have to publish with ftp anyway, I may as well uninstall everything and try to get FP 2000 working. None of these stupid things look like they are going to work WELL, you understand, but at least that may work the way I am used to. Visual Page won't even load the entire currentmail page; it chops it off. Nuts. Well at least links are possible with this.
11:00 PM This is being done in Symantec Visual Page because I CANNOT USE FRONT PAGE TO DO IT. Period. Not Front Page 2000 and not Front Page 98.
There is a LONG story in this, but the short version is: DO NOT INSTALL FRONT PAGE 2000 on an NT Machine. If you do, you will NOT BE ABLE to get back no matter what you uninstall or how hard your try. Believe me. Please.
Second: If you do decide to run FRONT PAGE, do NOT expect a large web site to work with the FP Extensions. It won't. Somewhere about the size of my site you will find yourself doomed. You won't be able to publish, and the host server will time out.
Third: Installing Office 2000 on an NT 4 machine is chancy. It will probably work except for FRONT PAGE, but it may not. It will also install IE5 and a bunch of SERVER STUFF and the Server stuff cannot be removed. I am going off to PC Expo Monday, so today and tomorrow will be all I get to put up here; when I get back I intend to put all the files I can find off this machine, reformat the hard disk, and reinstall NT 4. I think I will do that. I may not. But that would be the ONLY WAY to get back to where I was yesterday before I began trying to install Front Page 2000.
You see Front Page 2000 won't work unless the Front Page Extensions are running. Attempting to install the Front Page extensions on an NT 4 Service Pack 4 machine produces this error message:
We have determined that NT 4 SP 4 is running. We have not tested this product with this operating system.
I wish I were making that up. It's worse; the FP 2000 extensions DO NOT WORK, and YOU CANNOT REMOVE THEM. At one point for reasons I don't understand I ended up with Personal Web Server and SQL 7 Server running on my work station. I never asked for SQL Server; it happened with Office 2000 and an attempt to install the FP 2000 Extensions. SQL cannot be removed. Running its uninstall gets a share violation but it CANNOT BE DISABLED ON STARTUP because you cannot find what starts it. I finally had to boot in DOS 6.3, and Remove the MSSQL7 directory in DOS since I could not uninstall any other way. Now when I start I get a report that at least one process failed (as of course it did) but at least I don't have SQL running. Running REGCLEAN repeatedly helps but not much.
Apparently OFFICE 2000 has been tested with Windows 98 and probably with Windows 2000; I would presume that the standard office stuff has been tested with NT 4 SP 4; but the FP 2000 Extensions SAY they have not been tested with NT 4 SP 4 and I guarantee THEY DO NOT WORK nor CAN YOU REMOVE THEM.
I removed Office 2000 including FP 2000, plus every thing I could find they had done. I converted back to IE 4. It matters not. Let me repeat. It matters not. I have goofy icons unlike the ones I had before. I have messages from Office 2000 regarding Front Page Extensions when I try to install Front Page 98. Front Page 98 will NOT OPEN A WEB nor will it create one. Believe me. Once you install FP 2000 on an NT machine, you will either reinstall NT 4 with all the service packs (including the Y2K stuff) OR you will simply never get back to Front Page 98.
I do these stupid things so you won't have to, but I confess, I never thought installing a released product on a pretty standard NT system would do so much damage. No, I didn't make proper backups. I didn't make a disk image before I started. I should have; I counted on Microsoft not to DO things like this to me. They did it anyway.
IF YOU RUN NT 4 SP 4 DO NOT INSTALL FRONT PAGE 2000 and DO not even think about installing the FP 2000 extensions. The rest of Office 2000 may be all right, and the whole package may run fine in Windows 98. I wouldn't know. And Outlook 2000 seems to have some definite improvements. (So does Front Page 2000 if it would work.) But so far as I am concerned I have no real need for Office 2000 other than Front Page 2000 and I don't need that at all.
If you do web site work, DO NOT USE FRONT PAGE; you will become dependent on it, and then it will fail you. I don't much like saying that, but it is TRUE; it was true for me, it was true for Thompson. I can cite other cases. The risks are high. It's a pity because Front Page has some neat stuff to it. But Don't use it.
MAIL is divided into two pages, the usual currentmail, and mail53a.html which will have Saturday and Sunday on it. My apologies but I have no other way to do this.
I continue to investigate. I now get mail saying that SP 4 for NT 4 has been a problem for many people. Perhaps, but I got SP 4 will I nill I when I did the Y2K upgrade here. Perhaps Windows 2000 is better? In any event, DO NOT USE Office 2000 with SP 4 NT 4, and in particular don't use FP 2000 with it. More than that as I find out more.
This is still Visual Page, but it's not going to be my final. I have written for HOt Metal Pro 5.0 and we will see how that works. I am also being seduced by Dreamweaver people and that may yet be what I need. I do like having:
Those are the main things; Front Page did them well and FP 98 still would if I could use it, but once NT4 SP 4 gets wind of 2000 FP extensions it will NEVER go back to FP 98 again, or so I have found.
Another reason to abandon Visual Page as soon as I can: I format stuff with fonts in WORD and cut and paste, and it is all in DEFAULT FONT when it gets into Visual Page, which has an editor that selects badly and scrolls horribly. Sigh. I miss FP 98 a lot.
I have included that here to avoid having to have the 53a page:
First, I don't recommend Front Page if you plan a large web. However, Front Page works very well with small webs. I have no exact definition of small: it involves not merely number of pages, but number of hyperlinks, and both of those are more important than sheer size in megabytes.
But as you get up to where my site is in size and complexity, THE FRONT PAGE
EXTENSIONS will not work properly. What happens is that it takes so long for
Front Page on the Host Server to "update" once you have
"published" anything to it, that it times out. Timing out involves
settings at the server end, and are not under your (or at least my) control.
With PAIR.COM this is set at about 15 minutes; they tried setting it to somewhat
longer for me, and it was still not enough. On one site they have with a Front
Page Network and FP Extensions it takes 3 hours; that is a big customer and has
his own server, not shared, and they can indulge that size customer. They can't
indulge me (or perhaps they could but I declined to discuss it since that's a
favor much larger than any reader could ask for).
Let me add to that a bit here.
The big objection to Front Page (other than that I couldn't get it to work properly with extensions once this site got large enough) is that once you are sucked into it, it is very hard to get out of. Not impossible. Note that I am able to work on MOST of my FP Pages with Symantec's Visual Page. I am doing that now. I am even typing on the stick here: this isn't being done in WORD but in Visual Page and it's fast enough: one objection I had to Front Page was that typing directly in Front Page editor was horrible as you would press a key, and there would be a delay before the letter got on screen. I can't stand this since I watch what I am typing. Two finger typists probably wouldn't care.
Front Page 98 running on a server without the FP extensions works OK. It keeps your local copy of your site in good shape, and one a fast machine like Princess (dual Pentium 200 so it's not the latest) the update process is acceptable if slow. It keeps track of links, find broken links, and makes it very easy to change page names (it changes the name everywhere you had a link to it) and to move files to new directories. It's a bit slow on imports -- you can't just drag a new file or page in, it has to be imported, and the import is pretty slow -- but again it's acceptable.
Front Page 2000 won't run without the extensions. I don't know if it will export to a web server without them, but they have to be running on your host system where you are doing the editing. Those extensions won't work on NT 4 SP 4, and what they do work on is not known to me yet although I will try FP 2000 on a Windows 2000 system, Bob Thompson has found that FP 2000 doesn't publish reliably but that may be a version problem. In any event, while Peter Kent has been impressed with FP 2000 (and his opinion is worth a lot), I haven't been able to get it running, and I am now a bit gun-shy.
The other objection to FP is that it writes all kinds of goo into your code, and it does make it a bit hard to do hand edits. On the gripping hand, I try hard not to do hand HTML edits. I don't like simulating a computer in my head, and that's what editing HTML raw code is for me. I don't try to do layout design of my books, either. I do draw maps, but I get a professional to do the finish map work. I'm a wordsmith, and when I do code I like something like Pascal or Modula where the code is a lot more, well, modular, and readable. But that's for another time.
Bottom line: if you go with Front Page you may be stuck with it, and when your web site hits a certain degree of complexity it will start to fail you. There are work arounds, and I make no doubt that Microsoft will come up with a new release with most of the bugs fixed. Clearly if you intend to use Office 2000 you ought to think about Front Page 2000 since there will be plenty attempts at integration of Office and FrontPage.
AND NOW I AM OFF TO PC EXPO. I may or may not be able to do updates from there. My apologies to subscribers: one of the consequences of my last 3 days of mucking about was that the subscriber list got shoved off in a corner by the successive revisions of Outlook. I have it, intact, no problems, and you will get a mailing next weekend; probably a special PCEXPO Show Report with some pictures and words and perhaps my "awards" for the show. But not this week.
If I manage to revise things while in New York I will probably start a new VIEW page, and I'll make notes in the right places. I am taking Visual Page and the ftp program so it may be possible to update some of this stuff from there. We will see.
BYE FOR NOW.