THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
VIEW 79 December 13-19, 1999
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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. (Older columns here.) For more on what this place is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE.
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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:
December 13, 1999
The internet is driving me crazy, but so is the telephone system. There are no human beings left in the world, and the illusion of higher productivity is just that: half the people in the world are sitting with a dead telephone in one ear, and half of those are simultaneously staring at blank screens waiting for something to happen. I hate it. I have GOT to get DSL...
Pacific Bell says they can do it, but that's a mail thing; we will see, we will see. I sure hope so.
Does anyone know the people at Weekly Standard? Have they hired their enemies to run their subscription department? They sure have made it painful to deal with them. And expensive: they are charging me monthly, and I pay the entire amount off each month, after which they bill me the next month but with the "monthly" payment removed; but they cash the check for the full amount. I will have paid for about 30 years when this is all done assuming they even figure it out. If I don't pay they send letters threatening to cut off my subscription. I find this bizarre. But then the world has become bizarre. Calling them would get me a computer, I am sure.
I am looking at the difference between mail and view and I suppose I see the problem, but fixing it isn't as easy as it appears. I'll in essence have to start over, which is all right I guess...
|This week:||Tuesday, December
I seem to be coming down with something. Meanwhile I have revised the currentmail template and page to see if it downloads faster; I think it does.
We're about to start a big Visual Basic project here. More on that another time.
Buffy was good tonight. So was Angel.
December 15, 1999
I was awakened at 0700 by a call telling me there would be a Microsoft Conference Call at 0900. I told the Wagged young lady it was all right, I had to get up to answer the phone anyway, and at 0900 I took the conference. This isn't a news service and I am sure there will be tons of people with the details, but in essence Windows 2000 Professional, Server, and Advanced Server are gold and have been released to manufacture. Reviewers should have copies Real Soon Now.
This is, according to Microsoft, the most thoroughly tested product in their history, and their 100 largest customers voted unanimously to approve the release of this code. That's fairly impressive, but we'll see. I have found Windows 2000 Professional (Workstation) to be greatly preferable to Windows 98 and NT 4 Workstation and I have been using it for months. I am about to switch some of my servers to Win 2000 now; all the reports I have of RC3 have been good. Again I have a fairly small establishment (maybe 20 networked systems) so I am not likely to test Advanced Server...
Turns out it ain't just me that's got the bug. Roberta's really out of it. This too shall pass...
December 16, 1999
I was reminded of a bad link in Maildex due to my having moved a mess of mail to archives; following it I found something I forgot I had done, a long disquisition on Alexander the great and his father Phillip. Turns out to be worth reading...
I got this recently in mail. If the book is indeed Fletcher Pratt's wonderful book this is good news indeed:
From Subject Received JHUniverse The Battles that Changed History
According to Barnes &; Noble, this will be back in print from Dover in March.
Paper, $9.95, ISBN: 048641129X
From: Stephen M. St. Onge firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: It's true!
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
I just checked out Books in Print and World Library Catalog. THE BATTLES THAT CHANGED HISTORY has been or will be republished in hardcover, ISBN 084882573x by Mattituck : Amereon Limited for 25.95 (Barnes and Noble says 3 to 5 weeks, books in Print says not yet released), and the Library of Congress has it's copy of the Dover edition that Barnes and Noble says will be for sale in March.
Great. Pratt was one of the better historians, and among the most readable.
December 17, 1999
Very much under the weather. Cold, flu, cough, sore throat, zero energy, can't work... Ah well. Roberta is recovered enough that I don't have to take care of her, which lets me sulk in miserable peace...
Have the new Microsoft Visual Studio, which is what Visual Basic has evolved into. Quite a package. Lots in there. VB has become an excellent programming environment.
Princess shut down again with the message "this system is shutting down". Nothing in the event logs. My guess is that this is something embedded in the Beta edition I am using on this machine and will go away when I scrub and replace with Win 2000 RC 3. It's all very orderly, and gives plenty of notice, but it sure dies the death...
I suppose I have felt worse without having pneumonia, but I am not sure when.
Beginning a new AltMail page on Free trade.
December 16, 1999
I think I am recovering, but it's slow. Nothing to do but take lots of liquids, vitamins, and stay warm and miserable...
Good Grief. Charlie Brown will go away in two weeks. If you go to
you can see the first Peanuts. Of course I didn't grow up with Peanuts. Most of the strips I knew as a child are long gone, and the ones that are left like Dick Tracy are pale shadows of what they once were. Moon Mullins, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Our Boarding House with Major Stoopnagle, Lil' Abner, Bringing Up Father with Maggie and Jiggs -- I always liked that one. Jiggs was a construction worker who got rich from hard work, and married a Park Avenue lady of high pretensions, who desperately wanted the approval of a bunch of snobs. I particularly liked the one in which some character was nasty to Maggie, bringing her to tears over some cultural matter that Jiggs couldn't have cared less about, but when the man took the trouble to humiliate Maggie, Jiggs bought his company... But then I have always liked that kind of story, in which the bad guys have picked quite the wrong person to intimidate.
And KUSC has just managed to have engineering problems of the worst kind and apparently there is no one at the station who can fix it, so the cantata I was listening to sounds like Chaos and Old Night. They fix the problem and it's back again in seconds.
The new Visual Basic from Microsoft is called Visual Studio and there is a huge collection of tools and programs in the package. If I felt better I'd install it and begin working on my next programming project. Is there any rival to Microsoft in languages now? I haven't heard of any sharp practices or for that matter anything but hard work that has brought this off. Microsoft had become complacent about languages until Borland brought out Turbo BASIC which was a direct challenge to Gates. For years Microsoft hadn't improved BASIC at all; there had been no improvements to BASCOM the BASIC Compiler in a long time. When Turbo Basic appeared, Microsoft brought out two new improvements to BASCOM and after Windows began Visual BASIC, and they've been improving it ever since. Given how fast the new machines are, most of the objections to BASIC as slow and wasteful of resources vanish; and it is certainly readable, you can turn on typing, and you can avoid GOTO statements (GOTO seen Harmful; anyone remember the controversy that paper caused?).
Do I need something I don't have? What edition of Real Player should I have? My attempts to listen to TechWeb are universally disastrous. I may get a few seconds of sound and video text, then inevitably "the connection has timed out". Does ANYONE with a regular modem manage to listen to any of this stuff, or is it only for those with T1 or DSL?
Earthlink says they can do DSL here. So does Pac Bel. We will see Monday. But the Real Player thing seems to me to be a big fraud. Maybe once a month I actually get a broadcast. Is there something I can install that will take its own sweet time to download the stuff, buffer it, and play it? Is there a setting I am doing wrong? I haven't paid a lot of attention to it, but I can't even hear my own broadcasts most of the time. This is silly. Clearly SOMEONE is able to listen to this stuff, but is it only those with fast connections?
While I am gloomy, consider this:
describes an interesting device. How long will it be before it will be felony not to carry one?
The silly airport measures asking questions about your luggage were instituted by TWA 880, only now it is known that that wasn't a terrorist act. But we still get asked the questions, and to show picture ID to fly. All temporary measures trampling on freedom are permanent. There will be more. All temporary, all for our own good, and all to help the children. And what good do they do? Is it thought that a state sponsored terrorist couldn't manage to get a fake driving license?
December 19, 1999
RealAudio has got some problems. I found one of mine through a horrible series of events, but in doing so found out just how weird it is to do business with that company.
First they send you a serial number only in email. Don't lose it. When they send you a CD the serial number is not on it. I found that out when I uninstalled the silly program hoping that reinstallation would fix the net timeout problems. It only took about an hour to make me realizes this was a drastic mistake: the serial number is available if the program is installed but not otherwise, and that includes with the CD.
Eventually I got it reinstalled. Then I found that the settings are interesting. There is a server timeout setting and a network timeout setting. If the network timeout setting is low, and you have a net server as I do, you are doomed: this thing seems to believe that you aren't connected to the web if you go through a net server. It doesn't really matter: the normal result of anything you do it "net congestion, buffering" for a very long time, followed by a timeout. If you set things to download the whole program before playing, it will almost certainly time out. If you set for 30 second intervals, well, you will get choppy segments, and even then you will probably be timed out. I have set the timers to 900 seconds, but I have yet to hear one of my own broadcasts.
It may be that I am in a particularly noisy environment, or that RealPlayer discriminates against Earthlink. Whatever it is, I can't get to their tech support, and it is all pretty well unusable. Their buffering doesn't work, their timeouts are inevitable, and for me the whole experience is a bust. Without a fast connection, this is useless to me. I have readers who say they have no problems, so may I don't hold my mouth right.
So. I killed, reinstalled, and let it update. It looks entirely different now. Doesn't work any better. IN fact, TechWeb and most other channels return with improper URL: it can't find anything but CNN. This is really really stupid. If you like to see "net congestion, buffering" followed by "timed out" get Real Player and try to listen to news on it. If not, this doesn't seem a very interesting way to waste time. Clearly, peasants with modem connections aren't going to get much. I can't wait for DSL.
The new system won't accept more than 300 seconds for timeout. I have put that in. Net congestion, buffering.... I have told it to download entire clip before playing. Perhaps I would do better to have 2 minute intervals? Net congestion, buffering... At least it's not timing out. Just doing nothing. Do they hate Earthlink?
Net congestion, buffering. 209 seconds. I don't think it is going to make it under the 300 seconds I can max it to. This does seem to be one of the more useless ways of doing things...
Net congestion buffering: 350 second. So the timeout didn't happen at 300. Interesting. I am connected at 36.o Kbps according to the Real Player. The player looks somewhat different from what it did, so uninstalling, reinstalling, and updating does seem to have changed something, although what it changed is not clear to me.
Net congesting, buffering, 453 seconds... It is clear that anyone who really wants to listen to my broadcasts needs a LOT of patience...
Net congestion, buffering, 689 seconds.... There's a tiny little gauge off to the right and it does not seem to be filling. The problem is with the server, clearly. It is not net congestion, it is the inadequacy of the tools Real Audio has allocated for the job. Maybe they ought to hire Pair.com to provide server service. That would work...
I am going to let this run until it times out but in fact I don't really want to listen to the broadcast any more. And since the problem is probably their silly server, I doubt that DSL is going to make it better. This is about as useful as the Channel Bar which Microsoft spent so much time and gained to much ill will to dominate...
At 1000 seconds I gave up. the fuel gauge isn't filling, and nothing is happening. Attempting to get the TechWeb channel gets the message that it doesn't exist. This is one of the more useless ways to spend time.
1305: tried again. Techweb has moved, and RealAudio doesn't know it, so getting to the Week in review wasn't easy. This time we got a bit of intro; net congestion and wait; part of what I said; then into the dialogue; then net congestion. It's pretty hard to follow the conversation this way. Now it's aback on again. But this isn't a very great deal of fun...
And stopped in the middle of an interesting exchange of views, and halted for minutes. Net congestion, buffering...
When I get DSL we'll see if this works -->
The upshot is that today at least, of four tries, one managed to get the entire Week in Review, and that with three interruptions of from 50 seconds to three minutes. Not precisely the best experience...
There is considerable mail on this; I don't have a real solution to the problem.
But see below: apparently it was all my fault. Interesting. See below.
My guess is I have made MAIL even slower on download, so I'll try to revamp the template again. What I can do is use the VIEW template and change it so that it become MAIL and see if that works.
I have done that, I think. The new format will begin next week.
Well, Mr. Dobbins seems to have solved one of my problems. I have found in the Real Player connections a way to set the "proxy", and by telling it to use 192.168.1.1 as proxy most of the RealAudio problems seem to have gone away. This time. For the moment. There is also an "autoconfiguration" button you can use to let RealPlayer try to find the best way to work. If any of this is in the instructions I have not seen it, but it does seem to have a happy ending, and thus can go into the column. If you use RealPlayer through a Linux Netserver (or any other netserver I would think) you need to let RealPlayer know what you have done. Trial of two, so far, but I am listening to myself now, and there have been no breaks in the speech bar a long period first of buffering, but that you can live with.
If you do get RealPlayer, be certain you keep your serial number in a safe place. But apparently my problems were caused by me, and not really by RealAudio or the servers. Maybe. More tests later.
In my defense, I had these problems before I ever installed the Rebel.Com netserver; adding it has in fact solved the problem once I told the system how to use it, but I had a lot of problems before this. Or, who knows? Could it be that tonight is just good conditions? I will experiment by turning off that proxy setting and see if that makes a differerence. "I do all these silly things so you won't have to..."
It is not my net connection that is the problem. I can cause glitches by doing an ftp while playing a (formerly unplayable) RealAudio clip, but even then the glitches are SHORT, not minutes long like I was getting. This is very interesting. And I am even getting some video. Using the Netserver properly has made the RealAudio system much more reasonable.
I will leave all this up as an indication of how one stumbles to a solution. In my case, by posting the problem, I can draw on a huge pool of expertise, some familiar with the problems in general, others with my particular system. It's an enviable situation to be in. Tends I suppose to make me lazy sometimes, but I hope not too often. Anyway, that's the RealAudio story for the moment.
Later: it is still working, so the settings for the rebel.com box turn out to be critical. It is now quite usable, so it is pretty clear that the problem was more my fault than anyone else's; on the other hand, there sure wasn't much in the way of instruction about how to do this, and if Mr. Dobbins hadn't pointed me in the right direction I would still be getting "net congestion". It isn't precisely net congestion, it's "YOU SET IT UP WRONG STUPID!" that it ought to be saying...
(Later: well, sometimes you get congestion no matter what the settings...)
Over in mail is a long letter about digital vs. analog in theatre movies. It is interesting, and I invite opinions from those who know something on the subject. Speculations I can make myself; what I need here is information...
I have done a minor update to Work in Progress...