THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 396 January 9 - 15, 2006
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January 9, 2005
I am home from Las Vegas and the Consumer Electronics Show. The first CES Reports, and the first installment of my annual Orchids and Onions column for 2005 (meaning part one of the January 2006 column) are up at www.byte.com. It will take me a while to catch up from a week in Las Vegas, but I'll get there.
CES is best characterized as information overload: it is row after row of yet another this or that, and you have to keep reminding yourself that these are yet another miracle, something we all hoped for a few years ago: now these marvels are here, competing on price and color.
The best gadget of the show hands down was the Celestron Star Scout, which is a GPS and gravity sensor box about the size of a JVC Camcorder: point it at a star, and it tells you what star you are looking at. Alternatively, tell it what star you want to see and it will guide you to it. Amazing. Also I have the new Kodak EasyShare V570 dual lens shirt pocket camera that takes 5 megapixel photographs from wide angle to telephoto, and will stitch wide angle shots into a panorama. I think I am in love.
There are dozens of show reports from different magazines and services, and the press were out in full force. My reports are similar to my columns, mostly my impressions of what was going on -- I am told this style is called "informed opinion" in journalism schools but since I never went to j-school I don't know -- there will be four of them, with pictures, over at http://www.byte.com/ where you will also find my columns. One of my "informed opinions" is that a subscription to the on-line BYTE, which includes access to Dr. Dobbs and a whole bunch of other CMP publications, is about the best deal on the Internet. And don't worry, I won't be doing pitches for BYTE subscriptions very often. This week's column is the first installment of my annual Orchids and Onions parade with User's Choice Awards, and if you were thinking of subscribing to BYTE anyway, this would be a good week to get around to it.
Today's BYTE column at www.byte.com contains a favorable reference to an anti-virus program called Avast! which is available for free download and use. I was using it when I wrote that part of the column and I rather liked it. I have since found problems: it's rather annoying and when I finds a virus in a mail attachment you can't just tell it to ignore it on the theory that you will delete the whole thing; it stops Outlook from downloading until you do something; and for some reason Outlook kept closing down and had to be restarted.
The second problem may be due to improper settings, since I was (as I usually do when I begin evaluations) simply using Avast! in its default settings. I can't prove that the third problem, Outlook closing down, was due to Avast!, but last night Outlook closed over a dozen times; this morning I uninstalled Avast!; and I have had no problems with Outlook since, so the diagnosis seems positive. Of course I'm now operating with no anti-virus at all (having become disgusted with Symantec's Norton) but that will change shortly.
There is a WMF vulnerability fix out from Microsoft; it seems to have come with the weekend Microsoft Update package. As always, if you're running Windows I strongly recommend that you check for updates and install them. I use Automatic Update and that works. I am fearful of someone hijacking Windows Update, but friends inside the Microsoft programming community tell me they worry about that more than I do, and it would take a conspiracy of several people inside Microsoft working with outside bad guys to do it. I sure hope that's right.
Below is a link from the University of Chicago which opens into the complete text of the five-volume reference, "The Founders' Constitution," edited by Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner. It's $475 for the hardbound set, $60 for a reduced-format and $45 for a CD-ROM version.
I have the first volume in a trade paperback 8.5x11-inch format, apparently no longer published. It's a mere 713 pages of print that is smaller that that in paperback novels, but very clear.
What's it all about? Only all the essential references to the sources from which the Constitution sprang. Not only do we have all the various philosophers, but court cases, laws, bills of rights and legislative debate (the debate on the Second Amendment in the House of Representatives is highly illuminating, for example).
It is the most important sourcebook for studying our Constitution. And all of this hugely expensive work is available free online:
I am extremely grateful to the University of Chicago. The link is now in my Bookmarks. Don't miss it.
You may or may not find this amusing:
You may also hate it.
A quick look throught the Avast! support site finds
This suggests that YES there is an issue with Outlook and the MSN Toolbar.
I suspected as much. I have had no problems since uninstalling Avast!
|This week:||Tuesday, January
I continue to dig out of the hole CES made; I'm doing the final parts of the column. I have turned in a four part CES report, of which two parts have already been posted at www.byte.com and I presume the rest will be Real Soon Now. I am done with show reports for this show.
In my show reports I do not cover the Google keynote with Robin Williams which like most of the keynotes was amusing but nearly devoid of actual information. Google did NOT announce a new operating system, a new Google Computer, war to the knife with Microsoft, incorporation of Star Office into its Google package of free stuff, an Apple version of the Google free stuff, big support for Linux, or indeed very much even if you read between the lines. I had my choice of going to Google or a meeting with the Microsoft people about Vista, plus meetings with AMD, Toshiba, nVidia, and others. There wasn't a lot of information in the Vista meeting, but then there wasn't much information in the Google keynote.
For a "live" report on the Google keynote, see http://engadget.com/2006/01/06/live-coverage-of-the-google-keynote/ (thanks to Roland for finding this). If there's a streaming version, I have not seen it. The Google presentation was amusing, and the coverage here is probably worth a few minutes' examination, but I am not sorry I missed it.
There is a streaming version of Gates at CES. I presume there is a streaming version of Jobs at MacWorld also, and at some point I should watch it, but just now I am still finishing up the year end.
If you haven't watched the MacWorld keynote, go do so. It's interesting: despite its small market share, Apple has a big influence on the industry.
I'm still digging out from the Las Vegas trip. I should be done by nightfall.
January 12, 2005
The Column is on the wire. Finally.
This from CNET on Symantec's Root Kit, sort of. Symantec gets a large Chaos Manor Onion in this year's orchid and onion parade, that's in the column I filed last night.
This is a proposal for a complete reorganization of our military, and far too complex for me to discuss in detail just now. Besides, all those interested should have a chance to read the paper before I begin to hack at it.
I do note one item I can't pass by: he wants to transfer most of the National Guard to Homeland Security. The purpose appears to be to create a Civil Defense organization. This would be, in my judgment, a drastic mistake. Civil Defense is Civil Defense, and should be organized as such. I have no objection whatever to having it organized by the Pentagon, along National Guard lines, with part time reservists and volunteers. That is what we once had, and it ought to replace the silly FEMA that Jimmy Carter started because Civil Defense scared the USSR and was considered by the USSR as an act of aggression against the Soviet Union. Of course the USSR thought no such thing, but many American intellectuals argued that case, and the Kremlin saw it was a good posture to take so they did. Jimmy Carter did the rest.
There is another underlying question here: what is the purpose of the American military establishment in these times? Until we understand why we need a military it is difficult to come up with an optimum organization.
We spend a bit under 4% of GDP on the military (more if you count pensions and some other necessary indirect costs); are we getting what we need from that? But that depends on what we need a military for. Keep that in mind as you read the paper. Debate on this will be here, next week.
For those not familiar with the resources here at Chaos Manor (and who is? I forget them myself), I remind you that there is a summary of the Reports available here. As with much material here it's not all that well organized, because like Topsy it just growed, but there is a wealth of material, from the purely humorous (c.f. Dogs in Elk) to serious discussions on topics as diverse as marriage vows to my cruise on the USS Hopper to topics on Republic and Empire. Some of this material is dated and perhaps needs to be archived, but much of it is very relevant. Anyway, think of this as a reminder of the resources we have available that you support with your subscriptions.
I do these silly things so you don't have to. I have been part of the OneCare beta for several weeks now. It runs on my main communications machine (wow do I back this one up a lot!!) and I have been quite pleased so far.
The public beta is now available to your friends
You're part of the managed beta. You always have the latest build, more access to resources, and a more direct channel to the product team. The public beta, on the other hand, is open to anyone. If you know someone who'd like to try out Windows OneCare for free, please send them to http://www.windowsonecare.com/.
January 13, 2006
Friday the 13th falls on Friday this month.
Here is a script for use if a telemarketer calls you. Let me know how it works out:
Subject: Apple PASSES Dell
Which is to say, total market value of Apple is now slightly greater than Dell. An interesting development.
For other Apple news see mail.
And here is an odd story:
January 14, 2006
Family matters. Lt. Cdr. Phillip is home (well, here, he lives in Virginia) with The Grandchild. Have a good weekend all. Sable is going mad.
Microsoft long ago put in a way to kill off a spooling job by allowing software to execute code found in an image file. This is silly. Not the goal, which is reasonable, but the method of implementation, which is a good old fashioned kludge done at a time when bumming code and doing clever hacks was considered not unreasonable practice because it made use of the limited memory and CPU cycles available then. Good programming languages wouldn't have allowed this. It had to be implemented in assembly, then, for some odd reason, it kept getting imported from one version to the next without anyone stopping to think about what was being done here, and just how wrong the fundamental idea was. Probably people read the comments on what that block of code accomplished, and paid no attention to HOW it was accomplished, and it was copied from version to version.
This is not malice. It is certainly not good practice, and there's definitely a level here at which it's gross incompetence, but it's also, alas, the kind of thing that very often happens.
For another set of views see
Reaction at Ars Technica:
I have a long discussion among colleagues over the entire matter and the place of Steve Gibson in it, but it all needs editing and that's not possible with an almost-6 year old on one's lap.
Thanks to Bob Thompson for sending me this link. You can also see Microsoft's reaction to Gibson at
Microsoft replies to Gibson:
Bob Thompson refers to Gibson as a gadfly. I would put his usefulness higher than that, but along the same vector. Steve can be paranoid at times. It's well to have such people in the community.
January 15, 2006
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, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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