THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
VIEW 92 March 13 - 19, 2000
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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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March 13, 2000
For the background to all this, see last week's View for Friday through Sunday.
OK. It was Earthlink that fouled things up. Early on Mr. Dobbins said that it couldn't possibly be the Netwinder since caching in communicators is evil and was never turned on. I was sure o that, but I got a number of suggestions from people who couldn't believe that a company could get so many things wrong as Earthlink did, and thus thought it just had to be some kind of caching here. Over time it became clear that the problem was experienced world wide, but wasn't consistent: some people could get www.readingtlc.com, and some got a "real soon now" message as I did, and there was absolutely no pattern to it.
We certainly have no problems with local caching here. It's Earthlink and Earthlink only that has done this, and Earthlink and Earthlink only that can fix it unless I move the whole thing to some place with a more professional attitude.
Earthlink may or may not be fixing it. I have no official response from them yet. I have some communications from a friend in the troubleshooting department but he doesn't handle web sites; from the web site people and firstname.lastname@example.org I have a couple of automated replies, and NOTHING. This is UNGOOD. Double Plus Ungood. Apparently some troll made Roberta's site go away, then went off without telling anyone. If I can get their attention perhaps they will fix it.
3:02 PM: it's fixed. I am told there may still be some people who can't get to www.readingtlc.com but I can now, and many could before, so I presume it won't be long before everyone can. If you can't get there I'd appreciate mail. Clearly if you can, it's not worth sending mail to tell me, although if you like the place you might tell email@example.com who would appreciate knowing.
And now I have problems with FrontPage publishing. I have to talk to Roland and others on that, but first, I am going to take a walk and clear my head. We have successfully updated the NetWinder's software, but not everything is resolved. I can get to here with ws_ftp but the publish function is broken. Again. But that's probably the NetWinder combined with the VERY primitive nature of the ftp client in FrontPage. But slowly we are gaining on them...
Roland knows (and I now recall) why I am having problems publishing with FrontPage, so that's not going to be a problem; it's a matter of altering startup scripts so that certain things load when the system resets.
www.readingtlc.com is visible to most but not all; I have scattered reports that it's still showing "real soon now". If I ping www.readingtlc.com I get a return and an address but if I type in the numerical address I get a "page not found" error. That makes little sense to me. But than most of this doesn't make a lot of sense. I think I will take this opportunity to move, get better store software, and set her site up to sell not only her program but some back issues of my books (signed) and other stuff (as well as subscriptions to the site). Up to now it has been a mess but it sort of worked. Once it was really broke it was time to fix it all.
The publish problem is fixed; scripts as suspected. Linux/UNIX works very well once things are set up properly. There are some problems getting to that state. You need to know a good bit in advance: UNIX and Linux remain guru-friendly systems, and even with an appliance style box like the Rebel box you need to know how to do things -- or have an expert on call. But given that, it sure gets things done, and once set up, it's pretty reliable.
Or was. Combine Linux, the Rebel box, and Earthlink's recent flakiness and I am not so sure.
Earthlink's phone line in Sherman Oaks has ceased to work. OK, I tried to shift to the Burbank number by going in and editing the Dialup script in the Netwinder. I changed the number. Unfortunately, so far as I can tell, the Netwinder continued to dial the Old Number; at least I could hear on the modem the phone company message about trying again later. I have rebooted the system in the hopes that the new script will "take" but I have no great confidence in it, and I may end up putting the US Robotics modem directly on this system
|This week:||Tuesday, March
Meanwhile Earthlink decided not to work properly, and the problem with Linux is that you can't tell what is going on. If you thought the Windows error messages were bad, wait until you try working with Linux: if the modem doesn't connect, you don't get any message at all. It just doesn't connect. You can't tell if the service is down, it can't lock on, your password is bad, your user name is bad: there is no way to know any of that. You can listen to the modem tones and see if it actually gets to the negotiation stage. In my case with one Earthlink number it never did: you got a voice message. So I tried to change access numbers, since dialing the one that we were using got me the error message on my regular phone line, but another, in Burbank, did not.
But reconfiguring the Linux dialer has the problem that you don't know what you did, and you can't know what you have done. In theory the system was dialing a different number. If so, it was just unlucky because through the Modem Speaker (dimly as in a dream) one could hear a voice message. But if I dialed that number on my phone, I got a modem tone.
OK, call Earthlink tech services. There is a message to the effect that there is a problem getting connected in Southern California, and they're aware of it, and Real Soon Now. Having had their Real Soon Now regarding my wife's sit this did not fill me with confidence. However, I put things back the way they were before, and left to take the dog to the vet. Came back without him. Not in the best mood. And still no connections.
Tried to get IBM.NET to tell me how to connect through them. Got some procedures and numbers. Tried, but who knows? I certainly didn't get connected, but since you can't get error messages out of a Linux box (or I don't know how to do it) I don't know why.
In desperation I got out the 56K USR modem that used to be on the system. Fortunately I didn't install it. By then Earthlink tech services was reporting that all was well. The Netwinder didn't think so. I set the dialup script to what it used to be, and tried rebooting. It wouldn't dial. At all. I went down and got a telephone to be sure the modem in the cable room was getting dial tone. It was.
But eventually I figured this one out: in picking up the modem to listen to it I had managed to pull the other end of the cable out of the Netwinder. Of course it wasn't dialing. Unfortunately, Linux wasn't telling me it had a problem, either. It just kept trying, but of course there was no way for me to know it was trying because, since it couldn't reach the modem, the lights never blinked...
OK, all's well that ends well, and we hope to have the dog home tomorrow at noon. But this has not been my favorite day.
Then there is the GetRight mess. I have recommended GetRight for years, because it has worked very well for me; now Gibson, whom I trust, has found some disturbing things about it, particularly the AUREATE advertising scheme which the unregistered version uses. I am looking into it.
It may be exuberance, but there is some, uh, odd commentary in GetRight. I have asked them to explain what is going on. See Gibson for more details, www.grc.com . Of course he is not infallible, and not every programmer who puts really odd comments in his code has other problems. More when I know more.
A respected creator of the Information Age has written an extraordinary critique of accelerating technological change in which he suggests that new technologies could cause "something like extinction" of humankind within the next two generations. The alarming prediction, intended to be provocative, is striking because it comes not from a critic of technology but rather from a man who invented much of it: Bill Joy, chief scientist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems Inc, the leading Web technology manufacturer. In a 24-page article in the Wired magazine that will appear on the Web Tuesday, Joy says he finds himself essentially agreeing, to his horror, with a core argument of the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski that advanced technology poses a threat to the human species. Joy is disturbed by a suite of advances. He views as credible the prediction that by 2030, computers will be a million times more powerful than they are today. He respects the possibility that robots may exceed humans in intelligence, while being able to replicate themselves. He points to nanotechnology the emerging science that seeks to create any desired object on an atom-by-atom basis and agrees that it has the potential to allow inexpensive production of smart machines so small they could fit inside a blood vessel. Genetic technology, meanwhile, is inexorably generating the power to create new forms of life that could reproduce. What deeply worries him is that these technologies collectively create the ability to unleash self-replicating, mutating, mechanical or biological plagues. These would be "a replication attack in the physical world" comparable to the replication attack in the virtual world that recently caused the shutdown of major commercial Web sites. What further concerns him is the huge profits from any single advance that may seem beneficial in itself. "It is always hard to see the bigger impact while you are in the vortex of a change," Joy wrote. "We have long been driven by the overarching desire to know that the progress to newer and more powerful technologies can take on a life of its own." Finally, he argues, this threat to humanity is much greater than that of nuclear weapons because they are hard to build. By contrast, he says, these new technologies are not hard to come by. Therefore, he reasons, the problem will not be "rogue states, but rogue individuals."
Something else to worry about?
March 15, 2000
The Ides of March
Birthday of the late Dr. Stefan Possony
Possony was one of the architects of the strategy that won the Seventy Years War, and of course is the senior co-author of The Strategy of Technology which is available on this site. He wasn't as flashy as some of those who took credit for his work, but his quiet influence over a quarter of a century did great things for the cause of freedom.
with some fascination. Camille Paglia gives the governent what-for.
March 16, 2000
Either this Robert Parry is mad or I am. There is no common ground between us. He believes that Possony, General Graham, and I are "right wing psychopaths" who surrounded the former President, and befooled him (an easy thing to do according to this analysis). All the evidence of Venona, all the writings of Gorbachev, the testimony of Yeltsin, all that has come from the KGB files now that they are open; the 24,000 warheads once aimed at the USA; everything that has happened is all for naught: the Cold War was really a right wing conspiracy. Here is what really happened:
"But Reagan's real secret was an open one: how his Cold War obsession led him to coddle an unsavory collection of right-wing psychopaths, including death squad operatives who engaged in genocide, neo-fascists who relished bizarre torture techniques, and drug traffickers who seized a rich geopolitical business opportunity."
Well, if so, I am either insane or dishonest. I like to think I am neither; but anyone who reads this kind of "analysis" and pays attention to it is not going to be comfortable around me or this place. It is one thing to be "liberal" in the sense of being well and broadly read, and "listening to both sides"; it is quite another to spend much time in the fever swamps of leftist delusion. I need not listen to the ravings of every soap box orator at Hyde Park or Wall Street to be informed, and indeed time spent listening to that is time wasted entirely: one isn't being informed. Nor is one being amused unless it is reinforcing one's own beliefs; and that says a very great deal too. In any event, either I am mad or Mr. Parry is mad. But it's a very pretty site...
The AUREATE mess continues. I am in contact with the people who publish GetRight, a program I recommend. I am in receipt of many letters denouncing AUREATE, an advertising scheme that is used in non-registered versions of some shareware. I am in receipt of a number of notes about AUREATE that indicate that it does not in fact gather or transmit information about the user; and I have copies of some of the rather imbecile comments (comments, note) embedded into some modules of the Aureate code.
I also have some programs which I'll post later that will kill Aureate wherever found on your system.
Before I do much more with this I want to gather some more facts. I am convinced this is no cause for panic; just how serious it is I don't know. People I do take seriously think there is something here. Others wonder. I will get to the bottom of this, and I'll try to be fair to everyone. My immediate guess is that Aureate is an advertising scheme that went a bit far and employed some immature people to write part of its code. That is a guess not a conclusion. I'll have a conclusion when I have more data.
-- MEDIA ALERT --
BE INCORPORATED TO SHIP HIGHLY ANTICIPATED BEOS 5 THIS MONTH
Nearly 100,000 Users Pre-Register to Receive BeOS Personal Edition via the Web
Menlo Park, Calif.--March 16, 2000--Be Incorporated today announced that BeOS 5 Personal Edition, a free downloadable version of Be's next release of its highly-acclaimed digital media operating system, will be made available on March 28, 2000. The public may download BeOS 5 Personal Edition, at no charge, via the web at http://free.be.com . Additionally, BeOS 5 Pro Edition, a fully-featured version, will be made available shortly thereafter via a third-party publisher in North, Central and South America. Be also plans to establish similar publishing relationships in Europe and Asia.
Think on it. If a person won't take seriously what he says, why should anyone else? Surely this man doesn't really believe that a bunch of psychopaths surrounded the President of the United States and persuaded him that a perceived enmity and threat was real when it was clear to all not psychopathic that it was not? I.e. that we were not WRONG but INSANE and VENAL? Or if he does believe that then he's not worth listening to; he certainly hasn't proven the case other than by repeated assertion.
But if he doesn't believe it and just says that because those who listen to him want to hear that, then he does not take himself seriously, and he is liable to say anything if he thinks it will have an effect; in which case why should I try to winnow out from his ravings what he actually believes and thus wants me to take seriously, and what he just says because it's easy to say it?
Really, why should I take seriously what someone says when he won't take himself seriously?
And enough on that. Not worth any more time.
I will have full information shortly, but I think you may stand down; as Mr. Dobbins reported several days ago, the AUREATE scare is an internet legend, now propagating itself over and over as new people discover it.
For the end of the Aureate story so far as I am concerned, see mail. I don't expect to see much more on this.
March 17, 2000
And the best of Irish luck to you all
My wife is mostly Irish. My family is Norman, which is to say Frenchified Vikings. I have an academic lecture on the family that usually begins by pointing out that my Viking ancestors used to raid Ireland for loot and slave girls. We then found, without quite knowing how, that we wanted to keep the girls happy, and the only way to do that was to marry them, and that required giving up Thor and Odin for the White Christ, and not putting out milk for the wood elves, and then some celibate priest was telling us when we could sleep with them. And then there are people who say women are not the dominant civilizing factor in this universe.
If you have not read HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION you should. It's readable, and fairly accurate.
Thanks to all who asked: Sasha, the member of our family of the canine persuasion, has a cyst on one foot. I thought since it looked like a wound that wouldn't heal there might be a foxtail in there. The vet couldn't find any foreign objects, and noted that there is a lump there. After xrays and blood work they decided that at age 14 he's probably better off not having a general anasthetic, so a few hundred dollars later we are back were we were, except that he's got shaved patches.
As far as he's concerned he's healthy enough, and while those are nice people at Parker Pet in Studio City, he'd rather be home. So we did five miles up to Mulholland and back yesterday and he's fine. Tomorrow Niven and I will go up the Chatsworth Ridge, and I am sure we will get a lot more tired than Sasha does. I'll take the camera; this is an all day thing that will probably cover twelve miles or so.
So we're fine, and my 14 year old dog acts like he's 9 or so. But then people don't think I am quite as old as I am either. Ain't science, vitamins, and exercise wonderful? He said while swallowing a glass full of pills and Rise and Shine and Choline Cocktails and soy powders...
March 18, 2000
I missed the significance of this when I read it the first time.
Today's DAILY NEWS, a Los Angeles independent paper with roots in the San Fernando Valley, has a story that was on the TV news last night: a popular Canyon Country teacher was arrested on school grounds by the FBI for possession of child pornography, which he is said to have obtained by downloading it from a Dutch web site. There is no indication that he ever looked at the material, or did anything with it, or that he has ever shown pedophilic symptoms or behavior: as far as I can tell from both the TV and newspaper accounts, Paul Kreutzer is in trouble simply for downloading "kiddie porn" from the Internet, and that is what the newspaper describes as the charge: "downloading kiddie porn from the Internet." My wife, who heard some other news account, says she believes she heard that there were 8 pictures and two of them had human beings in them: the others were virtual. I have no source for this latter other than my wife's belief but not certainty that she heard it.
He was arrested at the school by the FBI. The paper concludes: "Authorities found Kreutzer by tracing the Internet addresses of individuals who logged on to the site, created by a Dutch company."
The school has formed a crisis team, with special counselors. Etc.
My question is HOW DID THE FBI KNOW that Kreutzer had "logged on to the site, created by a Dutch company"; how did they know he had downloaded anything; how did they know that having downloaded it he had not erased it; and in general, what in hell is going on here? There had better be more to this story, or there is no one safe in this country. To the best of my knowledge I have never logged on to a kiddie porn site, but I have certainly found myself at places that might or might not have such on them. I have been emailed wave files that purported to be recordings of an underage girl in the throes of sexual ecstasy. I have been emailed image files which I declined to save or view that were supposed to be justifications by a NAMBLA member, and God knows what might have been on that image.
I really hope there is more to this story than a "site, created by a Dutch company" which, if you log on to it, the FBI will trace the Internet address and come arrest you.
I invite anyone who knows more than has been in the newspaper accounts to comment. This sure looks like Big Brother is Watching to me.
Later: there is apparently more to the story than was in my local paper. How much more is not clear. First there is mail. It gives a link to the Daily News, the same article I read, but with MORE DETAIL than in the printed version. I was not aware that the Daily News did that. It is still not particularly comforting: the FBI is tracking down people for logging on to a web site?
Regarding the odd messages embedded in Aureate code, Gibson sent it about in a newsletter and in a newsgroup discussion. Since this is a family type web page I have been reluctant to post it., but here it is.
Typical programmer exuberance, but as Gibson says, I might be reluctant to entrust my business to someone who thought it a good joke to have tens of thousands of people have that on their hard drive just for the hell of it. What else might he think a good idea?
The GetRight people have demanded an explanation from Aureate. We will see what happens.
has a program that will examine your system to see if there is any "spyware" on it. I have GetRight on this system, and a full scan with Gibson's program reveals nothing. For what that is worth.
March 19, 2000
There's a new letter on The Velikovsky Affair if anyone is interested. I put it over in that topic rather than in mail.
Most of today was spent gardening. I'm stiff and tired and I'm going to bed...