November 9 - 15, 1998

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BOOK Reviews


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Go to PREVIOUS MAIL WEEKS:  1       4   5   6  7  8  9 10 11 12 13  14 15

Fair warning: some of those previous weeks can take a minute plus to download. After Mail 10, though, they're tamed down a bit.

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor.

PLEASE DO NOT USE DEEP INDENTATION INCLUDING LAYERS OF BLOCK QUOTES IN MAIL. TABS in mail will also do deep indentations. Use with care or not at all.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

If you want to send mail that will be published, you don't have to use the formatting instructions you will find when you click here but it will make my life simpler.

Want to help makeover my home page?

On 66/300 vs 100/300

How wide should these pages be?

In defense of the Palm III

Wonderful Image Source link

The OS/2 Comeback Trail

66/100 vs 100/300


read book now




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The first letter is too long to go here. It's from Bill Davidson whose original letter started the OS Debates.   I've given it a place of its own.


Bill Kalke []

Since I have been following your adventures with installing Linux and trying to get Staroffice setup, I thought you might be interested in knowing about the recently published:

Sams Teach Yourself StarOffice for Linux in 24 Hours, by Dean Taylor

The blurb I saw said it covers "how to install, configure, and make the most of...".

I haven’t taken the Linux plunge but I like to watch from the sidelines. My daughter is a PhD student in condensed matter physics at Indiana University and uses Linux to do Fortran and C programming - but it comes to her already installed. I don’t think she has the Staroffice suite available to her.



Good letter on The Velikovsky Affair by Joat Simeon (or Simeon Joat, if people don't give me their names I have to make inferences from their email address...) (And a second exchange...this is getting to be quite a discussion of archeolopgy of the Bronze Age Mediterranean)

OF course that turns out to be the web name of Steve Stirling (S. M. Stirling) my coauthor on several good books. We've both been working on our own stuff. Incidentaly, whomever told me this is Bruce Stirling, hardly...


This letter is typical...

Your friends are right. Your website is hopeless, and it doesn’t look professional.

The ones that look professional, though, are often not worth reading. They’re about moving as many people through the site as possible, in order to make as much money as possible off the ads. Frankly, I prefer sites that look like yours but that offer something of value.


That is much the way I see it, but I sure am told how unprofessional I am often enough. Well, I have work to do. Thanks.



Kelly Cook []Hi Jerry,

Re: "...this web site is hopeless. It doesn’t look professional."

 Ok, I’ll agree that your home page could use a make-over.   Your not going to like this, but the home pages that I find myself wandering back to on a frequent basis are the ones that show illustrations that change.  I know and fully appreciate that graphics is not your bag.  Maybe you could invite your readers to submit neat bitmaps to be posted on your home page?  Just a wild thought.   Your site seems more like a fraternity than a store front anyhow.  So why fight it?  If I have a point to this ramble it is CHANGE.  Static home pages quickly sink to the bottom of my list, and I suspect that is true for a lot of people.

As for your content: DON’T change.  The daybook is obviously a comfortable style for you, so just stick with it.  Narrow paragraphs are a pain in the butt.  To anybody who takes content seriously, your wide format makes a lot more sense.

I can imagine this "issue" has generated a hellofa lotta mail for you, so I apologize in advance.  To repeat, pretty up the home page and keep the content as is.

Kelly the Grump

Good suggestions. Send images you think I ought to use to me with "IMAGES" in the subject line… I will try to do better indexing. But the NEW ORDER page does a LOT for that. So: anyone else want to help make over my home page? That one I am very open to suggestions on.




Chuck Wingo

Dear Jerry,

This morning I read your comments about re-formatting your site to look more "professional", and it reminded me of the rules my daughter’s school published at the beginning of the year. Because nearly everyone now has a word processor at home, the school felt it had to make rules about the margins, fonts, and, (especially) font sizes that would be considered acceptable for written assignments. i.e., the little darlings had figured out that if given an assignment to write a 3 page report, they could damn near get away with a three paragraph report, if the font and margins were big enough.

It seems like that’s what’s happening on the web now: bigger margins, more graphics, fewer words. USA Today meets the Web.

I check your site almost every day. No, it’s not flashy, and yes, the navigation could be better/easier, but it loads in no time (on a 28.8 connection), and I learn something every visit. If you want one subscribers $.02 worth, keep the wide margins, the parchment backgound, the (slightly) oversized text, and spend most of your time posting content.

As for the form the content takes, while I doubt you’ll be able to keep up the ‘Day Book’ format much longer (it’s easy to see how time consuming it must be), I hope you replace it with something that retains the day book’s sense of the petty frustrations that every one who tinkers with a PC goes through. It may put some people off, but I find it more useful than the summary that made it into the ‘View from Chaos Manor’.

The one thing I hope you’ll be able to continue is the Mail section. Although you may not have intended this, your site has become the best, and most eclectic, moderated discussion group on the net. What other site has discussions about Plato, Linux, and Velikovsky, all in one week? Fascinating reading.

Sorry to take up so much of your time – keep up the good work, it’s appreciated by many.


Well, thanks. I does what I can…




Dear Dr. Pournelle, has some information on the differences between 66MHz and 100MHz front side bus speeds.

The gist seems to be that there is about a 10% difference in most office programs, and 20% with some games.

The difference seems primarily related to the increase in L2 cache speed, although RAM speed can also have an effect (see ).

Can you notice any of it? Well, I tried it with my home system (K62-333) changing from the recommended 95MHz x 3.5 to 66MHz x 5. I did notice some difference in a few high end games (or imagined?), but could not see any difference in any other apps. I also tried 75MHz x 4.5 (slightly overclocked at 337.5 MHz) and this seemed at least as fast as 95MHz x 3.5, although benchmarks were slower overall (except for CPU).

With your board and CPU 66MHz x 4.5 should be very safe and stable. If it will work at 75MHz x 4 you should get a little more speed (especially with games) as both you cache and CPU would be a little faster (L2 cache 66MHz to 75MHz, CPU 297MHz to 300MHz). This should still be safe and stable as your board will still run the PCI slots at 33MHz and AGP at 66MHz.

If you really feel adventurous you could overclock your CPU to 333MHz using 83MHz x 4 or 75MHz x 4.5. Either, if they work, would be faster in every app than 100MHz x 3.

I still think 75MHz x 4 is your best route (short of getting a new motherboard).

Good luck,

Claud Addicott

Thanks. That's about what I expect. His numbers show differences, but again look at where the scale begins. Of course I will go get a "true 100" with good PC 100 memory just to be sure on the theory that I do this stuff so readers won't have to; but I expect that the differences are low. A 10% difference, given that human perception is logarithmic, is noticeable but not by a lot, and generally only in direct comparisons. After all, the Greeks only assigned 5 magnitudes of visual stars. And the decibel scale is logarithmic for a good reason.



Dear Dr. Pournelle,


For ease of reading, less wide columns are easier on the eyes. When your eyes don’t have to scan as far from side to side, you can read faster. That’s why newspapers have columns – they’re meant to be read quickly and easily.


Your numbered View and Mail pages take some getting used to. If the links showed the dates instead of just a week number (sort of your own calendar… View 23 J.P.), they’d be easier to follow, and the current view should come up when you click the link on the home page.


I know (actually, I’m married to) somebody who’s been in advertising and newspapers. She’s done some web work, mostly for her own amusement. I’ll see what kind of suggestions she can make.


One thing – I’m pretty sure she’s switched permanently from Front Page to Fusion. Several of the web designers I know have found themselves making that jump.


Bill Cavanaugh


Well, how wide is UP TO YOU, you know. You can size these things on your own screen. I think. I do put the dates of the pages on the page titles, and of course you can look at NEW ORDER and find a lot more. Indexing is something I wish I could do more of, but if I did it thoroughly I would be putting up a LOT less.


Having read the polemic regarding the CE, I thought that pilot partisans should respond. (I know this is a daybook not a debating society. Trash this if you preffer.)


Advantage Pilot

  • WYSIWYW (What You See Is What You Write) avaliable at no charge on the Palm Pilot. Many of us have tried it and hated it… distracting.
  • . And of course you write with real letters no graffitti special strokes. Much easier to learn and use. JOT (the palm PC writing system) is available for the palm pilot, it's slower, and more prone to errors, and in my experience people learn graffiti in about 5 minutes.
  • Screen Size. True
  • WYHIWYS (What You Hear Is What You Said). Ram hog, which massivly reduces the CE's battery life. I'm not willing to give up my 45 to 50 day on 2 AAA's for voice.
  • IRDA. Palm III port is full IRDA, can be used for printing to printers, can be used for synch, all that is available NOW. I've even seen TV remote control programs for the pilot using the port. This is a SOFTWARE issue.
  • CompactFlash-Card.. Again this works with every electronic device out there, but the Palm III Size, weight, and BATTERY LIFE!
  • Memory. I've never filled my 2 MB pilot, (no sounds) but if you want to, 8 meg ram cards are available.
  • Autosync. My control vs the computer…..
  • Integration. Microsoft has of course the upper hand in this. Just as IE4 integrates better than Netscape into the Windows operating system, so does Windows CE integrate better into the desktop than Palm III This is the comment that got this long response written. I don't WANT my palmtop fully integrated in my desktop environment. If I did, it wouldn't be THAT hard to program, but that's not the point. My hand-held is a hand-held NOT an extension of my desktop. This is an underlying philosophical difference between the CE and the Pilot, not a technical one of microsoft superiortiy.
  • Competitive hardware. The Palm OS is written by a company separate from 3Com. If someone else wants to build one they are welcome to. I would welcome a bit of competition my self

Sorry for the length of this response, but the Palm and I are such good friends, and my friends and I have tried the clunky CE's and will not willingly switch. Amoung the reasons NOT mentioned above, Space hogging icon driven system, difficult to use applications (Pocket outlook vs the palm datebook is a no brainer. Palm wins "hands down" )

Rick Boatright



Well, I still carry my Palm III. Thanks.



This letter turns out to be representative of many:

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Don’t take the criticism of your web page too seriously. Personally, I am more interested in the content than the form. There are hundreds of thousands of web sites out there where "look" has triumphed over information.

I browse at home through a 56K modem and occasionally at work - during my lunch hour, of course - through the corporate T-1 line. Even in the latter case, some web sites are so over-designed that I find their download times outweigh my urge to browse their site.

For instance, the Discovery Channel and Scientific American are so graphics-heavy that it’s like trying to suck a 22-oz. steak through a soda straw. On the other hand, Science News has a much more accessible site.

I come from a journalism background, and my required courses in design and graphics [back in the Cretaceous Age], stressed making the message easy to read. Your web site is just that. It loads fairly quickly, I can tell what is editorial and what isn’t, and I can navigate around without encountering banners, frames, and annoying "preliminary" pages.

Making your site the electronic equivalent of "Wired" may satisfy the propeller-heads, but for those of us who prefer the presentation method of the Encyclopedia Britannica, such a design change would be a step back. Sometimes the media shouldn’t be the message.

Speaking of propeller-heads, the grief you are getting from the Unix grinders is unwarranted. Don’t dignify it with a response. Anyone who has as much background in figuring out electric cipherin’ machines as you, should find Linux a snap. That you don’t is more of a testament to the baroqueness of Unix/Linux than a critique of your skills. I’d been reading your columns in Byte from when I discovered them, circa 1981, until it’s unfortunate demise [I’ve read your SF for much longer]. It’s clear from that massive amount of computer experience, that the fault is not in yourself, but in your "stars."

And that brings me to documentation. I migrated to technical writing after beginning my writing career as a daily newspaper reporter and an editor of a business magazine. This was back in the days when mainframes ruled the Earth and PCs were just little machines eating IBM 360 eggs.

I worked for 10 years for a NASA contractor at the Lewis Research Center in Cleveland. My company couldn’t deliver software until it had user and system documentation to go along with it. This led to a lot of situations where documenters were called in at the last minute and told: "Our deadline for delivery is the end of the month. If you don’t have the documentation finished, we’ll be late, and it’ll be your fault."

I have ample evidence that documentation in the business world is the same. The motto among the technical writers I know and work with is: "Mangement doesn’t cal inl the writers until two weeks from the delivery deadline and there’s only $10 left in the budget."

I now work for a large bank, doing documentation, and it hasn’t changed:

No matter which platform, documentation is ignored until it is mandated.

For commercial products, more money, time, and effort is spent on designing the box than on documenting the content. I just bought a Maxtor 11.5 Gb hard drive. The box was lovely. The documentation was an 8.5 x 14 sheet in a four-panel brochure fold, in four- or five-point type, and reproduced from at least a second-generation Xerox copy. It read as if it were translated from High Mandarin by someone who didn’t know either Mandarin or English very well. But then again, the writer probably only had $10 and two weeks. Or worse, the writer was some propeller-head who had no concept that people reading the cryptic docs didn’t have 15 years of hardware-design experience.

I’ve wasted too much of your time with my rant. My advice is don’t let the ducks peck you to death.

-- Pete Nofel

Thanks for the confidence.


Donald W. McArthur []


Here is a web source for images, icons and the like:


Donald W. McArthur



"One of the delights known to age, and beyond the grasp of youth, is that of Not Going."

J.B. Priestley

WOW! Thanks. I have some CD's of lots of such stuff but they're hard to use, because they are spread among so darned many CDROM's. This is well organized and all in one place. Wonderful. Thanks.



The AntiGates []


I guess it’s fairly commendable that you go to such effort to provide a public "forum" for items, issues, and opinions that are important to you.

Someone emailed your site to me in response to a usenet posting I made. SOMEWHERE there was supposed to be an IBM/Microsofty conflict worth reading.

Damed if I can find it though!

Sometimes, idealogy can become so intimate within ones self, that our intentions become totally lost upon the very masses we are attempting to reach!

I gather that you once worked at Byte (Tom Halfhill is one of my favorites) but now spend considerable time contemplating our "smallness" within the grand scheme of things (outer space) and pondering if "The New Order" is fact or fiction. Rest assured that the whole "New Order" concept is just twisted paranoia by feeble minds that have somehow missed out upon the obvious reality that "WE" are only significant to "OURSELVES". If any "exterior entities" were to ever come here from the vastness of space, that whole "take us to your leader" spiel just won’t happen. More likely, we will be perceived as little more than rats infesting a warehouse. The concept of Earth being "OUR PLANET BY RIGHT and TITLE" wont even enter into the equation! Man is truly MAD, he creates GODS by the dozens, yet cannot even create a simple WORM! And trust me, ANY concept that places MAN at the top of the stack, was and could only have been conceived (speculated actually) by Man! Anything or anyone else will care less what WE believe WE are entitled to.

BTW, I wholeheartedly endorse your dismissal of WIN98! TOYS, nothing but toys!

And your views regarding the Multecs/UNIX/Linux systems are pretty right on as well!

I am sincerely suprised that someone as well informed and experianced as you must be doesn’t make substantial "TO-DO" about OS/2. It’s got the horses, and the primo GUI as well. And the way I look at it, If no one can truly write even a descent video driver that is solid for OS/2, well never have to work about those "addle brained DOSHEADS" writting any Virus truly worth worrying about!

Now in the ON again OFF again dominion of Big Blue, they say there WILL in fact be a OS/2 Warp v5 "fat client" after all! And best of all, it’ll be SMP from the "ground-up"


Merely speculating, IBM may have learned a few crafty tricks from it’s own "anti-trust’ run ins with the DOJ.

Ponder this: What better way to "stick it to BILL" than to pull the plug on a competing product during Microsoft’s Anti-Trust woes?

So, Bill, you really want to be "the only OS out there, huh? Okay, see if it feels as good as you always dreamed it would!!

Be carefull what you wish for!



"Windows N.T." ........OS/2 for the masses?

I have no idea how to respond to this. Yes, I once wrote for BYTE. I'm mildly surprised that anyone who ever read an issue didn't know that, but it's a day for ego deflation. If whatever system you're using doesn't allow writing without hard carriage returns at the ends of lines, I'd contemplate changing. I removed some of them, but I got weary of doing that by hand. As to what I spend my time on, contemplating the whichness of what takes only a very small amount of it, and I don’t understand the rest of that paragraph. However, I would have thought that settling the cosmological questions would have been a bit more complex than simply trusting you, but perhaps I misunderstand my place in the universe. Ah well.

Keep your Confederate money. The South will rise again. They have Oak Ridge, after all. And IBM will certainly get out there and win with OS/2. And compensate all those who kept the faith during the bleak years, rewarding those True Believers who knew the truth.


John Paff []


Hi there! DId some research on this as bckgrnd for a RAMBUS piece I did for IT WEEK a couple of months ago.

I’ll try to run some benches, but yes, there IS a diff - espec, so if you use AGP. vid.

BTW, did you know you can check this out by using a PII chip and masking pin B21, I seem to recall (i’ll get you the specific detail -I used scotch tape) THe pin informs the system which FSB speed to use. DID this with the Intel Seattle 440BX a dual 66/100mhz MB. With the pi masked the system "defaults" to a 100 mhz bus and the bios then gives u the option to select clock speeds of 300 - 450. So, one can then bench the system to see how it performs at 300 66/100 -- or over-clocked ;-).

WIll try to get u something quantifiable0 rather than anecdotal - REAL soon.



Thanks. About the time I get back from COMDEX I'l be able to do some tests also. I intend to get a known good 100 board and a variety of chips to run it on, in a Socket 7, and then a Pentium II system, and do real comparisons. But For the moment there's no time.



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