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February 8 - 14, 1999

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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, and your chances of being published better..

This week:
Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday



Monday, February 8, 1999


First pure fun:

Michael Polo [mikep@polo.Polo.NET]

speaking of people who use the name "windoze"...

check out:




Subject: Yorktown and spin-offs

I’ve read with great interest the comments about how the Navy appears to be attempting to downsize its warships.

One comment I wound up responding to in an APA I belong to had to do with the government adopting various practices "in order to run like a business". It occurred to me as I was pondering that situation that only governments and nonprofit agencies would ever have to worry about how to run themselves like a business. Businesses don’t. Whatever a business does is, by definition, "running like a business".

Rather than worry about running like a business, businesses worry about running at a profit. Their job is to maximize their useful product (i.e., what their customers pay for) while minimizing their inputs. If "just in time" supplying affects the product/input ratio favorably, a business will adopt it or continue using it. If it turns out to affect one particular business unfavorably, it will discard or refuse to adopt the practice. Or it will leave the marketplace.

When government agencies start adopting practices from business in order to "operate like a business", I assume that someone in charge has his priorities muddled.

............Karl Lembke <>

Interesting observation. Thanks.


Subject: ODBC - What it is.


I see you are still unsure of just what ODBC is so I thought I would provide you with an overview. ODBC is essentially a database command/language translator. It is a logical layer that lies between an application and a database. Application Developers use this translating layer to avoid having to write a lot of extra code in order to talk to more than one database.

For example; lets say I am developing an appointment scheduling application for use by doctor offices. There are thousands of different doctor offices out there, and I can’t possibly know whether they have an existing database, or what that database is. For the sake of example lets say that my doctor has an existing database in Microsoft SQL Server but my development partner’s doctor stores her data in an Oracle database.

Now, it would mean a lot of extra work to write the code that would interface properly with both of these databases. (Not to mention all of the other flavors of databases that are out there!) So, what we do is write all of our data access routines in SQL (Structured Query Language), not worrying about exactly how the back-end interprets and implements them.

We also write some code that allows the system administrator or installer to select the type of backend database we will be using. When the installer selects the back-end dB we simply attach to that database using the publisher’s ODBC driver instead of trying to attach directly to it. Now, when data is entered or retrieved by users (using the SQL we wrote in the program code) the request first passes through the ODBC layer where it is translated into the most efficient statement (in theory anyway) for that database and then passed on to the back-end database. The back-end then processes that statement.

Graphically, it looks something like this:






ODBC Driver





Backend dB

It almost goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: By using ODBC for data access the market for our application expands to any office running a back-end database that provides an ODBC driver.

Typically, many ODBC drivers are installed on your machine. What they are and who installs them varies. On my development machine I have the following drivers installed:

Microsoft Access


Microsoft Excel

Microsoft FoxPro




Microsoft Visual FoxPro

Microsoft SQL Server


I believe that the most current version of ODBC is 3.51. This the ODBC Data Source Administrator version (what gets launched from control panel), and not necessarily the version of the driver you are having trouble with. You will need to determine which application is complaining about the down-version driver to correct it. If it is a std MS application then upgrading to ODBC 3.51 may fix your problem.

Hope this helps. . .

Brian W. Harriger


"Pray as though everything depends on God, then work as though everything depends on you."

R.N. Bolles


Ran across this on Microsoft’s Data Access Site. It is essentially what I have said above but in MS-Marketing-Speak:

"Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) technology provides a common interface for accessing heterogeneous SQL databases. ODBC is based on Structured Query Language (SQL) as a standard for accessing data. This interface provides maximum interoperability: A single application can access different SQL database management systems (DBMSs) through a common set of code. This enables a developer to build and distribute a client/server application without targeting a specific DBMS. Database drivers are then added to link the application to the user’s choice of DBMS.

ODBC’s flexibility is illustrated by the following features:

  • Applications are not tied to a proprietary vendor API.
  • SQL statements can be explicitly included in source code or constructed on the fly at run time.
  • An application can ignore the underlying data communication protocols.
  • Data can be sent and received in a format that is convenient to the application. "

Thanks. It would be nice if Microsoft were to integrate this thing with their other stuff so that it's not so blinking hard to get it working when it isn't needed to begin with (in my case). Recall that all I did was swap the network and sound cards on the PCI bus, and caused all kinds of problems. Ah well.


Hi Jerry,

In your VIEW for last week you mentioned the Albanian king Laika. Well it seems from this news report in the Mail&;Guardian that he’s just been arrested here in South Africa.

The page below takes a while to download so I’ve taken the liberty of including the text of the article below.

Howard Wright

Cape Town

South Africa

I haven't seen HM Laika since 1968 or so, when Possony and I were consulting on problems associated with an attempt to cast out the Communist hermit regime in Albania; my part had to do with using some Arab air resources (Albania is mostly a Moslem nation and Laika had a close relationship with the Saudi and Hashemite dynasties). This was just before the 6-day War made use of Jordanian air force elements moot…

It would have been a very interesting thing, to recover a Communist nation for the West in 1968/69. Of course nothing came of any of it.


And now this…


I need help about Baldurs Gate, to get in to the big city "Baldurs gate", I dont know where too find the book Tome of great Value.

Please help me

Thanks anyway



Keso Ombre []


Get Your Private, Free Email at

I suspect this got to me because some web spider included me in a list of discussions of the game Baldur's Gate.

I fear this is the sort of mail I simply can't answer: I include it here in the unlikely event that it will discourage others from sending this kind of question. Clearly I can't be an on-line consultant on games, and for that matter, the only questions I can answer will be those of sufficient general interest to warrant publishing both question and answer. Please: I don't like being rude, and I was brought up to answer all my mail, but it's clear that I can't do that any longer.

To make it worse, I've been so busy that I haven't had TIME to get to Baldur's Gate in the game, so I don't even know the answer.


And now for something pretty important: AMAZON, payola, and publishing practice.


Subject: It appears Amazon may be selling editorial space to publishers

I posted the following to my web site this morning, and thought you might be interested if you hadn’t already heard about it.

And my friend Paul Robichaux posted this message to the Computer Book Publishing mailing list:

From the New York Times


"The E-commerce pioneer strives for a clean look for its online bookstore. That is why executives consider it unnecessary to clutter its World Wide Web pages and pithy book recommendations with notices that publishers are starting to pay to have titles featured as "New and Notable" or "Destined for Greatness."


The rapidly growing company began charging publishers modest fees last summer in a limited experiment. But this year, Amazon increased the offerings to publishers so that now $10,000 is the price tag for a premium package for a newly released computer book—consideration that includes the top slot on the computer home page, an author profile or interview and "complete editorial review treatment." So, raise your hand if you knew this already—I sure didn’t. If this is true, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, this is a complete abuse of trust on Amazon’s part. It brings to mind the "Playola" scandal in radio back in the fifties, when record companies paid disk jockeys to feature their products. It seems to me that any reputable person or company takes great pains to make clear the distinction between editorial content and paid advertising.

You may be sure that I’ll continue to follow this thread. If it turns out that Amazon is behaving this way, I’ll remove all links to Amazon from my site and stop buying books from Amazon.


Robert Bruce Thompson

No, I didn't know this. As I have noted, I do get paid for sending people to Amazon: I got a check for $540 just today. That represents I believe 3 months worth of revenue from referrals. Most comes from books I recommend, although some readers routinely log on to my site then go to Amazon from here through one of my Amazon buttons to buy a book that I haven't reviewed or recommended or anything else: Amazon pays a smaller fee in that case.

Since I seldom review books I don't recommend -- why waste time with stuff you don't like? -- and the reader is going to pay the same amount whether I get a referral fee or not, and I have made it very clear up front that I do get paid, I don't feel any guilt over this.

Publishers have often paid book stores and store chains for promotion including floor dumps, special posters, putting the books up near the cash register, big displays, etc. Every author hopes his publisher will do that for one or more of his books, although few get that treatment. I've always presumed that readers knew this: that books don't just spontaneously appear in big displays in the book stores, someone pays for that.

Incidentally, most book stores don't make much money on most best sellers, and some lose money on them: that is, the store gives such a huge discount on a best selling book that often the store has discounted away all its profit and sometimes part of its expenses and overhead. The reason for this is to get the customer into the store; some non-chain book stores hope customer loyalty will be such that they can charge full price for best sellers, but others, like the lamented Crown stores, lured in customers through huge discounts on the most popular books in hopes that while they were there the customers would also buy a number of the cheap remaindered books, or mid-list books, or big coffee table books -- something with high profit margin anyway.

So I am not really surprised that Amazon is playing the promotion game. It is a bit like payola, though, isn't it? I need to think on this one.

Publishing is a cut throat business, and there are not very many major print publishers left. In my field there are only 4 major players after all the consolidations and mergers. This is a frightening trend…

Thanks for telling me about this. I need to think about it.



This could be important: at least be aware of it.


Subject: Please upgrade your Internet Explorer

Jerry, I know that you use Internet Explorer so I thought I would make you aware of this hoax. I received the email message at the very bottom of this forwarding on Sunday, and it included an attached file. What your readers need to know is that Microsoft will never directly email any update files. As such, if they ever receive an email that is supposed to be from them that includes an attached file chances are it is some type of hoax.

The specifics of this hoax is included in the CERT advisory which is linked below.

Frank McPherson

Windows CE Knowledge Center:


-----Original Message-----

From: Microsoft Product Security Response Team <>

To: ‘Frank McPherson’ <>

Date: Monday, February 08, 1999 12:52 PM

Subject: RE: Please upgrade your Internet Explorer


>Hi Frank -


>Thanks for your note. The mailing you received is definitely a hoax.

>Microsoft provides product upgrades through our web site or via physical

>media like CD ROMs and floppy disks, but never via e-mail.


>We are working with the proper authorities to shut down the mailing. In

>the meantime, the best course of action would be to delete the message.

>In particular, please do not run the attachment.


>For more information on this issue, you may want to take a look at a

>recent CERT advisory,

> Thanks






>-----Original Message-----

>From: Frank McPherson []

>Sent: Saturday, February 06, 1999 8:53 AM

>To: Microsoft Product Security Response Team

>Subject: Fw: Please upgrade your Internet Explorer

>Hello, I am forwarding this email because I think it is very suspicious.

>Since it appears to be coming from Microsoft I thought you ought to know

>about it.


>Frank McPherson


>Windows CE Knowledge Center:


>-----Original Message-----

>From: Microsoft Internet Explorer Support <>

>Date: Saturday, February 06, 1999 1:12 AM

>Subject: Please upgrade your Internet Explorer

>> Microsoft Corporation

>> 1 Microsoft Way

>> Redmond, WA 98052

>> USA


>> Dear Sir/Madam


>> As an user of the Microsoft Internet

>> Explorer, Microsoft Corporation provides

>> you with this upgrade for your web browser.

>> It will fix some bugs found in your Internet

>> Explorer. To install the upgrade, please save

>> the attached file (ie0199.exe) in some folder

>> and run it.


>> For more information, please visit our

>> web site at




>> 1995-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved

Thanks. I hadn't heard about this one but I get a lot of odd offers. OK everyone, you have been warned…



A Letter About Albania (see previous about the king):


Albania is a very interesting and quixotic place; I was there last year in support of a U.S. military joint training exercise with the nascent Albanian armed forces. Despite various ethnic tensions and difficulties arising from the situation of ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo region, the place is surprisingly congenial and moving rapidly towards a truly open and democratic society.

In Tirana, there were lots of small shops and cafes - the prices, unlike present-day Moscow, were reasonable and there seemed to be plenty of ordinary people buying and selling, and generally engaging in the bustle of commerce. Private automobile ownership, forbidden under the Hoxha regime, has skyrocketed, and people are free to move about as they please. The broadcast media are rather subservient to the government, but the newspapers and periodicals cover a wide spectrum of opinion, and people feel free to discuss politics openly and with great vigor. Outsiders are welcome, and Americans are held in particularly high esteem due to our nation’s support of democratic elections and the financial and consultative aid we’ve provided in order to help Albania develop a market economy.

This is a far cry from the not-so-distant past, when visitors to Albania were forbidden to wear any sort of facial hair - if you had a beard or moustache, you were forced to shave it off on entering the country! It’s also interesting that Albania is a predominently Muslim nation, yet one doesn’t run into the sort of visceral hatred of the West there which is common on the back streets of Cairo, Amman, Riyadh, etc.

Once into the countryside, the most striking feature of the landscape is the WWII-style military ‘pillboxes’ littering the landscape. Hoxha forced the citizenry to build thousands upon thousands of the things, and they now sit derelict, inhabited in many cases by various species of birds and other small animals. One of the issues we tried to address while there was just what to -do- with all of them; one suggestion, turning them into wine cellars for both domestic producers and Bulgarian vintners (Bulgaria exports some very good wines) has taken off, and now there are several firms refurbishing them and putting them to good use.

One little-known fact is that Hoxha and his communists would have never come to power without the active connivance of Communist-leaning MI6 and SOE (Special Operations Executive, the British equivalent of the OSS during the Second World War) personnel. There were various groups of partisans in Albania fighting the Nazis, and SOE provided both leadership and materiel support to the insurgents during the war. There were several anti-communist groups which would’ve made a good nucleus for a non-communist postwar government, but SOE officers sympathetic to (and in some cases working for) the USSR portrayed them all as fascists, and so Anthony Eden decided to support Hoxha’s people as the best of a bad lot.

After seizing power, Hoxha showed his true colors as a rabid Stalinist; MI6 and SOE personnel still on the ground in Albania tried their best to convice the British government to support the anti-communist groups, but the British communications facilities were run by the left-leaning personnel mentioned above, and so most of the signals critical of Hoxha went astray. In the meantime, Kim Philby was busy feeding information to KGB about the activities of the anti-communist groups; KGB then informed Hoxha, allowing him to round up the opposition with relative ease.

Note that this was before Hoxha parted ways with the USSR in 1961 - one of the factors which would’ve made your putative counter-revolution in 1967 viable was the disdain Brezhnev and his crowd felt for Hoxha. They viewed Albania in general and Hoxha specifically as major headaches, and wouldn’tve lifted a finger to save him if you’d been able to proceed, in my opinion. Oh, they would’ve carried on at the U.N. and so on, but I very seriously doubt it would have escalated into a major East-West confrontation, and you would have presented the West with a major propaganda victory.

Roland Dobbins <> // 808.351.6110 voice

Thanks. I have never been there. Possony was involved in some major negotiations with Constantine of Greece and with Tito (Tito wanted assurance that the new Kingdom of Albania would not spark revolt of Albanians in Yugoslavia, particularly in, well, Kossovo). Of course as American citizens we had to be careful not to be in direct negotiation with a foreign power or contravening the Logan Act, so a lot of that was done on our advice but not by us.

My part was planning air operations requirements, something I once knew how to do back before the 6-Day War. Thanks for the update on modern Albania.





Tuesday, February 9, 1999

  A Linux Report from Moshe Bar. This, he tells me, is the non-technical account. The technical report will be in shortly.


As some of you might know I got a Cobalt Linux RaQ to testdrive last week. This was on Tuesday. I had read various reports from people saying that "out of the box and on the net in 15 minutes" is not a myth but stark reality!

I should have known better. The problems started when the Israeli Customs at Ben Gurion airport called me at work to ask what an "Intranet Linux Server" is, as indicated by the Air Bill accompanying the parcel. If it is a computer then a 100% tax has to be payd. If is is not an electronic equipement able to send and receive signals than considerably more will be levied. I said it was a computer (I don't like to cheat). And they said, but where do you plug in the keyboard (They mistakenly thought the serial port was a monitor plug)? I told them that it was supposed to be accessed only through the network cable.

So, it is electronic equipment able to send and receive signals then!They were quick to answer. I convinced them that it needed a keyboard and a monitor to set it up attached to and that I had that at home, so it must be a computer then. That convinced them.

Alas, after all that anticipation, I should have known that things would continue with problems...

I got the parcel after a few days only and eagerly I skipped dinner at home to set the thing up. I opened the parcel and checked my watch. Exactly 08.30pm ; I was going to measure the time I needed to bring on the net. I connected the power cable and the network cable coming from my 100mbit 3Com hub. I chose my Sun computer to be the workstation to carry out the set up process and turned the power switch on.

The little display in front of the RaQ blinked furiously but nothing happened. Instead it should have displayed a request to punch in its IP numbers. Nothing like this. Just a blinking. But something else really worried me. Living in Israel you get a little suspicious of things that tick. And the Cobalt RaQ was not only blinking it was also ticking at the same pace. Tick tick tick tick...

I briefly thought of calling the bomb squad and evacuating the neighborhood, especially since we are in the middle of the election campaign and people do get a little crazy around here.

Instead I turned the thing off and then on again after a few minutes. This time the promise held true. There was a loud bang and smoke came out of the machine. My heart fell a few inches and I expected security forces to show up any moment.

Anyway, to cut a long story short the positive side of this close encounter with CyberTerrorism (the real one) was that I got so angry that I opened the RaQ to see what happened. I was very disappointed to see that whole thing consists of a 8x8 inch motherboard with a buil-in DEC 10/100 Ethernet and IDE controller and 32MB RAM on the bus to the ARM 250Mhz chip. Very clean, very simple. When I showed it to one of our hardware guys he said: "I can build you a thousand of these a day."

But Cobalt charges more than a 1000 US$ for one of these. The machine is supposed to run Linux 2.0.34 special edition for ARM (manufactured by Intel) and has Apache 1.3 and the standard gcc and stuff on it.

Of course, I never got so far to check this out, since the machine was dead. I mean, really dead. The ARM processor just melted into itself and looked like Swiss cheese fondue. The 32MB memory still looked fine and also the harddisk. Nobody, however, had a clue what caused the nuclear chain-reaction.

After checking with the very nice man in charge at Cobalt, I was given permission to salvage whatever possible. So I took out the memory, the disk and also the power-supply.

Cobalt has a "spare-in-the-air" program and this was an oppurtunity to test it as good as it gets. I called in last Thursady to complain about the thermo(!)-nuclear explosion of their unit. There was no response to my accompanying email. But suddenly last Sunday (which is a regular working day in Israel), I got the same call again from the Customs.

Just for the sake of fairness, then: Cobalt's "spare-in-the-air" program works perfectly.

This time, the customs people thought they were on to something. This must have all looked terribly suspicious to them; same guy getting the same thing over and over again fron an unkown manufacturer, shipping out of Amsterdam, of all places.

Customs Officers in Israel think of themselves as FBI Special Agents rather than Treasury bureaucrats and so a lengthy questioning followed in classic Mossad-style. Let's just say that I am happy that I can still use my fingers. My kneecaps suffered only mildly.

But today, finally the unit arrived at my home. Mind you, for each shipment I had to pay 117% of the value of the unit in taxes. No refunds possible.

This time, I sent the children out and prepared a fire extinguisher (I am serious!). I removed all inflammables in my computer room and connected the thing to network and power.

My heart bumped furiously as I turned on the RaQ...

Sorry,but I have to stop for the moment as several problems at various client's networks wait to be fixed, but I will continue this report tomorrow. Promised.

More surprises were waiting for me. Stay tuned to find out...

Kind regards

Moshe Bar

Thank you.


Anyone who thinks is doing anything out of ordinary for media retailing has never worked for a major chain. There was never any question of ulterior motives when we had to place the latest endcap display. If the publisher isn’t paying pure cash there is some other avenue of bribery like co-op advertising. This is the route Intel uses to get those ‘Intel Inside’ logos on every big brand box with a Pentium in it.

This practice is common in software retailing, too. The last time I heard any figures it cost from $350,000 to $500,000 to get endcap promotion in most of the national chains like CompUSA or Software, Etc.

Eric Pobirs []

Well, yes, and I can't disagree: they say that they only went after money from publishers whose books had already made the short list from Amazon's editorial board. This is a little like magazines and advertising, and independence of editorial. I can't condemn them; and anyway it seems moot since they have decided to change their policy.



Wednesday, February 10, 1999



ADSL 11f

Bill Grigg

Dear Jerry,

YES! Get ADSL! Or SDSL or whatever flavor your local Telco offers. This is an automatic winner in the "Cold, Dead Fingers" category.

It’s fast, it’s fast and, even though it is also unbelievably quick, it’s very, very fast. Your site loads in a second and you can move around it like turning pages in a book.

It’s also bloody expensive! I pay Cdn $65 (current exchange around 43%) per month, so my subscription still isn’t sent!!

I installed it (told the wife, "it’s for the kid’s education, Hon, you know how impatient I <ahem> they can get!") back in mid October ’98 and believe me, nothing can clutter up a hard drive quicker than download speeds approaching 3mbs. Well, actually you’re lucky to see the tachometer climb much over 256k, since the download is completed before it really gets going. I downloaded a huge file I’ve discovered that the upload servers control your speed (Microsoft, as usual, is the sloooooowest, you would think Mr. Gates would peel off a few million $ and upgrade the wiring!) and they feed it faster and faster until you are done.

A few examples, Netscape Communicator 4.5 from pushing the "download now" button to "install complete" approximately 12 minutes! Tomb Raider III demo in less than 8 minutes, Sin demo in 5 minutes. So that’s well over 65mb’s in 25 minutes, try that using a 56k modem (anybody want to buy my old modem, just kidding, I still need it to fax!), heck! try it using ISDN.

Best news is, you can plug it into a network hub and split the bandwidth to more than one computer (I hear 4 different CPU’s are pretty well it!). You divide the bandwidth by how many boxes hang off the network, but only when they are all in use. Other than that you’re hardwired to the internet, 24 hours a day, 7 days etc. Here in Canada Cdn $ 4.95 gets you a "child" account, so your wife (or children) can have their own E-mail Address to themselves (better than different accounts in Outlook, or what-have-you).

Since it piggybacks your regular phone line, you can use the phone and surf at the same time (eliminates a second phone line, if you like). One problem is no static IP address, though you can upload to the Telco’s server for web pages. You get added security as most Telco’s have a pretty good firewall, here in BC we’ve had malicious hackers try to bust in only to knock the server off line, nothing got through to me!

 I have neighbors who have the "wave" or "@home" cable system, which is half the speed (real world, no difference or at worst, seconds slower), static IP, a little less money per month, but, and there are two buts, the more people online, the slower it goes, and 5mb per upload cap. This is due to having to drink from the same tap, as it were. Can’t have too many people bunking heads or drinking for too long!

I’m watching my neighbors closely for clues. Perhaps one day I’ll switch, but for now, it’s up, it’s on, there is no waiting (unless there is a server problem :) ), and I can share it on my LAN. Can’t beat that with a stick.

Never Weaken!

Bill Grigg

Thanks. We're looking into it, and if it's possible that's what we'll do.


About: Bootproblem, Linux.

From : Svenson, [ ]


I didn't have a boot problem with Linux [click here for more] but I had a similar problem with installing OS/2 on a brand new system.

I recently installed OS/2 on a new system. Well the motherboard (Yellow Dragon, with a Cyrix MII P233) and harddisk (12GB Bigfoot) were new. The installation itself went smooth enough and while installing OS/2 your system will reboot automatically a few time so booting in itself was no problem. Everything proceeded as normal so I installed a few apps, rebooting after each installation. When I do installations I reboot often, out of habit really, but that insures that I can check each app separately and installations don’t interfere with each other. I did shut down for the night.

The next day the thing wouldn’t boot, either reporting no systemdisk or corruption in the boot record. Rebooting with the installation disks solved that. However the next day I had the same problem again.

After quite some testing and fiddling with the BIOS and various partition schemes (I am using PartitionMagic) I ‘ve come to the conclusion that, at least on this BIOS (AWARD 2A59) the built in Virus Warning program will prevent booting if it doesn’t recognise the boot partition or the partition on the first 30MB (or more?) of the first harddisk. The virus warning seems to check the partitions only on a cold boot; ctrl+alt+del never posed a problem. In my case it didn’t recognise HPFS nor EXT2 if there was no FATxx or NTFS partition on the disk. The bootmanager partition from PartitionMagic was OK if it was at the front of the disk. After switching off the Virsu Warning option the problem went away. I have another system, with the same BIOS, that doesn’t show this behaviour so this looks like

I pull two conclusions from this.

1 : Every system sold these days is tested against Microsoft OSes anything else is not thoroughly tested. (But hey that is what users are for, isn’t it.)

2 : Beware of viruses AND virus protection programs, both are dangerous.

Keep on dancing,


Observation is what makes the difference between time lost and time wasted.

-- --

Thanks. I like your aphorism, and I'll add to it: Recorded observation is what makes the difference between time lost and time wasted…



Whether you love Windows or hate it, this parody has to one of the funniest things on the net. You’ll need a relatively recent QuickTime player in order to view it, however.

Talin ( Talin’s third law: "Politeness doesn’t scale."




Thursday, January 11, 1999


Recently you wrote about getting ADSL at Chaos Manor, and you published a letter by a reader from BC concerning his use of ADSL, and how fast it is.

There was a recent comparison of services in the Montreal Gazette, with comparisons of 56k modem service, cable service, and the ADSL service using Nortel’s Megabit modem (See , paragraph 14) and as they indicate, there are distance and speed limitations:

"To get Bell’s new service, you have to be within 4.5 kilometres of a Bell switching station. One of the system’s weaknesses is that the farther you are from that Bell switch, the slower your connection speed ."

(background note - Sympatico is the ISP/ADSL service provided by the telephone company Bell Canada, and Videotron is the cable company in Montreal)

I suppose that Bill Grigg in BC is well within the 4.5km limit to be getting the service speeds that he indicates. I do not know if the distance versus speed issue applies where you live, but even if you are within the limit, the speed might not be everything it was sold to be.


BTW, I really enjoy your VIEWs and the mail, reading them almost daily, but ... lets admit it, you enjoy doing the hardware/software experimentation stuff so much that you probably would do it for the fun of it, without writing about it, (except that I believe that for you, writing about it, (or novels) is probably something else in the same enjoyment category)

I am the same way for my profession. As a software developer, if I could live comfortably, I would probably do that for free too. But in the meantime, I will be only too happy to earn my living at it.


Bill Wilkinson,


In my case we are about 2000 feet from the switching station and until recently they weren't willing to connect at that distance, but they say they will do so now; we are making the necessary arrangements. I'm looking forward to it.

As to allocation of effort, yes, it's fun (sometimes), but I don't have any source of income other than writing. My alternatives to this stuff is to write more books. That isn't precisely fun but it's probably more lucrative.



FDISK and Linux

Dr. Pournelle,

It has been a while since I’ve worked with Linux, so it’s not too surprising that I forgot how I managed to install it quickly and cleanly. Use OS/2’s fDisk. This is, perhaps, the ‘best’ fDisk utility around because the commands to create/delete/display partitions are all fairly intuitive, you can fDisk multiple hard drives, and (most important) it won’t write the partition table until you exit. What this really means is that if you fudge things really good, you don’t have to write out the new partition table, and you still have the old one waiting when you’re done.

<G> It ought to receive an orchid, while all the others get onions.

My apologies for not using the requested format. I’m Warp’d, and don’t have convenient access to the kind of formatting you requested. (I’ve tried, but my WP docs never seem to translate right when I take them to work, so I use WP at work, too.)

Finally, a plug for OS/2 (You knew this was coming, right?) I recall that you had at least mentioned OS/2 in one of your columns several years ago. Do you still use it at all? It seems to network well with 95 and (at one time) with Linux. End plug.

Jim Lang <--- checked daily___ <--- checked weekdays <--- about time!!!!!!

I no longer have any OS/2 machines going. IBM gave up on OS/2, which is a pity since it was the clear rival to Microsoft and kept Microsoft competitive. But without IBM support, it's not going anywhere. If IBM had released the source code to Open Source, it would have been a different story. Alas.



> Microsoft strikes again?


Or Pournelle strikes again, and I don’t mean that to be nasty. I’ve been talking on my site recently about the NT Hardware Compatibility List. Microsoft is very up front about the hardware needed to run NT. If you use hardware that’s not on the HCL, they can’t be held responsible. Some people regard that as a cop-out, but it sounds reasonable to me. Most of us throw together any old random collection of PC parts and expect NT to run on it. The miracle is, most of the time it does.

But when it doesn’t, NT gets blamed. No one points at a computer with problems and says, "it might be that Taiwanese rice-rocket system board," or "perhaps it’s that old driver that I haven’t bothered to update since Windows NT 4.0 shipped," or "maybe it’s that beta video driver I installed yesterday," or "maybe I should have bought name-brand memory instead of that commodity stuff." It’s always, "NT is unstable" or "Microsoft sucks." I’m not a big defender of Microsoft. I try to keep an objective viewpoint. But always blaming the OS is not really fair. I can crash any OS you care to mention by using buggy drivers or unsupported components or sub-par memory. Or a cheap power supply, come to that.

On the subject of DSL, I mentioned this on the phone the other day, but just as a reminder, make *sure* you get a static IP address. Some DSL providers supply a static IP address automatically, some will give you only a dynamic IP address, and others supply a dynamic IP address by default, but will give you a static IP address if you ask (or insist). If they tell you they can’t do it for techical reasons or that it’s too much trouble to do it, tell them it takes about 30 seconds to do it. If they tell you that it’s against policy, ask who to talk to about getting an exception made. You can be sure they have a large pool of reserved IP addresses available, although they may give you a hard time about assigning you one.

You want a static IP address because that makes it much easier to run local servers. Even if you don’t want to run your own web server locally right now, you might well want to run a mail server, so it’s worth getting the static IP address from the start. That way, you can bring up a Linux box (or an NT box, for that matter), assign it the static IP address you’ve gotten, and run a private network behind that box.

The telcos worry because the same DSL line they sell you for $50/month or whatever can be sold as a T1 line at ten or twenty times the price. That’s the telcos’ dark little secret. It used to be that a T1 was run on conditioned lines that were actually quite costly to install and maintain. Nowadays, most T1s are delivered via DSL on an ordinary unconditioned pair. So, their costs have dropped by an order of magnitude, and they generously cut their price by a factor of two. Some deal. But it’s pretty tough to use a DSL line with a dynamic IP address to replace a T1, so that’s why they may fight you about giving you the static IP address. They want $500 a month instead of $50 a month to let you run your servers locally.



Robert Bruce Thompson

If my COMPAQ dual processor professional workstation, which has worked for years, isn't up to the hardware compatibility for Microsoft then nothing is. As I said, I went to bed last night with everything working. I got up and it wasn't. I shut down and restarted and it all worked again.

I know I don't know what I am doing, but surely Pournelle didn't strike again this time? Or if so, then I need to get the heck out of this business and go back to doing something I know how to do, because I wouldn't have suspected that standard hardware would fall off the list overnight? If so, none of us are safe.

I don't have a DSL line I am just negotiating for one. I don't have a Linux box working, I am just trying to get one set up. If we require static IP addresses each and every one of us in order to send and receive email, then we have really got problems.

If this is Pournelle strikes again, then the whole darned computer world has gone insane. If Compaq is no longer on the approved list then we're all in trouble.

Me, I prefer to think something went wrong in NT, particularly since the problem went away after I shut down and restarted; me, I prefer to think Microsoft has managed to create a near chaotic system that they don't understand, and while it works most of the time, it was never given the attention to make it bullet-proof. Me, I'm willing to live with the notion that I have to restart every now and then -- this has been up without restarting for about a month now -- but I am not willing to assume that ALWAYS.

Sorry for the heavy handedness. I agree, there is a generic problem here. One reason there are both NT and Windows 9x is "legacy" and other non-standard systems. Windows 9x handles oddball hardware a lot better than NT does. But in my case, NT just plain drifted.



It's Pournelle's Fault


although it often is. So while I understand your point that too often people assume that their inadequate hardware is not the problem, I would myself have thought that if something works for weeks, stops working, works again when reset, and is pretty standard hardware which hasn't been changed, it's a safe assumption that this time it's NT. Perhaps not.



Friday February 12, 1999

Nt compatibility list- my two cents

Ok, maybe more than 2 cents. Bear in mind that the List is very outdated, try buying one of the ‘top end’ systems listed, because you can’t. Most of that hardware now is collecting dust. My story: at a former place of employment, we had NT 3.51 servers running along side an NT4 box. 3.51 NEVER was rebooted. They ran DNS and mail. The Web Server, NT 4.0, was newer hardware, but from the same reputable manufacturer, with more RAM, and Pentuim Pro dual processors. Yes, it was fast. But, NT 4 (SP2 at the time), locked up about every other week serving CGI pages, and we had to restart to get it going. We tried just stopping and starting services, to no avail. I think, and this is only my opinion, that NT4 wasn’t really anything but ‘good enough’, and not ready for stable release. We are now demanding too much from our OS, where we used to rely on vendors who specialized to provide many of the now integral functions. Yeah, it is nice to get it all at once, but we are asking even Microsoft to jump through hoops to satisfy all possible hardware vendors and configurations. My current boss is fond of saying "this business will kill itself".

George Laiacona III []

Interesting. It comes to me that I have never actually looked at the NT hardware compatibility list. Incidentally, the USS Hopper runs on NT 3.51, not 4.x. Is this a good thing?





Saturday February 13, 1999



Thanks so much for posting that page on the Lays of Ancient Rome. I had never read the Horatius when I first saw your quotation from it a few weeks ago. It sent shivers up and down my spine.

I’ve snagged a copy of your lays.html and saved it on my zip drive -- I’ll take the disk home and read it this President’s Day weekend, with some irony, given recent events in Washington DC.

Can you recommend on a current edition of the Lays? I’ll of course make a point of getting it from Amazon through your pages if possible. (I’m not asking you to do my web searching for me: merely hoping you might have a favorite edition on your shelves that is still in print.)

Phil Rand []

My web searches reveal precious little about or by Macauley. There is an out of print edition of his History of England. I happen to know that the Folio Society has a new ten volume edition on excellent paper. You can also find the History of England in used book stores. The Lays of Ancient Rome seem available only from Gutenberg (or here, with my commentary). I also discovered that in June there will be a new edition of Acton's Essays on Freedom and Power. His History of Freedom in Antiquity is the source of the aphorism "All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" but that is not in fact the best passage in that essay. I have pre-ordered a copy since my copy of Essays in Freedom and Power seems to have gone to the book borrowers. Acton like Macauley is essential to a real education in the history of ideas. He's also quite readable.

I recommend this work to anyone seeking an education; it is suitable for assignment to 8th grade and above, although only very high quality schools, and home schools, actually do assign any of the Lays and then mostly they assign the Horatius without the preface. The entire work is worth your reading.


Thanks for being willing to try the new method of page naming, so bookmarking is easier. I've never written about this, but I favor such a change.

I don't know about you, but I have IE download several news pages (NYTimes, BBC Front Page, Knight-Ridder's MS Watch, etc.), and their headline pages never change address. That makes it so easy, as it is a multi-part process to update the pages from your site in IE every week. Just so you'll know, I haven't found a way to bookmark pages for downloading unless I am connected to the web and the page has actually been retrieved; you can't just type it in, even if you know the address--the page has to be displayed. All together, the process of bookmarking your View and Mail pages in IE is about a 2 minute process.

I know from the news pages I load, that this new method will make it a lot easier, and probably increase your readership.

--Chuck Waggoner

Well, we'll give it a try starting with next week's VIEW.




Sunday February 14, 1999

Hello Jerry,

It was a pleasure to stumble upon your new site (well, a coupla months old now). I was wondering what was up with Byte - used to be my fav comp rag back then.

Anyhows... a question (if you have the time/energy/wherewithall to reply): Is there any active organization that is working towards establishing space colonies? I mean how active is the L5 society or the Millenial group? I’m dabbling int he writing of pseudo plausible SpecFic, but of course would not be even thinking of this if i didn’t have a real interest in the idea.

How about online conferences/discussion groups where people might get togetehr and talk space or even share scifi ideas... For example, what if there were a few people who could capitalize 100billion - could they send something usefull up into HEO?

anyhows, i know you’re busy... dorp me aline if you have a few odd seconds. I wont try to flatter you by saying that ive read your books (I have) or that i enjoy them (i do) but hey! its worth a try.

Ciao and best regards from Calgary, ALberta, Canada.

Ted Buracas -->

The L5 Society was merged into the National Space Society against my will; I was a founding active in both groups, and I did a lot of L5 Society work, but once it went to Washington and merged with NSS it became just another Beltway Bandit after government money. I don't belong to NSS any longer.

Henry Vanderbilt runs the Space Access Society, which is the group I support. You can send mail to to find out more. I think there is a web page although I confess I never visited it.

Robert Zubrin has a book The Case For Mars and an excellent lecture on Mars colonization; his method would probably work, as about $2 billion a year forever once you build his near-Saturn class expendable heavy lift vehicle and a new J-2 class upper stage; but Lord alone knows what NASA would absorb in trying to build those rockets, and NASA is unlikely to be the right organization to run a Mars Colony program.

My own hopes have been vested in Buck Rogers ships: fly to space, do things, come back, refuel, and fly again. Not disintegrating totem poles. Rotary Rocket and other private companies are trying to build new reusable rockets, and that is the best hope most of us have for access to space. Which brings us back to Henry Vanderbilt's Space Access Society.

We'll have a lot of discussion of this sort of thing at the NASFIC this year.


From Jon Barrett (

Subject: Zip drive root directory capacity


You wrote:

>Second: you can have only 166 objects in a ZIP Drive root Directory at least under Windows >98. This is probably a universal truth I have forgotten. You can have more than 166 in a Folder on that ZIP disk.



Yes, until FAT32, root directories of all disks were non-extensible. Only FAT32-formatted disks support relocatable and extensible root directories. The other killer is that some of the long file name / extended attribute information DOS7/Win9x store use additional directory entries.

Why Iomega chose a format allowing fewer root directory entries than standard hard drives(512) is anyone’s guess though. Even 1.44 MB floppies have potentiallly 224. IIRC the root directory capacity is determined by the cluster size.




I don’t know specifically about ZIP disks, but ordinary disks limit the number of total entries in the root directory as well. The introduction of long file names complicated matters, because the extra characters in those LFNs are stored as hidden directory entries. I don’t have the details handy, but using 255-character file names can fill up a root directory with very few actual files.

It may be that the 166-object limitation that you encountered was not a hard 166-object limit, but was determined by the lengths of the file names you were using.


Robert Bruce Thompson

I don't seem to notice a difference, but Roberta has long file names, some very long. In any event the remedy is to open a folder and stuff everything in that rather than the root on a ZIP. Not a really complex solution but you have to remember to do it. Thanks


Steve Gibson has done quite a bit of research into ZIP drives and their problems, especially the Click Of Death. His site ( has some interestiing info, but I’m not sure it directley relates to your problem.

I have head about the "click of death" but in fact it has never happened to me. The only time I have ever found a ZIP disk unreadable was when I formatted that disk on a Windows 98 machine. Up to now, ZIP has been extremely reliable for me, and Niven and I use it routinely as a safety copy and sneakernet file transfer system.




> Interesting. It comes to me that I have never actually looked at the NT hardware compatibility list. Incidentally, the USS Hopper runs on NT 3.51, not 4.x. Is this a good thing?


Well, yes, the HCL is outdated. Newer stuff isn’t on there because it hasn’t been tested yet.

As far as NT 3.51 versus NT 4.0, it probably doesn’t matter much. Back before NT4 shipped, there was much anguished protest because Microsoft was moving video from user-mode in 3.51 to kernel-mode in 4.0. They did this to improve performance, and many people made the point at the time that doing this made sense for Windows NT Workstation, but not for Windows NT Server. That ignores the fact, of course, that NTS and NTW are exactly the same product. Which version starts is determined at boot time by a couple of Registry settings, but the kernel is the same.

Although there’s no choice but to run video in kernel-mode on NT4, the real concern is the stability of the video drivers. In NT4, a buggy video driver can crash the kernel. The solution is to run the high-performance, vendor-supplied video drivers on NTWS and the vanilla MS-provided drivers on NTS.

I say that NT 3.51 versus 4.0 doesn’t matter much, because they’re basically the same product. Most of the underlying plumbing in NT4 is identical to that in 3.51. In fact, NT4 was orginally called NT 3.6 or the "Shell Update Release" (SUR), which reflects the actual relatively minor changes between those versions. NT4 was basically 3.51 with the Win95 shell and updated administrative utilities. Of course, Microsoft couldn’t charge much for a point update, let alone an SUR, so they turned 3.6 into 4.0 to increase revenues.


Robert Bruce Thompson

Well the kernel change was significant, although as you say, the thing to do is run your servers with vanilla video drivers, and test heck out of everything. We're running NT 4 Service Pack 4 here, and usually all is well, although we did have the "have to shut down and restart" problem that started this discussion. The same problem seems to have changed my Outlook options settings. Not sure what caused all that. All's well now, though.



I highly recommend this edition. I don’t have it right to hand (it’s a home and I’m at work) but the commentary on both the Lays and MacAulay by a teacher at Virginia Military Institute (if I recall correctly) is its self worth the price of the book. The commentator is not credited on


"Lays of Ancient Rome: With Ivry and the Armada"

Regnery Publishing, ISBN:089526403X


Aleta Jackson []




Chaos Manor home

Entire contents copyright 1999 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.
Comments and discussion welcome.

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