CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 29: February 15 - 21, 1999
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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..
I remember in one of your Chaos Manor columns in Byte you recommended some goop which enhances electrical conductivity between switch contacts and so forth. Do you remember its name and from whom it can be obtained?
Also, a Science Fiction question. About 40 years ago a sci-fi novel aimed at youngsters was written in which the heroes were able to teleport from one place to another through a process called "jaunting". I do not know the name of the book or the author. Can you help?
Regards and thank you. As a quid pro quo, if you have any questions about NT, please feel free!
Stabilant 22, which is referenced in a previous VIEW, complete with web site. We are trying to get the Front Page search engine implemented; that will make this a lot easier.
The book is The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. "Nomad, I kill you filthy!"
What a relief to find that Chaos Manor is still out there somewhere. I was stunned by the sudden demise of BYTE, and really ticked at being given a subscription to Windows Magazine in place of my prepaid 5 years of Byte. A suitable metaphor for this piece of daylight robbery escapes me for the minute.
But now I find that all it not lost...just drive carefully will ya?
PS do you think there ever will be an online Byte , really ?
Al Hart (Technical Sales) AE Electronics
Phone:(604) 279 8867 Fax:(604) 279 5510
Thank you for the kind words. Stay tuned on the on-line BYTE. There may be some good news shortly. Lest anyone be convcerned, it won't change the nature of this site, which will continue as it does now, but we may have some more resources to work with.
Here at Rotary Rocket we have both Windows 98 and NT running. We also have late-model (98 &; 99) everything running the systems: I have an IBM 770 laptop; most of the engineers have IBM Intellistation M Pros. We have found that we have to shut down NT every once in a while, just for general purposes. Never know exactly why: someone was running SolidWorks for three days with twenty drawings in the background? Or had 10 windows open and the 11th causes a hiccup? Incompatibility between AutoCAD and Netscape? and so on. >shrug< Maybe its a build-up of static on something. Maybe its a stray cosmic ray. But you are not alone in having a good, solid, Microsoft-recommended set of hardware and still have the occasional have-to-shut-it-down-and-start-over-for-no-apparent-reason trouble.
Aleta Jackson [firstname.lastname@example.org ]
For those who don't know, Rotary Rocket is one of the private space access companies that are going to open the universe for the rest of us. Go have a look: they have some great pictures.
Rotary is headed by Gary Hudson who has been part of my Space Council since 1980. Aleta is a former official of the L-5 Society and later of the National Space Society after the (in my judgment unfortunate) merger of the two organizations. She was then editor of the Journal of Practical Applications of Space in the High Frontier organization.
Rotary Rocket isn't the only large NT establishment that finds it necessary to prophylactically restart the machines.
Talin uses the same computer as both a firewall and a web server. I am more paranoid than he is.
I want a single small Linux box running my firewall/IP masquerade stuff for me, and doing nothing else. On that machine, I will run the Tripwire utility. Here is how this works: tripwire keeps a bunch of security info (e.g. checksums of critical files) on a floppy disk, which you write-protect and leave forever in the floppy disk drive of your firewall. From time to time, the Tripwire software checks to see if any of the important files have been modified by a cracker who has hacked into your system. Here is a URL:
By the way, with Linux, any old 486 box should be more than powerful enough for a firewall. I'm actually tempted to buy one of the eMachines, given how absurdly cheap they are:
I figure once I get the firewall computer up and working, it will almost never need to be changed. Passing IP packets back and forth is a straightforward job; adding the security and IP masquerade doesn't make it that much worse; so once it is set up, I should be good to go. --
Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"
Eric Hosmer [email@example.com]
Done. Thanks for the prod.
Since you rail about MacOS making you "drag-to-trash" when you want to eject a removable disk, you might be interested in the origin of that gesture:
Actually that makes a great deal of sense. Thanks.
My solution to the Fermi paradox: As intelligent races advance in their technological development, they inevitably develop entertainment forms so compelling that they lose all interest in objective reality. After all, why go through the bother of travelling to Alpha Centauri, when watching Star Trek or playing Baldurs Gate is so much more convenient? Im sure that eventually we can develop a virtual reality interstellar colonization thats indistinguishable from the real thing, except that well edit out all the boring parts like spending 100 years in suspended animation, or grubbing around on lifeless balls of dirt. Instead, well cater to the most superficial and puerile interests of would-be explorers, presenting to them a universe filled with buxom alien seductresses, "quake-like" space combat, etc...with only a few commercial interruptions.
You aren't the first to bring up that theory, of course. But people are not all alike, and there are foxes and lions; I cannot think that true couch potatoes living in a virtual world will have a high survival potential vs. the adventurous
In your Tuesday, February 16 entry of View, you mention that your friend Larry Niven has a problem with the line not releasing when he disconnects from online. The problem does not happen when using a phone on the same line. You also mention that his home has some sort of telephone switching system that no one understands and that was in place when he moved in. I install and maintain a variety of telephone equipment and I have a suggestion. Try using a phone to call the same number the modem calls and see if the line releases properly. If not, the problem could be at the other end of the connection. If that doesnt seem to be the case, try connecting directly to the Telephone Co. service outside with either a laptop or a long line cord to eliminate the inhouse switching system and the house telephone wiring. Maybe this will point to a culprit. Sorry if this mail isnt properly formatted, but I couldnt remember your prefernces and they arent on the current or main view pages, so I just used the mailto link and hope it is Ok.
Yes, I thought of the first idea, dial the modem service. We'll know more: it turns out that was a 33K modem anyway so it was time to buy a new USR and be done with it. If that works properly then everything is fine. I am still curious as to how a modem could cause the problem when a telephone doesn't, so I'll be watching to see if we ever do understand the mechanism.
Over the last 8 years here in Tampa, the lightning capital of the world, I have had 6 modems damaged by lightning on the phone lines.
Most failed with the relays (hard/semiconductor) unable to seize the line to make a connection. One failed with the line seized such that I had to unplug the line from the modem for it to hang up. I keep that modem on a shelf and could still use to make calls, even though I would have to physically disconnect each time.
This could be your solution as you have had some heavy rains recently. By the way the phone company says that there are lightning protectors as the line comes into my apartment building and I have telephone surge protectors next to my computers!
Enjoy your writings always.
Thanks, Quentin T. Fox, Jr. [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Programming and Science Fiction; just a way of life.
The problem here was that even with the line disconnected from the modem it wasn't hanging up, but I have included your letter as general interest. Thanks.
Jon Udell's Mindshare does show Chaos Manor with about the same count I get. I suspect some of the very large numbers are self referential, especially ZD.
Most exotic link to JerryPournelle.com? Or is Moshe Bar's links page more exotic?
People's choice for JerryPournelle.com (about 3/4 to the bottom)
By my count there are about as many SF links as computer links. This may have implications for subscriptions.
Clark E. Myers
I wouldn't Spam filter you!
Thanks!. Jon said he had modified his page to show my links although I haven't looked at it again yet. These others are fascinating. I'm certainly grateful to all those like you and Moshe Bar who have provided expertise.
Wednesday February 17, 1999
A link to a first hand report:
For a report of a more subdued and thought-through event:
An interesting ms-antitrust link:
Keith Duthie [email@example.com]
.sig under deconstruction. Please watch out for falling stars.
From: Don Armstrong, Sydney, Australia
You or your readers (is that the correct term in this case?) may be interested in this. The people at http://www.visibone.com have just published a very impressive "Web Palette Poster" showing the 216 (or even only 125) colours which are universally supported by web browsers. It has a layout which lets a web designer choose colours which won't clash, even if the designer's system doesn't show those distinctions itself.
You may not need one of these yourself - I don't see anything wrong with your design, including colours. However, you may want it. I do, and I'm ordering it.
US$15; plus $3 shipping and handling for USA and Canada, or US$7 for other countries.
Thanks. I expect I don't need it just now, but it sounds useful for more serious designers.
Ive been meaning for some time to go through your list of recommended books and make a list of my own. Today I finally had the time to do so.
I thought I would start with Fletcher Pratts "Battles That Changed History" which I knew was out of print. I found a very easy way to locate out of print books, on the Alibris web site:http://www.alibris.com
They were the only web site I could find that both listed the book and would sell it to me immediately with a credit card. Some other sites listed the book but then redirected you to the actual bookseller who did not accept credit cards. (In this day and age???)
At any rate, I highly recommend Alibris for finding hard-to-find books.
Second, I also discovered while looking at Amazons listings of C.S. Lewis books that they also carry the audiotape version of "The Screwtape Letters" as read by John Cleese! The reader reviews were all very glowing about Cleese being the perfect voice to read Screwtape. Needless to say I ordered a copy immediately, from the following URL:
Please note I stuck in your ordering code. I like to help out where I can.
Lastly, are you still mailing out your columns to subscribers? I subscribed with a check last year and received your December column but I havent seen anything since then.
Thanks. I have sent subscribers a few messages since December; I'll put you on the list in case something happened to the address link.
And thank you for running down a good source of books.
I am taking my own medicine that I prescribed for you by getting kicked off high center and reorganizing my site. There is a link to your site that I would request that you take a look at. I did put a picture of you that I snagged a couple of years ago from the Byte website and it appears to be the same one that you use.
Please review to see if meets the fair use criteria or do you recommend that I remove it to help you preserve your claim to copyright.
Thanks. No problem about the picture. We took it ourselves
Some of its a bit silly but I enjoy "The week that was" feature. Nice to see a little common sense on environmental issues once in awhile.
Hadn't seen that one. The current one is about S. Fred Singer, a very old friend. I first met him at the Hoover Institution conference on Open Space and Peace, back in the early 60's, Fred had proposed the "MOUSE": Minimum Orbital Unmanned Satellite Earth, which he almost got Disney to pay for
He can be acerbic but he's usually got all his facts straight
Thursday February 18 1999
I have had mysterious problems with internal ZIP drives. Now this:
Regarding ZIP dives: Theres one common problem all devices with flexible media suffers. If you screw it with all four screws in the case with "non-perfect geometry" it starts to make disks readable only by that device.
This can be simple checked: unscrew two screws from the one side of device: if problem eliminates, never re-screw them again - its because of case geometry. The unit is perfectly secured with only 2 screws.
You know, you may have it. I'll report later: but in fact I have one internal zip that just doesn't want to Do Right, and another that Has A Problem, and I bet you've hit on it! It is certainly worth a try. One of my internals could not read Larry Niven's Zip Disk yesterday. The other could.
I'll get to that this afternoon, and thanks!!!
LATER: Alas, that didn't help as much as I had hoped. One of the Windows 98 internal IDE drives that formats disks readable only by itself has screws only on one side. I loosed them in hopes of making things better. We'll see.
I just read your letter about using linux in Jerry Pournelles column. Youre probably getting a ton of replies about getting color on an epson, but just in case you arent.
I have an epson stylus color 600. To get color out of it you need a later version of ghostscript than is supplied by redhat. (Actually, maybe the very latest redhats have it.) The guy who writes ghostscript has a company, and the latest versions are not for commercial distribution, hence redhat cant distribute them. But, you can go to the right website and download them and compile them yourself with epson color support and eventually they will be permitted to go into redhats distribution.
The guys name is L. Peter Deutsch and theres an interview with him athttp://devlinux.org/ghost/interview.html that you might find interesting.
Thanks. Good news for Epson users.
Actually, Peter Deutsh is a subscriber to my mailing list, and yes he offered several solutions on how to print on my Epson.
Thanks for telling, me, Carl.
One of the solutions he suggested - Peter Deutsh - was to make the driver to the Epson printer just a pipe of whatever comes from the Windows machines.
This is what I did and it works perfectly. I dont need to print in color from the Linux server anyway, so it doesnt matter that my Ghostscript there doesnt know Epson color.
But, eventually, I will need to upgrade Ghostscript anyway. I use GS a lot for making graphs in Perl CGI scripts.
Friday February 19, 1999
Ignore this if as likely you already know about Steve Gibsons site (www.grc.com) and his recent commentaries on, and test program for, the Zip drive.
Actually, I know about Gibson but hadn't known about recent comments on Zip although I am not astonished that he has them. I'll have a look. My Zip Drive problems are tolerable but not fun. In general, all the external drives can read all the disks, but I have yet to have a disk formatted by Windows 98 on an internal IDE Zip drive that can be read by any other internal ZIP drive. Factory formatted ZIP disks seem universally readable. Windows 98 seems to format ZIP disks with 98 rather than 100 megabytes. All very odd. I should have a look to see what Gibson says, but for the moment, my advice is, use an external SCSI ZIP if you MUST reformat Zip disks, and you are better off not reformatting ZIP disks at all.
Incidentally, one of the Windows 98 internals has screws only on one side of the drive, so it wasn't THAT
values as well, but I forgot to include the URL. This in reference to a letter in Mail about a poster that more
or less does the same thing, but that you have to order and hang on the wall. The URL is
Hope this is useful to someone.
Subject: USS Hopper on NT3.51
If its NT Server, and providing mission-critical stuff, definitely a good thing. If your video card hardware is (or becomes) flaky - do you really want to lose the entire service a server machine is supposed to provide over the network?
One source of great angst in changes to the OS design from 3.51 to 4 was the decision to change the "Display Server" display driver component.
Terminology precision needed here: The NT OS was created to a "Client/Server" _architecture_ model. In this context, critical highest priority system stuff runs as "ring 0" Kernel Mode. In 3.51 the Display Server that communicates to the video hardware through the HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) was defined and written as a "User Mode" service. Confuse or hang it with bad hardware: the kernel, and network services need not die.
In v4, the decision was made to imbed the display component in the kernel, saving on internal process intercommunication, speeding up graphics. After all, it is really essential to be able to play the latest graphics intensive games on a mission critical server... It is, of course, even more vital to optimize profits by taking a "one size fits all" attitude in product release. Trouble is, they rather lost the plot in doing so! No such thing as "kernel panic" here - video problems (even on a server that no-one would log on to locally) will typically cause instant seizure - of everything.
I had a particularly mean client that tried to save a few hundred pounds over four NT4 Workstations by insisting that they provided the hardware instead of using our regular trusty Dell specd items. Flaky video RAM caused temperature dependant crashes during soak testing where I ran a legacy DOS network database that hogged CPU cycles while open. Shutdown of the air-conditioning &; heating at the end of the working day was rather like setting a cranky old mechanical egg-timer running... Only my attitude towards Microsoft became substantially more hard-boiled.
The difference between NT Server &; Workstation? A few (protected) registry keys. (But that is another topic).
<Network Server Services>
Weakening? Possibly. Degrade if you must, but please do so gracefully...
--- Other stuff follows. Cut,edit,use as you wish ---
PS. Met you briefly at a London Computer show in the days when Ciarcia had a circuit cellar. An unexpected and delightful diversion unmatched by all subsequent exhibitions that Ive attended.
PPS Saved part of the Sunday Times in August last year for you (and co-writers) of the Beowulf inspired stories. Recent discoveries in Kent put another spin on the origins of the saga. I had hoped that it would inspire you all in writings to a follow-up of Beowulfs Children. Now that you have recovered some floor space, if you provide a postal address (and I can find the paper in my own impending clear-out) - Ill mail it to you. "Legacy" tempted me to test my physics and calculate a few flight endurance envelopes for a Hydrogen fusion generation starship, during the interminable journeys on the train back to the office to reset the afflicted NT Workstations. "Beowulfs Children" I read on the train back from an interview for a software team leaders job to manage the Infra-Red telescopes CCD data collection in La Palma. (Didnt get it)
The book was the best part. Thanks to you all: I still have a lot of fun constructing scenarios based around a third starborn generation educating Old Grendel, and vice-versa. The next (Helium 3?) powered fusion craft outbound would be another challenge to outlining future drive technology.
BTW: Thanks for your contribution to the character of Cadmann - a good demonstration of what happens when sentiment is allowed to overcome instinct and training in a survival situation? Wrong footed me entirely in plot prediction. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the kind words. I hadn't thought about it but you are right, NT 3.51 is probably safer than 4 for the Hopper.
We have some notes for another novel set on Avalon. The kids are headed for some real problems
Saturday February 20, 1999
I downloaded the Trouble in Paradise (TIP) v2.0 program fromhttp://grc.com URL found at Chaos Manor.
It warned me that there were updated drivers (and made it easy to get minimal or full set of files), that would speed up file transfers so tested using a 10.976 MB file from hard disk to Zip drive. Transfer time was 2 m 8 s before and 2 m 5 s after.
Then restarted and reran TIP; now testing a disk that was experiencing no problem but have 11 soft, 2 firm and 0 hard errors; the firm errors used 2% of side one spare sectors. The error was reported as "read with retries".
Its taking 74 m running on a parallel port model of Zip drive attached to a computer operating with Intel 486/66DX2.
Two cartridges could not be tested because the TIP program reported that "non-exclusive access could not be made with the drive" even though no other program was running. It suggested that files were open or being viewed. Puzzled. They tested with the functions available in Zip properties.
A second cartridge tested with 4 soft 0 firm and 0 hard errors.
An explanation of soft, firm and hard errors suggests testing a second cartridge to establish whether they are due to the drive or the cartridges. It looks like Im in good shape.
Another thing mentioned is that Iomega apparently will exchange Click of Death drives, even if outside the one year warranty period. See the GRC web site for details and .wav files. However, Iomega support is handled by a third party so contact Iomega if any problems.
Thanks for that report. I confess I have not tried the TIP program and tests, although I certainly should. I haven't had a Click of Death, but it's good to hear that there's a replacement if that happens.
Youve probably run across this by now, but in case you hadnt, I thought Id pass it along. Below is a link to a page on which users can download a free disk encryption program called ScramDisk. I thought that some of your faithful readers might be interested in a program that sounds far more convenient to use than many of the alternatives.
Thanks. I hadn't seen it. As usual, I haven't had time to try this, either, but I'm glad to pass along the link. One of these days I'll get some more people around here to try stuff out so I can include reports along with helpful suggestions, but then one of these days I'll take wing and fly too .
Sunday February 21, 1999
Is their HQ in Washington DC?
Political Correctness gone mad. And it won't be the last. Remember when "discriminating" meant a person of taste and distinction? Then there's Macauley, speaking of a time when all the ladies were gay Ah well. What cannot be cured must be endured. Preferably with a grin.
contents copyright 1999 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.