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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. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature.

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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..

This week:
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Current Mail



Monday July 19, 1995


 I believe you’ve put forth the opinion a number of times that power-saving features on motherboards and other peripherals are largely superfluous. I think you might want to read the following article, published a few months back in Forbes, which purports to accurately characterize the total power consumption of computers and the Internet.  It’s not a pretty picture...



Talin (       “I am life’s flame. Respect my name.    My fire is red, my heart is gold.  Thy dreams can be...believe in me,

If you will let my wings unfold...”

-- Heather Alexander

It isn't pretty if true, but I don't think it's true. The latest energy budget of the US that I have is an older ANNUAL REVIEW, but it doesn't show anything like the proportions this chap uses.

Does anyone have a good energy budget, for both all forms of energy and where the electricity goes? I would have thought most of it in households at least goes to air conditioning, not lightbulbs and electric motors (of course air conditioners use electric motors, but it seems an odd way to lump things) and there seems to be little discussion of industrial. Commercial use of electricity used to be a major use also.

I don't believe his numbers. The only number he gives other than a lot of relative things are a kilowatt per computer; that would mean the equivalent of 10 lightbulbs. Since the computer can't use more than 3 to 4 lightbulbs worth the rest must be the monitor. I have never questioned the use of screen blanking and other ways to turn the monitor off or down; it's diddling with the computer itself that I get upset about.

Anyway, does anyone have good numbers? I don't trust those.

Subject: Is Space Expensive

In response to those who consider space exploration, exploitation and habitation too expensive, consider this:  A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that it requires some 62.6 megajoules of energy to take a kilogram of mass from earth surface to infinity.  This sounds like a lot, but when you convert it into kilowatt-hours, it works out to a little over 17.5 KWH.  At 10¢/KWH for power, it would cost $1.75 to blast a kilogram of mass out to anywhere in the inner solar system. 

The cost to go anywhere at all must account for the cost of getting out of the Sun’s gravity well.  From earth orbit, this adds another 244 KWH to the energy cost, or $24.4 at 10¢/KWH.   Thus, you could send a kilogram of mass anywhere you wanted it to go for under $30.

Of course, this assumes all the velocity can be imparted to the mass at launch, as with a mass driver.  If you need to carry fuel, a container for the fuel, a container for the payload, etc. you increase the cost per kilogram of payload.

Is $30 to anywhere achievable?  Probably not. 

Is NASA as close to this figure as can be achieved?

Probably not.

............CRL Lembke, Charles []

Hi Jerry

...Nice to read your column again. Sorry that Byte went belly up....

I read your words on screen settings, and that you’ve decided on 1152x864 (or something like that) on your 21 inch monitor. I assume, that this means, that you use the 96 dpi setting for your font.

I know, that the jump may be a bit too dramatic, but have you tried 1600x1200 with a 120 dpi (or more) setting for your fonts? I know the Icons become quite small, but the difference between 120 and 96 dpi standard resolution is - in my personal view - more dramatic, than the figures should indicate (especially if you have activated font smoothing). Maybe you can find a card with some intermediary setting, like 1440x1080 or something similar..

...but do give the 120 dpi (or more) a try.

Kind regards

Kurt Friis Hansen

Well, it's certainly true that the higher the resolution the better text looks in WORD and elsewhere, but on the other hand, my parchment begins to look bad given the reduced colors. It depends in part on what you are used to, I think. I prefer a few more colors and fewer pixels. At least for now.


I hope you realize:

That you just instructed every Windows 98 user to pay &;20 for a service pack (Win98se) that they could download for free...

BTW, have you ever tried windows alternatives (Linux/BeOS/ect)?

Brian Ewart


Dear Mr. Pournelle:   Where can I obtain a $20.00 copy of Windows 98 Second Edition upgrade from Win 98?  The local computer stores have a $99.00 and a $199.00 version, and one said they had heard of the $20.00 version, but no luck in finding it.  Is it available locally or directly from MS?  If directly from MS, how do you order it?   My frustration level is peaking!  My Compaq 5140 locks up frequently.   Thanks,   Bob Brown   Chantilly, VA

I wrote that some time before the product was released; Microsoft told me that there would be a CD upgrade for about $20, and a free download.  I have not myself seen the offer of a CD, but I would suppose it's somewhere within the Microsoft pages. Perhaps not. The download certainly is. As to our AOL correspondent, perhaps someone will refer him to other pages on this site? He seems not to be aware of them. Ah well. They teach such good manners over there on AOL.

For where to find the upgrade disk click here...


Mr. Pournelle,

I took the time to read all of the posted comments of your  article on China &; Taiwan at It was an interesting experience. I found the majority of the 60+ postings were coherent, and some raised interesting points supporting or challenging your arguments. I was dissapointed and a little shocked at the handfull of responses that used the word “racist”. It seems that some people enter into free discussions with the idea that the object is to “win”  by following these three steps: a) call your enemy a racist as soon as possible. b) make a statement based on your feelings instead of an argument c) press the submit button and repeat as neccessary.

It’s not that I’m terribly surprised that there are idiots out there, I just can’t figure out what they are trying to accomplish other than venting their anger. Maybe we better off in the old days when only the select few were able to navigate the arcane protocols of electronic communication. People used to pride themselves on the quality of their flames.

Good article, by the way.

Terry Stickel (

Actually, most of the commentary over at is well done, but there are a few individuals working at appearing less intelligent than the general readership. A couple of them, one with a Ph.D., wrote me letters I didn’t bother finishing. One thing: the article was long, and written longer. It was cut to fit by the editors. I am aware that Formosa was occupied by the Japanese until liberated by the US, but that has made no difference to the claims made by either People’s China or Nationalist China. Second, perhaps I should have used Tibet rather than Kossovo as an analogy, but my point was that Serbian Yugoslavia claims Kossovo without regard to the wishes of its inhabitants, and People’s China has the same view regarding Taiwan. I never mentioned race at all, so why I am accused of racism is beyond me, and certainly not worth responding to.

Thanks for the kind words.


 I recently came across an article by Norman Spinrad concerning SDI, manned space flight, and the Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy.  The gist of it is that the big push for SDI (which he claims was a sort of Trojan Horse devised by you - among others - to get the federal government to explore the solar system in a serious way) hurt the space program. You’re prominently mentioned, and I thought you might be interested in looking it over.

Too high the moon


Well, Norman got a lot of it wrong. We were not trying to boost space we were trying to win the Cold War; it would be very good if low cost space came from that. Indeed, you can't do Strategic Defense without lowering the cost to orbit, just as you can't fly Air Mail without lowering the cost of air travel. However, I point out that giving NASA another $40 billion, or another $400 billion, would have done NOTHING AT ALL. NASA has always had plenty of money. If NASA had more money they'd spend it on more bureaucracy.

It was the SDIO that built DC/X and flew it many times. General Graham, Max Hunter, and I talked the head of SDIO (VP Dan Quayle in his capacity as Chairman of the National Space Council) into building the DC/X. It flew straight up, moved sideways, and landed on a tail of fire just as God and Robert Heinlein intended rockets to do. When NASA took DC/X over they burned it on the first flight. This isn't all coincidence. Proving that you don't need SuperShuttle is death to a NASA career. NASA and George Abbey make a career of owing access to space; they don't want you to have it without their permission. NASA exists now primarily to pay the NASA bureaucracy and keep it busy ($100 billion for a couple of cans they call a space station that won't do what SKYLAB did a long time ago?). Giving NASA more money would not have build a space program.

But then we always thought winning the Seventy Years War was a good idea. Perhaps they haven't noticed in France? I would have thought they would; perhaps it is only Americans living in France who didn't notice.

The proper way for government to participate in development is through X programs. I have a lot on that here on this site.

By all means see what Norman has to say, but he's got it wrong in several dimensions.

[This has been expanded and put on its own page.]




The $20 update exists (I have it). Microsoft has it on their site at:

The cd costs $19.95 plus $5 shipping and has the service release plus some additional stuff. You can also order a cd with just the service pack for just $5 shipping charge though it can be downloaded over the net.

Win98 users can get to this link by using the Windows Update feature installed on the Start Menu. Once the page loads there is a prominent link.



bdenman []




I did not yet read Spider Robinson’s reasons to explore space, but I suggest they are actually more easily explained than previously noted on your page.

First, any pure science is beneficial.  The act of expanding our knowledge in any pursuit benefits society, not philosophically, but directly and financially.  The Apollo project is largely responsible for the state of miniaturization in electronics.  Of course, the materials used are “space age” for a reason.  Plastics, light weight metals, heat resistant ceramics are all results of the space program.  Plastic, in most of its current forms.

Robert Heinlein once spoke to congress on the benefits of the space program to the elderly.  He was his normal eloquent self, and I will not even attempt to paraphrase.  It was reported in its entirety in an issue of Omni magazine some time ago.

What good is the space program?  Even if we never live off this planet, our lives have been improved immeasureably because of it.  Me, I love NASA.  Not because it is efficient, or because it does its job well, but because it represents our SOLE efforts to expand our horizons.  We don’t know that we will find a miracle cure on Mars, or some new element that will radically change our lives.  Who cares?  The science that gets us there is benefit enough.  Be greedy, want more, but we shouldn’t let pedestrian minds belittle what we already recieve.

Sorry for the excessive passion, but my great regret in life, one that some days is unbearable, is that I will never have the chance to go to space, to walk on the moon, even though I know it could have happened.  Strength of will, national desire, and a little (very) money would have done it. 

Major Bryan Broyles




Tuesday, July 20, 1998 "One small step..."

Dear Dr.Pournelle, I Read the Forbes article. Two thoughts: 1) Power figures for computers almost certainly wrong. We are using 500 KVA Stabilizers to power 2 Pentium 1 computers for several years now. Ok they are old computers, but newer chips and boards consume less current.  2) Language very emotionally loaded. That quote of power densities of “1/10 of the surface of the sun” for example. The power density of the sun is considerably lower than that of the human body. Thus if their own facts are true the heating load of 600 to 800 kilos of chips (chips not computers) is less than that of  a single human being. So all the comments on cooling and heating is so much rubbish. No knowledge of power consumption for network lines but as copper is being replaced by laser &; fiber optic, which reaches ever higher bandwidths as the power of the lasers used are declining this arguments there are probably wrong. The last is opinion (no numbers). Dont even have opinion on wireless Lans. Hope someone else has hard numbers.

Your sincerely

Ramesh Nayar

Ramesh Chandran Nayar []


Thank you. That’s more or less what I expected. The problem with that sort of thing is that once seen through people stop paying attention to any environmentalists at all.

> Anyway, does anyone have good numbers? I don’t trust those.

 Well, I know any number of people who run a PC and a 17” monitor from a 200 VA or 280 VA UPS. That should tell you something...


Robert Bruce Thompson

My experience precisely. For more on this, click here.



ATI Rage Fury Video Board Impresses

There are a lot of good video boards. Probably far more companies make 3-D chips than will survive the millennium, but that’s another story. Because they were on sale cheap with a rebate, I got several of the ATI Rage Fury 128-megabit boards, and I must say I am very much impressed.

Should be just ATI Rage Fury 128, or 128-bit if you stretch it a little.  Definitely not 128-megabit, if you’re talking about the memory transfer rate it’s *gotta* be higher than that... :)


Low Ee Mien

DSO National Laboratories






Don’t know if you’ve read these, but if not, they are worth the effort, despite their length:

BTW I agree with almost all that’s said in them.

The are perhaps worth posting as links - What I can find about Y2K on your site seems to give mostly the opposite point of view...

Good to have other views. My own remains: I'll fill the propane tanks, see that I have several bottles of bleach and lots of fresh batteries, be sure the Earthquake Kit is in good shape, and stay home. (Actually we will probably go to Niven's party, but in a 4-wheel drive truck, and I'll take some survival supplies to the party too...)



For a discussion by Daniel Sobral on Open Source (to wit Free BSD) vs. Linux as an alternative operating system, click here. I have given it a page of its own because it is fairly long and complete and can serve as a reference for a while.


Curiosity only. I'm glad you had a good break from fighting the good fight with documentation but.. Avalon shows up in Encarta 99 Atlas only as a town on Catalina Island and assorted indand sites, but the contxt of your remarks made me assume it is an Island name. Where is it? Nick Hanstock

Avalon is the only town on the island of Santa Catalina, so if you go by commercial boat to Catalina you will find yourself in Avalon. Most of the island is owned by the Conservancy, a gift from the Wrigley Family which owns the rest of the island except for the town of Avalon, which is a town with freeholdings and real estate. The Wrigley Family owns an interior ranch and the Island Development Company which now mostly operates tours and such like. The Development Company sold some land for condominiums (ugly) in Hamilton Bay where the old seaplane ramp was, but doesn't do that any more. I'll try to get some pictures up later. For another Avalon story...


Now for a bunch of letters about power use and computers. It's pretty clear that the original article was wrong; whether because the author was off his head or simply making things up to be politically correct I don't know. Anyway:



You asked for actual figures on PC power consumption; here’s one machine I run (the worst case, actually), and its maximum power consumption.

Tyan Titan (S1668) ATX motherboard with:

Dual Pentium Pro 200 MHz processors 256 MB EDO RAM US Robotics Sportster 56K internal modem Adaptec AHA-2940UW SCSI controller IBM Ultrastar 2ES Fast UltraSCSI HD, 4.3 GB Seagate ST34555 FastWide UltraSCSI HD, 4.3 GB Toshiba 32X CD reader, internal, SCSI Floppy drive, internal (generic)

HP Colorado 5GB tape backup, internal, IDE

Number Nine Revolution 3D graphics adapter w/ 12 MB WRAM

3Com 3C905TX ethernet card, on a fast ethernet hub

Adaptec AVA-1502 SCSI controller 

(for a scanner and CD-RW, both external devices)

SoundBlaster AWE-32 sound card

all this—with internal peripherals, no less! -- is driven adequately

 ViewSonic P815 21-inch monitor, rated at 160 W

 I deliberately picked the old, powerful machine, loaded with all the juice-sucking internal equipment; even so, it isn’t capable of drawing more than 410 W under any conditions.  I suspect I can get close, sometimes, because I use the machine _hard_ when I’m on it (that’s why there are two processors and all that memory!).  But there are no indications of power problems:  very few unexpected crashes or lockups, for instance, and the ones that do happen are clearly software-related.

My HP LaserjetIV, on the other hand, uses 90 W on standby, and can peak at 660 W while printing (!), so I turn it off unless I’m actually using it (it will make the room warm).  Because of the large power draw of the laser printer on both startup and during printing, I have a “clean” power line isolated on a 20-amp breaker for the computer; otherwise, I was afraid the UPS would step in when the voltage sagged.  (I guess I have to count a few Watts for the standby UPS, don’t I?)  The Epson 1520 wide-format inkjet, on the gripping hand, draws only 21 Watts... but gobbles consumables so fast that the laser is cheaper by orders of magnitude, even counting electricity.

Odds and ends must include the graphics tablet and the computer speakers, at a few Watts apiece; I think this is lost in the noise.

All these numbers come from the manufacturer’s specifications; YMMV.  But I know that when I started leaving this computer on all the time, my electric bill immediately went up twelve or 15 dollars; at the outrageous $0.13/KWhr I pay, this is on the order of 130-160 Watts draw for the time I’m not using the computer—probably about 16 hours a day.  Most of that time, the monitor’s off.  And that seems about right, because there’s _no_ energy-savings hardware or software active (I run NT 4.0, and everything else is off by either MB jumper or CMOS setup).

So, in the worst case this system might be drawing 150 W or so when I’m not using it, and somewhat more than double that when I am (mostly from the monitor).  It’s about what you said:  three lightbulbs, maybe four.

Has this helped?


Troy Loney


Printers draw a lot of power, but modern ones go into standby mode automatically; my HP 4000 just sits there nearly off until it is told to print. Monitors can go to standby fairly easily. Both those techniques are worth developing and using; but powering computers up and down is a waste of effort and probably, through wear and tear requiring more frequent machine replacement, ends up using more energy (the energy cost of making and transporting the machine) than ever was saved.

From:         Daniel C. Sobral <>

Subject:      Power Saving Features


Mr. Pournelle, you have been preaching against power saving features of the motherboard. I have been wondering about this... What exactly are you preaching against? There are three main “power saving” features in motherboards with Advanced Power Management api: powering down the video, the hard disk, and slowing down the processor.

You mention you have nothing against the first. I personally dislike the second for it seriously diminishes the lifetime of the hard disks, these being essentially mechanical devices, but you have to remember that they are the second most consuming device in a computer, if you ignore peripherics.

The last one is really annoying, specially since Operating Systems, generally speaking, spend their idle time in the HALT instruction, which saves power. It stands to reason that uf the computer is not idle, then it is doing something. Screen “savers” defy this, but...  Unfortunately, though this is a common feature of most modern Operating Systems, it seems nobody mentioned it to Microsoft programmers.

But, of course, these are not the only features of APM. APM is also responsible for things like suspend or hibernate modes, which are much preferable to turning the machine off, because it saves one from the annoying boot process, or the power down on shutdown.  Furthermore, APM is to become just a subset of ACPI, which provides software with further control over the hardware.

And that last sentence, Mr. Pournelle, is the key here. The motherboards, by themselves, do nothing. It is the Operating System that uses (or not) these features. So, if one of your computers is doing annoying things “because” of a motherboard with APM, I’ll suggest you either install something like Linux, or properly assign the blame on the Operating System you are using.



Daniel C. Sobral                                    (8-DCS)


“Your usefulness to my realm ended the day you made it off Hustaing alive.”

-- Sun Tzu Liao to his ex-finacee, Isis Marik

Why so contentious? In any event I wouldn't call what I do "preaching" so much as demonstrating yet one more politically correct practice that seems to be self defeating. 

Your point on Operating Systems escapes me. There seems to be a move by government to require these green features in all systems at the BIOS level, removing all choice from the users.

You will also understand that it is my hope, and I have some reason to believe, that designers and decision makers read what I write, and my sermons may have some effect if I cause designers to rethink their politically correct decisions.


And finally:

I quickly forwarded this [Forbes Article] to a friend who is general manager of a rural electric utility agency.  The regional power consortium happened to be having a rate meeting this afternoon, and so my friend quickly copied off the article,  grabbed an amp-meter and checked the base load of their larger PC’s.  ---  Pentium, big hard disks, larger monitors—typically, they where drawing 1 to 1.8 amps, resulting in loads of .1 to .2 K VA.  Not 1000 watts.—too bad.

Additionally, he reports that the rate meeting “broke out in laughter” at the thought that the computer base load might out weigh irrigation, steel mills, etc.  The Forbes article suggested that by next year computers would form 14% of base load.  The folks at John’s meeting said that if the numbers where true, then electric companies ought to be frantically sellling PC’s instead of electric water heaters (which typically draw about 1500 watts.) The return would be much better. 

No sources, no hard numbers, and a silly proposition.  I stand amazed that Forbes has fallen so low.

Rick Boatright

Which should be enough on the subject. Thanks to all the others who wrote.

Eric reports:

    In regard to Brian Ewart's message: Windows 98 SE and the Windows 98 Service Pack are not the same thing. True, the Service Pack can be downloaded for free but it does involve a quite massive amount of stuff and for many folks, especially those in parts of the world where ALL phone use is billed by the minute, this is a difficult undertaking. It is necessary to make a CD-ROM available for some of the community to propagate the old-fashioned way. If things happen in the traditional Microsoft fashion tens of thousands of CD-ROM's will be distributed for free at various events in the hope they reach the right people. This is very cheap to do whereas fulfilling individual mail orders is not. The price is comparable to the fee charged for 'free' software from any number of other companies. I greatly doubt that any accountant in Redmond has this listed as a profit center.       Windows 98 Second Edition has a number of new features and a big pile of new device drivers not found in the Service Pack. This is where the $20 comes in. If you're an Open Source zealot this may seem outrageous but that's religion for you. It gives you new things to be uptight about. If you're a Win98 user who wants all the goodies the charge is pretty minor compared to buying it at retail.  Eric Pobirs




Since there seems to be some confusion in the calculation of PC power consumption by some of the correspondants, I offer this url from APC (the Battery Backup/UPS people) as a reference, and some comments.

Technical Note #T15

Watts and Volt-Amps: Powerful Confusion


VA means “Volt Amps”, which equals One Volt times One Amp. Watts (as in Power) are also equal to Volts times Amps. It would seem that these are one and the same, and they are in lightbulbs.

They’re not quite the same, as applied to consumption of electrical power in computers, but close enough for the discussion at hand. (See the Tech note for why). A 100W lightbulb draws about One AMP at 100V or 100VA (Volt-Amps).

Where the confusion has occurred in the forum relates ‘orders of magnitude’.  For example, a computer drawing 1 to 1.8 amps is drawing 120-216 VA, NOT .1 to .2 VA, as noted by one correspondent.

Or in another case “Using a 500KVA stabilizer for two Pentium Computers”.  500VA maybe. 500KVA is 500,000 volt-amps.  A 500KVA unit would pass on the order of 4166 Amps at 120V and would be the size of a house. (416,666 light bulbs ?)

Your analogy relating the power consumption of the average PC to 3-4 100W light bulbs is right on the money.





John Rice

The Internet - Someones LAB experiment gone horribly wrong.


Which says enough on the subject I think.




Wednesday July 21, 1999

Here's one vote:

Dr. Pournelle;

I really don’t like the little separators you’ve been told to use on your sites.  It makes your pages take a LOT longer to load.  And the reason I go to your site is for the CONTENT, not the glitz and glamour.  If you have to use a separator, make it a small, single line that loads quickly.  Anything large and flashy will detract from the purpose of your site (i.e.: presenting information to the world).  Leave the showy stuff for people who have less to say and don’t say it as well as you do.  Keep up the good work.  Thanks.

PS... I tend to agree with your position on NASA becoming another government agency whose main purpose is to maintain itself as a bureaucratic agency.  Too bad!!

Roger Shorney

Miller, Missouri

These are smaller lines, but they are also hard to work with. I have been sent some other as well. No time today to play with this stuff.

I've added a bit to my response on the Le Monde thing, and moved it with other mail over to a page of its own. It's probably worth your attention. As to lines, I guess the simple thing is

which has the merit of trimming to proper length and taking up no new time, although it's a bit ugly. Ah well.

Uh, I dropped a "K" 1 - 2 amps at 120 Volts is .1 - .2  KVA.  Sorry. 

Oops.  Ever typo'ed yourself? 


It jumped out at me too, when I read it on Jerry's page.  Felt dumb I

did.  But the POINT was still valid, a PC, even a big one, draws less

than a couple of amps. The simplest explanation might be that guy

from Forbes was doing interesting drugs. :-)


I fixed it. JEP

I must beg to differ with Roger Shorney on the topic of separator images for the mailbag.

First, your surmise that the image file is only downloaded once is correct; once the browser has an image in its cache for an inline image, that image will be used in _every occurance of that link_, even if it’s in another page, on another day... until the cache is pruned down, and it’s deleted.

Your images were well under 10KB and shouldn’t have taken more than a couple of seconds to load.  This leads us directly to:

Second, Mr. Shorney characterizes the separators as “glitz and glamour”, or to use a favorite hacker term, “chrome”.  This bit of jargon <> implies that something is merely pretty; ultimately useless.

I’m afraid I don’t see it that way, primarily because I was one of the people who asked you if you _would_ do this very thing, a month or so back.  Using images is useful, because, as noted, they only load once, and are easy to grasp visually.  Using _different_ images is useful because, after all, they do different things (separate question from answer; separate one message from the next).

That they are “pretty” seems pretty much immaterial to me in this context; they aren’t pretty at very much _expense_ at all, so why not.

Of course, this would get Jakob Neilson <> mad at me, if he was paying any attention—thank ghod he’s too busy.  :-)

I would make one suggestion though.  Even though I’ve the luxury at work now of a dedicated (and therefore pretty speedy) ADSL connection, I still often use the Lynx text-only browser to read many websites, including yours.  When it ‘displays’ these separators, I get either [INLINE], or with the more recent version of the browser, [birdline.gif].

Obviously, neither of these are all that useful.  If your email to HTML conversion process makes it practical, you might consider adding ALT tags to these images, possibly <... ALT=”===================”> for the inter-message break (the balls), and <... ALT=”----------“> for the question/answer separation.

Glad to hear you’re feeling better, and that you enjoyed the trip.  Good luck on your next round of Linux adventures, too.  I keep a daily eye on the mailbag, and I’ll try to join the legions of the helpful if you have problems.

Now, of course, if Chaos Manor is _hiring_... :-)


·        jra


Jay R. Ashworth                                      

Member of the Technical Staff     Buy copies of The New Hackers Dictionary.

The Suncoast Freenet            Give them to all your friends.

Tampa Bay, Florida

I thought that once you'd downloaded an image, it was cached so doing it again doesn't add to the page. Thanks. And I like a bit of pretty so long as the cost is low. Hiring, I fear not...



You should also mention that Avalon is a Beowulf computing cluster named in honor of “The Legacy of Heorot”. Your readers can check out the details at




I was wondering if you have experienced ANY performance issues with any of the games under Win98. I did the upgrade (from Win95 OSR2) and the games Sabre ACE, and Luftwaffe Commander (flight sim) suffer from “herky-jerky” performance. Back to Win95b and everything is fine!

Thanks for your hands-on articles. I enjoy them very much!


Hormoz Zareh, Associate Professor

Director of MCAE Laboratory

Mechanical Engineering Dept.

I asked Eric, who is more familiar with games than I am, and he says:

Most likely drivers and on a related note DirectX. Make sure all of your devices, especially video and audio, have the most up to date drivers. This is a critical issue for many Win98 upgrades. Also check what version of DirectX is in the system. Win98 has DirectX 5 built-in and Win98 SE has DirectX 6.  Badly coded game sometime behave badly with DirectX version later than their design phases.

Plus, try to substantiate the behavior. Is it just your system or are others affected? WWW.DEJA.COM is a good place to check such reports.

If you have not seen this, it is worth a visit:

Given the recent threads on NASA this link may amuse you and your readers:

 Keep on keeping on --

 Daniel J. Boone

We THINK it is a joke. Alas, how can one be sure?







Thursday July 22, 1999

Begin with this story:

I tried to upgrade my main machine from Windows 98 to Second Edition yesterday. It was a nightmare: the upgrade almost completed, but kept crashing after a message about a misconfigured video driver.

I was able to boot from floppy and install SE into a new directory, but then I had to spend the rest of the day and well into the night removing now-useless stuff from the disk and reinstalling the applications I absolutely need. I was at least able to save all of my documents and programming projects. The good news is that I reclaimed about 4 GB of disk space.

Martin Heller

Owner, Martin Heller &; Co.

Senior Contributing Editor, mail:

I never had that kind of problem, and I have done both "upgrade" and original installations of Windows 99 SE. I tend to do full scrub and reinstall when possible, but I have tested upgrades also, and this is the worst report I have ever seen. Odd, because Windows 98 SE seems better at Plug and Play than anything else. Windows 2000 can get wrapped around the axle with bad drivers and require a full scrub, but I haven't found that with 98 SE.


Hi Jerry,


After reading your most recent Byte column that recommends Win98 Second Edition, I thought you might be interested in an anecdote.

My wife works at a CPA firm, and when they need help with PCs I do a little moonlighting as a computer consultant (In my regular day I design audio electronics for a pro audio manufacturing company).

The CPA firm expanded recently, and needed 5 new systems. I went to a local clone shop, and having been burned by cheap parts in the past, specified Intel motherboards, Intel Celeron 433 CPUs, Intel ethernet cards, and an ATI video card. Per your recommendation I made sure they were installing Win98SE. These were simple business systems with no sound cards or modems.

The day the computers were supposed to be ready to pick up they called to say that although the systems seemed to boot fine, the boot took longer than they expected and also, the systems would not fully shut down. They hung at the “please wait” screen. If you turned off the power at that point, they came up without complaint when rebooted. All five systems behaved identically.

I took one system and began to install it. After adding the built in Microsoft “Client for Novell Networks” to permit connection to their Novell server (which BTW runs for months or years without a reboot), and rebooting, I had a crash the first time I hit the “Start” button after connecting to the server. “Explorer” restarted itself, and I proceeded with some additional setup (adjusting video settings). Then the video control panel crashed. The next time I restarted I got a message that Windows could not start, and needed to be re-installed. It would not even start in safe mode.

I took the system back to the shop, where they wiped the disk and started over with the original edition of Win98.

And with Win98 FIRST edition, everything worked great. Fast, glitch free, quick boot, quick, complete, shutdown.

The moral? It appears that even Win98’s latest incarnation has some serious bugs.

Thanks for being out there to provide a place to share this info.

Regards,  Jim Murphy


I was just reading the SMP discussion, and there is one little comment I’d like to make. Eric Pobirs says:

“So, in this field tight code still counts for a lot. One reason many operators get annoyed at NT is its GUI orientation. Running admin tools in a friendly environment is a fine thing but just a waste of RAM and CPU cycles during normal operation.”

That kind of misses the point. That has nothing to do with CPU cycles, but, rather, with the cost of repeated tasks.

While it might be seem easier to spend thirty seconds doing a task through a GUI than spend hours studying a CLI (Command Line Interface), you won’t get half-way through doing the same for 1000 users before changing your mind.



Daniel C. Sobral                        (8-DCS)

Subject: Space travel article on SciAm web site

Reads well, but I suspect you know much of what it contains. It is informative, though, even if it is just a summary.  All of the letters about the subject have sparked my interest in science again, after a long hiatus as I studied history.  I think I’ll bend my will in that direction. I took my kids to see the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center during my holiday in Titusville during the first week of this month. I’ll scan in photos- the looks on their faces was priceless. This is what NASA should be about! 

 George A. Laiacona III <

“Well, you can just die then.”

·        Excerpt, King’s Men Diplomacy Manual

“This isn’t a jury of my peers...They’re all common citizens!”

·        Captain Tyrell, Ex-Starfleet Commander


 As far as small animated gifs go, they make no appreciable difference to the download speed of your pages. To be honest, your site loads faster than 90% of the sites I visit on a daily basis.

As a side note, I loaded Win 98 second edition on my computer at work. (WIN 95 was unable to deal with the Pentium II motherboard). I quickly noted that there was no real difference from the user point of view. In fact, the BSOD appears just as often. So what did I get for my money other than a painfully slow resource hog that took up all my extra disk space, and crashes just as often?

I use Linux at home, and it is a fast, stable and really powerfull O/S that has fulfilled all my needs. This is something you should put more effort into. If you get it setup right, you’ll never go back to Microsoft

Mike Shimanski

Well, I am glad to hear that the download times are not long. FrontPage has a time estimate, but it doesn't take account of caching, so each instance of the birdline above adds a second to the estimate: only I know it doesn't, from my own testing, even if I kill the cache.

98 SE has more and better drivers, and better plug and play; and if you have a good bit of memory (which is cheap) you will like the active desktop with its automatic thumbnails and such like. Or at least I do. You will recall that I have not recommended upgrade from 95 b to 98 until 98 SE came out, and obviously, if your system works well with 95b you want to think hard about fixing that which ain't broke.

As to LINUX, agreed: if you get it set up right, it works well with the applications it works with. Of course so did OS/2.




>As to LINUX, agreed: if you get it set up right, it works well

>with the applications it works with. Of course so did OS/2.


Linux works indeed well and there are quite a lot of applications available. The only ‘problem’ is that most are not widely advertised.  There is not much ad-dollars to be made by free products. You must actually search for the apps you may need. Because most products are free the competition is not so much for market share (and thus dollars) but for quality. Few Linux programs crash because of this. Because the users must actively seek out the programs and determine their suitability and quality themselves, they are likely to have alternative programs available.

One of the great risks to Linux (for the desktop) is the mass of ‘Windows raised’ users, that is users not accustomed to do the research themselves. They pick the apps off catalogs, install them (or try to) without reading the instructions, find things don’t work as expected, and don’t find a phone number to call. Result they return to Windows.

You can easily swap Linux with OS/2 or any ‘minority’ OS. (minority in the sense of market share and financial backing)

Bees do sting. But that is no reason to hate honey.


BTW would it be possible to put up a link from your Current View to your Current mail (and back)? Just for convenience, so don’t invest to much time in it.



I think that link already exists, no? As to the rest, agreed, but for some people time is quite valuable, and poking around hoping to find quality applications isn't very cost effective.





Friday July 23, 1999

Subject: Retro computing

ran into this, and could help thinking about the need to not throw out the baby with the bath water sometimes...

UserFriendly ( ) is a nice little site devoted to an online comic strip of the same name documenting some of the nuerotic characteristics of the Unix community.  (Been around for a couple of years, and is doing very nicely thank you...)

While they have their own site with all of the usual amenities (message board, etc.) someone decided to do some retro computing. Someone found BBS software that runs under Linux, and has setup an old style BBS that you log onto via telnet. (T1 line, 64 lines max) Text or ansi interface, game doors (Trade Wars, for example [!]), etc., with lots of new stuff Coming Real Soon Now ™.  Did you know that Fidonet is still around? ( )

Apparently this has struck some sort of chord, because they had hundreds of new users on the first day, and lots of people mentioning how much they miss this stuff, etc. People who ran one line or two line BBSs in the old days two or three or four years ago.

Apparently, at least for this crowd, there is something missing in the current setup of the Internet, a certain sense of community, a certain niche that was better filled under the old technology, even tho there are plenty of places to do things like chat, or play games, etc. 

It almost reminds mind more of the online equivalent of the old watering hole, compared to your now more current video game arcade with the coffee shop at the other end of the mall...

[ ... btw way, they have a simple web page with pointers at , and the bbs itself you telnet to at

  telnet:// ]

It sort of helps make sense of the notion that the internet tends to isolate people.  This is because the separate elements of video arcade, etc have more in common with a shopping mall, than a real online community as experienced in the old BBS.


Michael Zawistowski []

I've been fond of User Friendly for years now, although I don't get over there as often as I like. Actually they are doing a book, and I think I have given them a cover blurb. I was supposed to. I hope I haven't forgotten...


link to current mail  (on the left hand side of page) has a leading period which the browser chokes on.


P.S. I have installed Win 98 SE full addition on a recently redone Win95b machine in order to get the USB stuff working that’s on the mother board.

I had to install the appropriate connectors as well since the case did not have them either. Worked well CPU is a 333MHz AMD K6-2.

Machine also dual boots into Linux which in my opinion still needs some polish before it can take over the market place on the desktop. Though it is a very functional and stable OS it is still too mind boggling for the average user to set-up. The greatest weaknesses are in the internet, network-modem access/ ISA plug and play area where you must read the fine manual prior to getting things to work. (Red Hat 5.2, 6.0, Debian 2.0, 2.1) It is do-able but a bit of a pain. Windows shines in this area particularly.

(to be fair there is a trick you can use when installing Debian linux which does a very good scripted PPP set-up for you - use the ppp/ftp? install option when asked how you will be installing But this requires that you know how to use setserial to punch an ISA modem to the correct IRQ setting so it works (with a mouse on COM1))

Of course the corollary to this is that Windows for the average user is not necessarily simple either in some other situations. Of course I also remember that just a few years ago that Windows (3.0-3.11 vintage) was also in this state where internet/ networking / hardware installs etc. were real chores requiring manual set-up.

It will be interesting to see where Linux install / plug and play will be several years from now.

te Bokkel, Derk W []

Fixed the link. Thanks. And yes, it will be interesting to see where Plug and Play goes with Linux and its derivatives.

Dr. Pournelle,

1.   The 19 July issue of Aviation Week &; Space Technology says that a proof-of-concept demonstration for a 260 meter CargoLifter will start flight testing.  This thing will carry 160MT about 10,000 KM at about 100 km/hr.

2.   If I were you, I’d put the 42nd Line on standby!



Rod McFadden

Centreville, VA

Yeah! Thanks. (The reference is to scenes in my novel FALKENBERG'S LEGION, Baen Books.)

Jerry, the first sentence of your post 7/22 @ 5:50 (over at Intellectual Capital in replies) is pure crap.  Ed Week has been running a series of articles on the evolution of education over the last 100 yrs. The public school system has gotten to where it is today as a result of incremental changes over that period, it was never “designed” at all.  Most schools in the US do a good job, some do an extremely poor job.  As in your Op. piece earlier in the year, there are a number of reforms that should be made in many of the schools.  Vouchers are not the answer.  Charter schools should be one answer to spur competition and change.  Parental involvement is important.  Increased funding alone is not the answer, but intelligent spending is, and that may require additional money to get a system/district up to an acceptable level.  As a side note, how many of the posters, do you think, even voted in the last School Board election, much less know the members, or the principles, or talk to  the teachers more than just for parent-teacher conferences?

I'm tempted merely to say "Thank you for sharing that with us" and be done with it, since you don't seem to read too closely. What I said was that if the system were designed to produce hewers of wood, drawers of water, and flippers of burgers it couldn't be improved; also that the education establishment like most other government bureaucracies exists mostly to hire and pay its employees and give them raises, without reference to the outcome. I also didn't say anything at all about vouchers other than that tax credits would be simpler and probably sufficient.

As to additional funding, that is clearly NOT the answer, and if you don't believe that, look at Kansas City. It's hard to imagine spending more to get less result. That experiment has been tried. As to school boards, with the monster districts we have what is the point? The LA School Board will let you have 3 minutes to talk to a board meeting if you schedule it 6 months in advance. Biggus Dealus.

Pure crap indeed. But then reading Education Week can do that.



You noted, while working on Princess, “That was when I found that the heat sinks on those processor chips are HOT.”

That’s why I have a PC Power &; Cooling fan on EACH processor, plus a case fan which blows across the chips (courtesy of the ATX board layout).  They are warm to the touch, but that’s about it.  Nevertheless, I do have a temperature alarm (with automatic cutoff), just in case... but I think it’s more likely to be tripped by the hard drives than by the processors, unless I lose a fan.


Troy Loney

           Email: |


Actually, while they felt hot to the touch, I have never had any problems with heat in that Compaq case, and I suspect that the case design with the vents just at the chips is more than adequate; I suspect my added chip fan was a work of supererogation. But it feels better to do it...

Bill Grigg

 Dear Jerry,

 Just a quick note, some simple observations…

 Most windows install happen with no major problems.

 Quality parts, quality software equals easy installs.

 Why should all Linux apps be free? Don’t you usually get what you pay for?

 Even the open source mavens at Mozilla admit that Linux is free only if you don’t value your time.

 If you had to build your tv set from scratch, then search the world for some channels to watch, would you bother?

 Isn’t it ironic that Windows users are starting to act like Mac heads. I have two (Wintel) computers and neither took longer than 30 minutes to unpack, plug-in and turn on! Actually that’s a lie, the first computer took 45 minutes (scanner, printer to unpack and set up too!), the second only had to be plugged into power and the network hub. I was surfing the ‘net on adsl within 15 minutes. Take that Imac!

 Linux seems to be the Jesuits of the Unix Priesthood.


 Bill Grigg

Of course I got a good deal of my education from Jesuits (although more from the Christian Brothers...)

Well, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is where it should be.  But, is it really necessary to have Ph D’s and Colonels as payload specialists? In any other service it is usually an enlisted man, and maybe supervised by a non-com, who do payload deployments. No wonder NASA can’t get costs down! Nothing exceeds like excess!  Privatization of this industry would probably put us on Mars within ten years. But then again, maybe in that case only CEO’s and Executives would be allowed to go.

George A. Laiacona III



I always thought that everyone receiving spam should reply with a nice polite no thank you note. Then the spammer might get 55 orders, but would have to dig through (and download) 100000 replies to find them.

Mike Boyle

The problem is that only the nicer Spammers actually HAVE a return address. Most don't have a real email address anywhere, and want you to call a long distance number with a fax, or do something else that will shield them from people who hate them...






Saturday July 24, 1999

This one is important.

Dr. Pournelle,


Noticed the comments on upgrading to Win98se. After doing upgrades for various clients (“...we gotta have the latest you know!”) I’ve noticed a few of things:

First, the $19.95 Win98 to Win98se updater appears more stable than the “full” update CD (which can do Win9x) when updating Win98 systems.

Second, don’t even consider a Win95 to Win98se update unless you reset the video drivers to plain vanilla VGA. Almost every Win95 machine that died installed correctly the second time when set to VGA drivers. In fact, scrubbing the hard drive and starting from scratch is best when going to Win98 from anything earlier.

Third, network drivers are the second most likely to get you. For some reason I’ve seen the IRQ’s get twisted and swapped big time during upgrades.  With “cheap” PNP network cards (both PCI and ISA) this often leads to a situation where IRQ’s get shared, you can’t use device manager to go manual and reset the IRQ as you get told the setting can’t be changed and on card settings also refuse to reset. Now, its pull all cards except video and reset the CMOS settings—fully: right back to “out of the box default.” In fact, if there is an onboard jumper to do this than that’s the best way to go.

For some machines, after upgrading, I’ve found that IRQ Steering needs to be turned off. This setting in Device Manager—System devices—PCI Bus indicates to Win98 how to arbitrate IRQ, etc. assignments: use BIOS/CMOS tables or do it yourself.

Finally, it should be noted that Pentium II/III/Celeron motherboards current to 1 year old upgrade the best while ANY Pentium board (w/Intel, AMD, Cyrix cpu) gives the most trouble (Actually, a no brainer, right, we should look to the future not the past with our upgrades. Said the support tech: “ Gee, if the software upgrade doesn’t work then I guess you need to upgrade to our new super PIII system at only $$$.”) Super7 motherboard fall in between.

The old adage of “you get what you pay for” seem to have slipped a bit, though. I’ve generally had equal problems with “expensive” as “cheap” components. Midrange $25-$75 cards are excellent and very dependable (I recommend SMC) but I wouldn’t by any under $25 net card. The exception to this is memory—as you have said NEVER BUY NO NAME! You will get burnt.  Always. If not right away, it will get you eventually and by that time you will not know its the memory acting up.

David Yerka


And if you don’t know it is memory you can use DAYS finding it out. I have managed to luck out sometimes with some of Fry’s no-name in that I buy PC-100 and when it doesn’t work right, I use it in older machines; but even that is taking a chance I shouldn’t be taking. Just the other day I found out an older Win-95 machine was having problems because of bad memory.  Don’t use no-name memory. Pay the man the extra dollars and get Crucial or Kingston. I am sure there are other good brands as well, but those are the ones I have had experience with, and I have never had a problem with either.

Net cards: I have had success with Bay Systems NetGear cards at whatever price I have had to pay for them.

Your point on setting explicitly to VGA is right on. Yank out all the old drivers before an upgrade! That includes network drivers too. If you are going to upgrade a system, go into Device Manager and clear out the old, leaving just enough to let the system see the CDROM drive. Windows 98 SE has lots of drivers and recognizes most of what you are likely to have and its drivers are better than the ones you’ve got on your system.

Thanks for the telling us about all that. For other material on upgrading SE see previous letters.

Bill Grigg said:

“I have two (Wintel) computers and neither took longer than 30 minutes to unpack, plug-in and turn on! Actually that’s a lie, the first computer took 45 minutes (scanner, printer to unpack and set up too!), the second only had to be plugged into power and the network hub. I was surfing the ‘net on adsl within 15 minutes.”

Now, that would impress me a lot if he claimed that included *installing* Windows.



Daniel C. Sobral                                    (8-DCS)


“Your usefulness to my realm ended the day you made it off Hustaing alive.”

-- Sun Tzu Liao to his ex-finacee, Isis Marik


Well, yes, but then that’s part of the point, isn’t it? When Sony came into the computer market they changed everything: these things are going to commodity prices, and that means commodity convenience to the user: profit margins on new systems are so low now that an entirely new channel of distribution is needed, and there isn’t going to be much for systems that don’t work when you plug them in. Yes, the hi-fi market may be a model for some high end users, but it’s a niche. And that’s the problem with Open Software. Is there enough volume?

Corel thinks so, and may yet show people you can buy pre-installed Linux with documents, plug it in, and turn it on. But recompiling the kernel isn’t going to sell in Peoria.

Niche markets are odd. I used to love Woolich silver-tan shirts. Wore them all the time. They were only available in a few places. Then they caught on. All the big outfits were selling them. The prices went down. Then the fad went away – and now I can’t find them. (If anyone knows where I can find silver-tan outdoors short sleeve shirts with button epaulets, about 50% cotton and 50% synthetic, please tell me; and I know about Tilley. I want the old silver-tan.)

The point is that once the commodity market takes over, profit margins fall, and if you don’t have volume you die. It happens to electronics too.

A LOT of old mail most of it unopened until today because Things Were Happening when it came in. I fear it gets short shrift, but there's nothing I can do about about that.

THIS WOULD BE a lot easier if the execrable FrontPage 2000 hadn't been "improved" over 98 such that copy and paste no longer work right. Now it pastes it in in default font whether you like it or not. If you have FP 98 working keep it. Don't even think about upgrades. For that matter I have seen NOTHING in Office 2000 other than some OUTLOOK improvements to warrant "upgrading" and in many cases the "upgrade" does harm, as with this "feature" of FrontPage 2000.



A lot of us use this for web-site enhancement:

Looks like Nicholas has discovered it too. It is very powerful stuff. There is a lot of free examples of some very cool stuff that is really quite easy to put into your html.

I only write what I cannot find pre-built and I write very little PHP.



Upgrade to Linux...the penguins are hungry!

Chris Carson aka “GreyDeth”


From:          Thomas Crook []


Subject: FrontPage vs. Dreamweaver


 Dear Jerry,


I used FrontPage for a couple of years to publish specifications and documentation for a large client/server database development I managed. I found FrontPage adequate for that medium size site with simple document layouts.


Several months ago, a friend with a computer business asked me to develop a website for his firm—nothing fancy for the first go-around—more of an on-line brochure. Unlike my previous FrontPage application, this site required accurate layout of graphical elements and a moderate amount of hand-coded HTML. I immediately ran into problems with FrontPage in this slightly more demanding application. It moved graphics around, did not maintain tables properly, and messed up hand-tweaked HTML.

 I’m not uncomfortable with HTML, but I prefer a WYSIWYG editor for speed of layout. I read every review I could find and browsed dejanews extensively. I found a strong consensus in favor of Dreamweaver. After using it for six months, I can highly recommend it. It does a good job of layout, produces clean HTML, and doesn’t stomp on hand-coded HTML or Javascript like some other editors.

 Although it might take some effort for you to convert your site to Dreamweaver, I suspect you would be happy with the result. The total conversion effort may turn out to be less than the time you’ve spent trying to make FrontPage work.


 Thomas Crook, PhD Candidate and occasional computer consultant


P.S. I just tried loading your currentmail page, the one that Visual Page won’t handle, into Dreamweaver. No problems whatsovever.

The problem is that once you have been absorbed by the Borg it's hard to get out. FrontPage does some things extremely well, and handles site management very well also. It's a devil I know. I am sure that had I started with Dreamweaver and learned about Trellix I would be better off. Sigh.


RE: Web Authoring Tools/Front Page 98-2000


I’ve been following your travails with Front Page. Like you, I love many of the features, and hate many of the impositions and limitations especially in the extensions and publishing. I still think it is the most full-featured HTML composer around, and I love the way it manages links and graphics, but I hate the excess baggage and Microsoft-specific quirks.

I manage a large corporate e-commerce site, the back-end driven by a Lotus Notes database system. We serve from Solaris, and I early on gave up on Front Page publishing. We do it the hard way, sticking with bare FTP for publshing changes manually. It means a lot of record-keeping to make things always current, but it works.

I have also tried Visual Page, HotMetalPro, and Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver is extremely powerful, but I found the interface cumbersome and counter-productive. You might want to take a look at a little package from IBM -  NetObjects TopPage. I have found it very flexible, the HTML editor is very good, and the built in FTP works fine for batch publishing. The main advantage is it produces clean, documented code, does a good job of maintaining links, and doesn’t try to play games with your site. It lacks the goodies like thumbnail generation, but helps with JavaScript and it seems to be very stable and solid. We don’t deal with huge pages of text the way you do, but at least the editor lets you type text without taking a nap between keystrokes.

Good luck with the FrontPage dilemma.

WM Scott



The next was an invited bit from Eric that came just as I was doing something else and it got lost in the shuffle. It should not have been, and it will probably be copied to a report page; for now we'll put it here with indexing.

The 3D World Flattens

 Eric Pobirs  June 24, 1999

Two years ago it was nearly a full time job trying to keep track of all the players in the 3D video processor game. It was by far the most glamorous pursuit in semiconductor design. The field is much simpler now. Several companies dropped out of the race without ever shipping a product. Others are pursuing niche sectors like integration into motherboard chipsets or have been bought by giants pursuing the same end i.e. Intel’s purchase of Chips &; Technology. . Due to the need for low cost over high performance in such designs this sector hardly figures in the race for polygonal supremacy.


In one case, Rendition, creators of the mildly successful Verite chips was purchased by memory and PC vendor Micron for no apparent good reason since nothing has been seen of Rendition’s technology since. The promising PowerVR chips from the partnership of Videologic and NEC have their latest generation delayed so many times that they effectively no longer figure into the market. The technology is used with impressive effect in Sega’s Dreamcast game console and Naomi arcade boards but the company is MIA in the PC realm.


Now the battle is for secure market channels. Traditionally, the chip companies supplied their parts to any number of competing board makers. Even after choosing a particular chip it remained for the customer to decide who offered the best package in which to buy it. Company A might have a lower price and a an attractive software bundle but Company B might have the upper in the quality of the all-important drivers. The lone standout has long been ATI Technologies. They’ve always been the exclusive source for boards based on their chips. This has given the company some advantages that kept them in the forefront of market strength despite lacking (until the recent Rage 128 generation) in sheer performance.


This lesson hasn’t been wasted on ambitious younger companies. Earlier this year, 3Dfx merged with STB in time for the combined company to be the sole source of the Voodoo3 chipset. Surging out of their long decline, S3 just announced their buyout of Diamond Multimedia, a company that has always had a highly varied line of video boards. It seems likely that once inventory and purchase commitments are out of the way Diamond will solely offer boards using S3 chips.  S3 has publicly stated that, unlike 3Dfx, they won’t cut off supplies to their OEM customers (#9, for instance), but that begs the question of how long those companies can hope to remain competitive against the combined might of S3 and Diamond.


For most of the remaining board companies this leaves Nvidia as the sole source of state-of-the-art 3D chips. 3D Labs has promised that their Permedia 3 will be a viable choice but based on past performance this seems highly unlikely, especially in the cutting edge games that define the market. Chances are several of the smaller board makers like Guillemot and Canopus will shift their focus to other opportunities like audio cards and video editing. The last of the big retail brands unjoined to a chip developer, Creative Labs, has be getting nervous about their supply situation. Is there a 3D chip design house on their shopping list?


Nvidia should be more nervous still. This trend has cost them dearly in major OEM accounts to the biggest PC vendors. Both Dell and Gateway were selling STB Velocity cards in their computers before 3Dfx made their move. They since began using Diamond’s implementation of the Nvidia TNT product but that is likely coming to a premature end, too. Nvidia is surely looking to acquire or merge with a board manufacturer. Most of the candidates are lacking in production strength and market presence, except for Creative Labs.


The question is, who will be first to say, “Shall we dance?”

Dr. Pournelle,   I have read several times in your mail section about exporting and then importing the Win95 registry to lessen the RAM impact.   Can you or one of your other readers please provide a step by step of how to do this?  I am afraid that this is one area that I do not feel confident about.  I have been unable to figure out how to do it by experimentation and have also been unable to find step by step instructions from Microsoft.   Many thanks for the last ten years that I have been reading your column in Byte and now your web site.  It is greatly appreciated!   Thank you, Scott Brasted See below.

Hello, Jerry -

(rant) arrgh! I just wrote you an email with both a feature suggestion and a link to a review of web-authoring programs. Then I realized it would probably be nicer of me to split them into two separate emails. Then I managed to clear my clipboard before I was able to paste what I’d written about web authoring into this email.... (and since I’ve recently upgraded my OS, I still haven’t re-enabled my clipboard enhancer which normally saves me from such gaffes).


I’m passing along a URL which points to the best comparison of web-editing tools I came across while choosing a package several months ago. If you only read one article to help you choose which to use, I think this would be the best use of your time.

WebMonkey is the most useful web-authoring website I’ve found; without exception, every time I have read something there, I’ve learned how to do web creation better, faster, and more easily. They cover design, editorial, and technical issues. Highly recommended.


The comparison:

To save you the suspense, they chose DreamWeaver 2.0. They also evaluated FrontPage 98, GoLive 4, Fusion 4, BBEdit 5, Allaire HomeSite 4, Drumbeat 2000, and HoTMetaL Pro 4.

Best wishes,

Dan Becker (


PS: I chose GoLive 4.0, which makes sense, as WebMonkey says “Best editor for those who fall asleep spooned with their Macs: GoLive 4.0.” I’ve used PC’s for 19 years, and Macs for 10, and my preference is Mac, though I’m quite good at using both and support both at work. Everyone I know who has tried out DreamWeaver has been quite impressed with it, and the more web-creation they do, the more impressed they are. I think you’ll find it an excellent tool. Whichever you choose, I hope your web-creation process gets much easier!


So do I.


Dear Jerry,


First off, my sympathies to you and the woes you have been suffering over Front Page. As far as WYSIWYG editors go it’s certainly not the worst and unfortunately the best still leaves something to be desired.

Your decision to go with Dreamweaver is probably the best. You might also consider looking at version 2 (although the price charged for upgrades by software companies is a huge pet peeve of mine) which is available at as a trial. It’s got a few features that are really great. I didn’t use 1.2 that much but I know that 2.0 does a nice job of doing things like checking links. Also, you should have also gotten Homesite bundled with Dreamweaver. Even though it is code based it has *excellent* tools for checking links, etc. The two products together make what is right now definitely the best tool on the market for web design. I think you mentioned a new computer as well which will definitely help. Unfortunately Dreamweaver is a bit of a memory pig.

Good luck on your web page woes. Hopefully between Dreamweaver and Homesite you’ll get a website that works the way you want it to with minimum hassle.  If I can ever offer any help just email.

Whew, now with the shop talk out of the way I’d like to invite you to do something a *lot* more fun and relaxing. I work in Dreamscape, a virtual world, as Author Events Coordinator and it would be an honour if you would consider visiting us. I’m not sure what you know about virtual worlds but they are essentially real time chat based environments but with full graphics and animation and each person is represented within the world with an avatar.

If you’d like to check us out take a look at Let me know if you’d like to pop in for a tour. I’ll arrange for a complimentary account for you and show you around in-world.

Take care,


Nicci Scheid

Author Events Coordinator



We truly have reached the point where "the internet makes everything we need to know accessible".  What I could remember was the "plus ca change" part and here's the first hit I got from HOTBOT:



1.  Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose
Today's students can't..
99%  1/31/99
See results from this site only.


Check out the link.  You'll get a giggle out of it.


Also, there was an excellent article in the Saturday paper (Toronto Star, which isn't online, so I'll type it in later) about three youngsters (two from Toronto, one from Australia) that made into such a big thing, they sold it for seven figures (they're not saying exactly how much due to nondisclosure agreements).  The main partner is 16 years old and started it when he was 13.  The second Toronto partner said if you make me a partner, I can increase the hits on your site to make more money.  They did and he did.  He is 20 years old.


Their next internet product is:


Some of the comments they made when visiting Ottawa to see the Canadian prime minister, were:


o Fail faster, succeed sooner.

o Young people don't have to think outside of the box - they don't know there is a box.

o Lai (the 20 year old) wants to set the record for the youngest and fastest company to ever go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange - three months ought to do it - and then trade it on NASDAQ.




"If bombs tomorrow," he (Furdyk, the 16 year old) says, skating around his office on a new set of inline skates, "I'm not going to cry about it."


"Other things are more important to me, like people and having lots of different experiences.  This gets boring after awhile."

In a decade, he will be 26.  By then, he hopes to have sold and be wealthy enough to retire and work as a volunteer for NASA or the SETI Institute - a non-profit organization that charts the skies looking for signs of other life in the universe.


Understanding space, now that's something worth dedicating a life to.  But governments just don't seem to get it.


"Everybody's thinking so short-term.  It seems kind of foolish they'd ignore it."


He dreams of the stars - and of unlocking their secrets, like he unlocked the secrets of the internet.


Now that for him is something more worthwhile.




These truly are exciting times.



Oshawa, Ontario


 They are certainly interesting times…






Win98 bug prevents booting

June 30, 1999


Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT)


(IDG) -- Microsoft has owned up to the latest bug in Windows 98, acknowledging a flaw in the System File Checker—a program designed, ironically, to keep a PC running smoothly—that could render the system unbootable.

According to Microsoft’s Personal Support Center Web site, the behavior occurs because of incorrect information about the source cabinet locations for some Windows 98 system files. As a result, the System File Checker cannot locate the necessary files and consequently fails to reboot.

John Schultheiss, an executive at BigFix, a software business that identifies PC issues, says that users are being encouraged by PC companies to run the System File Checker whenever possible, but should actually avoid it until the bug is corrected.

Microsoft recommended that users restart their computer with the Windows 98 start-up disk, choose Start Computer With CD-ROM Support from the Windows 98 Startup menu, and re-extract the affected file at a command prompt using the Extract.exe tool.


Roland Dobbins <>

Null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane and empty of meaning for all time.

-- Pope Innocent X, on the Treaty of Westphalia, 1648




Sunday July 25, 1999

Dear Dr. Pournelle,


I have been following the debate, and have just have had the chance to read Spinrad’s original article.  It seems to me that he got a lot more wrong than your role in a “conspiracy” to develop SDI as a means to explore space at the expense of NASA.  He claims that DoD pretty much hijacked the shuttle to launch secret military (to him, seemingly synonymous with “evil”) payloads.  I seem to remember just the opposite.  NASA did such a good job of political sabotage that there just weren’t enought alternatives and DoD was forced to use the shuttle to launch satellites which they might have prefered to lift aboard expendable LVs.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think not.

As to the rape of the Saturn V, the perpetrators of that deed should have been staked out under a launch pad, from Nixon on down.  What we could have done with it...  I am looking at a dog eared copy of FRONTIERS OF SPACE by Gatland and Bono, and remember the possibility of reusing the S-1C stage.  Economies of scale would have made the Saturn much cheaper than the shuttle.  It was also to be the basis for SASSTO, an X-project which might have given us Single Stage to Orbit in the 70s.  Alas...

A quick question.  Do you know who it was who saved a copy of the blueprints of the F-1 rocket engine and where those blueprints are today?  I still have hopes that Someone can make use of them.


Frank Luxem

All true. I have been told the names of the people who saved the Saturn plans by unauthorized removal of copies destined for destruction, but I don't recall them, and probably it is no favor to them to name them.

What I’ve failed to understand since even before the Reagan era is the loud emphasis on ballistic missile systems and defense against same, unless such emphasis is a deliberate smokescreen in the interests of U.S. defense.  It seems to me that it would be much simpler and stealthier for a hostile organization to place fission or fusion bombs at their targets by means OTHER than by ballistic missile.

I suppose that with a nation-wide grid of custom chemical sniffers (laser-based remote sensing, well-trained dogs, etc) and gamma-ray detectors, one might ferret out attempts at smuggling plutonium, or devices with plutonium, but I’ve never heard of anything being deployed on the scale that would be needed at all U.S. borders and points of entry to provide a reasonably solid barrier.  Making such a deployment more difficult, a hostile organization could very likely be domestic in origin  as was the case with the Oklahoma City bombing.

If I’m having a stupid attack in thinking this way, I would hope someone would be kind enough to enlighten with facts and figures to the contrary.

Chris Pierik

Network Assistant

Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca &; Fischer LLP

1801 Century Park West

Los Angeles, CA 90067-6406


 “My’s full of spam”

Come now. Smuggling in nuclear weapons makes for a good story, but that's not quite what the US was threatened with. The USSR had thousands of weapons targeted at us, and the Chinese claim 12 now. Let me ask something: you say you fail to understand. Is this because you have not read the relevant analyses/ Do you think you are the first person to think of this?

The USSR was Bulgaria with missiles. The missiles and warheads made them the Second World, a Superpower. Without them? They still have the warheads, but somehow...

I have often wondered just how serious people are who ask this question.

Dear Jerry,

 Your correspondent who asked about exporting the registry might like to look at the


which details the procedure.

David Cefai


Hi Jerry

Thought I’d drop a line to tell you about my Museum of Soviet Calculators.  I try to make it an interesting read, and have spent several years documenting every known soviet electronic and electromechanical calculator.  There’s nearly 150 of them on-site, mostly with pictures.  Many of these machines stole ideas from the west, but a significant number exhibit weird and wonderful designs and technology that make them quite alien to our western eyes.  And, of course, hunting for them is lots of fun.  I’m in Australia myself, but find that the ‘net removes the tyrrany of distance.   I do hope you take the time to visit;  if you’re interested in old hardware - and in particular strange and different ways of doing things, you’ll enjoy yourself.

The URL is



Hah! Fascinating! Thanks.


The Publisher of Soldier of Fortune (Col Bob Brown) describes how to

build our Imperial Marines...jim dodd

Haven't seen this but I'll have a look. Brown is always interesting and knows his subject. Incidentally, the Roman Imperial Marines are a force without a history: they were so successful that you have to dig to find out they existed. After Pompey the Great and later his son suppressed the pirates, the Roman Navy and Marines kept the Med safe and secure for centuries, operated search and rescue, and generally enforced Roman peace along the littoral. After Actium there were few actual battles. No one to fight.

Dear Jerry,


I, too, have long suffered from “Windows Arthritis” with NT 4.0/SP5 &; 64MB memory - until I read Brian Livingston’s 3 articles (URLs below) in _Infoworld on that subject. I took his advice to heart (nothig to lose, at that point), and religiously followed his instructions insofar as they applied to NT 4.0. The RegClean routine didn’t seem to do very much - but then most of my registry is empty subdirectories; even ones that should contain data. HOWEVER: I downloaded MemTurbo Eval copy from, installed it, and ran it. IMMEDIATE results - like a dose of salts! MemTurbo is a garbage collection utility that runs constantly in the background, tidying up after such litterbugs as WinWeird, etc., much as the old Commodore/Amiga systems did. Why MS never saw fit to include garbage collection among all the other less relevant bells &; whistles is beyond me. I suppose because their apps are designed to preempt and keep available memory, so they have no problem with garbage. Meanwhile available memory gets chewed up, and we experience Windows Arthritis. Mine was so bad that if I left my desk at 2300, with _nothing_ running, by the time I would return at 0800 there would be a big fright box announcing “LOW MEMORY! shut down some apps.” I didn’t _have_ any apps to shut down! Gods only know what the hell was chewing up 264MB total RAM &; Virtual memory.Then I would power down &; reboot, and NT would trundle along for another 3-4 hours, when I would have to again reboot.

Monday night I left the box on, with MemTurbo running. At 0000 13 July it showed 25 MB (40%) free RAM, 164 MB (81%) free page file. When I returned the next morning, it showed 41 MB (65%) free RAM, and 159 MB (78%) free page file.I was amazed and delighted. This was the first time EVER that I had more memory available than when I left the machine. And no ‘LOW MEMORY!” fright box. MemTurbo cured my Windows Arthritis. MAybe it will help yours. It runs equally well on W98 and W2Kb3, also, with no apparent effect on my normal operations

First of Three articles on Windows Arthritis: (06.21.99)

Second: (06.28.99)

Third: (07.05.99)

Fourth: (07.12.99)

Another Infoworld article describing a cure for bad results of combining IE, Palm, and W2K. Sonds similar to some problems you have described:

Also, an article from PC World describing some commercial tune-up utilities:,1510,9212,00.html

_Basta por hoy!_

With my best regards,



[J.H. Ricketson in San Pablo]

Livingston is always worth attention. I have recommended Memturbo here before, and continue to do so. Well worth the effort. 

Hi Jerry I have a question which I hope will not produce horrible, dire effects on the rest of your readers, but do you ever test out any products besides Microsoft? In particular, I wondered if you were going to do any testing with Corel's new Wordperfect Suite? Being a recent Corel stockholder, until I actually sold at a profit!, I would like to find out how users like the product from someone besides Corel itself! For the record, my computer came loaded with Windows 95 and I paid extra, through the nose I may add, for the Word/Excel/Powerpoint package because I thought I needed it to be compatible with the letters and spreadsheets my workplace was using. If I had to do it over again, I definately would go with Wordperfect, because I don't use the programs except to type occasional letters and do simple spreadsheets! Until next time, George

I have the feeling I have answered this before. I do lots of stuff other than Microsoft, and I am waiting for Corel to get their Suite to Linux so we can look at the whole thing as an alternative to MS Office and Windows.

You get a lot with Office 97, but if you don't use it for anything but letters, Word Perfect certainly works and is certainly cheaper.

I use Word because my collaborators do, and most editors accept WORD documents.






Chaos Manor home

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

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