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Mail July 26 - August 1, 1999


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The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


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.

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

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

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

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

Current Mail



Monday July 26, 1999

Gee Jerry, I thought you would be one of the people who would have a good idea of what the world would look like if only one company could be used to get to the Internet.  But I guess you want Microsoft to run our access to the Net...too bad, the Net was probably the last great democracy, but under MS it is going to be the world’s first digital dictatorship..

“Evil flourishes when good men do nothing” Cameron Huff.

Cameron Huff []

This is one of many responses to the headline of the current BYTE column. I can only conclude that someone is passing around the headline and people are commenting without reading the column. I don't retract a word, but clearly I don't actually want Netscape to die: but that hardly makes them immune to criticism, either. 

What I really don't want is companies getting too big for their britches so that they can do as they like and no one calls them on it. Netscape gave me good reason to be unhappy, as detailed in the column, and the problems went away when I used Startup Manager  to eliminate some of what Netscape set up without my knowledge or consent. You may like the little AOL man, but I don't. Among other things.

I just read your article where you simply stated that Netscape should die, primarily because NT blows up.  shouldn’t be the other way around?  IMHO NT blows up quite easily, so perhaps it is not just Netscape’s fault or (enter pretty much any other software vendor here)’s fault.  Have you ever considered that the OS itself is prone to exploding from time to time?

 David O. Trevino

Network Manager

Big-D Construction Corp.

Don’t get MAD, get NDS!

Another example. I have quite a few more. And if NT 4 blows up often, it's because there is something wrong with the installation. I had Mr. Dobbins over here all day one day (God knows what he would have billed me if he'd been here as a consultant and not as a friend) and he showed me things I never knew. Now if the complaint is that Microsoft makes it a bit hard to find some stuff, and you must read all the various announcements and get the upgrades and even follow the professional discussions in closed newsgroups -- that it takes some heavy duty professionalism to make NT work in big networked settings -- I agree. it could be a lot easier. But then that is true of OS/2, and very true of UNIX. Professional OS work is hard work which is why people like Dobbins and my son get paid so much to know how to make it work...

Concerning your experiences with RealPlayer crashing WinNt: how interesting.  I had a similar problem when I recently upgraded my WinAmp MP3 player.  In my particular situation, the error seemed to be a combination of WinAmp and IE5, and I found that if I was very persistent, I could occasionally use the keyboard to get the task manager visible for a few seconds.  The problem appeared to go away after I disabled WinAmp as the default audio CD player.  I've also found that some of these audio/video programs have problems when running in non-administrator mode on WinNT.  It's as if they were written for Win9x and then ported to NT.  In one specific case with MusicMatch Jukebox, the code bombed due to WinNT's security settings for registry keys.  I'm wondering if this is the root of the problem you experienced.   -- Chad Cloman

Could be. Haven't tried that. Thanks!



Jerry, I saw in your Byte column that you upgraded a ‘98 Beta to SE.  Did you have to go for the full-bore $100 SE --- or did you upgrade with the $20 version?

If you upgraded from the $20 version—did your Microsoft nag-screen that interrupts boot (‘Your beta software has expired...) go away?

Yes, I am currently running the have definite monetary interest in your answer.  Thank you, sir...and just what IS going on with SciFi today?

YES: the nag screen goes away with either upgrade, and the $20 upgrade works fine; I even installed that over the original Beta without problems, although in general that's not a good practice; better to reinstall from scratch. But in fact I have had no difficulties putting the release product in over a Beta final.

From a reliable source:

---------------------- Forwarded by Mike Juergens

07/26/99 02:11 PM


To:             IS Team


Subject:      Just A Virus Alert


New virus - WOBBLER.  It will arrive on

e-mail titled CALIFORNIA. IBM and AOL have announced that it is very powerful, more so than Melissa, there is no remedy.  It will DESTROY all your information on the hard drive and also destroys Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.  Do not open anything with this title and please pass this message on to all your contacts and anyone who uses your e-mail facility.


Symantec's web site ( lists the "Wobbler virus" as a hoax.  (Of course, I guess in principle that could change anytime someone wanted to change it badly enough.)
Bob Carrico



Unfortunately, your “reliable source” has been snookered.  “Wobbler” is a hoax.

See (Wobbler is dated June 6th).


Hey Jerry,


I hope everything is going well for you...

Just wanted to drop you a few comments on your article “Netscape should die...” posted on the Byte web site.  First you should probably look at more serious OS to do your work than WindowsNT!  There are many choices these days...

Don’t like the Netscape smart thnigy?  Have you ever tried to use Micro$oft WindowsUpdate?  Baaahhh!  What a lost of time!  Personaly I think software companies like Microsoft and Netscape should give the users a way to download the files without having to go thru the hasle of those “smart thingy” that are going to make us dumb!  You know what I’m talking about... It’s much easier to get the file on your HD and click on it to install the software, than letting their web site try to figure out our computers and messing up everything plus lose our time.  But you know what?  In the Linux world, none of those “smart thingy” are available yet!  So we are safe from getting dumb!  At least for a while...

As always I enjoy reading your article... Keep up the good work!

Regards, Sylvain Lavoie

icq: 4223658 (TurboSonic)

Hi Jerry
I thought you may be interested in this. This week's Barron's, issue date July 26, 1999, has an editorial commentary on page 51 by Thomas G Donlan called "TAKING A GIANT STEP: How about letting markets rule space exploration?" Donlan's premise is that the financial markets have shown that they are flush with cash and willing to take substantial risks if there is a promise of substantial rewards (witness the prices on internet stocks). The fact that Donlan does not make this point until the end of the article is his shortfall, because most people like me that scan a huge amount of information each week usually will not bother to read that far; time is precious and info is copious. However, the article is a good, quick historical summary of the current dilemma of space exploration and its problems. Here are some quotes from the article.
   Donlan starts with the space plan of the '60's, noting "There was a dream...mankind would move out into space, living in orbital habitats, working in space-based industries, vacationing in zero gravity hotels...The plan and the dream have been shattered," due to budget cuts and the bloated space shuttle eating up funds for other projects. He continues, "Starting in 1990, a little of the money spent on the strategic defense initiative went to explore the chances for cheap access to space. McDonnell Douglas won a contract to build a test vehicle," which was the Delta Clipper SSTO that did not need anything like the shuttle's expendable fuel tank.
   Donlan further notes, "In the Clinton administration, NASA...was talking about doing all its jobs 'faster, cheaper, better'...NASA put plenty of money where its mouth was, but it awarded the contract for its SSTO prototype, dubbed X-33, to Lockheed Martin, which offered a design most similar to the space shuttle."  Hmmm.... "To nobody's surprise,...the Lockheed X-33 has been plagued by engineering problems...more discouragingly, there appears to be little enthusiasm for a full-scale version based on the X-33. (Lockheed planned to) finance it with private venture capital, (but) has been unable to sign up investors. The company says it won't build the (X-33) without partners, and acknowledges that may mean it won't be built at all...NASA and Lockheed are now considering an X-33B project...That will keep their engineers employed, but it won't get mankind into space faster, cheaper, or better."
   Here, Donlan gets into the point of his essay, saying, "There is - or might be - an alternative. At least four small companies...are developing prototypes of SSTO ships...But Kistler Aerospace, Rotary Rocket, Pioneer Spaceplane, and Universal Space Lines all...are underfunded and their potential customers are unwilling or unable to help them succeed...What's worse, the federal government, in the person of NASA, appears to be competing with them. (NASA administrator Daniel Goldin) says NASA is doing everything it can to assist the emerging rocket companies."
BUT, Donlan says, (and here I agree with him) "NASA should keep its distance from the private companies, lest it love them to death. They might think they need financial help, but what they really need is the discipline of the marketplace...Mankind will go to space when a substantial number of people see opportunities for profit and not before. Government subsidies will just distort the picture."
  Whew, ok, enough with the quoting. But speaking as someone who has one foot in science (Bachelor's degree in physics and a continuing interest in anything science) and another foot in business (10 years with a large financial company, and managing my investment portfolio since disability forced my early retirement) I can see Donlan's point. In fact I noted the same myself a long time ago. The primary problem is that you have hard-core science and space fans on one hand, the dreamers, the futurists... and the hard-core business people on the other, and partly speaking as one of them, they don't give a shit about anything but profits, because that is what funnels down to their pocket, and that's all that matters. So, one isn't going to bring the two together until a space lover can come up with a good, dollars and cents business plan, showing that a massive infusion of capital by the investors will yield a risk adjusted return for them in the future...say 5 to 10 years. And by risk adjusted, I mean you want me to invest 1,000 dollars and wait ten years for a return on my money, it better pay off a hell of a lot more than if you wanted me to invest 1,000 dollars now and wait only 6 months or a year for a return on my money. And to date, Jerry, I have not seen or heard of any business plans that will satisfy the investors.
Anyway, you (or any interested readers) can check the article out in Barron's. They may be able to get a copy of the article at, but I'm not sure, I haven't checked there myself.
Until next time Jerry, take care.


The Wall Street Journal had an editorial today, by Doug Bandow, outlining the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) program to provide independent experts to federal judges. The AAAS started a five-year pilot project to make available to judges independent scientists to aid the court in understanding complex technology (I thought it was all complex if you didn’t understand it). There are going to be multiple panels:

One to set policies and procedures

A second to develop a process to screen potential experts

Then multiple groups to do the grunt work

Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction to help stop poor judgments such as the silicone-breast implant settlement which was more about lawyers, money and junk science then about helping women with real health problems.




Wall Street Journal

26 July 1999 - pp A23

Arthur Kantrowitz has spent a good part of his life trying to get some kind of science sense into the courts. Let's hope something comes of it all, but I fear that lawyers will continue to try to win cases without regard to merit, and if that needs junk science, they'll continue to bamboozle juries with junk science. But perhaps I am unduly cynical.

Dr. Pournelle:

This is the first time I’ve written to you because, quite frankly, even when I disagree with you, you are better informed.  Which makes me wonder....

Anyways, let me be the ten millionth person to tell you that Wobbler is a myth.  I got my information from the Computer Virus Myths Home Page,


Of course, one of the giveaways is that the message tells you to look for a certain subject line to avoid, and not to open the message at all.  Opening messages is harmless—it’s still attachments that you need avoid.


P.S.  Thank you for all the years of reading.  I practically survived high school by dint of Pournelle/Niven books.  Can’t wait for the new one!


Mark Morgan

DISCLAIMER: All thoughts and ideas put forth in this communication are sole property of the voices in my head. © 1999 - “The Voices” ™ All rights reserved.

Actually, I read that as meaning that one should not open any attachment, as for example a Word document. That is what is dangerous. As to opening mail you've been warned against, agreed, I don't know how to transmit a virus that way; on the other hand, I don't know all the tricks a clever programmer can do, or all the holes in all the operating systems. 

But one certainly should NOT open documents from unknown sources, at least not in WORD. You can safely open them in WORDPAD, which is too stupid to be able to execute the clever virus programs. I wish I'd done that when I got bit by Melissa....

Thanks for all the kind words.

Metrowerks has just released Codewarrior Pro 5 for Linux.  This is a lovely integrated development environment for C++ and Java on the Mac that had previously been ported to a number of platforms, including Windows and Solaris.  For an interesting comparison of current C++ compilers, see <> (Borland is similar to MSVC). I teach standard C++, so this sort of thing matters to me.

Harry Erwin, Internet:,

Web Page:

PhD candidate in computational neuroscience (how bats capture insects)

(defending 24 September)

Adjunct Professor of Computer Science

Senior Software Analyst supporting the FAA

Thanks, and good luck on your defense. I was terrified at mine.


I recently asked for suggestions on what to do about Spam. Here are some replies, and THANKS!


Here’s a web form to send mail to the California AG:

The general site is at:

It has been my experience that spam per se isn’t illegal in most states (though I’m not sure if this is true in California), and it is unlikely that the AG will do anything unless the spammer’s message is pushing some illegal good (such as pyramid scams).

However, you can complain to their ISP and get the spammer kicked off their system. One web site you can use to send in a report is:

Spamcop will ask a few questions and set you up with a custom URL (including your ID number, and from on then you’ll be able to send reports to the spammer’s ISP automatically once you paste the message (with full headers) onto that page, fropm which spamcop will automatically decipher the culprit’s real ISP.

Another good anti-spam site is:

Using this, you can enter a spammer’s domain and find out who their uplines and domain servers are registered to. That way you can complain to all the ISP’s involved. Personally, I complain to “” (and “” unless its one of the big providers (AOL, Earthlink, etc.) that I know has an abuse address), and the Administrative and Technical contacts listed in Sam Spade for the ISP that sent the message and all their uplines, the ISP for any of the URLs touted in the message and all their uplines, and the ISP for the “remove” message and all THEIR uplines. This may be overkill, but it definately informs everyone who needs to be informed in one fell swoop. And frankly, if I were an ISP, I would want to know darn quick who was trying to ruin my business through spamming.

Also, whenever I get a “pump and dump” stock scam tout, I copy my complaint to in addition to the above. (Note a complaint link, but a good site to read about pump and dump schemes and other stinky stocks is .)

Finally, anytime I get a pyramid scam in the mail (especially the “buy these four reports” variety), I copy the following feds on my complaint:,,,, (However, those are somewhat old, and I haven’t received any replies from any of them recently. On the other hand, they don’t bounce either...)

Anyway, hope all this helps, and I look forward to The Burning City. Cheers!

·        Lawrence Person

Nova Express Web Site:

Lame Excuse Books inventory now online at



Send it to Algore, after all he invented the internet.

I get calls (land line)from spammers saying they have something to do with my Capitol One Bank Visa.

I got calls two days in a row, and called Capitol One to complain about it. She said she would remove me from the list, but it would take 6-8 weeks. I said that was unacceptable. She said there were “several hundred” “business Partners”.

They sell their list to “hundreds” of spammers. They probably get a piece of the action if we should happen to buy something, and get the credit card charges to boot. There should be a law.

Mike Boyle

I am usually terrified of propositions that begin "there ought to be a law" since we don't do much of a job of enforcing the ones we have. "What did you do with the last laws we gave you...?" 


I too am inundated with spam.  However rather than cc your state Attorney General, you might want to try my approach:

Any spammer who actually wants to get money from his spam, has to provide a snailmail address to which fools can send a check. 

When I get “I made $1,000,000,000,000 last month!” spams, I search for a postal address in the message body.  If I find one, I search out the email address for that state’s TAXING agency on the web. They almost always have an email address.  Sometimes they even have one for spam, and or a pointer to a state agency that handles wire/mail/internet fraud.  I then email the state IRS a copy of the message with the question, “Are they paying taxes on this income?”

As BADLY as the states want to tax e-commerce, I think your most productive avenue for fighting spam is to sic the tax collectors on the spammers.  I can’t claim credit for this idea, but I think it’s a good one.

Chris Morton -

Rocky River, OH

And it may even do some good. Thanks!


Recently in view you said:

>DOES anyone know of an address to send copies of spam to the State

>of California, say to Consumer Frauds or some such? I’ll make a

>macro and do it. I am getting weary of the “responsible emails”

>that in fact don’t have any way to get you off their list. For

>that matter is there an FCC mailing address? Maybe we all ought

>to send copies of this stuff to various Federal agencies.

> Algore? There has to be a way to annoy someone

>with power to get them to make the spammers stop...


Looks like Califormnia does not yet have a “department of spam”, but they have this link:

which is their department of consumer affairs referral list

I use a little program called “Bounce Spam” that fakes a bad email address response to the spammer... most spammers collect these, and then remove them from their mailing lists without further inspection.

It fakes the mail headers, etc. and seems to do a nicer job then sending a “Stop Now” message that just tells them that this is a real email address.

you do have to copy and paste in the full text (using the usual windows hotkeys) of the original message, but there may be away to set it up somehow as a macro if i were a programmer, etc...

you can get it from fileword (version 1.8) at:,1458,5402,00.html

and from  ZDNET (version 1.7) at:;b=


Michael Zawistowski

Microsoft slogan:

Where do you want to go to day?

Japanese translation:

Where do you want to get taken today?



 You have expressed an interest in getting rid of Spam.  The link below describes a company with a new approach to ending Spam.  One thing that surprises me is your belief that the government should do something.  I believe that getting the government involved in something like this would be a disaster.  This could easily lead to government control of any large mailing list.  I could see the government requiring you to register your Chaos Manor mailing list with the Anti-Spam department and keeping a certificate on file showing that all listee’s have agreed to accept your e-mail.  Lets be careful before e-mail works as effectively as the post office.

Mike Plaster

I may have taken leave of my senses. It's certainly true that wishing the government's intervention is at best a double edged sword. Not that I am one of those libertarians who thinks there is no need for government: I know very well that without a fairly powerful government things would come apart. People have a natural tendency to try to get away with things they know they shouldn't do. At the same time, one does not lightly expand the SCOPE of government or invite it into places it has not yet established dominion over.

But your point is well taken.

For more on spam see also here.







Tuesday, July 27, 1999

Hi Jerry,   <<I can still run Real Player when I want to, so precisely what Real Jukebox and Real Player thought they were doing running on startup, I don't know. I can only tell you that running them on startup can blow up the system, and that's a problem I don't need.>>   FWIW, we've had the same problem with the RA upgrade on Win98 and Win982E boxes.  After running some random amount of time (generally 2 or 3 days), system resources get zapped.  Disabling Real Jukebox and Real Player so that they do not start and do not show in systray seems to solve the problem.  And, as you say, the programs are always there when needed   Keep up the great work ... always enjoy your columns.   Mark Beckham マーク·ベッカム

OK, that was my experience too. Thanks.

Hello Jerry,


I just wanted to add a remark that the power down problems with PCs are not all on the Wintel platform.

An early problem with the Mac OS 8 operating system would cause the machine to power down or put the processor to sleep. The problem was that the system would then often not want to wake up and would require a hard boot. During this process the OS would sometimes become lobotomized and give the question mark of death (kind of like NT’s blue screen of death.) and the OS would have to be restored. The problems would go away if you just turned the seep mode off. I figure the Mac guys have prob.  fixed this by now but I always turn the sleep mode off during installation  even now with OS 8.6 so I couldn’t say.

It only takes one time.

Sounds similar to your adventures, no?

In any event:

I find the sleep function as useless as you do.


Right on. Thanks.


If you copy the win98 se cabs to a separate directory (ie c:\machine instead of c:\windows) you can delete a bothersome windows with deltree c:\windows and reload from c:\machine.  Remember there is nothing like a clean win install.


 Phil Holmes []

All true, but I remember Windows/Options/Cabs and I can erase all but that. Still, you have a point. Thanks.

You wrote in techweb that Netscape should die because of the fact that it blew up NT when you were trying to upgrade it using the Smart Update feature.  My question to you is:  What the hell were you thinking?  You look like you’re quite a moron!  Why didn’t you just go to and download the entire 4.6 professional install?  Was that too hard?  Too much typing for your weak little hand?  There is nothing wrong with the Real Player startup stuff as long as you have the resources to run it.  Also, you didn’t need some lame ass program to get it out of startup.  All you need to do is navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENT_VERSION\RUN or RUN SERVICES 

another place to look is:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENT_VERSION\RUN or RUN SERVICES this is very simple and it shouldn’t require so much pouting on your part.  Also, what could you be possibly running that would take up so many resources on a dual-processor machine that it would screw it up?  How much RAM do you have?  1 byte?  You need to get with the program and quit griping.  It sounds like you don’t know anything about computers and so you shouldn’t write about them if you’re too lame.


 The Erazer []


Get Free Email and Do More On The Web. Visit

Golly. I can only be comforted by the fact that I am not alone in having had the problems despite my great deficiencies in understanding. In any event, thank you for sharing that with us.


Jerry Pournelle

  In the 7/26/99 column you complain, rightly, about the maze Netscape makes you navigate in order to obtain their software, and about the agony of their Smart Update process the answer is twofold:

o don’t use Smart Update - just install the new versions wholesale

o don’t get their stuff via http but rather via ftp, e.g.: much faster and easier, esp. if you use one of the nice ftp client pkgs.

I use AbsoluteFtp from, mainly because I was already using their excellent telnet/ssh software, CRT  and SecureCRT

 btw, I had lots of trouble with RealPlayer on NT as well.

All of a sudden I’d notice that it was using 100% of one CPU (I have a dual PII setup) finally I just uninstalled it altogether this was after deleting the startup process related to RealPlayer, I think

 --  John A. Turner, Ph.D.                Senior Research Associate Blue Sky Studios            One South Road, Harrison, NY 10528 Phone: (914) 381-8400      

 Info on Blue Sky’s fully computer-generated film _Bunny_, winner of the 1998 Academy Award in the Short Animated Film category:

Thanks. That has got to have been one of the oddest format messages I ever got; how did you DO it? But it's good information, so thanks.



Thanks for your article on Real Player problems. Like you, I have an NT machine that I use for my basic communication at work. I downloaded the  latest version of Real Player about 6 weeks ago and my NT 4.0 systems  started acting funny. It was erratic and got progressively worse. I looked for any other possible cause and finally wound up re-formatting and re-building NT. This time I did not download Real Player  (EVEN THOUGH I PAID FOR A LICENSE) and the system is fine. I am not enough of a computer expert to trace the cause precisely, so I welcomed your corroboration.

It’s a shame because I enjoed following the Microsoft trial on Real Video.  Watching Bill Gates stammer through his failing memory made me feel better about my own aging memory, but that’s another story ...

Right now I am building a second machine from scrounged parts that I will just use for fun. I will download Real Player there and, in the words of Bill Cosby, “hope the plane don’t crash.”


Alan R. Mattson

I haven't had any problems running Real Player so long as it and Real Jukebox don't run on startup. I don't know why; those who purport to know prefer to send insults rather than information. Of course that's much easier to do. Anyway, I keep Real Player available for listening to techweb and such like. Thanks.

As a metaphore “wrapped around the axle” had a distinct flavor welcome in the higher tech world of computing. I’m borrowing it :)

I went to the Netscape site in question to download version 4.61 and noticed the link to do so was right under the smart update button. And the download address so the rest of your readers don’t have to wade through all the commercials is:

If you scroll down a little you can get the 128 bit encryption version, the one the gubbermint down want the world to have.

Also the Wobbler Virus is a hoax so you’ll want to update the web page to reflect that as well.

No need to thank me. I do this so you don’t have to.

“Netscape must die” ? Ok, you didn’t do the headline but it was your opening sentence. I can’t say I’ve experienced smart update since I usually download the whole thing, sometimes by clicking on the link right below the smart update button. That way I can migrate it over the network or burn it cdr. No need to throw stones just because you got some G2 gravel in your gearbox.

Best Regards;


Wasn't a very large stone. And that headline does seem to have got some attention, anyway...

thanks. Glad others are doing odd things so I don't have to.

Jerry -

I read the various emails you received regarding the SPAM problem, and I thought I would add my .02:

First, I primarily do what Lawrence Person recommends - that is, when I get a spam message I look at the internet headers in Outlook and determine the IP address (usually the domain name is forged) where the spam originated.

9 times out of ten, it originates from one of the big backbone providers that also have dial-up internet service: PSI, Sprint, GTE, etc.  All of these companies have an email address “”.  I copy the Internet headers, paste those into a forward message, and send it off.

In many cases, _especially_ with PSI, the offending spammer’s account is closed within the hour.  Your mileage may vary.

Of course, this requires a lot of time that most people don’t have.

My second and more enjoyable option starts when I get a spam mail that has a toll-free number in the email.  I’ve set up a rule in Outlook to flag any messages that contain the numbers 800, 888 or 877.

I have an extra PC and an old 28.8 modem sitting here at work, and about once a week I walk up to the PC, fire up an old DOS comm program (remember ProComm?) and give it a list of toll-free numbers to dial.  The redial is set to go off every minute, and the numbers rotate about every 6 hours through the use of a script.

The great thing about this is that the people on the other end have to PAY for those toll-free calls.  With any luck, their high phone bills will bankrupt the buggers.

If we had enough people doing this... well maybe that would make a difference.  Maybe not.  It sure gives me some great personal satisfaction.

Roger Weeks

But you want to be VERY careful. Some of those look like toll-free and are not, and at least one spammer had a "remove from this list" phone number in a country that charges $24 a minute! Which the phone company will bill to you. So be careful.

Such people have in my judgment removed themselves from any protection but the law: they have no ethical or moral rights of any kind. Actually that's  an extreme judgment that I don't really mean, but it's a very strong temptation anyway.

Re the Wobbler Hoax:

 Apologies to you and your readers.  I remain a reliable source in that I didn’t and won’t say anything on line that I don’t believe to be true.


Precisely. And I would rather warn people and find that needless than fail to send out a warning; I was burned badly enough on Melissa to pay attention.

Your recent mention of reading Sir Walter Scott's "Kenilworth" gave me pause.  I subscribe to the The Library of America and recently read their volume entitled "Mississippi Writings:" a compilation of Mark Twain's books on the subject.

Although I enjoyed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi, my favorite was the long neglected Pudd'nhead Wilson.  Of course, I had read the first two in school and they were just as good the second time, despite their use of the non-pc "n" word.  (in fact, when I was in Hannibal a few years ago, I noticed that "Nigger Jim" on the historical marker by the river was altered to read "----- Jim" -- the offending word plastered over to protect the easily offended).

Given our "modern" sensibilities, I can see why Pudd'nhead Wilson might be shunned since its plot hinges on a black/white mix-up -- kind of a racial Prince and the Pauper.  Nevertheless, it is one of the earliest American works I've read that uses science (finger prints) to resolve a criminal case -- kind of a rural Law and Order -- and it's short and to the point.


There are, alas, many works today forbidden by the Politically Correct madness, which I hope eventually will go away. I understand that Huckleberry Finn is now forbidden because it is supposed to have in it "hate words" which it certainly does; apparently the fact that it is one of the few genuine American masterpieces is no longer important. Pity, but I suppose to be expected in these times.





Wednesday July 28, 1999

You may already know: the Janissaries SERIES of fonts are at       but what a nice surprise for a fan!

(Name withheld by request.)

Subject: NT Should Die!

I say it after administering NT for 1 year (and Unix for 7), finding a lot of clever little anti-netscape tricks, such as disappearing bookmarks which i actually witnessed on  ntexplorer as the file auto-deleted, and LOTS of memory leaks (microsoft “engineers” never could me a straight answer). I wonder what’s hidden in that source code, but we can’t possibly blame MS for these problems. Service pack 4? maybe we should call it a Major-patch #4, but as an admission that it is a crappy single user OS, that may not be good marketing, which is about all microsoft is good for. Unix has been a lot easier to administer and true total-cost  has always been cheaper when you take into account Basic (email ;) NT add-ons. Hopefully LINUX will succeed where other Unix OS’ failed and with enough momentum, maybe we’ll see office apps ported or written for it, and then users may actually enjoy a solid working OS. I can feel microsoft sweating.

Nihad Shuaib, Unix SA

Goldman Sachs

[capitalizations and spellings unchanged from original; JEP]

Well, that is certainly a view. As Mr. Dobbins points out, many NT Administrators seem less than anxious to review all the available information flowing from Microsoft, although they will go to extraordinarily lengths to find new wrinkles and old bug fixes to UNIX and Linux.

I don't recall ever saying I thought NT was perfect. I do think the average user finds it a lot easier to get work done with NT than with UNIX unless there is a resident wizard, and that has been the case for decades; for long enough that one wonders whether the obscurantism of UNIX is simply impossible to overcome, or that those who understand it have a vested interested in keeping up the requirement for a resident wizard to make it useful? I do know that I have been promised user friendly shells for UNIX since 1979, and I haven't found one yet. Perhaps this time for sure.

In any event, I certainly would not undertake installing NT in a large office setting without an administrator who didn't hate the system and wish I had installed something else. Perhaps the solution is not to use NT at all; but in any event, I would think it better to have administrators working in the systems they prefer.

Incidentally, while my servers continue to run on NT 4 SP 4 with Y2K fix, I am using Windows 2000 for this workstation, and so far it seems not to have the memory leaks that plagued me about NT 4 (and which I wrote about several times). The best remedy for the memory leaks is that memturbo program I have mentioned before.

Dr. Pournelle,

I do not use Netscape. I hate Netscape because I have had a few problems with it, primarily with trying to make practical changes to the settings. I liked Mosaic, but it was ruined. Now I use Explorer, because I figure I need to use what comes with the OS to better serve my clients- I can’t answer questions on a subject I don’t know about. The Boss uses Netscape, however.  He needs to reboot occasionally because it corrupts the registry, and he can’t add new software or make registry changes without playing with registry copies and multiple reboots. I am waiting for him to throw the PC out the window, because he gets pretty mad at Netscape.  Does Netscape need to die? As it is, yes. (And take some of those fanatics with it!)

Should Netscape go away? No. Fix it, be better, and move on.  I believe the problems lie primarily with Microsoft, but Netscape shares some of the blame.

Just because processors are faster and memory is cheap and we have large HDD’s doesn’t mean we want bloated code and inefficient programs- as you well know. I look bad in the customers’ eyes when even I can’t get things to run, and I can see the frustration as they pay me to watch Windows reboot and try to reload a program that won’t play nice.  I have fewer troubles with NT, but I still have them.

Trouble shooting a Mac is an exercise in futility.  Linux (XWindow specifically) is a pain to configure with a lot of hardware but the most popular (not necessarily the least expensive).

They all have problems. Lets take off our rosy glasses and look at this industry again.


George A. Laiacona III <> “Megalomania is it’s own reward.”

·        Lord Barons

“How should I have known he wasn’t any good? He said he was equally skilled with all weapons.”

·        Louis Anvil

Thank you. Agreed, Netscape should be repaired and continue to compete with Microsoft. I use both, although Internet Explorer 5 is now my default browser; I got sick of the popup secondary windows AOL/Netscape seems to delight in, advertisements that are separate processes, separate windows, shouting at me with moving advertisements unrelated to what I was looking for on the web. IE sometimes does that but seems to do so less frequently and with less use of resources than Netscape.

I do not like companies starting processes I didn't ask for. It is a bit frightening to see a window I did not open with moving advertisements in it, spawned off because I looked at something on the web. It uses resources (with Windows 2000 and lots of memory that is no longer a problem but it has been ); and if they can make that happen what else can the make happen? 

We live in interesting times.

From: Tim Lewis []


Dear Jerry,


Just a short note to say I agree 100% with your comments regarding the Netscape "upgrade".  My experience seems similar to that of your other readers.  I've now downloaded a copy of startup manager and it looks really useful - thanks for the tip.

As an additional thought, as my work in testing requires that I have Netscape and IE browsers installed, the other day I loaded IE5 - Netscape is my default browser.  Even though the install knew that Netscape is installed and asked whether it should remain the "default" browser, the install still *updates* all the file extensions so that they start up IE5.  It gets worse, because uninstalling IE5 puts you back to IE4 AND it doesn't fix the extensions!!  So, double clicking on eg. html files in windows explorer starts up IE5 and not Netscape.  Much worse, for all those highlighted URL's on the net and in email, a single click now starts IE5!

This is very frustrating and I often feel like *killing* someone at Microsoft too.  I'd be grateful for any thoughts / suggestions / etc. as to how I can get the settings back to default to Netscape.  I suspect it may require a full install of Netscape?  This is going to be a real pain if every time I upgrade IE I have to re-install Netscape just so my machine carries on working the way I like it.


Tim Lewis

Development Support Engineer, Tradezone International ltd

email: www:

Well, Impaling Microsoft people seems a LITTLE extreme, but people who mess with my computer without my permission deserve something of the sort. Perhaps drawing and quartering would be sufficient.

I have no brief nor apology for companies that make changes to fundamental settings without telling me they have done it.

I think you missed the point about Netscape. You needn’t chant “Netscape must die” because they’re already dead. Their flagship product is now two years out of date. It was grossly inferior to Internet Explorer 4, and that much more so to IE5 (although I don’t think much of IE, either). I keep Navigator on my system only to check my own web pages for appearance. I wouldn’t even think of actually using it. The Browser Wars are long over, and IE won. Opera isn’t much of an alternative, either. For better or worse, mostly worse, I’m stuck with IE. But I’d drop it in a minute for something usable.

Robert Bruce Thompson

Well, I find little to disagree with there, either. Thanks.



 Your comment regarding the important nature of Huckleberry Finn is well taken, but doesn’t go far enough.  Don’t schools and school boards realize that ignoring unsavory language or incidents won’t make them go away?  In fact, they merely allow ignorance to replace informed discussion.  I often wonder why works such as this aren’t used for the dual purposes of teaching a wonderful work of fiction, and as a starting point for debate on race and race issues. 

I can’t imagine we would do worse to talk about past mistakes/ misconceptions than we do now.  Does anyone in school actually talk about the history, and the way people thought of minorities back then?  Don’t they think it may help young children understand why there is such resentment?  Growing up knowing the facts is almost never a bad thing.  Make people talk about it, and increase their awareness early, and you avoid problems later.

Just a thought.

Bryan Broyles

I  can hardly argue with that.

On Wed, 28 Jul 1999, jerryp wrote:

> Thank you for writing Jerry Pournelle. I get several hundred mail messages a

> day, and this is an automatic reply. If the message is urgent, please resend

> with the words  “priority one” (without the quote marks) in the subject

> line. The rules wizard should intercept that and put it into a box I read

> before I read all the other mail.


hmm, replying to your auto replier. I wonder how strange I am.  However, I digress, I am replying cause you might want to turn off the smart quotes in your e-mail, because even though they look nice for someone using windows, they dont come out for people that are on Unix (and maybe even Mac) for reading their e-mail.  Even though I use windows extensively at home, a lot of my e-mail I read on a unix box using pine.  For a little more info on this (mainly in respect to MS applications making HTML, but applicable to e-mail a bit), look at


 Shaya Potter 

Shaya Potter []

I went there, and after two screens of vituperation about Microsoft I had not found what I was supposed to do other than a reference to a PERL script. It didn't (in the part I read; I get weary of people who spend lots of time denouncing Microsoft and being proud of the fact that they use no Microsoft products, but they are going to tell me how to do something) -- it didn't tell me if this were going to be a plugin, or something I will have to run against all my systems, or what.

Outlook does odd things, and I use Word for other stuff as well as mail; apparently I must set WORD for turning off smart quotes everywhere in order to get it off for mail.

I guess that's "all right" and this "should do it" but it is going to make it harder to use this machine for anything EXCEPT Outlook.  Thanks. This goes in the column as another Microsoft silliness that needs fixing.

I would have done this long ago, but no one suggested "turn off smart quotes"; instead I would get paragraphs of smug or hate mail (or both) telling me ha ha I needed demoronizer and such like; but since I couldn't see what the problem was, and when I would try to find out I would simply run into more spleen venting -- isn't there a superhero call The Spleen? -- I didn't pay a lot of attention. Thanks. "I hope this has fixed it."


Your netscape assault savages are probably mostly from readers. has a “feed” from (don’t ask me how that works) which means your name and the title of your column (Netscape must die) are prominently displayed at the site for anyone who has their profile set up to do so.

Slashdot is the Mecca of open-source/anti-microsofties.  Great content, but a lot of them are less than polite.  Often, their forum threads degenerate to the same tone as the letters you’ve been getting.  Don’t know what you can do about it other than set up some judicious rules in Outlook and hope for the best.

BTW, I vote no on automatic reload. It’s trivial to hit F5 when I’m looking for something new.

All the best.

David Mazzotta []

Oops. I had forgotten slashdot. I know it is supposed to be an important place, but the few times I went over there it was unpleasant, and the smog to data ratio was fairly large, so I let Eric do those honors. I can filter anything if I have to. As a novelist I find some of this rather interesting.

Dear Jerry,


Heartfelt sympathies are clearly in order, since you are being persecuted by the litignorant (literate (semi), yet ignorant (semi)) crew out there...  While I do not know how many of the linux’en are being “mobilized” against you, I have seen no reference to this particular column in my local (very active and vocal) linux user group (Silicon Valley Linux User’s Group).  Clearly what concerns the litignorant individual is that while Netscape may not be perfect (I have a number of gripes myself, and have never, Never, NEVER used smart download, just because some marketing yahoo said to call it “Smart”), it is supposed to be “Our Last Defence against Micro$oft” or some such silliment.

Unfortunately, these unenlightened ones will not see your explanations, your POV or any such - just bomb you with flames until they head off into the sunset, like a pack of rabid lemmings after their next “victim.”

An apology from me for the behaviour of others online is less than meaningless, but on their behalf, I apologize to you - you do good work, and clearly can’t please some of the people any of the time.  Maybe you could set up a filter with a few very specific phrases that seem to be repeated in these messages, and pipe them to /dev/null.

A warping of a good phrase found in Foundation’s Fear (the continuation of the Foundation series, written by Benford)

“Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.”

When first I read that, meesa justa hadda grin.




Well, thanks. It ain't all that bad; I get a certain perverse enjoyment from posting some of the odder mail I get. And buried in some of that are some good points, but defending Netscape/AOL isn't, it seems to me, one of the better ways to spend time. They don't need a lot of help; they have the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, although why they are favored of Government I am not certain. 

Anyway, I don't intend to abandon Linux or Apple or any other alternative to Microsoft; as I have been saying for about 20 years, the instant Microsoft stops running scared they stop working, and then we REALLY get bad stuff.

And way back when they changed from NT 3.5 to NT 4 I warned people that they had moved some IO functions in such a way that bad apps could now crash the system when previously this was not possible. (Has to do with Kernal rings and such like.) This was done in the name of performance. Now that the hardware is so much faster, I can hope that in Windows 2000 Server they will put things back the way they was so that bad drivers and bad apps can't do in the whole system.


I have been trying to transfer a domain, and the Internic keeps sending me automated messages that make no sense. Bob Thompson has been involved in the effort. Eventually he sent this:

As long as you’re on the “must die” thing, how about doing a “NSI delenda est” thing? These problems we’re having are typical of any interaction with NSI/InterNIC.

I hate NSI. I’ve always hated NSI. Domain registration was bad enough back when it was free and government subsidized. Once NSI got their world-wide monopoly on domain registrations, they set the price at $100 for two years, which was about $90 more than was reasonable, and service went down the drain.

I hate government-granted monopolies, but I really hate InterNIC and NSI. If NSI’s teeth were on fire, I wouldn’t pi** in their mouth.


Robert Bruce Thompson

 Well I confess that until recently my thought was that it wasn't broke and didn't need fixing: the $50 a year isn't onerous at least not to me. Alas, now that I have had to actually deal with them, and discover there are no human beings involved there at all, only badly programmed machines, I may have a different view. I presume this can be made to work with competing registration systems? It is not obvious to me how that would work, but then I haven't thought about it much either. It wasn't a problem until today...

Once again this day...

I have had the blues more than once attempting to migrate a domain registration, or simply to change some of the information listed since people have this awkward tendency to move on...

when you fill out the web form at NSI, they massage it, send it to you in email format, and ask you to send it to, neh?  well, the problem I had, when all was said and done was - their automated domain modification system had some formatting problems with the template generated by their automated web template generating system.  Specifically:

item 2.  blah blah blah 

had a tab between the “2.” and the rest of the line - this was causing the dom-mod system to vomit.  have a look for that, as I spent two days of email, and 1.5 hours of musak on hold time to learn this one...



That may be the problem! It is certainly the symptom. I will now see if this fixes it. Thank you! I was ready to send a gift of stinking fish to those wonderful people at NSI. I may yet. There are apparently no human beings working there; they have taken all those fees they get and used them for profit rather than to hire people to actually do the work they are paid to do.

ALAS that was NOT the the problem. Nothing I do will be aceptable to those fiends in computer form (there are no humans at NSI). Fiends. Evil. But boy are they good at returning your applications without telling you why they are rejected!

Eventually they accepted the change as mysteriously as they rejected it. Insane.

A mixed bag of letters about Netscape etc.

Good one Jerry.

I have just had similar experiences following an unscheduled reformat.

The only browser I had after starting up was IE. At first I thought maybe Netscape just did the - press button for unwanted commercial - routine to IE browser users: to make them suffer.

Then I found IE has a download file-size limit just big enough to exclude recent versions of Netscape.

Eventually, using a searcher I found another site from which I could download Netscape 3, which I installed. Then I  used it to get a more recent version. Whew!

Am I boring you yet?

I won’t start on my Music Match Jukebox and Real Juke Box saga, except to say that I think some sort of territorial battle between  these two and my CD player software, combined with Netscape memory hogging and the generally malignant environment of Win98 caused the downfall of my system, prior to the reformat. I even tried using Norton Utilities to sort things out at one time but it seemed to make matters worse. In fact it seems to have developed a malignancy too, since Symantic took it over.

In rebuilding, I went back to Win95 and I am making a point of not letting any software become the default-anything unless it is absolutely essential. So far playing hard-to-get seems to be working well.  All of my serious-work applications are chiming along, response rates are better than ever and I  have music.

One last point. This experience has really started me thinking about malignancy as a real topic of interest.  For too long our attentions have been diverted to little things like computer viruses, trojan horses and the like.  We are entering the era of the Trojan world. It seems to me that there is something quite evil in the way major applications are becoming sneakier and sneakier. They insinuate their way into your computer, lull you or frighten you into selecting options that increase their control, allowing them to take over your computer, until you wind up working for them. What’s a poor chump to do? And this is just the beginning.

There is plenty more to say about this, if you dare.


Paul Murty


Dear Jerry,


I saw your column at today, and thought you might be interested to hear that I had a similar problem installing RealAudio G2 on my Windows 98 system. Things seemed fine for a few hours, and the system locked up. Rinse and repeat; same result. Eventually, through trial and error (what else?), I found that the G2 Jukebox was the source of the problem.

Too many people feel free to add things to the startup. Bad enough when it’s an icon in the Startup folder, but really annoying when it’s buried in the registry. I got a free CD of 103 MP3s from I installed it, tried to uninstall it, and now two instances of the DUN applet start up every time I restart Windows.

I agree with you on the Netscape update process. It’s not merely irritating; it’s downright offensive. Microsoft’s Windows Update feature is reliable and easy to use.


Bill Dooley







Thursday July 29, 1999

Working on a book proposal.



Friday July 30, 1999

Tons of stuff, but again it will be a mixed bag with not too many comments.

First, on the Netscape scene:

Subject: Thank you for the article

I did not even have to read your article to get the anger that I share about Netscape and RealAudio. Same experience here. Since AOL got them Netscape is a zero. I hate Microsoft, but at least their stuff works. I wanted to add that the RealAudio’s download loop of ad banners is the worst thing I have ever encountered at this level.

Madha, Abraham []

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say worst thing ever, but those ad banners that propagate without your starting them are a revolting development.


 One way to AVOID all that ad mess is to go to, and download from there.

One mouseclick on the “PC” link there and you’re off to the “Downloads” page.  One more click, and the download’s running with no “Smart Download” (ewww) to deal with.

I went thru that “Smart Download” process myself, here at work, and I agree, it stinks.

Jack Furlong, Programmer, Feather Fine Printing

Home address:


For another view:

You have to be kidding ... I have Netscape 4.6.1 installed everywhere ...

Win’98, Win’NT, AIX, Solaris ...

It is Microsoft I want to kill.  If you ever want to destablize your machine, put IE 5.0 on it.  I opened a problem report with Microsoft, they fussed around with it for a month ... couldn’t fix it.  Because I run Norton Utilities, I told them the names of the files that they downleveled with IE 5.0 ... they wouldn’t believe me.

I removed IE 5.0, and my machine is back to normal.

Got Office 2000, and decided to reinstall IE 5.0 from CDRom ... and there goes my nice stable machine again.  Reported it to Microsoft again, and you know what I got back ....

Sorry, we can’t help you.  Your time for support has expired.

Off comes IE 5.0 (the third time), and I am NEVER buying another Microsoft product again.   I have never had so much trouble with a machine or a company in my life, and I’m good at what I do ... diagnosing problems.

I do know what you mean by the advertising on Netscape site ...  but that is an AOL trademark, not Netscape.  (I did some consulting work to Netscape ... good folks).

For the record, I have never had any problems with IE5, which seems quite stable and usable. I also have the latest Netscape up. That used to be my default browser, but I find IE 5 preferable. I use Netscape to look at my site to be sure that FrontPage didn't do something that requires IE. So far I haven't found any such thing. JEP

This next isn't quite on the subject but it came in concerning the article:

I LOVE NT... what a fantastic opportunity to clean up after people who don’t find out what they’re doing ahead of time. Money! Money! Money!


Byron Stumbo []

But I am not entirely sure what it means. Certainly any large scale operation will require expertise to set up; it's the long term operating costs that are important. My experience has been that once NT is set up and working, it doesn't take a lot of guru time to keep it that way unless you are making major changes. UNIX may or may not work that way: many find that they need a wizard on station most of the time, not because the system doesn't work but because the users can't figure out how to make something happen. 

=== Another letter:

This is  the way I received it:

>  Tuc,

  Seems like the problem with netscape 4.6 may have been real audio,

> follow the link. Let me know what you think.

> Thanks,

> Steve



>  <<BYTE Column - Netscape Must Die!, Jerry Pournelle.url>> 



My situation was on an NT 4.0 SP4 Server.  While using the 4.6 install, the machine just froze.

I rebooted, uninstalled, re-booted, re-installed.

Ever since then, the system locked up 3-4 times a day.

Removed it, rebooted....

Now it locks 2-3 times a day.

I’m at the point that I’ll reload the machine from scratch.

SIGH............Maybe you’ll collect enough complaints that Netscape will look into it.

Thanks, Tuc/TTSG

I think your problem is Real JukeBox and Real Audio running on startup; that kills my system every time. You can RUN them, after your system has started, but you should not allow them to run on startup. They must usurp resources needed by the operating system itself. Now I agree this is an operating system flaw, but there is a work around: Don't let Real Audio and Real Jukebox run on startup. I believe I covered that in the article. The Netscape install is a separate problem, which I'll get to in a moment with another letter. JEP


Then I get polite and informative letters like this one. His attached vcf shows him to be an employee of Netscape:

1. You’ve never used a KEYBOARD in your life .... Task Manager will work with a keyboard, Jerry.

2.   You’re a novice at downloading software ... particularly from

Netscape .... you can download a complete version of Netscape *without* using Smartupdate and install at your leisure.

3.   You’re a computer novice if you’re running a dual-processor machine and run out of system resources .... memory is cheap, Jerry.

4.   You’re ignorant if you click on an Advertisement without knowing it !

5.      You’re a fiction writer ..... a bit too much drama.... your b.s. only works with novices.

Stephen Wilde []

My thanks for your courteous advice. My system has 196 megabytes of memory, which I suppose is too little; I'll think about increasing it. Since I began this work in 1978 I do have some familiarity with keyboards, and in fact I did try that in the situation I encountered; alas, sometimes even that won't work properly because NT is deeply flawed in one respect: some trouble windows have priority, but are covered up so that you cannot see them.

As to clicking on advertisements without knowing it, two things: first, I did not ask for a separate advertisement window to be opened. It just happened. Second, sometimes processes start just as you are trying to do something else, and you find you have done something you hadn't intended. Finally, some advertisements masquerade as what they are not, so that you click on them expecting to download a product but get instead not only an advertisement but a cookie that follows you until killed.

I know this isn't the official Netscape response to my column because the Product Manger has written a courteous letter asking for details, and I am responding to that. With luck all or much of this will be fixed.


And for a pretty good summary of the whole situation:

Netscape and and Software Installation

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

I have read with interest yours and others commentary for some time now and can say I have enjoyed the debates.  Time to add my voice, such as it is.

My experience with Netscape overall is good.  Installation is tricky, but I cope.  IE 5 is no different in my book, however.  To be specific, both products have their flaws.  I live with them.  IE 5's installation nearly crashed my NT workstation, re-iconed my desktop (lost the correct pictures and went to default icons), would and will not let me keep IE 4 despite my efforts, forced a total uninstall of IE 4 and two reboots to upgrade to IE 5, and thoughtfully upgraded many controls and DLLs that in a production environment blow up other required applications.  You, and others, have noted the Netscape issues well enough.

I build software tools that support building and deploying software electronically.  Imagine building a 'package' that installs Netscape or IE without a reboot (if possible) or user intervention across tens of thousands of computers.  I see many install problems.  Netscape is not the sole owner of poor installation practice.  Much software exists that is far worse.  I do not see an improvement in some of the new products now in beta testing.

Despite the problems with products, I continue to use both Netscape and IE, grit my teeth over the flaws, and enjoy their strengths.  IE 5, when used behind a firewall, on a network with plenty of bandwidth, can timeout before it displays a page where Netscape speeds along painlessly.  Netscape has mysterious crashes that kill all open instances when maintaining several open windows.  The list goes on.

Is any of this good news?  Not really.  What I see is a terrible need for all development companies to slow down feature additions and focus on reliable product improvement.  Yes, I like the new stuff in the new browsers.  I would much more prefer they run correctly and predictably.  Until such a time that a perfect product exists, I will continue to use all of what is out there.  Hooray for capitalism.

Thanks for the venue and the good literate,
Terry Losansky

We are in complete agreement: what amazes me is that if I criticize Netscape I am automatically assumed to be defending Microsoft, when in fact I have many times pointed out flaws in both. I once even wished for a missile ship to bombard Redmond, but no one seems to have noticed that. 

I will say that in general Microsoft has been far more responsive to criticisms, and has tried to work with me to find things to fix. I have found many problems in Microsoft stuff that were taken care of in bug fixes, and I have never had a vituperative letter from a Microsoft official despite some pretty harsh language over the years.

Incidentally, I am finding Windows 2000 to be stable and to have overcome some of the problems of NT 4.

The big problems with NT came when, to enhance performance, they moved some of the IO into the kernel in such a way that IO driver flaws can crash not merely the application but everything else. Secondly, some of the error messages take system priority, but can be overlaid with other windows; but you CANNOT SELECT the other window in order to close or minimize it until you have dealt with the error message, but you can't SEE the error message. My work-around for this is to right click down on the tool bar and MINIMIZE ALL WINDOWS; often this works, the other windows vanish, and you see only the error message. Sometimes Task Manager will work and let you see the error message also; and sometimes keyboard commands (which I know about despite the Netscape message above accusing me otherwise) work.

In general: I do not pretend to infallibility, but to accuse me of inexperience is a bit naive. I have after all been at this long enough to have my first PC on display in the Smithsonian. I do sometimes forget things, but then the subtitle of my computer work as always been "The User's Column"; I USE these things to try to get work done, and I often make the same mistakes my readers do; and I will say that Microsoft seems a bit more appreciative of my efforts despite some severe criticisms I have made than have been some of those whose letters I have published.

My task as I see it is to get my work done and document problems; and as always, "I do all these silly things so you won't have to..."  [JEP]




You write: “I had forgotten slashdot. I know it is supposed to be an important place, but the few times I went over there it was unpleasant, and the smog to data ratio was fairly large...”

Try Linux Today and Linux Weekly News.  They’re far more sober than Slashdot, they are light on graphics, flamethreads are put out of the way so that they’re easily ignored, and both of these Web journals have extremely good (comprehensive yet concise)  daily and weekly overviews of all things Linux.  They’re at:



--Erich Schwarz

Thanks. If I had more time I would spend more looking at many sources; there is some good stuff at slashdot but I don't have time to wade through it. Fortunately some of my subscribers weed out the gems and send to me. Thanks to all of you; I'd never be able to do all this alone. [JEP]




How interesting that you should post the above slogan from Robert Bruce Thompson!

We had an “experience” with NSI recently.  I started getting complaints from users here that their email was being bounced back from some other systems.  I investigated a bit, and found that the other systems were checking on our email address ... and claiming “” did not exist!

I called the contact name for Storage Tek (one of the refusing mail servers), and had a nice long conversation with him as he checked around (and enlightened me about “root servers”).  Finally, he said “check with your ISP” (AT&;T, in our case).

I called AT&;T, and after a few minutes was told “call Network Solutions”.

I called Network Solutions, and after quite a wait on hold (not a toll-free number, BTW), was told “sorry, you haven’t paid your bills”.  That was news to me, but it seemed possible, so I forwarded that information to our accounting people.

One of them spent an hour holding on that same number, and proved to NSI that we were, in fact, paid up until early next year.

And ... it took NSI three days to fix this problem AFTER they realized it had been their mistake!

(the joys of tech support never end)

Calvin Dodge

System Administrator

Biostar, Inc.

When I first heard about the notion of taking NSI's monopoly away, I thought that things weren't broke and didn't need fixing; it's clear that was an uninformed opinion, and I apologize for what I said in the techweb broadcast; I fear I am sometimes a bit too glib when on the air live. It's clear things do need fixing.

I have eventually managed to get a template to NSI that they will accept; but it took HOURS and many tries, using their own stuff. They put spaces and tabs in places they shouldn't be and then won't accept that format when you send it back. Sigh.


  Dear Jerry:   I just upgraded to a new 19 inch monitor, and you were certainly right: bigger IS better!  I always sort of wondered how you did it when you'd talk about having "too many windows open at one time" - now I know.   Anyway, I seem to remember in a not-too-long ago column or View or Mail that you mentioned a way to set a monitor for in-between 1024 by 768 and 1280 by 1024; I think it was something like 1152 by 896 or thereabouts.  That would be perfect for me, but I can't find any way to make such a setting in Windows 98se.  Can you let me know how you did it, or point me to the information?  I'd certainly appreciate it,   All the best, and thanks,   Tim Loeb

Tim Loeb []

I don't recall that one, and alas I don't have time to do the experiments. 






Saturday July 31, 1999

More on Netscape: here's an official response:


 SmartUpdate relies on replacing and / or patching certain components of Netscape Communicator. In order to get them installed, Communicator has to be restarted on NT, and on Win 95/98, Windows has to be restarted. If you don’t follow instructions it may seem like SmartUpdate didn’t work.  Overall SmartUpdate saves download time, because it doesn’t download the whole package, but only what is needed. In addition, SmartUpdate makes it easier for end users because the installation immediately follows download  and the users don’t have to locate the files they downloaded.  SmartDownload solves a problem that many of our users have complained about, and that is failed downloads. It allows users to stop the download in the middle, disconnect, speak on the phone, reconnect and continue the download. Also if for some reason the download is disconnected, double clicking on the SmartDownload icon will resume the download from where it left off.

Once again we have to find a balance between power users like yourself and many readers of your column and more novice users who don’t want to worry about where the file downloaded to and just want everything to work.

I hope that makes things a little more clear from the Netscape perspective. Thanks for the feedback - it always helps to be reminded about how important the download and install process is.

Regarding the problems caused by Real, I can’t really comment on them and can forward those directly to Real.

Thanks, Uri

Uri Blackman []

One major feature of Windows 2000 is that you generally do NOT have to reboot the system after an installation. Of course I was writing about an experience with NT 4.

The problems came about, I think, as an interaction between NT 4 and Netscape: as I've observed before, sometimes trouble windows pop up but are hidden by other windows that will not get out of the way. All the highly distracting advertisements didn't help, and the pop-up advertisement windows use up resources as well. For whatever reason, there were enough factors to make this the installation from Hell, and it happened just as I was doing the final part of the column; I wrote that section about two hours before my deadline.

If it had only been me having problems I would have put it down to my own mistakes, but a quick check of some of my subscribers showed they had many of the came problems; and of course my recent mail shows that I was hardly alone on this.

Note that as originally written, the "Netscape must die" tag was merely the opening sentence of a paragraph buried deep in the column. has taken to breaking my column into parts, and running each part separately; this time they broke it at the "Netscape must die" sentence so that became the lead, which it wasn't intended to be, then became the headline which I didn't write. (Columnists seldom write headlines. Editors reserve that privilege for themselves.) Thus what was intended to be an eye catcher followed immediately by the disclaimer became a headline followed by its repetition, giving it an emphasis I never intended. I mostly wanted to get the story out so readers would know what to expect. A good part of this column consists of war stories so that readers won't make the same mistakes I do. It's a bit unfortunate that this got blown up quite so large.

I freely admit (and did at the time) that had I been a lot more careful in the installation I probably wouldn't have had so much trouble

For that matter I wouldn't have given this so much space here in mail if I hadn't got a bit irritated by the tone of the first mail I got in response to the headline. That in turn drew out a number of user experiences which I felt obliged to publish if only in defense of my own actions. 

Anyway, we've now provided you with enough user experiences to show what may be needed for the next iteration of the install program; and it's probably time to drop this.

Dear Jerry,


In response to the message from Tim Loeb regarding the setting between 1024x768 &; 1280x1024. The resolutions offered are determined by the driver, and to a lesser degree by the monitor capabilities. You can sometimes get a better picture (better contrast, brighter, new resolution choices, etc.) by selecting a monitor other than what you are actually using. Of course, an incompatible scan rate can result in a destroyed monitor. My 21” DEC monitor, for instance, looks much better when I use the “Standard Monitor Types: Super VGA 1600x1200” selection instead of the Digital 21”. A system with a Jazz Multimedia G-Force 128 card allows the 1152x864 setting, my Digital HiNote Ultra 2000 notebook does not.

Many years back while writing a video control driver for the original Compaq portable, I made an error that resulted in the final horizontal drive transistor frying. I had previously (naively) believed that software could not destroy hardware. So I fixed the monitor and did it again. And fixed it again. I still have spares of those transistors on hand...

 Good Luck,

 John (John G. Ruff)

I have had a number of responses, some of them sent directly to Tim Loeb with copies to me, so I think this takes care of that question. Thanks.

But here we have a new one:

Main Body Subject - Lens to magnify screen and improve viewing


From   Dick Moncure


Dear Dr Pournelle,


I'm getting a 21" monitor, but I'd like to know if you or your readers have any opinion on the Bausch &; Lomb MagniViewer -


It's a Fresnel lens mounted between user and screen, and the claim is that is makes the monitor appear to be a 40-inch screen viewed from 33 inches away.  This is supposedly much better on the eyes, refocusing, body position, and so forth.


! not cheap !   ! $ 300 !


I tend to believe the claims since Bausch &; Lomb is a reputable old-line optics firm, but unfortunately the device is not made for any screen larger than 17".  I'm going to go for a 21" Nokia, but with your interest in good viewing I wanted to pass this on.


Also, for your interest the following dismal assessment of what bombing really accomplished, from a fine Website - the UK Electronic Telegraph



22 July 1999: Nato admits air campaign failed


25 July 1999: RAF admits failings in Kosovo inquiry

 and thank you very much for one other thing - my ten-year-old loves, " Then up spake brave Horatius …"

Thanks for the kind words. I'd be inclined to view this as a distraction, and put the money to some other use, but I have had no experience with this. I use a 21" monitor and computer glasses, and I really wouldn't care to have other lenses in the way; but perhaps I am being obtuse. Anyone have experience with this?

The following is in answer to a question I asked over in view:

Try for as much information as you can stand; in baby talk the RBL (Realtime Blackhole List) is a list of IP addresses which MAPS (the Mail Abuse Prevention System) has identified as being used by spammers. Sites (like ISP's) can refer to the RBL to selectively block traffic from those IPs, that's "blackholing". There's a lot in there about how MAPS is not setting out to pick on anybody, but some of their methods (e. g. "blackholing" sites that are victims of "third-party relaying" by spammers) seem a little wholesale to me. They make the point that use of the RBL is by choice, and that the RBL doesn't operate on domain names.  Jim Griebal


MAPS is a service to which one can subscribe; they maintain lists of known spammers, and if you subscribe to their service, your mail is routed through them.  They then auto-delete email from sites designated as spam originators so that it never hits your mail exchanger.

It’s generally ISPs and corporations who subscribe to this service, not individuals.

Now, I’ve never received spam from NSI, nor do I know anyone who has.  This doesn’t mean that they don’t do it; however, the type of people who constantly agitate against NSI, just like those who agitate against Microsoft, in general seem to be the sort of fever-eyed and sweaty-palmed fanatics who view any and all actions of their self-designated nemesis to be mortal insults.

To read about MAPS, visit the following URL:

Roland Dobbins


Dr. Pournelle,

> I gather that MAPS, whatever that is, has a service, RBL, which filters

> out certain origin sites or domains as Spam sources, and thus doesn’t

> pass along mail from those. I have no notion of how many people

> subscribe to whatever this is, or how one subscribes or does not, or

> find out who does subscribe or does not.


MAPS stands for Mail Abuse Prevention System

RBL stands for Realtime Blackhole List

The web site is at


MAPS was essentially created by Paul Vixie who wanted to cut the number of spam messages arriving on his system.  He started setting his mail program to refuse to accept emails from computers which were seldom the source of legetimate mail and often the source of spam.  In time this expaned to an online database of known spam sources which can be used by any comuter on the Internet which uses Sendmail or one of a dozen less-popular mail programs. claims that 20,000 ISPs use the RBL.  The exact number is hard to pin down because there is a method for using the list without registering (or paying).

As you might imagine MAPS is on the receiving end of a lot of legal bluster complaining about censorship.  The defense is that the RBL doesn’t block spam on the Net in general, it merely prevents it from entering a computer owned by the person who elects to use the list.  When the compuer is the main mail computer for a large ISP it also blocks spam from reaching thousands of customers’ personal computers.  An ISP owner would be foolish to not make it plain when signing up customers that some email is blocked... particularly when you can call this a feature and use it to justify charging a couple extra bucks a month.

I use a different method to stay away from spam... I use disposable email addresses when putting my address on the Web or when posting to USENET.  Replies sent to these addresses are auto-forwarded to my ‘real’ email address.  When an address gets harvested by a spammer I just turn it off and select a new one.  You could do that—tell only your publisher and your family your _real_ address and start with for the one you give on your Web site.  After a month switch to aaab.  AOL customers could do the same with screen names.  This method works _wonderfully_; I haven’t received any spam since March.


By the way, if you want to follow discussions on Slashdot, you have the option of seeing only messages which have a higher score as selected by a fairly large group of moderators.  If you surf with cookies enabled and register yourself at the Slashdot site this will all happen automatically when you go to the site.  Scores are set to 1 for any user who has registered (anyone other than “Anonymous Coward”), so in the example you show:

>           Re:Geek hypocracy make me sick (Score:0, Troll)

>           by Chameleon on Saturday July 31, @12:01PM EDT (#44

one of the moderators went out of the way to lower the score.  Viewing only messages with a 2 or higher will reduce the number of messages by 60-75%, or you could go to 3 or 4 and cut it down even more.

--- Rich Brown ---- ---

--- (currently) ---


> MAPS stands for Mail Abuse Prevention System

> RBL stands for Realtime Blackhole List

> The web site is at


“Realtime”—an important aspect of the list, and the reason it is a database, is that the owners of any computer can get their machine removed from the blackhole list within seconds of convincing the MAPS administrators they’ve reformed.

--- Rich Brown ---- ---

--- (currently) ---




A quick search at Google ( revealed the following (as usual, Google’s first hit was the one I needed):

MAPS ( is the Mail Abuse Prevention System - a subscription-based service which identifies networks which are friendly to (or at least neutral toward) spammers.  A good description of what they do can be found at

Also “


I didn’t know they had this new mnemonic URL.


Calvin Dodge

Thanks to all of you; this settles this matter, and I at least learned a lot.



The following isn't precisely related to the above but it fits here:


> Mr. Dobbins reports that he has had no problems with NSI, and my reaction may be extreme.

Mr. Dobbins is either remarkably tolerant or has been remarkably lucky. I’ve been dealing with InterNIC for more than a decade, and they’ve always been pretty bad. They’ve been an order of magnitude worse, however, since the federal government granted NSI (a for-profit corporation) a world-wide monopoly on granting domain names. Roman tax farmers had nothing on NSI. I said the day the monopoly was first mentioned that NSI would go into money-grubbing mode immediately, grabbing as much as they could as fast as they could, and providing as little service as possible. They were fully aware that international outrage would soon mean an end to their monopoly.  As a matter of fact, I strongly suspect that the two-year requirement for new registrations was implemented because they expected their monopoly to be withdrawn before two years had passed. Their attitude has always been “get while the getting’s good” and their service (or lack thereof) is just one indicator of that. They have no interest in serving their customers, only in getting as much money from them as possible as quickly as possible.  Fortunately, we’re beginning to see some competition, although NSI still serves as the clearing house for domain names, and still charges a monopoly price for doing that. The time came long ago when the clearing house function should have been delegated to a non-profit created and managed by all competing registries.

NSI must die.


Robert Bruce Thompson

==  ==  ==

To reiterate, my experiences with NSI have been, on the whole, fairly unremarkable.  They’re very slow; other than that, I’ve no horror-stories to relate.  I’ve been able to get not only my personal domains but those of my clientes regged with very little hassle, other than a sometimes-interminable wait.

A very good friend of mine owns a large hosting ISP (OC12 into, DS3 into MAE-WEST) and the single most popular click-through service on the Internet, which name I shan’t mention here.  His people deal with NSI constantly, and their comments are essentially the same as mine; they’re a slow-moving bureaucracy, but they generally do get things right, albeit lethargically.

Should there be competition in the domain-registration business?  Surely.  Is a fait accompli by ICANN, accountable to no one and consisting of some of the most presumptuous and patronizing net.personalities around, the best way to accomplish this goal?

I think not.  If I had to pick between NSI and ICANN as the final arbiter of the DNS namespace, I’d pick NSI every time.

Anyone remember Esther Dyson’s position on anonymity before she left the EFF?  This sort of arrogation of power because it’s deemed what’s best for us proles is of a piece with the attitude which led her to take such a stance in the first place, and ICANN seems, from my perspective, to be staffed with people of like mentality.  A kindler, gentler Big Brother (Big Sister?).

Thanks, but no thanks.

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 August 1, 1999


I read the banal comments you’ve received regarding your Netscape column and I am reminded of a comment a friend of mine was often heard to mutter - “Some people’s kids!”.

But I digress...

I noted with interest that in response to an email you’d received you mentioned wearing “computer glasses”. Between my work and my life, I average about 8 hours a day looking at computer screens. I wear trifocals and find it almost impossible to look at a screen comfortably. To remedy this I had a pair of glasses made-up with the entire lens being the same as the center (intermediate/ transition?) section of my trifocals.


The increase in comfort is immediate as soon as I put them on and look at the screen. If I am working mostly at one machine for long periods of time this solution is optimal.  Unfortunately, I am often leaving the PC, moving around the offices, going to meetings, moving frequently from PC to PC.  Since I find walking and moving around with my computer glasses very uncomfortable , I find myself switching my glasses many dozens of times a day. This is proving to be a royal pain, especially when the switch is occurring every few minutes.

I have discussed this ‘problem’ with my optometrist and she has mentioned a lens, which I believe she called a “Technica”. As she explained it to me, it is a trifocal with the far distance prescription ground as the bottom half of an oval at the very top of the lens and the closest distance prescription ground as the top half of an oval at the bottom of the lens. The remaining section of the lens is ground to the intermediate distance prescription. As you can see (no pun), this would enable me to reduce, hopefully greatly, the number of times that I would have to switch glasses. One problem with them, which stopped me from ordering immediately, is that they are not inexpensive. Not outrageous, but enough to make me pause because if they don’t work for me, then I am stuck with them.

So, I am asking you, and my fellow subscribers, if they have any experience with this type of lens? Just how functional are they? I wouldn’t expect to be able to drive in them, but how functional are they working around the office and, of course, how are they when working at a PC?

Thanks, in advance, for your comments.

-Brooks Clark

I may have invented "computer glasses" back in 1976. I found myself looking at the 16 lines of 64 characters screen of Old Zeke through the bottoms of my bi-focals, and that was driving me nuts. I had my optometrist make me a set of glasses with my distance astigmatism prescription in the top half but with a focal length of 28 inches. This is what I use to this day. Now i can see at a distance with those enough to keep from running into the furniture but I can't drive with them. Still, for getting up and going to the can or even down to breakfast the computer glasses work all right, and of course I can read the paper with them. I don't see my wife at a far distance but if we are sitting at the same table I can see her all right. I tend to swap for the regular glasses when I leave the computer but if I forget to do it there is no tragedy.

I am not familiar with any other kind. My vision problems are not so severe that I can't manage to get around the room with no glasses at all; it's when I try to see small things that I can't do it. I have worn bi-focals for most of my life.

 Now a response from Microsoft, proving that they do listen...

I’m working on the Windows 2000 Logo program, developing the Test Plans that our independent lab partner will use to verify that applications meet the Specifications for Certification on Windows 2000. In your response to the letter from Netscape you stated, One major feature of Windows 2000 is that you generally do NOT have to reboot the system after an installation.” This is indeed one of the cool features of the new Windows, but it may not have helped you in this case. System File Protection (SFP) tries very, very hard to restore the originals of any protected system files an application may replace (including Solitaire and FreeCell, by the way). If a system file that’s in memory is NOT replaced, there’s no need to reboot. So far, so good.

The problem with installations on Windows 2000 will be the Vendor’s DLLs (Dynamic Link Libraries), not the system files. If the Vendor needs to update a DLL that’s already loaded in memory (because an application is running, usually), they’ll still want you to reboot in order to remove the old version from memory. In some cases, the DLL is from a third party development library, and the application you’re trying to install/upgrade doesn’t even have to be running for the version conflict to rear its ugly head. Windows 2000 supports a feature called “side-by-side DLLs” which allows two DLLs with the same name to live in memory at the same time and will, eventually, solve the Vendor supplied DLL reboot problem. But side-by-side DLLs must be specially written by the Vendor, and until they are the norm, we’ll still have occasional reboots required, even on Windows 2000. And some Vendors will find the unnecessary, gratuitous reboot after installation a hard habit to break.


You also observed that, “sometimes trouble windows pop up but are hidden by other windows that will not get out of the way.” That’s been a royal pain since a series of feature changes in the Windows NT4 product cycle. Apparently major enterprise users complained about messages that “pop up” in front of your application that have nothing to do with what you’re working on…network notifications or messages sent to your computer by other users, perhaps. Those dialogs used to pop into the foreground (perhaps a useful feature), make a noise (maybe a useful feature) and get focus because they suddenly became the foreground windows. The focus part was apparently a source of major frustration for many users because they didn’t immediately notice the window and would continue typing. The notification dialog, having focus, got all the keystrokes and sometimes did inappropriate things because it assumed those keystrokes, actually meant for the application the user had been working on, were meant for it, the notification dialog, instead. Important messages were lost and occasionally data was garbled or sent to the bit bucket.


So, the user gods (the developers who ultimately determine the code in user32.dll that controls the GUI part of Windows) made changes in how SetForegroundWindow works. No longer do windows automatically actually come to the foreground when they call SetForegroundWindow. Instead, their icon in the taskbar (tray) assumes the “I have focus” color and flashes a few times. There may be other effects as well, depending on your accessibility settings. But the notification stays politely out of your face until you consciously bring it to the foreground to dismiss it.


Well, that was the intent anyway. We found quickly, as our automated tests for hundreds of applications broke overnight, that things aren’t always that clean. What’s worse, features were added to SetForegroundWindow to emulate the old behavior, but they have to be invoked specifically and correctly. Some Vendors use them, but not correctly or appropriately, and the mysterious modal window that can be neither seen nor dismissed is the result. Since each Vendor writes their own code in their own style, there’s no one “right” way for the user to handle such things. Your idea of minimizing all Windows often works. Occasionally walking through the task list using Alt+Tab does the trick. I usually resort to using Task Manager to kill running applications, one by one, until I can either get to the blasted notification or it goes away in the process. Sometimes I lose the latest changes to stuff in progress, but I’m a grumpy old tester and I’ve come to accept that life is short and it’s usually cheaper for me to reconstruct things than put up with excessive frustration.

 Noel Nyman []

Thanks. It's not too bad if you KNOW there IS a popup in the way, but suppose you were not looking when it flashed. Now it has focus in that all keystrokes are directed to it, but it's hidden behind some other window! It appears that your system is locked up, when in fact it is not; but it might as well be if you can't figure out what is going on. I have more than once it the power switch when I should have been trying to find the wayward message window. Thanks, and I am glad to see Microsoft is aware of the problem. I make no doubt some of your fellow subscribers will have comments...

Subject: quaint, if childish, naming of your computers

Perhaps naming one’s electronic appliances is something only a psych doctor would do, or understand. Rather cute, but it totally trivializes whatever message you are trying to impart.  Since you insist on anthropomorphizing  a human tool, do you also talk (not swear) to them?  And do they talk back?  Have you discussed this with a real Doctor (i.e., a “shrink”)?  Do you do this only with PCs or do you also name your other house appliances?  How about, “Tommy (the toilet)”,   or “Teddy (the Toaster), or Bobbie (the bed), etc., etc.??  I am sure that you would use that keen intellect of yours to choose more imaginative names.  Incidentally, I know it would never occur to you how boring your narcissistic meanderings are, but I wonder if you have ever added up how many magazines that you have written columns for - how many of those subsequently went belly-up and/or dematerialized into the impermanent ether of the Internet?  Coincidence?  I don’t think so. 

Well, let's see: BYTE began in 1976, and lasted until 1998; Nikkei BYTE is still in print, while is making money. The only other magazine I wrote for was INFOWORLD which so far as I know is still around. I wrote a column for Analog Science Fiction which still exists. I did one for Galaxy Science Fiction which vanished back in the 70's but that was before the computer revolution, and I don't think I did any (certainly not many) columns for Galaxy after I got computerized. I wrote for the Natonal Catholic Register and for Twin Circle for many years, but they are still around and doing well, I think. Any others that have folded up are not my fault, although I did have a story, "Dear Istvan," that I sold to three different science fiction magazines. Each paid for it, and went out of business before the story was published. After the third time I stopped selling the story. Alas for your hypothesis, I never had a column in any of those magazines. So, of the ones I wrote columns, for, Galaxy vanished in the 1970's, and BYTE succumbed in 1998. With BYTE at least the circulation was quite high, the problem was sales.

As to naming computers: first, I always have, and about every 4 years I get a letter complaining about the practice, usually because the reader thinks it is too cute for words, and is upset about anthropomorphizing my machines; some fear I will lose my mind or something. Now in the very early days of Ezekiel, who is now on display in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I did tend to anthropomorphic stories, and I used to talk to my machine and publish the machine's answers. After my mad friend Mac Lean died we used to hope that one day we'd see his inimitable style in messages on my computers, but it didn't happen and we didn't REALLY expect it to; just that with Dan MacLean you never knew.

Now, the networks demand that I name them something, and while P-2-1 would do for the network, I see no great harm in using Parsifal as the name; why shouldn't I? As to Armadillo and later Royal Armadillo, the Compaq portables were called the Armada series, and I like Armadillos better than Armadas; why shouldn't I?

I am tempted to say at this point that reading Pournelle is a privilege, not a right, and I should instruct my web provider to set up some code that keeps you from accessing the site, to spare you the pain since you seem drawn to this embarrassing example of my senility. Ah well. Thank you for sharing this with us.


 I just thought I’d let you know that after initially doing the honorable thing, Consumer Reports Online is back to practices that they would surely label “Unacceptable” according to their own standards of review.  I know that you had had severe difficulties with the site about six months ago, but a few months back I decided to visit the site to gather info for some purchases I was about to make.  At that time, they had opened all content on their site to free access, because they were having difficulties with their subscription system.  This seemed fair to me; the other fair option would be to limit access, but not accept new subscriptions until their difficulties were solved.

Unfortunately, my visit today did not go so well.  Apparently, Consumer Reports has now decided that the lure of site subscription money inflow outweighs their oft-self-noted scruples—they solicit new subscriptions for a site that (1) is slower than molasses (over 3 minutes per page, while nearly simultaneous visits to other sites were normal-speed) and (2) even AFTER an apparently successful subscription, produces a page with the following message: “Access Denied Cannot access this content area unless the store adminstrator adds you to the access list.

Please contact the store adminstrator. “  Of course, there is apparently no electronic means to contact the store administrator!  In the site’s FAQ section, they even make note of the quandry that the only way to email them is by successfully logging in, as follows: “You can’t e-mail us if you can’t access the subscribers-only area. “ (quote from their unhelpful FAQ); no remedy, of course, aside from the USPS (!) postal address they provide.  This is clearly the downside of the Internet—small, non-tech-savvy companies can quickly and easily get into hot water by setting up sites that collect money without the infrastructure to properly provide the services they are selling.

On another note, I am a big fan of the efforts toward cheap low-orbit access that you have often described in passing in your column and web site.  I have found the names/links you provided useful, but get the impression that there are more organizations at work toward this important goal.  Do you have a pointer to a fairly comprehensive list of such groups for those of us not yet personally active in these circles?

Thanks very much,

Armand MacMurray

I tried to withdraw my "subscription" when I found it wasn't working properly, but they charged my credit card anyway. I expect I had better notify American Express lest they automatically renew it. I cannot say that I have found Consumer Reports a pleasant outfit to deal with, nor have I found their web site useful in any way, but I am sure that others must have better experiences. As for me, they have my twenty bucks or whatever, and that was my doing although I did attempt to get them to cancel the subscription; but they ignored that communication as they have ignored every other I have sent them. It does behoove me to see they don't get an automatic renewal. Thanks for the reminder.

Jerry,     I read Spinrad's article and he kind of missed the point. NASA could not have used the SDI funds because without the SDI program those funds would not have existed. Betting that the Pentagon would need to help fund NASA to get SDI in space is a pretty good bet.  Some space scientists try to play the same zero sum game in the great manned vs. unmanned debate. They claim that money spent on the shuttle and space station would be better used for sending unmanned probes to the planets. What they fail to understand is that without the manned program there wouldn't really be an unmanned one. Killing a program filled with robots is easier than killing one with astronauts (though history has shown both can indeed be "defunded"). In any case, I don't think SDI took one penny from the regular NASA budget. In fact I think the push for SDI probably saved a few pet projects that would have been dumped otherwise.    Chris Lopes  






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

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