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Mail 75 November 15 - 21, 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 November 15, 1999


IN Las Vegas for COMDEX


Tuesday, November 16, 1999





Wednesday  November 17, 1999






Thursday November 18, 1999

Just returned from COMDEX. I'll try to get SOMETHING up.


It was fun to see you plugging the Penguin Computing poster. I've bought two - one graces my cubicle wall at work, while the other waits for me to decide on an appropriate mounting place at home.

Speaking of the "high priority" message marker - did Roberta (or someone else) tape "Buffy" for you? The latest episode included the revealing of a major secret, so I hope you'll get to see it when you get back home.


-- "Hey feller! I bet you're still living in your parents' cellar Downloading pictures of Sarah Michelle Gellar And posting 'me too!' like some brain-dead AOLer"

- "It's All About The Pentiums"

Penguin Systems was giving away the posters, which, now that I look more closely, show the Penguin trampling the Microsoft Campus in Redmond. Alas, I do not have a tape of last Tuesday's Buffy, or of Angel either. Worse, my wife watched them (she was too tired to go to the Tuesday evening COMDEX parties so she went back to the room) so she knows and I don't.  Sigh.


Dear Jerry,

Just to (possibly) introduce a new theme or two.

I was in Germany (Nuremberg) this week, attending a exhibition. Granted that it was an international affair but NO ONE mentioned the Berlin Wall.

At dinner one night a Swiss who had just returned from a week in Baghdad told me:

1. You wouldn't know, by looking, that the living daylights had been bombed out of the city. All the bridges are repaired and all the bomb damage has been fixed except for two sights, one of them is the "children's hospital".

2. Over 6000 trucks cross the Jordanian border DAILY. All the shops are stocked, even the sweet shops. However inflation is massive. He changed $100 into Iraqi money and received 2 Kilograms (he weighed it) of freshly printed paper. At the hotel he simply could not get toilet paper in his room. However the money was plentiful, clean and available.

I draw no conclusions. Many of your other readers will have strong views on the subject.


David Cefai

I don't think much comment is needed. We won the Seventy Years War and one of the primary beneficiaries doesn't recall.  The Kuwaiti Royal Family is back in charge in Kuwait. Our military budget is down, we are in Haiti to no discernible purpose, we are still in Bosnia, there have been more people murdered in Kosovo since the NATO "pacification" than had been killed before it, there are more refugees from Kosovo now than before the pacification, the money that could be used to train our soldier and sailors is used to send them to more and more places, and the Secretary of State is talking about our role in Chechnya, a place most can't find on a map.

And ten years later?



Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Thank you for your balanced and intelligent analysis of the "Microsoft Decision".

As a techno-brat of the 70's, I graduated an electronics tech just when Popular Electronics published a story about a home built computer called the Mark-8 (I still have the plans I bought by mail for the Mark-8). I have worked and lived PCs my entire adult life. (my first PC was the Processor Technology SOL-10)

I observed and noted all of what you report and I have to say you have stated clearly an accurate analysis of the last 20 years. We both know there was much more but you effectively covered all the significant points.

My only contribution would be to highlight the inefficacy of litigious tilting in relation to computer development. What comes to mind are the time and resources poured into such events as the Ashton-Tate dBase nightmare, the Lotus 1-2-3 look &; feel case, the Apple Vs Microsoft GUI case, the self immolation of VisiCalc and the Stax Vs Microsoft debacle. The volatility of software evolution and hardware innovation effectively made mote all the legal decisions and remedies.

In the category of major fumbles, how about CP/M Vs DOS as the primary OS for IBM's new PC ~1980? Makes one stop and think.

I acknowledge, appreciate and applaud the tremendous leadership Bill Gates has provided in IT and do not wish to see his efforts punished. I also regard Mr. Gates to be an honorable and compassionate man who has succeeded beyond all expectation in a cut-throat take-no-prisoners business. (Have you ever heard Larry Ellison speak? Chilling!)

My solution: no Baby Bill's, medium fine payable to fund alternate OS development, disclosure of all secret APIs and free IE/OE for the xBSDs and Linux. The last is probably not a practical method of relief but it would be nice.

My choice of server technology in the SOHO to medium sized IT operation, Slackware Linux! My GUI office desktop, W98-IE/OE4.01 (I say 4.01 because 5.x is broken) and KDE-Netscape on Slackware Linux. My games desktop, W98-2. My development environment, Slackware Linux all the way (have yet to lose anything as a result of an OS failure). I have run both cable (2 years) and ADSL (6 months) and prefer ADSL on which I run numerous numerous Linux servers 24/7/52+leap.

On a personal note, I grew up reading Robert Heinlein and know of your friendship. I consider his fictional characters members of the family and valued role models. (no I don't actually see them) I also consider "The Mote in Gods Eye" to be one of the great stories of science fiction. I own a hardcover and a dog eared soft-cover copy.

Thank you again for "Chaos Manor" and your wonderful SF novels. I wish you and your family good health, good work and good play.

Best regards,

Brian Thurston

Well, obviously I agree: if you leave it to the courts, by the time anything is done it will all change. And Linux will change what Microsoft does. Free markets mean freedom to act. I am no great admirer of some of Microsoft's tactics, but I have even less admiration for a bunch of self-proclaimed libertarians who declared war on Microsoft, threatened to kill the company, then went crying to Uncle Sam and Aunt Janet when things didn't develop as they thought.

The industry changes like dreams, and litigation is a good way to sop up a lot of energy while contributing nothing to progress. And thanks for the kind words.

Dear Mr. Pournelle;

First, let me say how much of a fan I am of your writing. Thanks!!

Second, I would like to make a request a topic for a future Chaos Manor. I do so with little expectation - my impression of the Manor is one of, well, Chaos. However, I would LOVE to see your take on digital video editing (hardware and software).

Thanks again. -Michael Foerster --

- >Michael Foerster - Master Builder | | | STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY: Home Design/Build/Consult | | | --*-- Work E-Address: --*-- | | | Home E-Address: | | | >Your questions are welcome. My opinions are my own, usually.... | 

Thanks for the kind words. David Em does most of my digital video work, and write on his own, see for his work. But I certainly do intend to tackle it all myself as well.







Friday November 19, 1999


Dear Mr. Pournelle 

You wrote: "There are those who prefer systems in which the compiler catches errors particular in type, and those who like C which compiles nonsense and leaves it to you not to write nonsense. I prefer the former. Many like the latter. The question is moot today, but was once alive."

I think it is now possible to write a compiler that would make both camps reasonably happy, and even have something for the third camp, "Just write *something*, then fix it and extend it". (I started out in that camp almost 30 years ago, but I've long since learned that discipline and planning ahead are necessary to get a real job finished. Still, diddling around in BASIC is the best way I know to get started in programming.)

How about a compiler that will accept anything that can possibly be compiled, but immediately re-writes each line to show the way it was translated? That is, if types are mixed, insert the casts to show how they are converted. Add parentheses to show the exact order of evaluation. Turn "=" either into ":=" for assignment or "==" for comparison. If there is a new variable name in an expression, pop back to the variable declarations so you can either fix a mis-spelling or insert a new definition. And help in constructing the definitions so newbies can get somewhere...

Most of all, if something looks off, *ask* if that is what was intended. This is what the old utility "lint" was supposed to do with C code, but evidently it is not good enough.

 C won because (1) hackers hate imposed discipline even after they learn from experience that it gets a better-debugged program out the door faster, and (2) when you get into the nitty-gritty hardware details, Pascal-style compilers will prevent you from doing what needs to be done. Academics prefer Pascal-style, and not just because the compiler will do most of the grading for them; working programmers find the suggestion that the compiler knows better than them insulting--although sometimes true...

If I was creating a new language, besides the above functions built into the editor, I'd want it: * Generally like the C syntax. * Variable and type definitions more like Pascal, the left to right format is much clearer. * A mechanism in procedure calls so that you don't have to use pointers just to pass parameters by location. * Some extensions for embedded programming, predefined but enabled only on cross-compilers for the type of CPU's that need them. (If we are going to make a language that good, I want to be able to use it for the work I actually do, so I have to be able to tell it whether data is in ROM or RAM, not to mention handling the 8051's multiple address spaces. In C, this is often handled by proprietary non-standard extensions, which makes porting programs painful.)

Mark Moss

Pascal was a teaching language and not really adequate for heavy jobs, but Turbo Pascal and later Delphi fixed most of those problems. Modula-2, though, was pretty good from the beginning, and with Wirth to work on it could have been far more important than C.  Actually Ada isn't all that bad to work with. 

Languages that do strong typing and range checking at compile time are in my judgment far better for getting things out the door, and if the programmer is run over by a truck, with Delphi or Modula you have a chance to get someone else in to understand the code already written. With C, it takes a long time to study someone else's code, enough so that many prefer just to start over...



A frustrating story with an amusing end. Or so I hope.

I noticed on BetaNews that there was an update to Iomega's Iomegaware for Windows 95 for Zip Drive users. I have found a noticeable speed increase after installing version 2.0 and I was more than interested in seeing what 2.1 had to offer. Couldn't install it.

Everytime it compressed, it exited the setup, claiming there was an earlier version on the system. It suggested using the Control Panel's Add/Remove to get rid of it and then aborted. Problem was, there's no Iomega entry there. So I deleted the directory. That didn't resolve it. Tried deleting ALL Iomega entries in the registry. Nada. No way could I get the program to advance past the previous install test.

Finally, I just said the hell with it and pulled out the archive disk with its predecessor. Ran 2.0 and the FIRST screen I saw was and Install/REMOVE screen!!!??! Naturally, choosing to remove didn't go smoothly, as many of the things it was supposed to remove, I had gotten there first. But, eventually, I was asked to reboot. After getting back up, I installed 2.1 again, and it worked. Didn't see much of anything change-wise, but I take it on face value that there are some internal corrections.

Just before exiting the main app, I decided to see what was in the about box. There might be a README indicator. Nope. But the version said it was 2.0.

Might be a worthwhile heads up.

Gary Mugford Idea Mechanic and perpetual resident of Confusion Manor

Thanks. Worthwhile indeed.

I fear I can make little of this. Perhaps someone else can? The subject was "Yeee!!! nov 15 mb" which doesn't mean a lot to me, but probably refers to my column. Anyway here is the letter:

YOU DIDN'T MENTION [oops] that if you have a OEM windows you are out to lunch. win98 wont install if you change Mb;; therefore mb upgrade is worthless economically due to faster/bigger HD/CD/dvd etc. due to cost of replacement win98.

also you didn't mention atx power supply problem, or auto shutdown problem[assoc. with atx power supply].

I solved OEM win98 problem by setting up hd on original mb, and then changing hd.

have you found a way to get a download of the latest FULL cabs so you have the files for new equipment?

have you found a way to get latest DLL so win98 doesn't keep erroring that DLL is old?

thanks for your time


Ps; the atx/auto shutdown is a real bad problem.

--------------------recommendations--------------------- BEST newsletter on net[computers][ best computer etc help on net]] {advanced} [best search engine on net]


I fear I make little of this. I wrote about power saving and shutdown problems a couple of years ago, and since, but perhaps I addressed a different problem from the one that concerns Mr. Thompson. As to the motherboard problem, I again don't quite understand. I have all versions of Windows 98 and I seem to be able to install any of them into anything; certainly I was able to change motherboards without any problem with Windows and chip serial numbers. What wasn't a good idea was to change them without scrubbing down, but I should have known that...

"Third, the courts can't handle this anyway. This business moves too fast."

This will not be a quaint issue in our lifetimes- see e.g. Year of the Jackpot, these may indeed be the crazy years. Courts may be said to sometimes apply social norms in resolving disputes. Frex "The Supreme Court follows the election returns" or the community standards rule in free speech/pornography cases. In a period of rapidly changing community norms the lags may lead to breaks.

As one Justice said, sometimes it is more important that things be decided than that they be decided right.

There are similar problems in accepting evidence from the hard (laboratory) sciences where knowledge outstrips generally accepted as true standards of evidence.

I would cheerfully argue that the genius of capitalism is that everything is tried and sometimes businesses get lucky and in effect roll 20 straight passes. Currently Windows CE is not prevailing in the market. I think this is because the standard bet by Microsoft that Moore's Law will bail them out of bloated code and resource hogs has not worked (yet) with battery powered devices - planning or luck?

As you noted capitalism prevailed in the 70 years war despite the 5 year plans using technical coefficients (good for about 5 years) in Leontiev's Input Output tables, and Japan has been in economic doldrums for years despite the MITI efforts to nurture industry.

Adopting the losers technology doesn't seem the way to go. I would hate to see us snatch economic defeat from the jaws of victory.

Still if Netscape sells Windows 98SE for the marginal cost of burning the CD's and packaging good manuals it will be selling well in 180 days and maybe in 180 weeks.


Moore's Law doesn't seem to be bailing out CE, and Pilot and Psion are moving into the gap. Of course my bit about giving away Windows 98 was a joke, but it was a joke with a point. In a year Microsoft will be in effect GIVING AWAY Windows 98, as 95 is essentially free now.


Good news: there's a military force that takes your ideas about high technology really seriously!

Bad news: it's China's!


Yeah. Ain't that grand, But young Bush has Perle on his staff so he has competent military policy advice. That is heartening.

A trick to try when installing a new motherboard in an old system. Rt click on My Computer select properties and create a new hardware profile it can be a copy of the original as long as you can make Win 98 ask you which profile you want to boot. When you re-boot it should ask you which profile you want to boot, select none of the above. Win 98 will then boot a clean profile you will of course need all of your drivers. You won't end up with seventy eleven yellow exclamation points, question marks and other assorted junque in device manager.You can then delete those old profiles. It's worked for me a couple of times.

Win98 and Win2K use the GUID (Global Unique ID) string from the motherboard's BIOS. This is analogous to the MAC address on NICs. Changing MoBos without reinstalling either OS will screw any apps that use the GUID. This analogous to the peril of changing NICs on MS Small Business Server Product. When you have to do a clean install the licence bump pack disk refuses to install the extra licences as the MAC address of the old NIC has been written to it. Morals: Always reinstall clean when changing MoBos; always backup your Licence diskettes.


Jonathan Sturm

Thanks. No surprises in either of those...

This from Clark E Myers:

WinInfo: Windows news and information -- Copyright (c) 1995-9 Paul Thurrott Visit WinInfo on the Web at WUGNET:  Paul Thurrott says:

JERRY POURNELLE IS a sort of personal hero of mine, a prolific writer, science fiction author, and decades-long journalist for Byte Magazine, which recently made a comeback in electronic form. On that note, Jerry Pournelle completely disagrees with my take on the recent release of the findings of fact in the Microsoft antitrust case, so I present this link in an attempt to provide an opposing viewpoint that is balanced, well thought out and nicely documented: 

Clark E. Myers e-mail at: I wouldn't Spam filter you!

Which is interesting. I'll have to look up his reasoning.

  Well, if you look at one of IBM's PCs, at least the kind they sell out of OfficeMax and the like, they do have a non-standard distrobution of Windows 98. Instead of being in a bunch of Cab's, it's in a single password protected zipfile, so you can only use their install program, nothing else. Real pain. pttdsz 

I never encountered that. Thanks.




Saturday November 20, 1999

   I may have to give Mr. St Onge my Hero of Chaos Manor award.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subjects: Dramatica Pro, the witch hunt, and IE5.01 

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

In the August '97 webexclusive of your Byte column ( "Writing With a Partner" ) you reviewed a program for writers, Dramatica Pro 2.0. There's now a Dramatica Pro 4.0 available, as well as a "pared down" version of Dramatica, Writer's Dreamkit. Also, a downloadable sample of Dramatica Pro 3.0 at their website, Don't know if you'd be interested, but thought I'd pass it on. I just downloaded the Dramatica demo with no problems (except that their server was very slow during the day, so I gave up and did it late at night), It installed OK. Too big to evaluate quickly, but it sure looks interesting, and if nothing else, will get me thinking about my novel. Besides, it is free.

I was also interested in Paul Thurrott's opinion on the Microsoft decision (it's at ). I notice something he and others (e.g. Robert X. Cringely, ) who agree with the decision share: an identification with Microsoft's competitors. When recounting Microsoft's alleged "harm to consumers," they almost always recounts examples of Microsoft's hardball tactics with competitors who refused to do things MS's way. For instance, IBM tried to capture both OS and applications business from MS, and got their head handed to them ( paragraphs 115-132). Somehow, as a consumer, I don't quite see how that harmed me, but I suppose if you're an enemy of Microsoft, it all makes sense: if MS tries to take away your business, that's an anti-trust violation. If someone tries to take away MS's business, that's legitimate competition. Bah, humbug.

There's a new IE 5.01 available at It's alleged to be mostly bugfixes for 5.0, plus enhanced security against viruses. Takes forever to download , about an hour. It also insisted on putting task scheduler in my tray, and replacing the explorer icon on my desktop, neither of which I wanted. Things like this make me sympathize with the "consumer harm" argument.

Best, St. Onge

Well, I agree it's as annoying as Netscape putting the unremovable AOL Messenger on your desktop and in your tray, but it seems an established practice of the industry.

Dramatica was a good program. I may look at that again, although in my case my problem is not what to write, but getting time to write it. Thanks.

  A query about Windows 2000

Jerry, I normally run win95 osr2. Now I've got my hands on a dual PPro motherboard. I know win95 only supports single processors so I'd like to add a win2000/NT5 partition to take advantage of the new MB's potential. The problem is that I haven't been able to find an online faq that answers some important questions about win2000. Maybe you or your readers can help. My questions are: -MS will sell me win2000 rc2 for $60. Will this release expire and become unusable at some point? -What file systems will win2000 recognize? -does the win2000 boot loader coexist happily with ldlin? -I know win2000 and D3D is not a happy coupling, but will I at least be able to use the 2d functions of my Voodoo3 card?

Any help you can give will be appreciated.

-Terry S.

Terry Stickel []

I should know, but I don't, about what happens when W 2000 expires. As you probably know, press people don't in general PAY for this stuff; I hadn't even known that Microsoft was selling copies of W 2000. I do know that when you install RC 2 (and presumably 3) a message appears that says I should understand that this is a temporary release and will go away at some date uncertain in future.

We run Diablo here, and Baldur's Coast, on W 2000 systems. And Starcraft.

Then there's this:


I saw the note about a Windows 2000 beta that expires. I was curious; I got the original Windows NT beta for about $50.00. I searched on the Microsoft site for "Windows 2000 beta". It turns out you can get an evaluation kit with five licenses of Professional plus two Server licenses. They all expire in 240 days.

You have to be a member of the "Corporate Preview Program". I don't know how much that costs.

Windows 2000 will supposedly hit the store shelves on 17 February. I looked at the pricing announcement. 

Windows 2000 Product Offering ERP

Windows 2000 Professional $319

Windows 2000 Professional Upgrade $219 from Windows 95 or Windows 98 (New)

Windows 2000 Professional Upgrade $149 from Windows NT Workstation

It offers the comforting thought that "most customers" will get a discount. I suspect I may not be one of those customers. I'll have to buy two copies, one from NT and one from Windows 98 at retail prices.


Bob Wakefield

I believe there is also a discount for those who did the beta tests as well, but I am not terribly familiar with that. And street prices are usually a bit lower. We're using Professional here and I like it. Professional = Workstation and I do not know why the name shift.

And this:


Yes, Microsoft has been selling W2K betas for some time now. As a burned Win98 beta purchaser, my response is "fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me".

I'd suggest Terry Stickel look into Linux, since it DOES use both CPUs in a dual-processor system (I'm sure you could have predicted I would make such a suggestion). I believe hardware 3-D acceleration is available with Voodoo 2 and 3 video cards in Linux, so it _might_ be a better deal for Terry than NT.

Calvin Dodge System Administrator Biostar, Inc.

Depends on how much you are willing to learn about Linux of course. And now for an answer from a Microsoft NT line trooper:

Mail from Gary Mugford tells a tale of trying to install version n.1 of an application on a machine that used to have version n.0. The new version complained that the old version could not be installed until the old version was uninstalled. 

Unfortunately the Windows Add/Remove programs had nary a trace of an uninstaller for this app. Mr. Mugford deleted the app's folder and all entries pertaining to it in the registry (yikes!) to no avail. He finally resorted to reinstalling version n.0, then uninstalled it. Version n.1 then installed without complaint and life was good. 

I wish I could claim this was atypical. It's not. I'm currently assigned to the testing aspects of the Certified for Windows 2000 Logo program, and I'm very familiar with Microsoft's efforts to keep app vendors from allowing this sort of thing to happen. We hope Windows Installer will solve these problems, and maybe it will some day. I'm sure the Linux, Macintosh, and BeOS readers will assert that their favorite OS has already solved this problem...and perhaps it has. But, for the rest of us still running Windows, here's what happens and maybe why Mr. Mugford's last step should have been his first. 

If you run an installation program on Windows 9x, or as an Administrator on Windows NT4 or Windows 2000, that install program can stuff files just about any place it wants to. We'd prefer that the app create a folder with the Vendor's name under the "Program Files" folder (which may not be actually named "Program Files," so the vendor should ask the Shell API where that folder really lives), and put all the app's stuff under it. And many vendors do that. Unfortunately, they may also put stuff in the Windows (or WINNT) folder, the System folder, the System32 folder, or other locations outside "Program Files." They may also put most anything most anywhere in the registry. Of course, they must put some things in the right places, such as COM object registrations or file extensions associations, or they won't work. 

But apps may also store a bizarre collection of trivia that has meaning only to them anywhere it doesn't interfere with Windows, and get by with that. We also ask vendors to create a key with the app's name under


(multiple users on NT Technology machines may have similar individual app entries in HKCU, if they each installed the app separately). If the vendor adds a string value under that key, named UninstallString, Windows will add the app's name to the list in Add/Remove Programs and run the command in UninstallStrings when the user asks to uninstall. IF the vendor did the right thing and has the great respect for users that all vendors should, that uninstaller knows where all the magic files and registry entries have been stored and will conscientiously remove each and every one. But, if the user has inadvertently removed the UninstallString entry in the registry, or some clean-up program has done so on behalf of the user, then Windows has no way to invoke the app's uninstall routine. 

Even if the user finds the executable that wants to do the uninstall, it may require switches or other parameters to do the job right...information us users won't have. A user on a mission to eradicate the app may be able to find and remove the app's folder under "Program Files" and use Find in Regedit to remove some registry entries. But most of us won't know what other files in \Windows, or \System32 we can also safely nuke, and most of those registry entries are obscurely named. Some law of perversity in the Universe seems to dictate that the one file or registry entry we miss is the one that the next version's installer will look for and refuse to overwrite. 

So, the first user pledge should be to never, never manually remove any entries from \Uninstall in the registry. Of course, if choosing the app's uninstall option in Add/Remove Programs says, "I can't seem to find this uninstall program," then the user has probably already manually deleted the app's folder containing that which case manually removing the Uninstall key for the app will also remove it from Add/Remove Programs and that may be the best of a bad situation. 

The next pledge should be to try reinstalling the old version of the app first. IF that will work (the app is smart enough to ignore or install over the parts of itself still on the system), then the user has the uninstall option back. IF the app's uninstall does the right things, it knows how to do the uninstall job right and will remove all the right stuff. Then the new version should install without complaints. Of course, not all applications cooperate with Add/Remove Programs, and those are the most likely to not cooperate with Windows in other ways as well. The "reinstall old version" trick is still worth a try. But success is less certain. 

A word about "reboot required." We are really trying to minimize the need for that (yeah, I know all the other OSs never require reboots...ever). In fact, Windows 98, NT4 and Windows 2000 often don't need rebooting now. But that reboot habit, left over from the 8-bit and 16-bit OS days, is hard to break for many vendors, and they gratuitously reboot anyway. The only two reasons an app must reboot current Windows is to start certain NT services or because it needs to run a newer version of a DLL that's currently loaded in memory. That last reason is why many vendors suggest you close all Windows apps before you install. If you're already running the vendor's app and it has the vendor's DLL loaded, the new version installer can't update that DLL until you reboot (although it can update the file version on disk).

Noel Nyman

Thanks. Good advice and explanation.




Sunday November 21, 1999

Well, much have been said in your said of customers not being harmed. How about Microsoft changing licensing terms of NT workstation to prevent it's users from using web servers (which, of course, Microsoft bundles with NT server)? Could they do this if they had competition?

Why is it that examples like this are consistently ignored by those who are against the decision? Perhaps you can enlighten us...

-- Daniel C. Sobral (8-DCS)

"Then again maybe not going to heaven would be a blessing. Relkin liked a certain amount of peace and harmony, since there'd been a pronounced shortage of them in his own life; however, nothing but peace and harmony, forever and forever? He wasn't sure about that. And no beer? Very dubious proposition."

I fear I know little about that. I will tell you that if I were setting up a web server I would probably use Apache -- Darnell was using it for this site for a while -- but NT does work, and I see nothing in my licensing agreement that prevents my using it. I am afraid I don't know enough here to comment, because I haven't seen anything about changing licensing agreements. 


Subjects: Netscape/AOL and Microsoft

Dear Jerry, Regarding the 'immovable' AOL in Netscape, it can be removed. What you do, install Netscape but do not let it restart your machine. This brings up a Program Manager type window with the various programs in it. Right click/ Delete everything you don't want. Restart. You may still get the idiot messenger on the desktop but right click/ delete will deal with that. You will, unfortunately, still get the little tab at the top when you open Netscape, but it's far less intrusive.

 Having said that, even better is to go clear back to Netscape 3 and use that. It may not have all the bells and whistles... on the other hand, it doesn't crash or hang up your machine when you try to exit.

 Microsoft. I'm not qualified by law or nationality to comment on whether it is a monopoly or not but what I do find exceptionally annoying is the use of the word 'innovative.' Bill Gates, a drop-out from a Math degree, probably doesn't know better, but you, a professional writer, should. MS is not innovative. It has not, so far as I know, ever brought anything new to the market place. It was a small shop selling various programming languages, none of which it had written, when IBM came calling. MS had to go down the road and buy in what became MS-DOS.

 Windows, in all its flavours, owes more to Steve Jobs/ Apple and, before that, Xerox PARC, than to any great leap by MS. All of the various utilities added to it have been borrowed or bought from such as PC Tools, Norton, Stac, etc. 

Internet Explorer? Pull down the Help sometime and see where it actually came from. In many ways, MS reminds me of Japan some thirty odd years ago. Copy what you deem the best and sell it in volume; then when you have some market penetration, start improving. Except that Japan then moved from improvement to true innovation... so I suppose there is some hope for MS yet.

Yours, etc., Anthony

I certainly agree that many of what Microsoft calls "innovations" were in fact engineering developments of other products, and much of the innovation consists of incorporating those into the operating system. Of those I consider networking a prime and important example. IBM didn't even try it with OS/2 until after Windows for Work Groups appeared. But your point is well made, much of what Gates calls "innovation" is implementation and incorporation. I'll return to that in a moment.

I know more about how Microsoft  became the source of DOS for the IBM PC than you do (not being insulting; I used to drink with Gary Killdall and Bill Godbout), and in some ways it is worse than you think: Gates bought the original MS-DOS from Seattle Engineering, and that product turned out to have Gary Killdall's name and Digital Research Incorporated embedded in the code. DOS 2 and subsequent versions were done in a clean room, while the resulting settlement made Killdall a fairly wealthy man (I do not know the settlement terms as not revealing those was part of the settlement). I have also known Larry Smarr at Champaign-Urbana for many years, so I know something of the original source of Internet Explorer.

As to Stac, I have told that story many times. Microsoft was wrong, egregiously so, but the cream of the jest was they ended up paying Stac more than the company was worth in settlement; disc compression technology was valuable only while disk space was expensive. I cannot think anyone at Microsoft is proud of the Stac affair.

In any event I am as aware of the ambiguities in the term innovation as anyone, and I appreciate the irony of using it to mean incorporation of stuff from other sources -- but it remains the case that Microsoft does make these things available. As I said in my articles on the Ruling, for good or ill Gates incorporates as many features as possible into all his products. This is not as trivial as you make it. The difference between the Windows concept as developed at Xerox PARC and the implementations by Apple and Microsoft are large, and the continued implementations complete with SDK's is a darned tough task taking a great deal of work by very talented people. 

Concepts are fine, but every writer I know has been approached with this offer: "I have this great idea for a story. Let me tell it to you. You write it, and we'll share the income." Not many writers leap at that proposition. Some do, particularly when the person with the "idea" is a big name celebrity. In either case, surely you are not saying that the concept is more important than the implementation?

Thanks for telling me about how to kill the AOL man. 

Now for a serious subject:

Hi Jerry,

While I agree completely with your asessment of the DOJ vs. MS case. I do not with the new anti piracy policies that MS will put in place Jan 1st.

As a reseller, I am at a distinct disadvantage when I can go to a local computer show and view the wares from several local vendors selling Windows NT Workstation 4.0 for as low as $29.00. That is well below my wholesale price. Many of these copies are pirated... no COAs or manuals. A lot are OEM versions from OEMs like IBM, Compaq, and Dell. These are supposed to be sold with new systems. Some of the MS software even has "Not for Resale" stamped on the jewel case labels.

I'm for any method that helps myself and other resellers and VARs. If it makes it hard for folks to pirate copies...oh well. You claim MS has enough money....we ALL pay for piracy with higher prices. Loss prevention is just not a software issue, it is in all retail aspects of our economy. I believe any company has the right to profit from its effort. If that means ticking consumers off and lowering prices when product is not being siphoned off to be it.

As to the Windows RC2 availability.... The Corporate Preview Program (the CPP is still open) cost $59 for a copy of Win2K Professional and Win2K Server. Win2K Advanced Server was available for an additional $10. That was for Beta 3. Release Candidate 1 and RC 2 were shipped free of charge. RC 3 is in very limited release. All my documentation says that my copies of Win2K are good for 444 days. MS has been giving out FREE copies at TechNet events which have a 240 day limit. What happens at the end of that limit....who knows? MS TechNet events are held all over the country. Check in your local area. The events in December have MS giving copies of Win2K RC2 Professional and Server away for free.

As always, I enjoy reading your experiences and the ideas of others. Keep up the great work.

Will Bierman

You must understand that I get all the TechNet stuff and beta copies and so forth as a matter of course, and being both forgetful and not in the news department I have to ask what the actual policies are. I am careful not to let any of my copies get out into the world, and most of my surplus software is simply destroyed, although I do have the publishers permission to donate some to particular schools that wouldn't have bought it anyway.

I understand that piracy is a big problem, particularly for resellers, but surely that is one of the things we pay law enforcement for? I have seen the FBI burst into a Science Fiction convention and confiscate pirated and counterfeited Star Trek and Star Wars material from the Huckster (Dealer) rooms, and I have seen the FCC come onto computer show floors and seize disk drives that had a sale price but no FCC approval sticker on them. If the government can do that, then surely it can enforce the anti-piracy laws at computer shows? 

Making life miserable for legitimate customers is not good practice. There must be some way to make life harder for pirates, better for dealers, and easier for users. Discussion and suggestions welcomed, because I do see your point.


Regarding Daniel Sobral's letter about Microsoft's licensing limitations on use of NT Workstation as a server, there's a detailed article by Andrew Schulman of O'Reilly &; Associates on the topic:

The article contains links on the license restrictions, quoting the relevant Microsoft EULAs. In fact, it contains many interesting links -- this argument has been going on for some time (the article itself is over three years old), and has involved an incredible number of people, computer publications and computer-related businesses.

The basic theme is that Microsoft argues that NT Workstation (NTW) isn't suited for server use, but NT Server (NTS) is. Specifically, they limit NTW to ten simultaneous connections, and they consider each web hit a connection... They insist that NTW is incapable of properly handling the role of server, and want the user to buy the much-more-expensive NTS (which is bundled with their own web server software, IIS) instead of using NTW with third-party server software.

Schulman and others dig into the innards of the OS and convincingly illustrate that the two OSes differ by only two registry settings, one of which Microsoft has implemented software blocks to prevent changing. Using a hack to change the registry values on an NTW install, they found that the machine then identified itself as having NTS... and further, that the Peer Web Server (bundled with NTW) now installed itself as Internet Information Server, normally bundled with NTS!

The bottom line, he argues, is this: Microsoft makes a single product, and sells it in two forms, one of which they charge something like $800 more for (with a "free" bundle of server software); they then use licensing restrictions to prevent the cheaper product from being used with third-party software in place of the more expensive one, despite their virtual identity.

He and many others consider this to be another heavy-handed attempt to limit use of competing software, since NTS comes with bundled server software and the $800 premium means that the buyer is unlikely to spend additional money on a third-party replacement. The $800 difference, effectively, is a forced purchase of Microsoft server software -- which is advertised as "free" with NTS.

The article is fascinating, and if even a simple majority of its statements are true, it's pretty damning of Microsoft. It would appear that none of this came out in the antitrust trial -- probably much to Microsoft's benefit, as it appears to represent a _major_ deception of consumers.


Troy Loney

I see. I will have to look at this. It reminds me a bit of the time, years ago, when sf author Barry Longyear (Enemy Mine is probably his best known work) decided after reading one of my columns that he wanted BASIC on his leased Wang dedicated word processor. (One of Pournelle's Laws in those days was "Get a real computer, not a dedicated anything," but I guess Barry hadn't read that.) He called Wang, they negotiated an addition to his monthly fee, and sent out a customer engineer, who opened the case, removed a jumper, and announced that BASIC was now implemented.

I write The User's Column and this gets just a bit beyond my normal beat, although it's something I probably should have known about. Alas, I don't get to everything.

This doesn't sound exactly illegal, but it does seem a long way from the Constitutional justification of granting monopolies -- patents and copyrights -- in order to encourage the useful arts and sciences. On the other hand, Linux and Apache may make this a losing strategy anyway. 

I make no doubt this is not the end of this discussion.

And indeed there is already more:

Following up my earlier email, I've also found this article in Salon about the NT Workstation/Server licensing issue: 

I suspect this is where I found the links to the more technical stuff on O'Reilly's site, but then I forgot about it...

This is a very new article by Tim O'Reilly himself -- an acknowledged competitor with Microsoft -- which espouses the view that Microsoft tried to use licensing of NTS/NTW to take over the webserver market... and that they almost won. His explanation of the details is much better than mine (in my previous letter), so this is well worth the read (it summarizes the stuff I linked earlier, also).

Whether you agree with his assessment of the war for the web, it's pretty clear that Microsoft has been playing fast and loose with the truth about NT. I'll not be surprised to see lawsuits based on this particular issue in the near future.

Troy Loney

Thank you for the information sources.


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Entire contents copyright 1999 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.
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