The View from Chaos Manor

June 4 through June 8, 1998

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June 4, 1998: At the beach this morning. I brought down CYRUS the CYRIX P-166 that no longer has a Cyrix chip in it (it got upgraded with an Evergreen chip that has MMX capabilities). Niven is using it to work on The Burning City.

I also brought down Royal Armadillo, the 266 mhz Compaq Armada 4220T portable I use for nearly everything. Of course at the beach we don't have a network. However, Cyrus has a SCSI Zip drive; and Iomega just sent me a new parallel/scsi ZIP, which I have installed on Royal Armadillo. It works. It works splendidly. Installation was simple enough, and the autodetection is in the cable, so that if you plug into a SCSI rather than a parallel port you do no harm. The setup software on the CDROM found the drive, realized it was a parallel, and did the installation automatically. There's a new and much smaller wall lump power brick. All told they did this right.

Or so I thought. I am getting some warnings. For one thing, see

for more.

Another exception: the installation software natters at you excessively. It wants to install stuff I have no need for. It wants to register me on line. It wants me to watch a movie tutorial about Zip drives. There is enough to nearly drive me insane, and it was very hard to kill.

Other than THAT, it was all a pleasant experience, and Niven and I are exchanging 150,000 word files by ZIP sneakernet. Works like a charm, and if we had only the one drive, we could still operate; it's quicker to carry the drive between two machines than to use floppies.

ZIP continues to improve, and at least one ZIP drive is now essential to any serious computer operation. I have several internal IDE zips and they work fine, but this external parallel/scsi looks to me like the one to get.

However, a reader reports (I don't say who because it wasn't obviously intended for publication):

 "I'm glad you've put up an informal journal!

"I just wanted to drop you a note about the Zip Plus drive. I don't know if you were aware, but the SCSI mode of the drive doesn't work right.

"The Mac web pages have covered this in detail; you can check <> for detailed information. Apparently, Iomega now recommends that if you use the drive in SCSI mode, you use it as the only device on the chain, and that you must use their cable without any adapters. This means, for example, that the drive cannot be used on a PowerBook, because you'd need to use a HDI30 to DB25 adaptor to connect the provided cable. If you use the adapter anyway, the drive may eat your data.

"Iomega is exchanging the drive for Mac users that bought the drive assuming that 'SCSI compatible' meant 'works like any other SCSI device.' Thus, it should work OK for people who use it as a parallel drive, or for people who use it as their lone SCSI device, but not so well for most others."

THANKS; I admit I had not tried it as SCSI, only parallel. It's working fine as parallel with transfers to the SCSI ZIP 100 over on Cyrus.

Evening: we have moved the web site from Earthlink to Darnell's binmedia. I believe he is using a DEC Alpha dedicated to this site. In doing it, I found out something: if you use Word 97 for working on html files, DO NOT set it for white letters on a blue background! Much of your text will vanish: you see it on the web site but not in your editor when you want to work on it. I use white on blue for working on books: it's called the "Pournelle feature" at Microsoft because Chris Peters added that at my request way back about WORD 3.0 or so. If you don't know about it, look in tools/options/general and look for the check box white text on blue background. Very restful for working on text, but be sure to change out of it when doing HTML.

June 5, 1998: We're using Office 97. Niven still has Office 95 installed at his place although he owns 97, meaning that we have to be careful to save our work in Office 95 format before we leave. Until we do, it's a LOT easier to stay with 97 on both machined. Office 97 SR-1 release is quite stable and has some features not in 95 (but some are hidden: document comparison is in tools/track revisions and that is not in the index or help files) and is all around worth going to; I have seen the update to 97 for well under $200 in Fry's and I think it is worth it. I'll have Eric go over to Niven's place and install 97 as soon as we get back.

When I wrote this earlier I said Office 98, but of course that's for Macs. A reader caught it. Thanks. Working without an editor is a bit like high wire work without a net…

On Fry's: a few have written to tell me they don't like the place. I can only say, if you don't like it, don't go there, then. For me it provides a good index of prices, and it's quite convenient, since the one at Burbank Airport is about 15 minutes from my house. They do have a policy of putting returned merchandise back on the floor; in all cases with me at least there is a sticker to that effect on the box. I have so far had no problems with that kind of stuff although like anyone else I try to find a copy that doesn't have that sticker in preference. When I have had to take 'previously owned' it has always worked, and the sticker says it has the same warranty as new.

Joanne tells me she has had ostensibly new merchandise (ie no returned merchandise sticker) from Fry's turn out to be not merely used but very much so. I can only say that has not happened to me, and apparently hasn't happened to her in quite a while. Customers can of course remove stickers and do other odd things in stores that large. I cannot think Fry's has a policy of defrauding customers. My experiences with them have been good, but then I have had no problems with Staples (there's a local one in Studio City), and I get letters complaining about them, too. There's one chain I won't deal with, but most seem all right.

Do not count on competent advice anywhere. We got to the beach to discover that I had not brought the Microsoft Intellipoint Wheel Mouse (with PS/2 connector) I use for for Cyrus; the only mouse down here was a Microsoft serial mouse, and the adapter was lost. Went to Staples to buy a Microsoft Wheel Mouse and found they were out of stock. Bought a Logitech First Mouse +. The computer products manager at Staples was certain that we would have to install the Logitech software, so for insurance I bought a Microsoft non-wheel mouse as well (at twice the price of the Logitech!). When we got back here I plugged the Logitech First Mouse + into Cyrus. The machine doesn't know this is not a Microsoft wheel mouse; everything including the wheel works as before, with the Microsoft software, and works very well indeed. I see that the Logitech software has more bells and whistles than the Microsoft, and I will try that another time; at the moment Niven is using the machine and I won't do anything to upset him since we are doing the climax to the novel…

Turns out Staples gave us no trouble about returning the extra mouse; whole transaction took about 3 minutes.

We had a bit of confusion as to ftp access to the new web site so for a couple of hours this morning, due to Darnell getting some statistics while I was trying to update, but that is apparently all taken care of; from now on we are at although there will continue links to the old Earthlink site for some time to come.

And now to work.

June 6, 1998: D-Day; June 6, 1944 marked the happening of the most complex event in human history. It wasn't exceeded in complexity until Apollo 11 took off for the Moon. There's a lesson in all that, and one day I'll have time to tell it; space operations didn't have to be so complicated (my little SSX flew with a crew of about 11 including maintenance, and the whole project didn't involve more than a few hundred total) but we were in a moon race; the result was the building of the NASA standing army that ate the dream, the budget, commen sense, American's space ambitions, and much of our national pride. Shame.

Apollo was accomplished by military people in the military way; but with the military you can and do disband the army after victory; Apollo built a standing army of unfirable civil servants (at Boeing we used to call 'BOMARC' the civil service missile: it won't work and you can't fire it. But that's a canard, because most civil servants do work, and many do things we would be lost without. It's also another story.). Much of this is told or implied elsewhere on this web site.

ABC Radio wants me for something. I'd better call. And Darnell reports what look to me like enormous statistics for hits on this web site since we moved it to binmedia. More on that another time too,

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