THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
October 5 - 11, 1998
An irregular journal of things computerish.
For the BYTE story, click here.
I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying.
And another Index to Chaos Manor!
Extending the UTP Ethernet: Special Report by Robert Bruce Thompson
A new Special Report on building Pentium II box by Robert Bruce Thompson
A puzzlement about NT Server
Juggling NT Servers: A new special report by Robert Bruce Thomospn
The Linux Adventure begins. Most of that journal will be on a new page, The Linette Installation, since not everyone is interested in Linux, and this is likely to take more than one week.
The beginning was good: insert the boot disk, and fire up. The choices were all simple, and it found my TEAC 6 CDROM player without trouble. Now the problems begin: what in the world do I do next? More later. I think I had better have my vitamin pills and coffee before I continue this.
Lots more done: I'm behind on reporting. The good news is that Linux is easier than I thought it would be. Fears are groundless. Sort of. Mostly. Full report over on the Linux pages when I get a chance. I have to go out now.
I have put up "How to Get My Job" from the old December BYTE.
Most of this log is over in The Linette Installation page. If you aren't interested in the travails of LINUX installation, this is going to be a dull couple of days for you.
I have a request: for those who find a log that includes mistakes to be an irresistable temptation to tell me what an idiot I am and how bright you are, please do resist anyway. While I value suggestions, and I certainly need to be told when I am going down the wrong road, I don't do this as psychotherapy for either you or me. I could as easily keep that log in a hidden place where I only invite known friends, and perhaps I should?
For good or ill I am blessed with an ability to know little and learn reasonably fast so long as the learning is done in a logical manner. I tend to use focus gambling strategies and one day I'll explain what that means in more detail: for now, it's a way of testing hypotheses in large bunches, the gambling being that if you are wrong you are not sure just which of your assumptions is wrong. When focus gambling fails I go back to the last known working configuration and very systematically change one and only one variable until I understand what's going on. Then I make all the other changes and test, and if that works, I start another run. When I know enough to have new hypotheses I do it again. Now this may not be the best way to procede -- for some people it certainly is not -- but it has stood me in good stead for over 50 years since high school, and more to the point, I am not likely to change habits of thought developed over that much time. My other blessing is an ability to tease the relevant threads out of a very tangled log and present the whole mess as if it happened more logically; and I write pretty clearly. You can be clear or you can be brilliant. Me, I'm clear.
So: while I appreciate suggestions, and I certainly do not resent being told when I am wrong (although I probably have figured that out from the disaster), and I am probably a little less sensitive than the next guy, like all authors I know I do tend to brood when told I am an idiot. Enough. It's breakfast time.
Most of the day was spent with Linux and is told there. However, life goes on. Niven was over and we worked on some new material. The Air Force having invited me to tour one of their bases has decided to withdraw the invitation, which probably means that I'll be setting our Moon Base up using the Navy. Oh well.
Problem Number One: If I work on one of my web pages, and while I am working on it the connection to the web site is lost, Outlook will not let me SAVE my work. It insists that I make new contact with the site. This is ungood.
The solution is to open Internet Explorer. Of course Internet Explorer isn't my default browser, and is seldom open. Never mine. Open IE. Open VIEW. Open Internet Options. Open Connection. Now you are offered the choice of Connect to the Internet Using a Modem, or Connect to the Internet using a local area network.
Choose "Connect to the Internet using a local area network." I had chosen "modem" since of course that's what I use.
NOW go to Front Page. Edit a page. Break the connection to the Internet. Save. Voila. It saves to your local disk area. It turns out there are some hidden connections between IE4 and Front Page.
Moreover, it used to be that if your connection with the Internet was lost, Front Page had real problems shutting down. Of course it would: it didn't want to quit without saving the work, but it couldn't save the work because IE4 was telling it to make direct connections.
This is apparently documented somewhere, nowhere I know of. But if you have that kind of problem with Front Page, this is the remedy. Set your IE 4 browser to local area network. Incidentally that may make Netscape work a little better too. Netscape can be set any way you like, of course: that is, Netscape doesn't have access to the Front Page initializations. But even a shut down and not running copy of Internet Explorer can affect the way Front Page works. Boys and girls, do you love it?
But I can now open Front Page while my net connection is up; bring in and edit one of my web pages; cut the connection to the Internet; save my work in Front Page; restore my connection to the Internet; and Publish. All I had to do was know how.
I am supposed to be doing my column for Nikkei Byte tonight so I had better get at it.
A special report: discussion of Digital Video conducted by Alex Pournelle.
This is column file day so I won't have much here. There is a lot of mail, almost all on Linux, so see the Linux pages if that interests you.
Many of you wrote more or less the same advice. I have posted much of it in Mail or elsewhere, but I can't get to it all, and there's now so much I can't even acknowledge most of it. I remember years ago visiting Mr. Heinlein when he was living in Bonny Doon. Ginny showed me a box: "Unopened mail," she said with some embarrassment. Robert and Ginny Heinlein always used to answer all their mail. Then they tried to read it all. Finally "It has come to this," Robert said, and he wasn't happy about it. That pretty well describes me. I was brought up to believe a gentleman answers all his mail, but clearly I can't do that. For years I tried to READ all of it, and when it was paper mail I managed, and often was able to scribble a line or so on the bottom of the letter and send it back.
Then came email, and that done it. I can't answer it all. I can't acknowledge it all. So far I can at least LOOK at it all, and I read at least the first couple of paragraphs, but you know, even that is getting to be too much. I don't know what to do about it. I try, really I do, but there is only me, and I do have a lot to do. So do not stop sending mail: but do understand that if I get to it, it is often in batches, and sometimes I may not get to it at all, and you have my apologies. I do have a 'short list' of stuff I always look at of course. If you're on that you probably know it.
If anyone has a solution to the mail problem, I'd appreciate it.
Then there is this surprise:
Sometimes I have a bit of spare time, have a slow day (or want a diversion). It happened today and I spent a couple of hours putting together an index page for View. If its helpful, use it with or without attribution, if not throw it away. It should drop right in to your default directory structure as all of the links are fully qualified (including the background gif).
My contribution :-).
My thanks. I have included that as ORDER, and it does in fact do wonders for this place! I added a date stamp, and otherwise it's pretty well unchanged. Thanks!!
I was supposed to be off to an Air Force Base for a tour today, but someone in base public relations decided to cancel my tour. The official story is that they ought to be putting on a bigger show for me than had been planned, so the clearance for this small tour was cancelled. I think they thought they were making friends, but the effect has been to disrupt my weekend plans entirely. Niven and I had thought to drive up, working on the way. I presume this is some kind of bureaucratic incompetence and not part of something uglier.
Now a telephone line that I had disconnected is ringing. It was a wrong number. Of course. But the phone company cannot or will not tell me what number that line is connected to other than that it is not the old disconnected number. I had it disconnected because it had an answering service provided by the phone company and that answering service began answering my OTHER phone lines. Yesterday another of my phone lines began getting automatic answer and a voice asked for an authorization code. When I tried to explain this to a young woman who answered the repair services line, she suggested I telephone all my other numbers and see which one makes the supposedly disconnected phone ring. When I tried to explain that wasn't likely to do any good, she became rude and when I asked for a supervisor she became even more so.
None of this makes sense. I hope it's not connected with the problems with USAF public relations. Or my former connections with the Reagan Administration. Or my work with SDI. It's easy to be paranoid in this day and age.
I have got the October column off to the overseas BYTE magazines. At least that's done.
Now I want to do some fiction today. I have used OUTLOOK to make some mail interception rules that ought to work. I hope.
Thursday, October 8, 1998: Afternoon
I have been at this all day, and it's afternoon, and I have had no breakfast, which is stupid. I do seem to have organized the mail, and Outlook does have the tools to do it. I also had to have Darnell create some alias accounts out at the ISP level. I presume that if you were running your own mail server internally you could do that locally. Anyway, mail to different addresses will be routed to different priority boxes now.
I am also about to send out a mailing to subscribers giving them a code word to put in the subject of mail to me; that will be intercepted by Outlook and put in a box lower than the 001 box but higher than the 1 box that gets mail to the 'public priority' address. As to normal mail, I will read it all. I do not guarantee any answer other than the automatic reply you'll get. I pretty well do guarantee that if you've asked a question unlikely to be of general interest and not intriguing to me you won't get an answer. My apologies. On the other hand, questions of general interest will get into the mail column and interesting replies will also. Allow a little time for this. I seem to be getting some mail handling scripts that will make all this easier than pasting into WORD, although the WORD Paste is working reasonably well.
Subscribers: don't be too impatient. It will probably be next week before you get your mailing with the code word. It will happen.
The moral of this story is that computer users ought to use computers to make their work easier. Surprise.
Thursday, October 8, 1998: Evening
Not much done today other than mail organizing, and my dog is lying on the floor begging me to take him up the hill. I guess I'll do that.
Berst's AnchorDesk says Outlook is one of the 3 major products they just hate. I can understand the feeling, but in fact once you have it running and sort of understand it, it does an awful lot of good stuff. My guess is that when the get it better integrated into Office it will work better. Also, some of their complaints look to me to concern Outlook Express, not Outlook 98; those are two separate products which do have some things in common. And that's a big source of confusion which can lead to hatred. I'm getting pretty dependent on Outlook. I should not have had to spend the day learning how to sort mail, but I did; the good news is that I can now make mail rules in a minute or so now that I know how.
I'm going to take that dog for a walk.
Thursday, October 8, 1998: Later Evening
Well, that took a bit longer than I had expected. Two people managed to let their large white dogs (two of them) loose, so of course being off leash they attacked mine who was on. Fortunately for them. I was able to pull Sasha away while holding them off with my stick. Sasha is a large husky and loves other dogs, and will put up with a lot, but when they actually start biting him he's had enough. His rememdy for that is wolf style, to tear their throats out, and while he hasn't actually killed another dog, one Chow half again his size needed a dozen stitches. Fortunately no real problems, except that one of theirs did manage to bite Sasha enough to draw blood. I wanted them to come to the Ranger station, but this couple, about 25 I'd guess, ran down the hill a mile more and took off before I could get a license number. I expect they're proud of having got away. But that took me to the Ranger station so we came back the other way, which added half an hour to my walk, which is probably as well. Whole thing upset me more than it did my dog, who managed to find a Goldie to play with up by the Tree People, and then a tiny little terrier pup wanted to play, so he's happy about the whole thing.
On my walk I took a book I forgot I had, Woody Leonard, Lee Hudspeth, and TJ Lee, Outlook Annoyances from O'Reilly. Good book. Many of the problems it deals with can be cured simply: get Outlook 98. Anyone using Outlook 97 is in for a lot of problems, some of them described in AnchorDesk's diatribe on the 3 worst software packages in the world. I think they must mean Outlook 97. Outlook 98 is annoying, no question about it, but it doesn't do the things Berst describes.
If you do use Outlook 98, and there are some pretty good reasons to do so (many of them well hidden, such as being able to find and edit the rules under which Outlook will consider a message Spam and put it in the Spam file)--if you do use Outlook 98, you will still need this book. It really will save you a LOT of time. I have already found out enough to have justified buying it. Of course I didn't buy it, but if I had, I'd have got my money's worth in the first three chapters. If you're looking for a Personal Data Assistant, Outlook does look to be a good one, provided you use Outlook 98 not 97, and you get this book and read it.
Now I have to go edit my Spam filter rules so that "responsible email under" whatever law they cite gets into the Spam file. There are some other new stock phrases they're using now too. Outlook comes with a pretty good Spam filter; editing it can make it better.
And now I am off to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society meeting at our clubhouse. See www.lasfs.org for details.
Got to write fiction today. A note from Robert Bruce Thompson was supposed to get a short answer. I ended up writing a mini-essay. On history. On Phillip of Macedon and Alexander the Great to be exact. See mail. And all that before breakfast. I have got to get better organized.
Friday, October 9, 1998 Afternoon
Panic. One sure fire formula: open up your wife's machine to see what kind of memory it takes, put it back together, and get 3 long beeps and no video when you turn it on. Reseating the DIMM fixed it, but alas, I still don't know what memory it takes.
Joizy, Roberta's principal non-Mac (she has 3 Macs) is a Gateway 2000 200 Mhz Pentium. It was one of the first of those. I had never had reason to look at the system documents before: and I discover that the motherboard document they sent tells me about SIMMs. Unfortunately, there are no SIMMs in her machine. Only two DIMM slots. And nothing whatever about what those DIMMs are. Her system has a 16 mb DIMM. Clearly she needs more. But what? These say nothing about EDO so this probably isn't one. The DIMM itself has one chip Samsung Kmm366xxxx and a bunch of smaller chips. Big help. Nowhere on the chip does it give voltages, speed, or anything else that might be useful.
Meanwhile, Fry's has advertisements for 32 mb SDRAM DIMM for $33 so if that would work it would solve the problem. But will it work? Sigh. There is also 64mb PC100 DIMM SDRAM for $83. Will that work? Her board certainly isn't any 100, but will the memory work in it? I don't have a clue. I suppose the thing to do is try. They also have an AMD-K6-2/300mhz 3dNOW AGP motherboard for $189, which is quite a buy: P-II speeds at ridiculously low prices. Let's see, $189 for the motherboard, $25 for an el cheapo case and power supply, $83 for memory, $149 for a 6.4 GB hard drive, $19 for a floppy, maybe $40 for a fast CDROM drive = $505 plus tax, mouse, keyboard, and monitor for one heck of a fast system. I have video cards and sound cards. Monster sound, I think. Wow. Now do I have that much? Probably not. Oh. Well, it will be on sale again. But I do need memory for Roberta's machine.
A puzzlement. Have two machines running NT Server. Both are dual Pentium. The old one is dual 120, reliable, old, never any problem. The other runs big dual Pentium 200 Plus. NT is reliable, BUT: after a few hours, the fonts are gone. I see icons but not a lot of detail, popup menus appear but there are blank spaces were letters should be. It is as if it forgot its fonts. I'd think it a quirk of the video board, but I am told others have that problem too.
Does anyone have a solution? If I restart all is well, for a couple of hours, and then whammo. Again. What in the world is going on?
Many of you have given me numbers that if dialed (punched, actually) will return you a mechanized voice that gives the number you're dialing from. I have collected about 40 of those. None work in Southern California, which probably shows how perverse we are. Moreover, my efforts with the phone company have resulted in that line being dead again, so I presume all's well. Thanks for trying to help.
And thanks to Mark Gallicchio for telling me how to find what memory works on Joizy, my wife's machine. The web page he indicates shows all about Gateway systems.
Now A NEW SPECIAL REPORT by Russell Kay on Disk Partitioning Woes.
Been hiking with Niven already. Lot of work done on MOONMITES, the working title of our next novel: a story of a war of independence, set perhaps 30 years from now. We should have fun with this.
New report by Russell Kay on partitioning blues.
And I am off to Fry's where I will get some memory for Roberta's machine. The Gateway 2000 web site has a motherboard link that tells you all about your system if you feed it the revision number of your BIOS (which you can get by rebooting and writing fast). If the machine isn't running there are ways to get information from the serial number, but in our case it was no problem. Incidentally the oldest Pentium 200 Gateway made (Joizy, Roberta's Gateway 2000 Pentium 200 is one of them) uses SDRAM DIMMS which this morning are on sale at Fry's for $33 for 32 megs, and I'll go buy a pair for her.
Saturday, October 10, 1998 Evening
Got the memory. Couldn't resist an AMD 6 Multimedia chip with an MFI PC-100 motherboard for $189. They even threw in a chip fan. I already had a 64 meg PC 100 DIMM and I've got all the other parts, so this is a new Windows 98 machine. We'll see how well it does.
Otherwise worked on fiction and started on cleaning my desk.
Sunday, October 11, 1998
Slept in. I mean I really slept in: it was after noon when I woke up, first time that has happened in a year or more. I must have really wore myself out. I do seem to have a couple of thousand new words on Mamelukes. Haven't looked to see if they were any good.
So last night I worked on fiction. Nothing on Linux but for all you who sent suggestions I have collected them in one place and I'll print them all out shortly. There's a lot to learn here. Mostly I want to do two things: Applixware, and get the machine networked to my Microsoft NT/Windows network. I'll start on that presently. In about an hour Dr. Phil Chapman, onetime Australian Polar Explorer and later American Astronaut will come over and we'll go to dinner. Haven't seen Phil and Marie in far too long. I'm also cleaning off my desk. I'll get four Bankers Boxes of junk out of this. I can put it in the back room to age until I feel safe in throwing it away.
New report by Thompson on twiddling NT Servers. And I'm off to face mounds of junk on my desk.