October 12 - 18, 1998


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BOOK Reviews



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Boiler Plate: If you want to PAY FOR THIS there are problems, but I keep the latest HERE. I'm trying. MY THANKS to all of you who sent money. I'm making up a the mailing list. There are enough that it's a chore, which is not something to complain about. Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I am also toying with the notion of a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts

atom.gif (1053 bytes) If you subscribed, CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?  If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.

This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. The regular COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 words, will appear monthly when I get orbanized. Real Soon Now.

I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying

right of passage Before you write me about that, click here.


Burning City bought by Simon and Schuster

New Log Page: Winnie and the wandering Zip Drive: Problem found, and SOLVED.

The Microsoft Corporate Culture


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

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Monday, October 12, 1998 Noon

Worked late last night on Mamelukes, after sitting around talking with Dr. and Mrs. Chapman. I have no idea what's happening now. God looks after fools, drunks, and the United States of America, and we can hope that's both true and will continue; no one else seems to be, certainly not the people we pay well to do it for us. Congress and the President are playing chicken over the budget bill, with the implied threat to shut down the bureaucracy. That's a threat?

Anyway I got another 2,000 words done, and I'll do more today, and the Navy seems interested in having Niven and me have a look at their Space Warfare stuff. Our next novel will probably be 'mainstream science fiction' set somewhere between 20 and 40 years from now depending on when we think the technological era we want to describe will happen. It should be an interesting world and story. We also have a theme, but the characters won't know that.

And now to get this page set up and go climb the hill. It's a lovely day but it's also POLLEN TIME in Southern California. Puffy eyes, stuffy nose, the works.


Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Evening after Buffy

Day utterly devoured by locusts. Dog to vet for routine shots, hike up the hill, sleep later than I expected, and energy drained either by allergies or a touch of something or both. Managed to clean off a square foot of desk. Otherwise, not one thing done worth doing. Oh. Well.

I did find this in past mail. It leads to a forum that has my name on it although until tonight I was never over there. Perhaps again.

Dr. Pournelle,

Sometime when you get a chance, would you mind putting up a link from to the site on Delphi? The url would be

Tim Pleasant

Tim Pleasant [

This is conducted by some of the people who where with me on Genie. As I say I have not been there until recently. It's easy enough to get on.


Wednesday, October 14, 1998 Dawn

Whatever I've got, I don't sleep as well as I ought to. So here I am at dawn looking for amusement on the net and not finding it. Oh well.

Jesse Berst's AnchorDesk tells me that setting up Windows is a right of passage for his readers. When you see something like that in print, you wonder. I've managed a few myself, although I don't think many got past my editors at BYTE. Here on this web sight perhaps more get through. After all, sight and right are words. On the other hand, the state of education being what it is, I expect it's possible for people to have heard of a right of passage and never know what a rite is…

At least Buffy was getting back to normal last night after two pretty horrible new series episodes. And Mom is finally adjusting. It would be pretty traumatic to find out not only that your daughter is The Slayer, but that she died for a few minutes some time ago…

What I don't want to do today is think. With as much to do as faces me, that's not going to be easy, but maybe the thing to do is set up a Windows 98 box, with DVD. That's supposed to be pretty simple now. Probably not, but I suspect it's a lot simpler than trying to coax a Linux box. The problem with Linux and UNIX is that you've either got to be so familiar with them that all those command line procedures are automatic, or you've got to think about what you're doing. Thinking about what you're doing is fine for experimentalists, and even for journalists, but it's also a bit like fighting the alligators when you're being paid to grow something useful in the swamp. Learning to use powerful tools is all very well, but I am not sure I need to know how to use all the features of a radial arm saw in order to build a bird feeder.

Anyway, if I can remember how to shut down the Linux box, which has been undergoing stability tests by being forced to do loops and odd things -- no problems whatever, so it's clearly pretty stable -- I can put an empty case on the test stand and build that AMD MX Windows 98 system just to see what it can do. Otherwise I'll have to learn enough about TCP/IP to get enough of that going that the Linux box can see the rest of my network, and while I'm sure that's easy and simple, I'm also sure it's beyond me for this morning. Mostly I want to spend my time on Tran with Rick Galloway and his Janissaries, and just at the moment I don't seem to be up to that either. I don't know if this is pollen season, a touch of something, galloping senility, or just blue funk from not getting enough sleep.

I seem to have a long list of things I wish were done but that I don't want to do, so I expect it's funk curable by a good breakfast.

One thing: I have a review copy of Trellix, a document conversion and web creation system from Dan Bricklin. If you haven't heard of this, go to and have a look. In particular, have a look at what they have done with the Ken Starr documents; not that I am recommending you spend any time looking at that stuff, but that Trellix has made a bit of order even out of that chaos. Trellix is a system for turning documents into web sites; not for making whizbangs or dramatic visual displays, but for organizing information so that it's easier to find.

It is in fact about what I need for this place, and when I'm feeling a bit better I hope to apply it here. In particular, Trellix makes site MAPS that are actually fairly easy to understand and follow. It will deal with WORD documents and Visio charts, and while I am just getting started with this, I'm impressed with what it can do. How easily it does it isn't established yet, but it looks as if it's a means of turning your web site into one enormous Bricklin Demo Program, and in principle that ought not be so hard to do. Dan is, for those new to this game, co-author of VisiCalc as well as the creator of Dan Bricklin Demo and a bunch of other tools to make life easier for people who have to use these machines.

A letter on LINUX gets me thinking about doing that again. I do wish I wold hear from O'Reilly about review copies of their UNIX books. The installation will with luck continue today.

Re the NT vanishing fonts problem on the big Dual Pentium 200 Pro server:

tbrown []

Hi Jerry,

Re: the NT font problem

Everybody seems to think that it is a WinNT problem, but I have the same thing with Win95!

1. It did not happen when the covers were off.

2. There is a distinct lack of the white gunge between the CPU and the heat sink.


Get better fast!!

BiBi and thanks for all the info

Tony Brown

Interesting. Last night I changed to small fonts and rebooted. Was OK when I went to bed. Is blank of detail icons and no fonts this morning. May be heat. I can live with this since it is a server and we don't DO much with it anyway, but still…

david vesey []


I popped this into the urgent box, because allergies are a drag. I’m prone to them myself, and the way I fight them is a new nasal spray called "NASALCROM", not an anti-histamine, zero side effects. Somehow it works to block the pores of your nasal passages to allergens. No side effects.The problem is it takes days of usage before it builds up and works.

It’s over-the-counter, and not cheap. But allergies slow me down so much it’s worth it. And I don’t like the pills.

In the house I use honeywell hepa filters, but of course they only work if the windows are closed.

Keep On,

david vesey

Actually I used that last season and was impressed, and I have some now but haven't been as religious about using it as perhaps I should. I'll keep sniffing. It did seem to help last time. And thanks.


Ross Fleming []

You need to go fix the Trellix URL in the latest view. It points to file:///C:/Program%20Files/Microsoft%20FrontPage/temp/ rather than Is this just you getting up on the wrong side of the bed or is it some weird FrontPage bug?

Weird FrontPage bug indeed. I'll fix it and thanks, but I have not the faintest idea how that got that way. I just typed in and nothing else. Sigh. Thanks.

It now is pointing to

(And that didn't get fixed until August! JEP)

Also, have you seen the new Viewsonic PS790 short-depth 19" monitor?? It is supposed to be the same depth as a 15" monitor. I just ordered one and can’t wait for it to arrive. It’s a good deal, too, it’s only costing me $516 + shipping (from some place called

Have a good night,

Matt Volk

This is insane. I have fixed it yet one more time. Front Page hates me. I can tell. Apparently you can't do absolute links easily without a fight. But I think I have it.

Have not seen the ViewSonics but I did see the Nokia monitors. Should be getting one of each soon enough. I use big ViewSonic 21" and my wife has a Nokia 21 and we love them, but the shorter and lighter would be convenient if the same image quality. We will see when we have one.


Wednesday, 14 October, 1998 Near Midnight

I am pleased to say that as of 5 PM Eastern Daylight time THE BURNING CITY by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle has been bought by Simon and Schuster for a good 6 figure advance. The book was finished in the sense that a completed work was submitted. Editor John Ordover has some suggestions for improvements in the book which we are eager to see, and will take seriously. Simon and Schuster has an agreement with Baen Books (which S&;S distributes) that they will publish only "Big" or "Important" science fiction works, meaning that The Burning City is considered such a book by them. Niven and I have four major works: The Mote in God's Eye, The Gripping Hand, Inferno, and Oath of Fealty with Simon and Schuster, so it's not surprising that we'll be publishing our first major heroic fantasy with them. The contract includes an option on a sequel, which we have already planned in some detail.

THE BURNING CITY takes place some 14,000 years ago, about 30 years after Atlantis sank beneath the waves, in a time when there were a number of civilizations, all based on magic. The magic is getting weaker and weaker as the manna is used up. Characters include a former Atlanean journeyman wizard, barbarians, subjects, lords, masters, primitives, an unpleasant hermit who lives in the middle of a love spell. The entire book is from the viewpoint of Whandall Placehold from age seven until maturity, and ends with an epic wizard's duel followed by battles. Final contracts will be signed next week, and Niven and I are looking forward to working with our new editor.

Mrs. Pournelle, who is no fan of heroic fantasy, says the book is a page turner; she read it in about two days. I find that reassuring. Mrs. Pournelle had editorial suggestions, some of which were incorporated into the draft submitted; others will be combined with the suggestions of our new editor when we do a final draft. We will also be adding maps, a cast of characters, and a basic chronology.

Early chapters will be posted here once the contract is signed and we have our new editor's comments.

The sale was agented by Eleanor Wood, principal owner of the Blassingame-Spectrum and Spectrum Literary Agencies of New York City. Movie rights are represented by Joel Gotler of Renaissance Agency in Hollywood. Overseas rights are represented by Ralph Vincinanza.

Thursday, October 15, 1998

Darned near Noon and I'm hardly up. Nasalcrom helps, but not enough. I'm still trying to make sense out of the documents for how to install Applixware for Red Hat Linux. It may be that my head isn't working, but I think they have hired someone to write their documents who wants to make sure that normal people never use their stuff. It's sure a lot easier to make a new machine running Windows 98 than it is to get one already running Linux to do anything useful.

Perhaps that isn't true, and if someone who can write clearly were to address the problem it would be simple; all I know is that I can't for the life of me figure out how I am supposed to install this stuff, I have a couple of documents and they aren't any help, the indexes were written by babblers, and all told it looks as if they WANT to be obscure. Either that or I am off my head.

Father Jones called yesterday to ask about a COMP USA computer deal: $1700 for an IBM Pentium II 400 mhz system, 128 megabytes of memory, 7+ gigs of disk space, 56K modem (probably a Winmodem, but with that much memory and chip speed who cares), sound card (not specified but if it's IBM it's likely to be Sound Blaster compatible and even if it's not I have plenty of cards that are) and a 17" monitor. For another $200 he gets a 3 year at home service policy. Now I am not all that familiar with COMP USA, but I do know I couldn't put this package together for under a thousand, so I told him to go buy it before they change their minds. I also see $900 systems in the Fry's catalogs that are better than anything we had here a year ago except for the monitors. Astonishing. I guess it's the collapse of the Asian economies.

I suppose I ought to try fighting with the Applixware installation again. Why do they have to be so darned OBSCURE about how to do it?

For more on this, see the Linux page on whether Linux is a hobby, followed by some observations by Talin.     And then I made a new Linux page just to cut down on download time. Moshe Bar tells how to mount a CD. If you have no interest in Linux you can skip all that stuff.

Friday, October 16, 1998

Can it be the evil Microsoft? Or something simpler?

I was looking at the web site of the anti-Microsoft

Project to Promote Competition and Innovation in the Digital Age, better known as ProComp ( found that (1) attempts to use Internet Explorer to send mail to ask for a paper touted by the organization failed, and (2) when I switched to Netscape it worked to send mail, but when I tried going back to the top of the site -- that is go from to by eliminating the latter part of the URL and hitting return, Netscape crashed and had to be reloaded.

What the significance of this might be isn't clear. Why crash Netscape? And why can't I send mail using IE 4? (That latter may be due to Netscape being my default browser, but IE 4 was up when I decided to go have a look at ProComp, so I thought I might as well use that; but when I clicked the thing for sending them mail I was told I couldn't do that because the mail client isn't installed. That's probably due to some condition here. But when I switched to Netscape, while I was able to send mail to ask for this mysterious paper they refer to but don't seem to show any way to get at on line, I got the crash described. Odd.

The anti-Microsoft site is sure more sophisticated than the pro-Microsoft

Association for Competitive Technology ( which looks to be the personal site of Jonathan Zuck, its executive director, but neither one of them seems very long on information; both look like places to find press releases. The paper on "Microspin" that ProComp is so proud of doesn't seem available on line; only their excerpts and headlines, i.e. the anti-spin.

Later: they have sent me this URL for the paper:

but it was not visible to me when I looked. Oversight I suppose. It's their spins on the Microsoft spins.

I'm tempted to wish a pox on both their houses. I also wish the money spent on putting up and maintaining those web sites and paying the staffs of those organizations was being invested in fixing some of the bugs in both Microsoft and anti-Microsoft software. But that I suppose is far too much to ask for.


Saturday, October 17, 1998

Going for a hike. Back shortly, then it's Linux Applications until I get it or give up.

Well, I give up. See the Linux adventures.



Sunday October 18, 1998

I see I have a lot of mail about Linux, so perhaps today solves that problem. Meanwhile, my Palm Pilot III is doing odd things since I converted it from a Palm Pilot Professional. The fonts keep reverting to the simple hard to see ones instead of the darker second choice. The Giraffe Game has vanished and I can't find any way to get it back. Those are the main problems. I figure to solve them by:

First, I'll save everything. Then I'll reinstall the Pilot III software. Then I'll do a cold reset. If that doesn't work I'll have to spelunk in the manuals.

Next problem is that Pilot Desktop HELP doesn't even contain entries for "fonts" and it's hard to find -- make that impossible to find -- any way to change the fonts because I can't find a button for "menu" in the pilot desktop. Something odd is going on. Reinstallaton seems indicated.

Note that I know you can find a lot in manuals if you dig deep enough, although usually they are not well organized and the indexing is awful. Twenty years ago when I began writing about using small computers -- this was FDOS, then CP/M days -- I would routinely write critiques of manuals in hopes of getting publishers to pay more attention to them. I am told I was taken seriously; certainly I was offered considerable sums for consulting, most of which I turned down on conflict of interest grounds, then did the analysis and report anyway because I wanted the work done. Over the years, though, improving manuals became less of a goal, and with Windows I pretty well dropped it. It's now incumbent on publishers to make their stuff understandable, if need be by tour guide and intro programs. Context sensitive help is now expected, not an innovation. Or so it should be. The reality is often a bit different.

I have the books, and I'll dig, but I sure don't like my Pilot doing odd things. But then I have all these Pilot Island programs I haven't installed and figure to get to today or tomorrow once I get Applixware running. For the Linux adventure and an indication that I am either stupid or the program installation is more difficult than you would think, see the Linux Adventure pages, Part I and Part II. Part II is where I am adding commentary now.

Santa Ana conditions here. Hot, dry, pollen count high, sinus headaches common although Nasalcrom does help, as does Benadryl.

I probably ought to cut down on coffee. I read that Honore de Balzac was able to write some 80 novels because he drank 67 cups of coffee a day, but he died of caffeine poisoning at age 47. I have to say also that while the article I read gave exact numbers just as I did, I don't remember them so I made those up although they are in the right ballpark. Of course I don't remember where I read it, either, so the source may not be too good. Truth in journalism… Now see mail...

I have become weary of well meant attempts to tell me how to fix the drive displacement problem with Winnie. Look: thanks all, but I know you can assign drive letters. Or try to. Whether you can do that when the BIOS detects a cartridge drive with a cartridge in it as the Secondary IDE Master is not so clear: this may be more an Award Bios problem than a Microsoft Windows 95b problem, but there may be an interaction with 95b which is a real bug. It's enough of a problem that I have opened a page to log what I am doing with this. If drive displacements and interactions with Windows interests you, click here.


Meanwhile, the advice on Linux continues on the Linux pages. At some point I'll get the nerve to face that again. Sigh.

OK: Winnie is fixed and the story is isnteresting, so go see that. If you are contemplating putting in an IDE ZIP do NOT install it as Secondary Master!! Then I managed to get Applixware installed but I can't FIND it. I am going for a hike.

Night. I have Intellectual Capital column to get done. I've had about all the UNIX fun today a man can stand. And far too much interesting mail, most of which I will read but simply won't have time to put up. Thanks to everyone. As to why I select some and not others, it's partly which I read first, when I ran out of time, and pure whim. Again, thanks to everyone who wrote on this stuff today. It's a LOT of mail.


Scott Kitterman []

Some time ago you posted a message in mail that mentioned Front Page being acquired by Microsoft, rather than built from the ground up. There is an interesting article in today’s Washington Post which talks about that and give some decent insight into the corporate culture at Microsoft.


Scott Kitterman

Extremely interesting. One of the best articles on this I have seen in a long time. I highly recommend it. Thanks for telling me about it


 A note: for the benefit of those who decided to right to me to tell me that rite and right are not the same word, and ships have rights of passage while rituals are rites of passage, did you really suppose I did not know that? Thank you, but in fact I did.





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