November 9 - 15, 1998


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BOOK Reviews


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Previous Weeks of The View 1  2   3  4  5  6  7   8  9 10  11  12  13  14 15  16  17 18   19 20 21 22

For an index of the above, or at least some of one, see the New Order page, which tries to make order of chaos.

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.

For the BYTE story, click here.

Last week and the week before there was a lot about LINUX, here, on the Linux pages, and in MAIL. If you are really interested in Linux there's nothing for it, you'll have to read all those. There will be more, too. The LINUX pages are organized as the log, my queries, and your responses and advice parts one, twothree, and four. There's four pages because I try to keep download times well under a minute.

Vae, Caesar


Does anyone really know about 66/300 vs. 100/300?

Do you make or sell PC-100 memory?

 Site Design

If you never saw David Em's pages, you should.

New Special Reports "Home Page"

Windows 98 discussion.


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

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 Monday: the day was devoured, and the night by paying bills. I also downloaded and installed the BIOS upgrade to my MSI motheroard. Thanks to reader Claud Addicott for helping me find a working MSI web site where I could get it.


for a view of Linux by a Windows user. Excellent.


Tuesday, November 10, 1998

Yesterday was mostly trying to get the STB Velocity 4400 boards to work in the AMD K6 2 with 3dNow! Machine. They are excellent boards, but they don’t like the Aladdin chip set in thee MSI board, and that combined with the AMD chip was just too much for them. If I run the motherboard at 100, I don’t even get video. That turns out to be a function of bad memory chips on the MSI board—it just won’t run at 100 unless you disable the external cache, and that’s enough performance hit that I decided to run things at 66 with a 4.5 multiplier so I have a 66/300 instead of a 100/300 system.

That may not turn out to be much of a disadvantage. At 66 all my cheap memory works; at 100 I need special PC 100 DIMMS, which are not cheap, and I only have one 64 Meg chip at the moment. I have also heard that Adaptec SCSI boards have problems at 100, but all is well at 66. I really need to find out the difference between 66/300 and 100/300; can you tell? Human perception is logarithmic, so sometimes the only way to tell performance improvements is with benchmarks. How much will you pay to have faster benchmarks?

Anyway, the system runs with an STB Velocity 1200 4 MB board, which is in fact perfectly good for anything I am about to do. I think. What I want is to know. But I spent the day without finding out. First thing was latest drivers for the 4400 boards. That works only with BIOS 1.1. A quick check showed my STB 4400 boards are BIOS 1.01 although they are fairly new. There are two versions of the BIOS (for NTSC, there are also 2 versions for European PAL). One is for AGP and the other PCI, so I downloaded both, as well as the driver updates. These are fairly large files, so I set GETRIGHT to go after them all. That makes for slow downloads, but I could then go hiking with Roberta and Sasha.

The files were all there when I got back. I used the network to move the files to Eagle 1 – the MSI board with AMD 3Dnow! chip running at 66/300, with Windows 98 – then made a copy of the OSR2 DOS boot disk I had made to start Eagle in the first place. Clearly I could have made a boot disk from Windows 98 DOS, but I already had the other, and copy is faster. Now I had a DOS disk with nothing on it but the boot record and, and which was a DOS version that understands FAT32. Put that into the A: drive. I had downloaded the BIOS upgrade exe file for the AGP board; now I ran the exe file. It wrote directly onto the A: disk. Now shut down. Put the 4400 AGP board into the machine. Turn on the machine. Follow instructions. The BIOS is now upgraded. Turn off the machine. Turn on the machine. Comes up in VGA. Windows detects the 4400 board. Install the new driver I had just downloaded. Reboot.

Machine starts. Windows splash screen. DOS screen. Windows splash only it’s all distorted. Black screen. Blue screen, exception error OD. I had that before I went through all this. Clearly AGP board 4400 is not going to work in this machine, upgrades or no.

I do all this stuff so you won’t have to. Now repeat it all for the PCI version of the 4400 board. Same result. Well, not quite. Either the AGP or the PCI version stays in a black screen and never shows the blue screen of death. Either way, it never comes up in Windows 98 with the 4400 drivers installed.

Go back to Velocity 128, which works fine. Upgrade the 128 drivers. No change so far as I can see.

The machine is fast, and smooth. Today if I ever get back home – I am stuck on more errands some rather critical – I will install the DVD player and see what that does.

And another time I’ll go buy another 100 mother board, I think an iWill this time, that doesn’t use the Aladdin chip set. Actually I’ll check with STB first and see. Then I’ll set up two machines side by side, one this one at 66/300 with STB Velocity 128, the other at 100/300 with STB Velocity 4400, and just see what the differences are. I can also put the Velocity 128 in the new machine and see how that compares. Ought to be good for a whole column. Again, I do this stuff so you won’t have to.


My friends tell me this web site is hopeless. It doesn’t look professional. It will never attract advertisements, not in big numbers, because it doesn’t look slick enough. I need a complete web redesign, presumably to make it look a lot more like the other slick ones.

Well, maybe. I suppose the first thing to do is compromise: put the daily view into a slicker format that you can see instantly on logging in, with navigation tools. Maybe that will be enough? Mostly I suspect I need to get back to writing novels and stop working so hard on this. I’d love some automated tools to make this simpler, but the fact remains that most of the value of this place, (I assume it has some or people wouldn’t hang around) is thoughts and ideas, not how pretty it is. Still, apparently there is an implicit standard on what is and is not "professional" and this place doesn’t meet it.

Well, no. That is, I am certainly not a professional web designer. I admit there could be better navigation tools, but you know, the difference between this place and, say, Jesse Berst’s is that much of what’s here has some value beyond this afternoon. If you want to set up a Linux system, I can’t think of a better place to start than by going to my Linux pages. It’s not that I am so smart as that I have collected in one place a lot of advice and many links, all things I wish I’d had before I started.

I need better indexing, and perhaps Dan Bricklin’s Trellix can provide some organization; but how do you "look professional" when the point, to me anyway, is not to have distractions from the meaning? It’s easy enough to use smoke and mirrors and a breathless style to give the illusion of immediate importance to your pronouncements, but the problem with those tricks is they wear off. Maybe what I say isn’t important either, but at least I try to let it stand on its merits.

Still, I suppose it can do no harm to have a closer look at Intellectual Capital’s web site and see if I can look more like that. Surely it’s "Professional"? And I need to think hard on advertisements, because I don’t have any mechanism for selling ads, and if I did I would need some kind of structure to separate ads from editorial—just as McGraw Hill so famously did at BYTE, and as some magazines so notoriously do not do. I sure wish we had Millicent.

And perhaps the thing to do is have a subscriber section available only by password, and give out passwords weekly through a mailing list or something? I suppose I need to give more thought to all this. I work too hard for not a lot of return, and when I find I am unprofessional looking so I won’t be getting a lot of readers it gives me pause. After all, I know how to get a million readers. Just write the right books.

For now, I’ll just have to muddle along.

Tuesday night:

Thanks for all the letters of support, but that wasn't really what I was after. I have been cruising around looking at some of the "professional" sites.  They all seem to take a lot longer to download pages than mine, mostly because of the ads I guess. Most have flat rather than textured backgrounds. I do think mine would look better if there were a single space between the table border on the left and the text; jammed right against the border doesn't look so good. Other than that, I don't get it. Do people LIKE narrower lines? I can certainly arrange that by adding a blank table to the right, and put some color in it for that matter.



We can also do things like this, and make them active for that matter. That doesn't work, but it can't be hard to make them visible.


Something like this? I mean it wouldn't be all that hard to do. Put some kind of stuff over to the right to keep the lines narrower, and perhaps put different colors into it? That's the way most sites look now. Is this better than my "parchment" and wider borders? What about colors? It's easy enough to do...



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Anyway, that's one way. But I rather like my parchment. Now this ought to be in mail, but:

I found this awesome color guide while surfing the net. Maybe this will help with your future redesign? It's the most useful thing I've seen in years! I think that you should link to it in VIEW.

Good luck!

Herschel Adler []



Tuesday night, late.

I never believed I would see anything like this in the United States of America. Vae, Caesar!

at the bottom of that article is a link to something predictable but also a bit frightening. Next is exile of popular generals to far away places? And then? We live in interesting times.


Wednesday, November 11, 1998

One thing I should have done and will do in future: subscribers will get an email copy of my column when I finish it, not a month or two later. I need to find a way to have a section of this site for subscribers only, and I'll do that, but for the moment it will have to be by mail. IN the next day or so (I have to revise the subscriber list a bit) all those who have (1) sent money and (2) sent the "I Paid" message with the return address being the address to which they want this sort of thing sent, will get about 5700 words of November column.

Until I get a "subscriber only" area set up -- Darnell is in the middle of a PhD program and hasn't a heck of a lot of time -- we'll do it that way.

Apparently Bob Thompson and I are about to do a big "good enough" book, mostly on hardware: what works and what doesn't.

Does anyone have data on the difference between 66/300 and 100/300? I have looked a number of web sites, and the bar charts show differences, until you look to see that that scale runs from, say, 40 to 50, not 0 to 50; so what look like big differences turn out to be quite small. There was such a chart in the Fry's ads today. Does anyone KNOW?

It occurs to me that my wife has a commercial account that takes credit cards (for selling her software). Maybe I can set it up so you can send subscriptions through her. I'll ask her.

You will note that I have moved the text slightly over from the left. "Table Properties" and a "cell padding" of 4 seems to have done the trick. Figured that one out for myself I did I did... I do need a new home page that's a bit more of a grabber. Suggestions?

I take it everyone hates my email blimp? Anyone have a better mail icon to send me? The most common complaints I have about this site are that the home page doesn't change often enough, and it needs better indexing. John Rice has made New Order a better index than I have, and I'll try to improve on that as time goes on, but indexing is always going to be a problem. Anyone who wants to help with that...

Preliminary data on the 66/300 question over in mail...

As to the home page, and the hokey icons I have here and there, send better ones if you like. I'll try to use them. Now I really do have work to do.

Does this looke better? I've been fooling with table properties.



  Or this?

That is, does the fade from the left look better, or having a cell boundary? I think the above, with the explicit boundaries gone, and I think I'll go to that.

atom.gif (1053 bytes)Opportunity: I need, fast, FEDEX, a 64 meg PC 100 DIMM that WORKS suitable for an MSI PC-100 Socket 7 MS-5169 motherboard. (Two would be even better.)  It may be that it's that memory that is at fault, and why I can't get things to work at 100 but they work OK at 66. I have had a long talk with the tech people at STB: did you know that changing drivers may require you to go into WINDOWS/INF/OTHER and eliminating some .inf files?  Neither did I, but apparently with WIndows 98 it can be required. So back out of the back room come the STB 4400 boards, but now I need to be sure that the old drivers are GONE, GONE, GONE, and that means deleting the darned things. Which I will.

But if you are a memory company (I used to get certified memory from Kingston, and I know that's good memory, but they haven't talked to me since BYTE folded, alas) with good PC 100 DIMMS, let me know... I'll probably end up buying some, but we have problems here that keep me from getting out for the next few days, and I'd love to try this at 100 and see if it was just the random memory DIMM from Fry's. (It's IBM chips on the DIMM and it's supposed to be PC 100, but...)

And there was another 20 minutes trying to find the reason why a page won't scroll. It's always mail, and always deeply intended closing blocks. I should know this by now.



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Actually, I like this borderless effect, so that's what it shall be in future. Next question is, should there be a right hand border at all? A color? To control the width of text lines there apparently has to be SOMETHING over there.Of course I can narrow the text even more an put pictures in there.

Wednesday night.


Site design considerations: I don't want to rename a view column. I suppose I can eliminate the "View Home" page and just have the numbered pages, with the current one indexed to the front page; it would mean repeating all the boiler plate on each one, but that's not all that big a problem. Similarly for Mail. Since the NEW ORDER page repeats anything I index in View and Mail, those are taken care of. I suppose I could begin a big table of VIEW and MAIL dates associated with their numbers, but would anyone actually USE? It should be pretty clear that each numbered page is a week previous to the last one, and that's true back to near the beginning when things get, um, chaotic.

I like my blimp, and I think it stays. I like compasses and lava lamps and the griffin and I reserve the right to drop them in from time to time. I probably will revise the home and contents pages, and What Is This Place. Other than that, I fear that what you see is what you will get for a while. It would be neat to have the revenue from advertisements, but they are also distracting, and I suspect that as time goes there will be less and less revenue from them to anyone. The Amazon links have generated about a thousand dollars, not the Earth, but certainly worth the effort of putting them in. I ought to do more with books, but then there are a lot of things I ought to do. More games too. In my copious free time.

Anyone who has nifty images I can put in here and there is invited to send them. That's how I got some of the ones I like. And those who have been working on frame designs, thanks. I'll look seriously at them. For the moment we'll just have to muddle through… And for now it's going to look like this, more or less, except that the right hand border may go away. Or change colors. Or get wider and have something in it.

Then we could always do things like this, no? Perhaps a bit flashier? More whizbangs?

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  But perhaps that's enough playing about.

On memory: I HAVE what is certified as PC 100 memory. All the symptoms indicate that it isn't, really. I used to get memory from Kingston, like ammunition, and it never failed. I don't have a source problem in the sense of finding a source. What I need is some new contacts. I can't go on paying for all these boxes and stuff, and Lord knows I don't WANT more machines around here, but I would like to be sure of what my problem is. Not that it's a real problem anyway: that is, 66/300 works quite well, and I suspect that except for really high end flight simulator games you can't tell it from 100/300 but I would like to know.   Sometime in the next month I'll get a known good 100/300 board and PC 100 memory.

Thursday, November 12, 1998

 abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz  abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

 I haven't really lost my mind. I've been told that lines ought to be 3 alphabets wide and I'm getting a notion of how wide that is. Does adding that invisible right table cell help? Or for that matter, ought it to be visible? As for instance the black above here? We'll just have to see. But I think that's irritating, to see blank space to the right with no text in it. So what color ought the right hand boundary to be?



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Something like this? Anyway it's breakfast time.

Does anyone know how to find and change the default document name? That is, I am up to Document 26 as the current default. I don't have any documents named Document # where # is a number. So where does it store this default number? It's a very minor annoyance but one I would like to deal with.

And enough fooling around with appearances. This is what things will look like in future. I have set it up as the new page model. The only real question is should the right hand margin be a different color from the "parchment" (which I like; I don't care for really bright colors when I have to read a lot, and black on white is a lot of light coming out of that screen at me).

David Em's Pages

David Em, an outstanding image artist -- The Art Of David Em is out of print but was one of the first books on computer fine art ever published and still one of the best -- and my son Alex are working on a book, so David has not done any pages or columns for this place in a while: nor should he. They are doing a book on how to set up a graphics studio, and I doubt anyone can do that better than they. But there are two pages of David Em's work here that newcomers may not be aware of. Do have a look. They are of course one and two. Highly recommended...

If you get confused by all the special reports and unable to find them or even know which ones exist, there is a new Special Reports "Home" page that should tell you what exists. Thanks to Bob Thompson.


Friday, November 13, 1998

Friday the 13th and it feels that way. I'm getting further and further behind. Went to the Reason Foundation 30th anniversary dinner last night. Got to see a lot of old friends. Good talk by John Stoessel. Sat at a table with Fylstra (of VisiCalc) and Carl Helmers the founding editor of BYTE who got me on board BYTE in the first place. Alas, I got set a task by a Congressman, two other people wanted commissions impossible of fulfillment, and generally while it was a great dinner and a good time, it may have set me back even further. Came home to find email from people upset about other things I've done, and yet more tasks to do that I don't have time for.

This is getting serious. I HAVE GOT to finish Mamalukes, and there will certainly be some editorial changes to be made to BURNING CITY. And Niven and I have an idea for a major work. So: something has to change here. It's taking far too much time.

Well, I suppose people my age and in my racket ought to feel good about having plenty to do. Beats hell out of the alternative. I see people younger than me retired and wasting away. I wonder what it would mean to be retired? I hope I never find out.

One problem with parallel processing: if several people work on something, some of them are going to feel their work was wasted. It's one reason I don't set too many public tasks: if 30 people solve a problem for me, only one is going to see the work implemented, and that will usually not be the "best" but the first that was more than good enough if I'm in a hurry. As I usually am.

For instance, it would be nice to have some lozenge shaped buttons in colors that look good in my left margin parchment, which have words in them (or which would be easy to change words). I don't always like fancy icons if they take a long time to download because one thing I do try to do here is, unprofessional as this place is, keep access times short and downloads fast so people are not looking at a blank screen forever. I would think simple text buttons with a lozenge shape and nice colors and words in a decent font wouldn't be too slow. Might dress things up over on the left side a bit.

Breakfast time.


Before I forget it, thanks to everyone who told me what wabmig means. Windows Address Book MIGration tool. Thanks. I keep getting new messages about that, apparently as people discover the August column...



I have done a little updating and a lot of page cleaning of the Windows 98 discussion; I will have more for that page another time. Meanwhile, it's there, and it tells of some installation difficulties others have had. If you have Windows 98 horror stories that ought to go in that report, send details in mail with the appropriate subject, and I'll look into it and post them if appropriate.



COMDEX is next week, so I will be about a Week NOT HERE. I may or may not be answering mail. I will almost certainly have little in the day book, but I should have show reports by my, Alex, Darnell, and the usual suspects. With luck we'll be collecting goodies to write about.


Saturday Morning, November 14, 1998

I am off for COMDEX tomorrow.

Slight appearance changes, started by Talin, then completed by me with PhotoShop. Eliminates the off color strip to the left, and fades the parchment colorings just a bit. I rather like it anyway, and since you can't please everyone, I might as well please myself. That way at least SOMEONE is satisfied, a line from one of the Lords in The Burning City as a matter of fact.

Otherwise all is well, except that I haven't got as much work done as I should. But that's usual I guess.

Discovered something I wrote a year ago, which I forgot. It's been here all the time, and ought to be linked with some of the other Microsoft debate stuff. Still relevant, I think.

Breakfast time.

COMDEX is next week followed by the Hackers Convention. I'm going to both, so don't expect much activity here. I'll try to look at mail, but if you can hold off on mail for the week it might be simpler for all of us. I'll be around in Las Vegas, with press credentials, and it will be the first Fall Comdex I've ever been to that I have not had to run around at a frantic pace on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in order to choose the Best of Show awards we gave on Wednesday. I will miss the Tuesday night editorial sessions -- 5 hours of intense discussion with the Byte Staff, the brightest people in this industry, discussing the latest stuff, what is new, what is innovative, what will have a big effect on the industry, and what is way cool. Those were the most informative meetings I have ever been to, or at least since I left the Apollo program in the 60's.

Maybe I will make notes and give my own personal Chaos manor technology awards. We'll see. It wouldn't be the same, though: I gave those awards at the shows but I never for a moment thought they were "mine"; without the Byte Editorial people, like Russell, and Tom, and Tommy, and Dave and I guess I'm about to get misty-eyed with nostaglia for a task I really didn't much like -- without those people there'd have been no awards to present. The "official" awards last year didn't hold a candle to ours. The other guys gave one award to a product that wasn't at the show, and to another that we had given an award at Spring Comedex months before! So I will look and listen and if there's something really outstanding I'll try to do something about reporting it.




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