November 30 - December 6, 1998

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BOOK Reviews


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Death Valley Days

IF YOU KEPT getting the same mail page over and over click here.

For an index of previous pages of view, see VIEWDEX. See also the New Order page, which tries to make order of chaos. These will be useful. For the rest, see What is this place? for some details on where you have got to.

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.

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.

The PICTURES of my desert adventure are up now.

Consumer reports: Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. I hope that's right. This outfit can't do a web site right.

Begin assembly of Roberta's new machine.

Got it fixed; sound card/video card clashes.

New Linux: Setup, and Applications

Long Mail exchange on Microsoft wrapped up.




Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

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Monday, November 30, 1998

Still looking for a new truck. The leg tingles like crazy but it's not red and swollen, so the IV drips have been doing their job. With hot compresses. And elevation. I had speeches at LASCON yesterday and was astonished at how tired I got and how quickly.

Today I will write.

Installed Play's GIZMOS for Windows 98. They'll be in the column. Not as revolutionary as what I expect from Play, but well worth the cost.

I'm still looking for a cell phone provider, and I want to start playing with this tiny little Franklin Rex Pro PDA. It's sure cute. And there is a lot of Palm Pilot stuff I have not done. I should be getting the replacement to Royal Armadillo shortly; that Compaq Armada survived but with enough damage that it should be replaced. But I peeled all the files off it.

NOON: Have had my morning drip. Now to hike, then return and elevate the leg with hot compresses. Fun. Well, compared to losing a leg it's fun.

Niven is in hopsital, and I have to see him this afternoon. I expect he's all right. Some innards problems. He's younger than me, but I didn't get him started doing regular exercises (like hiking into the mountains with my Boy Scouts) until he was in his 30's so he hasn't had as many years of being, if not in shape, then at least not too far out of it. But he has been doing yoga a lot, and he's pretty healthy, so I don't expect a lot of problems here.  Still have to go see him. And I don't have a car.

Or truck.  Sigh.  What I need is enough money to just go BUY one and be done with it. But which? They all look like they're made for soccer moms, not for going out into the desert. And they all have air bags. A four wheel with air bags. Why did these things have to go and get popular?


Evening. I hate Consumer reports.

Has anyone been silly enough to subscribe to Consumer reports on line? Their web site is impossible to wade through, but I finally did it, and told them I'd take a year's worth and be done with it.


Next time I try to log on, the only thing I get is server errors. Nothing can be done. Waste time, waste time, waste time. And they charge quite a lot, too. This consumer's report on consumer reports on line is that you have to be crazy to give those people money. If they, with all the money they get, can't manage a web site that works why should I believe them about anything else?

And you won't be able to unsubscribe easily either. And everything takes FOREVER: why? They don't have ads. It is clearly incompetence at work; and that argues they aren't too good at much else either. I know that if I were doing nothing else, I'd sure make it easier to use this place. When you finally do manage to log in -- the only way it would let me log in was an attempt to cancel my subscription -- then it's incredibly slow, and hard to find anything. OK: my site isn't the fastest and easiest. But it's just me. This is supposed to be a bunch of pros, and they have a professional LOOKING site. It just doesn't work very well.

So I wanted to find out the price of the Mercedes M Class. I am not likely to buy one, but it doesn't hurt to look. Only after finding it -- no easy trick -- I get a server error when trying to access it. This is insane. I cannot believe how much time I am wasting. I think I will just forget it, and tell American Express to disallow any payment on the grounds that these incompetents haven't managed to fulfill any part of the subscription bargain. They will not give me access to any reports, they want my money, and they won't let me log on. They don't have any way to send messages to them. They are quick to take your money, but that's all they do. There is an email box, and they say they love to get mail from subscribers, but it gives a server error.

I suppose I may as well plumb the depths of this iniquity.

All attempts to communicate with them have failed. I am sending a letter, and I will tell American Express I will not pay. And I find this fascinating that this rather smug outfit that tells us how others are can't manage a simple thing like a web site subscription system that works. Or for that matter a site that is easy to use. But these loathsome toads have designed a new level for frustration, with meaningless error messages, long long screens of instructions that when followed get you nowhere, invitations to send email to them that fail when you try them; and always with this tone of moral superiority.

I will find out what I ought to pay another way. I will also set American Express to tell them they will never collect a dime from me. I seldom get this angry but the combination of complete incompetence coupled with that tone of superiority set me off good. Incidentally I get the same results with Netscape and IE4.  In all cases it will not let me log in at the subscriber log in; it recognizes me if I try to cancel the subscription; and it won't let me actually cancel. And all attempts to get any information result in messages about internal error in the server prevents them from processing my request.

They should fire their web designer tomorrow, and then think about how to build one that works. If anyone has any contacts with these clowns, please tell them for me what I think of them.


Tuesday, December 01, 1998

Thanks to all of you who mentioned When I first started this quest for car and truck information, Bob Thompson told me to go there, but while I have never in fact made much use of Consumer Reports, that was mostly sloth; now that it was on line, I figured that would be the place to go. Foolishly, as it happens. They seem determined to punish you for trying to deal with them, and there are enough things in this world to make me feel stupid without my paying for more of them. Consumer Reports may do as it will, but ohne mich.

There are apparently plenty of free services that give pricing and safety information; and in any event, after seeing the total incompetence of Consumer Reports to deal with matters I do have some competence in -- I may not be a world class web designer, but I've done enough of this to have some right to an opinion -- I see no reason to trust their competence on matters about which I know little to nothing. Incidentally, my policy in most of these matters is to give the people I talk about a chance to explain to me why my view is wrong before I tell all of you; but in their case they made that impossible, and it's one of my major complaints. In any event, Edmund's has all the information, it's easy to find, and it is FAST. As well as free. I'd pay for fast. CR is costly and at best slow and klunky. Interesting that they feel competent to tell us all about everything else.

I am off to the doctors shortly. Then I have to get to Fry's to find a way to make Roberta's Gateway 2000 Pentium 200 work a bit better: she has run out of disk space because of her wave sound recordings. We will be opening new pages on wave table sounds, how to record and compress them, and an entire new adventure soon. For the moment I must either drop in a large new hard disk on her system, or replace her mother board, or build her a new machine and have done with it. The Gateway 2000 Pentium 200 was one of the first of that breed, and some of it's a bit out of date. It doesn't use standard memory, to begin with, so we are having problems finding memory to add to her system. Good mother boards aren't that expensive, and I may just do that, find a modern Socket 7 board and be done with it. She doesn't need processor speed, but disk speed she does need since she does a lot of file transfers, of big files. We'll see.

I have got to get to the Monk's Cell and write, or I am going to starve.


BULLETIN for those who care: Larry Niven is back home, and in good shape and what they were afraid of didn't happen. We will probably hike later this week.



Wednesday, December 2, 1998

Still on IV drip and now I have pills; but the red is going away.

I am about to built my wife a new machine. She's running out of disk space on "Joizy" the Gateway 2000 Pentium 200, and that machine was an early P-200 which needs some kind of memory I have problems finding; so by and all, it's just easier to build her a new one around a 9 gig disk, with a 1 gig SyQuest Sparq built, and probably an IDE Zip as well; that will make sneakernetting a lot simpler, and put off the dreadful day when I have to pull wires from her office up to here. I can temp some lines up the stairwell, but getting in between the floors and boring holes and the like is beyond me now. Of course I didn't do it when I wasn't carrying an IV shunt in one arm….

I'm about decided. What I want is the Mercedes 4WD. The problem is the cost. The default is the Explorer with the hotter V6 engine option. At my age and time commitments I don't want a used vehicle; just too many potential problems. The Mercedes is built in Alabama, and looks fine, and is as one car nut put it, a car man's car… It ought to cruise the freeways well, which is where you spend 90% of your time anyway, and be decent enough for off roads. I don't go rock jumping in the mountains as much as I used to anyway. But it's about ten grand more. Well, we will have to look into the exchequer. (Interesting derivation of that word: the place where taxes were paid had a checkerboard layout table to aid in computing taxes at a time when the Barons who did the computation and calculation were not so literate.)

I also have to follow up a lot of COMDEX contacts.

The COMPAQ replacement to Royal Armadillo arrived. I'll get some file transfers going shortly. Compaq Armada is a heavy machine, but I like that: it works in airplanes, and in hotel rooms, which is where I do most of my laptop writing, and down at the beach I was able to do about 10,000 words of BURNING CITY when Larry and I blitzed the ending of that book, while Larry worked on the desktop we carry back and forth. Some don't like the mushpad, and I can sympathize, but I like mushpads just fine.

Now to hike and straighten up some stuff here. I really do want to install TRELLIX to help you navigate this site.

If you have not paid your subscription, this would be a good time. I can use the money.


Wednesday Afternoon

First things first. The reason the MSI mother board did not work at 100 MHz was that the PC 100 memory I had, with IBM chips, was not good for 100. Simple as that. Today I bought some certified PC 100 memory, and it works. The old stuff which was on a special at Fry's was not in fact PC 100. Since the sale price wasn't much more than it would have been for regular memory, I won't bother to trade it. I have now checked around, and WARNING: be suspicious of PC 100 memory that has IBM chips; it often does not in fact meet the PC 100 specs.

Eagle One (MSI Socket 7 PC 100 motherboard, AMD K2 3dNOW chip) now is running at 100/300 rather than 66/300. So far I have noticed no differences, but I haven't done a lot of tests. It runs smooth and well, and no problems. THIS MEANS WAR plays smoothly. Thing load well. The real test will be with 3d games, and I'll do that shortly. No question, though, it's smooth.

I also have a new iWill PC 100 Socket 7 board and a 9 gigabyte disk; those will go into Robert's new machine, which will in total cost me about $600 when I get it set up.

I am informed that we're very close to a new book contract on the Chaos Manor guide to "good enough". This ought to be a good book, and I'm quite pleased with the contract terms. Look for an announcement next week.

After I get Roberta's Windows 98 machine going -- she's got to have that because she's doing a Windows version of her program, and software development is tough enough without having to learn a new OS -- I'll concentrate for a whole on the Linux box. I hope to get it set up to do all my communications, after which I'll actually have a look at if for regular work. I am impressed with Linux, more so as I learn more, and if it does no more than scare Microsoft into a lot more effort that would be a lot; in fact I think Linux is destined to have at least as large a market share as once and future Apple. We'll see. Don't hold me to this prediction, I was looking for a metaphor and that looked reasonable.

If anyone can get email to Moshe Bar, please tell him I have not ignored his request, all email I have sent to him is being returned to me as undeliverable.


Wednesday Evening

BULLETIN for those who care: Larry Niven is back home, and in good shape and what they were afraid of didn't happen. We will probably hike later this week.

Construction Log: the iWill mother board may be a doozy, but there is no paper manual. Instead there is a CD which has the manual on it. How you are expected to get your system up and running with no manual is beyond me. This is insane.

The kit of screws included one hex standoff that was misthreaded. Naturally, I put that in in, and I put it where it would be the last to have a screw put into it; so I had 5 of the six screws mounted when I found that I could not get a screw into the sixth, and had to take everything out and start over. I am less impressed with the iWill quality than I was the last time I used one of their boards. I have the manual going on Winnie the winchip machine, and in fairness most of the crucial jumper settings seem to be printed on the box, but until you have your machine running you won't have a manual if you don't have another computer.

The Fry's case is heavy, and does not have a case fan; the only case fan is the power supply fan. That's probably all right. There's a place I can probably mount a case fan if I have to, but Roberta wants to do sound recording on this so I am hoping to keep the noise down.

Note: the manual on screen is hard to read. However, the board itself has most of what the jumpers DO printed on the board itself. Voltages, core speed, multiplier: if you know what you are doing you may not need the manual.

Time off to watch Law and Order. Now back to it...

No video. After a few adventures find that the CPU is bad. I take the CPU out of Eagle One and put it into the iWill board system, and voilers!  So I have to return the CPU. Fry's does that, I fear, packaging returned stuff and reselling it. Why? Do they think it fixed itself on the shelf? Or that the people they hire would be competent to know if anything works or not? Oh, well, I needed to go back out there anyway. (A reader answer: click here.)

The case has screws holding on the front plastic face. I never saw one that wasn't just pressure fitted before. Actually though I probably don't have to remove the front face so all is well.



Thursday, December 3, 1998

Returned the defective CPU to Fry's. No problems other than having to do it. I got a new Creative Sound Blaster Live! Board from Creative at COMDEX, but it's not working properly. In fact it has now just about wiped me out: when it was working the sounds were garbled, and after I installed all the drivers it blew up really good and won't work at all. I am going to have to go to safe mode, remove all the drivers, and start over; and see if that works. If not, it's the Ensonic board for us….

Leg is much better now. And one of my sons is very enthusiastic about the Dodge Durango. I keep dithering. But then I often dither in such circumstanes.

I have started up in Safe mode and removed all Sound drivers. All. Let's start over and see if that helps…


Well, the installation isn't going well at all. Everything was running in W 98, pretty smooth actually. Had the STB Velocity 4400 AGP board going. Installed a new Creative Live! Sound Board. Started putting in drivers. And crash.

It kept stopping, usually with no clue. If I booted in SAFE MODE it would work, but never in full Windows normal mode. But a few times it would stop with the message that a program caused a MEMORY ERROR at 0B6-5EBC. The address was always the same. I tried new memory chips. No avail. Removed the sound card entirely. Nothing. Tried the new AMD chip I got todays fry's. IT DOESN'T WORK!! Second one. I will have to swap it out. Tried a different video board. No avail. Reinstalled Windows 98. Same thing.

I have now reformatted the hard disk and I'm reinstalling Windows, first 95, then 98. That's a bit of a pain, but it's what I am doing. Bah.

 As to vehicles, I guess it's now Mercedes vs. Durango. For reasons I won't explain, we're not partial to Range rover here, although it's probably a wonderful car. But we were involved in an accident with one, once, and it left a bad taste. I am beginning to think that the Mercedes M class is worth the extra; after all I keep these things forever, and so its extra cost is amortized over many years. We'll see.


Friday, December 4, 1998

Column time this weekend with a lot of social stuff as well.

Installing Windows 98 again. Since the installation disk I have is an upgrade, I started with a DOS disk made by ORS2 (which knows about FAT 32; with an 8 gigbyte disk you have to use FAT 32 or chop it up into tiny partitions). Get the disk formatted in DOS, copy the Win 98 disk to WINDOWS/OPTIONS/CABS, and run it from there. When it asks for the qualifying disk put the OSR2 CD in the drive; it finds it nicely from there. Unlike the misery of trying to "qualify" from floppies.

So it's running. Meanwhile I have many horror stories about Sound Blaster Live installation, so this could be interesting. If this doesn't work it's the Ensonic Board for us…

Discovered last night that on the home page I had a link to one mail page, not the "home" mail page so it was possible for people to keep seeing the same page of mail over and over and over. Aaargh. If that happened to you, apologies: there's lots more mail, most interesting. Aargh.

Still lots of problems with the Creative Live! board. I think I will go tgo Ensonic. No trouble with the STB Velocity 4400 in AGP. That's a very hot board and the text looks OK on it too.

My thanks to all who have given me their experiences with 4 wheel vehicles. I am now being told there isn't enough road clearance for the Mercedes M Class to be a serious off road vehicle. I will have to look at that. At my age I am not likely to go off to the outback alone any more, and I tend to stay to bad roads and tracks rather than straight cross country, so perhaps that isn't as important. For the cost the Land Cruiser is probably a better off road; how it drives on freeways where I will realistically spend most of my time is something else.


Saturday, December 5, 1998

We saw A Bug's Life last night, and it's wonderful. Good story, and the animations are incredible. Worth seeing twice because you can't possibly see all the details the first time. Do not miss the credits that roll after the picture ends. They're worth the price of the ticket.

Spent the rest of the evening trying to get Roberta's machine running. I have about given up. Possibly there is a defect in the iWill board, possibly I'm just unlucky, but the system, with an AMD K6-2 chip and STP 4400 AGP board runs just fine at 66/300 (I am being conservative since it will be Roberta's machine and she has no need of the extra oomph from running at 100/300) until I install a sound board. Then it blows up. I had thought that the problem was the Creative Live! Sound board, but it blows up with an Ensonic PCI board as well. Of course I have downloaded the latest drivers.

This morning I am going to install the STB Velocity 128 from Eagle One and see if that works. If it does not, I am going to take the MSI board from Eagle One and put that into Roberta's machine with the Velocity 128. I know that combination works, at both 66/100 and 100/300. The problem with Eagle One is the case: there's no on/off switch. You have to use the reset button to turn the system on and off and Roberta will HATE that. Scarlet, her new machine which is about to get not only a brain but a nervous system transplant, has a nice new mid-tower case. So far we have had zero problems with the Seagate 8 gigabyte hard disk; getting Roberta a large hard disk was the point of this exercise. So I'll just put the MSI board into Scarlet along with the AMD K6-2 chip that by now is well burned in into that case with the big drive and be done with it. But first to test whether the problem is somehow associated with the AGP slot.

I have fixed a couple of broken links in BOOKS; don't forget to order your books from through the icons on one or another of my pages! I get a small but real percent and that can add up... I know the "Buy a book now" links work because I just bought a book on the Baltimore affair (review will be up after I read it) a few minutes ago.

To all those who have experimented with new images for this site, my thanks, and I am not ignoring you. I am way out of time, and energy, nd I have too much to do: when I catch up a bit I will turn back to this, and your efforts will not have been wasted. Really. And thanks to all of you.

Interesting stuff about new jpeg formats; see mail.

Saturday Afternoon

Well, I have Scarlet, Roberta's new machine, running just fine: I took out the STB Velocity 4400 AGP board and replaced it with the STB Velocity 128, which for Roberta is good enough anyway. After that it was smooth sailing. It took several retries to get the Network going properly, so I can quickly transfer files to her system, but it was really just a matter of being systematic. For some reason the first installation of NetBuei didn't take.

I have the ENSONIC PCI card in there now, and it's working so I am not going to try the CREATIVE LIVE board just yet. I will though, because I want her to have the best sound we have, and that board looks very good. Just a matter of testing it in another system.

We've had driver problems with the STB Velocity 4400 on non-Intel systems before. I'll next build an Intel Socket 7 system, and a Pentium II, and try it all there. For the moment the safe bet for an AMD K6-2 system seems to be the Velocity 128, which will work with the drivers that came in the box, but will work a lot better with new ones you can download. There is also a BIOS Flash upgrade you can get from the STB site and I recommend that, but it doesn't appear to be critical.

The symptoms were odd: as soon as I added a sound board the system would lock up on startup. It would get ALMOST to the end of startup, and lock, and that would be that. After that even removing the sound drivers, or removing the sound drivers and the sound board, could cause problems. There seemed to be some kind of memory sharing conflict. I had the problem with both the Ensonic PCI and the Creatilve Live! PCI sound boards, and it went away for the Ensonic as soon as I replaced the video board. I'll now do a lot of tests, but this looks stable. It also plays THIS MEANS WAR smoothly, and that's usually a very good test of conflicts.

I don't know if this is just another case of Plug and Play not being ready for prime time or something more serious. Eventually I will find out.

Now maybe I can get on with setting up Roberta's machine, and writing my column, and getting things done around here. But we have parties tonight and tomorrow afternoon so it's going to be busy.


Sunday, December 6, 1998

Annual Christmas reception at Pepperdine President's home, which I go to to keep up with my former colleagues (I was a long time ago head of political science at Pepperdine, where I taught pre-law and national security policy as well as a senior seminar on political philosophy.)  So I don't get to look at cars today. Saw the Izusu Trooper in a parking lot today, and I like the looks of it but Roberta didn't; she has heard reports which she swears were not from Consumer Reports about instability and engineering, but she doesn't know where she heard them. It's column time and I'll be working on that tonight; there's certainly enough to write about, between Linux and the Win 98 boxes and Comdex and crashing in the desert with a GPS system....

I continue to get Linux mail, and I try to put it in the appropriate places. With cross links. Here's one on YAST and other matters. And another detailing applications available n Linux and what you can do once you get set up.

I have done minor revisions to the Death Valley Adventure report, and added a couple of pictures. Click here.



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