THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
December 28, 1998 - January 3, 1999
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This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 words.
REFRESH OFTEN! I sometimes add to this several times a day.
|Previous Weeks of The View:||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.
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For the BYTE story, click here.
The LINUX pages are organized as the log, my queries, and your responses and advice parts one, two, three, and four. There's four pages because I try to keep download times well under a minute. There are new updates to four.
Highlights this week:
December 28, 1998 Feast of Holy Innocents
We are rapidly headed for a new year, and I need to do year end roundup things. Meanwhile yesterday was devoured setting up Richard a "new" system: he had bought a good monitor, and a terrible mother board, memory, and power supply, and disk drives from surplus where he works. It would have been cheaper to tip all the junk into the dumpster, keep the Eizo monitor which was worth five times what he paid for the whole mess, and buy a new machine, but of course we didn't do that. The result was hardware hell, installation hell, and a lost day. Oh. Well. I won't tell the story because there isn't any moral. Or there is: don't DO it. It's cheap enough to get new equipment. And in particular don't try scrounging stuff at Fry's on the day after Christmas! It's horrible out there, with kids tearing open packages and such. The one thing you can do is buy a bunch of stuff on sale with the view that you will have to exchange it all since it will be missing parts and won't work: but you will have locked in the price.
It's Phillip's birthday and we are off to lunch. I have GOT to clean this place up.
And yet one more day used up, but I did get come cleaning done. Tomorrow I go to the Monk's Cell and write. Did do a mess of cleanups. Found the horrible 3-COM US Robotics web page, and eventually managed to upgrade our USR 56K Sportster 2 External. It's a complex thing that involves a toll call to Skokie plus lots of luck since the download isn't resumable and the connections are unreliable. Took several tries. Lord alone knows what it costs; I wonder if 3Com gets some of the fee from AT&;T? But with this done we now get 44 to 50K connections to Earthlink, whereas before on that access number 28.8 was about as good as it could get. Worth the effort I suppose.
Installing O'Reilly Windows 98 Annoyances Utilities. Got the STB AGP board going nicely on Winnie, a WinChip machine running Windows 95 OSR2; works quite well, And I did clear up maybe ten square feet of mess. So it was a productive day, more or less.
Time for my end of the year column, Orchids and Onion Parade, and my suggestions for what we want in the future. I'll need to work on that shortly, But first, fiction.
And a confession: in the last week or so someone sent me an animated gif that was to be used as the mail logo. I seem to have misplaced it. Will you please tell me again about this? It got very hectic here for a while...
Meanwhile, in another place, I got this greeting. I sure wish I were sure it was a joke:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit my best wishes for
December 29, 1998
Thanks to all of you who are subscribing by credit card. Response has been very good.
Meanwhile, at http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,30296,00.html there's a story about Millicent and Digicash and Cybercash. We're a ways from the "penny a click" type of subscription system.
I am talking to Darnell about changing the way this place is set up so that there will be areas available only to subscribers. Most of the material there will later be moved to the open area, but probably not all. There would probably be a couple of days delay between VIEW going up in the subscriber area and being out in the open. Is this a reasonable approach?
Well the President is now going to federalize crimes against child abuse, violence against children, and the like. That ought to bring about Nirvana. "Give me the sword of state and I shall create such a beautiful world, without crime or violence, and you will love it. Trust me." I think that has been said many times by many people. I'm waiting for the Kingdom to come; just give the police enough power, and all will be well, and I am Marie of Rumania.
We found one thing for certain: At least with an AMD k6-2 chips system DO NOT USE complicated screen savers. Stay extremely simple. Screen savers and power management are the last problems I am having with these systems. More, things are different in Windows 95b OSR2 and Windows 98. In 95 OSR2 there is a power management that thinks your system is a portable; it will do bad things to a desktop like power down drives and such. On the other hand, if you stay with simple 16 bit screen savers it seems to be all right. Seems. This is Winnie with a WinChip. We put an STB AGP 4400 in last night and whereas we had never had power/sleep/recovery problems before, we started getting real crashes. I had used the MAZE before; the maze kills us now. Went to simpler (Da Vinci, actually) screen saver and that seems to have cured the problem: can recover.
Eagle One AMD K6-2 EFA Mother Board still gives me a "SPRITE HAS CRASHED" message from within Norton, but closing Sprites (a process) and doing an F5 refresh main screen seems to bring me back ready to use. This is all a pain in the lower anatomy; I wish they would have some kind of simple monitor standby and nothing else. I don't need or want my machine to go to sleep. It uses no more power than a light bulb. The starting and stopping eat power and wear things out which use power to replace. Monitor power is one thing. The rest is something else.
SPRITE HAS CRASHED is always the case if I leave this system to go to sleep. But pressing f5 brings the message up, and closing SPRITES does no harm, and all is well. With the Winchip and the other AMD K6-2 system I don't get this situation: they just sleep and wake as they should. Eagle One, has Play's Gizmos on it although I am not using their screen saver now. I'll try other screen saver schemes in the morning. So far as I can tell, "Sprites" is a process started by Play's Gizmos, and seems to run even though you are not using Gizmo screen savers or indeed anything else. I conclude this because no other machine crashes with a "Sprites has crashed" error message. I admit I haven't done all the homework I should, such as looking for "Sprites" in tasks on other machines.
December 30, 1998
Credit card subscriptions continue to pour in. Thanks!
Roundup on screen savers: First, Play's GIZMOS is beautiful, but using their screen savers will kill your system dead. At least it kills all of mine. Perhaps with genuine Intel it doesn't happen: we'll see, since the next systems we build here will be Intel Celeron and P-II, having exhausted what we can learn from AMD K6-2 systems (they are fast, and reliable, and can make use of fast video boards, PROVIDED that you are careful about what screen saver system you use). Gizmos by Play provide lots of interesting stuff, and their presentation system is wonderful, but using any of their screen savers reliably will kill your system.
It is possible that the mere presence of Gizmos is causing SPRITES to crash; I say this in the absence of more information since that appears to be the major difference between Eagle One and Scarlet, and Eagle One reliably has a SPRITES crash on wakeup while Scarlet just wakes up. There are a couple of experiments to perform before I can be sure. Gizmos is beautiful, and I would really hate to lose the program. Perhaps with a different background scheme.
Another conclusion: reliable wakeup from suspend/sleep depends not only on the screen saver but also the video board. Winnie, the WinChip system (EFA Mother Board), was stable and reliable with a Number Nine AGP video board using the MAZES screen saver. We changed to the STB Velocity 4400 AGP board, and troubles began. The system would crash if MAZES was playing when it went to sleep, and it would often REALLY crash, doing goofy things on restart. All that was cured by going to the old Windows 95 Da Vinci scheme and using the Da Vinci screen saver. I have one more experiment to perform here, but my advice is this: the more complex the video board, the simpler should be your screen saver. Note also that none of this matters if you do not let the system EVER turn off the monitor: they'll all happily keep complicated screen savers up forever if the system is never allowed to go to sleep.
We have NUMBER NINE 32 megabyte AGP video board, which will get installed in Eagle One. Winnie wasn't supposed to have experiments: that's the system Niven uses when he's here to write, and I want that one to be ultra stable. Niven doesn't like surprises. Scarlet will be Roberta's system and that one doesn't get experiments either. Eagle One does. The new Number Nine board looks wonderful; we'll see how it works in Eagle One, and it will probably see service in the new Celeron system I'll be building next.
Thanks to all who wrote to say that the best screen saver, or at least the safest, is none at all; that appears to be the case, and of course I sort of knew it; I was more interested in seeing just what was going on. With all my systems if I set Power Management to turn the monitor the STANDBY (this is set in BIOS) and Power Management in Windows 98 to put the monitor to sleep but not power down the disks ever, and set screen saver in Display Screen Saver (and you have to go to all these since the defaults don't seem to work right) to NONE, then the systems sleep and wake all right.
Even simpler is to have a screen saver you like but NEVER let the monitor go to standby.
On OSR2 Win 95 look in Power Management and be sure that your system OS doesn't believe this is a PORTABLE and try to "reduce power"; that's a pretty sure way to lock up a desk top system. How mine got set that way I do not know, but it was.
As to safe screen savers to use with monitor standby/sleep status, it depends entirely on the Video Board and its drivers. An STB Velocity 128 can stand more than most. A Number Nine is even better that way. An STB 4400 is very sensitive and is best used with (none) as the screen saver. Or you can set up one you like and leave it be, never letting the monitor sleep. I have mail referencing an article measuring power saving; I'll try to check that reference Real Soon Now.
From time to time I get the urge to say something about topical news having nothing to do with computing. Then I get mail on that. It can build up to a lot, and I do not want to clutter either VIEW or MAIL with it, since these get large enough as it is. I am contemplating opening ALT.VIEW and alt.mail pages here with discussions that have nothing to do with computing as such, and will be a lot more wide ranging. Does this make sense? What should I call them? Is ALT.VIEW and alt.mail a good set of titles?
Well, the STB 4400 and the WinChip don't love each other. Or something is wrong. I can't even shut the system down most of the time. It runs all right when up, but shut down hangs, and requires a power down. This is more annoying than anything else but still...
Payments: As of now the regular subscription is $26/year, which works out to half a buck a week. You can send that by check, cash, money order, or US Postage stamps although I hope not too many will use that latter; or you may pay by credit card. If you want to pay me money, click here. Patron subscribers pay $36. I haven't decided what they get extra beyond my thanks, but there will be something. I'm building data base with the subscriber dates in it and you'll all get a mailing some time. For those who subcribed early at whatever amonnt I am setting your renewal period next summer. You should get mail on this Real Soon Now. In any case, please don't get upset; if you think you have been treated unfairly tell me, and why. With luck the credit card page will reflect these rates by the time you see it; apparently there is a considerable delay between when I send to the secure area and when the update appears. So far I have seen no sign of the updated price, but I expect it will be all right in the morning. (And in fact it was; there is an hour or so delay in Earthlink's update mechanism.)
December 31, 1998
Happy New Year. I am off on errands, and then there will be a party at Niven's tonight. I'll have some pictures for subscribers, if anyone is interested. To become a subscriber, click here. If I seem to be pushing subscriptons, I am, a bit: I have some serious allocation of resources decisions to make for the coming year, and I need to know just how much interest this place attracts. Those who subscribed will get their money's worth; the question is, do I try dramatically to increase what goes on here?
There's more data on Celeron and overclocking in mail. I really am about to deliver Scarlet to Roberta, which means I will put Linette over at that test stand, and start serous Linux work. I am also told that Corel is getting me a Linux box with their stuff installed Real Soon Now.
If any of you have contacts in the Marketing or PR Departments of mother board outfits, feel free to put them in touch with me; I am getting a new test stand setup that makes it very easy to work with new motherboards, and play about with setups without having to build a full new machine each time. I intend to look at a bunch of these things. I am still fighting power management, and the best advice seems to be to let the mother board handle it; disable all Windows power management; and choose (none) for a screen saver. The alternative is to choose a screen saver you like, and NEVER let the system go to sleep at all. I need to get a good Wattmeter to determine just how much power is saved by various sleep states; I don't have any real data, and it's a fairly important thing to know. If it's trivial, then best you do the Good Screen Saver and Never Sleep option. I do know that power management is not ready for prime time, and depends on the mother board, the CPU chip, the video board, the monitor, and for all I know the phase of the Moon. My advice is experiment before you have anything critical to lose.
My next column will have the Chaos Manor User's Choice Awards for the year. As always, I stubbornly insist that a year ends on December 31; the result was that my Awards Issue was always the April issue of BYTE, even though I did the column in early January. This year the column will be emailed to subscribers about the 10th of January and be visible here a few weeks later. Thanks for the nominations: nominations are still open for a few hours. My awards are pretty subjective.
I used to have a BYTE / CHAOS MANOR USER'S CHOICE AWARD logo that we sent to winners, and which was often included on products and in ads. I don't have one now since BYTE bit the dust; anyone who wants to submit an electronic logo for User's Choice Award is welcome to do so... I'll also ask David Em.
I take it as axiomatic that I don't have any stupid readers: they dropped out long ago. So today I find out that you can't assume anything even with smart readers, something I shuld have known all my life. Anyway, you will now notice there are lables under the blimps, making it clear they are for use to send me email. I don't know why I assumed this would be obvious, because on looking at it, it isn't obvious to me, now. Anyway, that's another ambiguity cleared up.
We have a new special report on telepresence, by David Mitchell. This is we hope part of an on-going series. David has been a space activist for many years, and follows these tings more than I do now.
There is also a new section on Talin's Adventures with Linux.
Back from Larry's. I should remember that if I work hard on fiction I need a nap afterwards; I wasn't much the life of the party I fear. Did get some pictures, which I'll send to the subscribers in the next day or so. You may even have heard of some of the people there. The good news is that Mamelukes, the next volume in the Janissaries series, is moving at better than 1,000 words a day...
And Happy New Year to all. Now I'm off to buy Blackeye Peas and rice, which we forgot to lay in for New Year's Day. Can't start a new year without them, but you must know that. Or if you don't, then don't be surprised by lack of good luck...
January 1, 1999
Countdown to Y2K and the end of the world begins. Man is now so dependent on computers that there is no way to shut them down. If there were a war that destroyed them it would kill the lot of us. Since the Y2K problem cannot be fixed, we are all doomed, and this is the last year of civilization. You could be intelligent about it and don white robes and sit on rooftops waiting for the Rapture of the Saints, but better perhaps is to buy lots of guns and ammunition and beging shooting your neighbors next New Years Eve. Be the first on your block to wipe out an entire neighbor family! Or perhaps go hunting hoarders, to loot what they have hidden away. After all, there will be no law courts and no police, no justice, and perhaps even God and all His saints will go to sleep. And only one year to go.
From some of the mail I received in response to my Intellectual Capital columns on Y2K (www.intellectualcapital.com, find my name in the left index list and click on that) there are people who actually believe all that. Or pretend to. Of course we depicted people like that in Lucifer's Hammer, and if you want a story about where millenialism can take you (during a real disaster) try it. (Or try it for any other reason.)
The Credit Card Subscription seems to be working: lots of new subscribers. Thanks. Now go get some friends to subscribe...
You can find a demo of Myth II, the fantasy massacre game, at
and if you like that kind of game you will love this. I am not myself a Myth addict, but that's largely because I am at an age where clickfests aren't that much fun. I can still think better than average, but I'm also a bit slower. "Methodical" is the charitable way to put it. Myth isn't whack-a-mole, but you do need fast reflexes. For myself, I have never understood the notion of "real time" games. Real time battles often take many hours, even days, and while there can be time pressures -- Napoleon famously told a subordinate "Ask for for anything but time!" -- battles are not often decided by split second decisions. Now the state of Artificial Intelligence is poor enough that the game player must be his own company commanders as well as colonel and general and commander in chief, else the battles are dull; but why that calls for speeding up time to a ridiculous point I don't know. War Hammer games are the worst that way: they are intrinsically interesting, and I would rather like the tactical puzzles they present, except that the computer versions make what would happen in an afternoon on a miniatures table take place in five minutes or less on the computer. To what end I am not sure. The Myth people flat out told me that if they slowed their game down enough to let people act without panic time pressure, it probably wouldn't be any fun, which tells me that either I or they don't understand what's fun about games. Oh, well.
I hope to do some site reorganization, build the new subscriber list, get the Niven party pictures off to subscribers, and generally get some housekeeping done today. Happy New Year. Alas, it didn't rain in Los Angeles, which means that after the Rose Parade pictures are shown nationwide about 10,000 more people fed up with winter will move here. Sigh.
I HATE OUTLOOK. A bad mood to be in just as I am doing orchids and onions. A hideous rotten onion to the people who wrote the OUTLOOK documentation. I have spent ten minutes trying to figure out how to do a new REPLY message for a new RULE. The Rules Wizard wants that message already created and gives you no opportunity to create one. The egregious Office Assistant won't tell you that's what you want to do. The Tools menu offers you a lot of options none explained. I know I managed to DO this once, but my memory seems to be going, and in any event you ought not have to spend half an hour looking through help files, the Que USING OFFICE 98 book, and black magic to find out how to "create a reply template" or "create rule reply" or "create oft file". The files are called .oft and they are apparently not simple text files. Now you can make a copy of one of the .oft files and then OPEN it, after which you can edit the text; then try to save it as the file name you opened it under. The directories are wrong, it thinks it is a doc file, and it will take while but eventually you can get to Program Files/Microsoft Office/Templates and save the stupid thing under the name you opened it under as a .oft file at which point the imbecile Office Assistant will pop up and ask if you want to save this over the old file name, then when you try to close this thing it will again ask if you want to save it. This has got to have been designed either by someone who never USED it, or by a distinguished person who ought not be allowed to work on anything else. Including the French fry machine at the local burger joint. And documented by an illiterate.
More: I get mail from News Dispatcher and Anchor Desk and other places. I would like this stupid Outlook to sort it for me. It won't do it, because it will only see mail from someone in a CONTACT list. I can't type in the return address I want it to choose for sorting. This has to have been designed by someone who never tried to USE it. Why do they DO this? If I know specific words in the sender's address perhaps I can put those in. Meanwhile. I don't seem to be getting replies using the new .oft template I created, and I can't find any instructions in the Outlook documents. This is silly.
OK, I will bite: does anyone know how to make Outlook 98 reliably do automatic replies to messages? What must you do, and where can I read about it, or look it up in help under what topic? I had it at one time or thought I did, but clearly it isn't working now. Help?
Alas I seem to have tried what is suggested here. Apparently Outlook is inconsistent. Perhaps you have to restart to make it work properly? Sigh.
Went to see YOU HAVE MAIL, which I will review shortly. Pretty picture, lots of romance. I seem to recall seeing it in about 1945 as a black and white or a stage play? It was real mail then, with letters, but there were two postal deliveries a day for 3 cents, too.
I will make up the pictures page from Niven's party shortly. And send to the subscriber list. Just give me a few more hours. Alas. there is only me to do all this... Poor me. But it's a great life if you don't weaken.
January 2, 1999
A new libretto for Fliedermaus at the Met radio opera this morning. While parts are cute, most of it is God Awful, not good musical comedy and certainly not light opera. At the beginning of Act Three they had some imbecile standup comic who ought to have been hauled off stage with a hook. In fact it was trying to be like vaudeville, and succeeded in showing what killed vaudeville. Ye gods.
OUTLOOK RULES: you must use an .oft file for automatic replies, AND you must shut down the computer and reboot before the automatic reply rule takes effect. At least that is what happened with me. Isn't it all wonderful? Microsoft strikes again. There's a lot to like about Outlook, and it isn't that unreasonable that (at least with NT) you may have to reboot to make a new rule work (although that's sure a bug, not a feature) but they ought to TELL this. I spent far too much time trying to see what I did wrong.
I am about to start a new page: people who shouldn't work on anything else. The writer of the Outlook documentation is one of them. The joker who designed those plastic rings that hold six-packs of soft drinks and beer is another: those things are an abombination, everyone knows it, and still they are used. I don't know how we get into a situation in which everyone knows something is awful, but we go on with it anyway. Airline seats, for example. And not circulating the air in airplanes. Many things that everyone knows better but they happen anyway. And then we wonder why there are too many laws?
I have started alt.mail for odd conversations like the above. With luck we will shortly be moving this whole mess into a situation in which we can have passworded sections including a discussion group. You'll have to register for that, and I'll someone looking to chop flames and libels and just plain inappropriate stuff, but it ought to provide an interesting forum. Real Soon Now. First I have to straighten out some glitches in the software for credit card payments. Thanks to all of you who sent credit card subscriptions. You should have heard from me by now.
Now I am off to write.
Another thousand words. I seem to be on a roll.
Regarding subscriptions: we seem to be having some problems with the account processing. We will take care of it shortly, but if your charge isn't in your immediate statement, don't worry about it: we have the account information in a secure place and at worst we'll have to phone each one in to the bank. Darnell is coming over next week to show us how all this works. My thanks again to all who subscribed: it's heartening. Apparently a lot of people think this is worth keeping up...
Would discussion groups be a bad idea? We have mail on this, worth reading...
January 3, 1999
Cleaning up. Back in a while. If you have sent in a subscription since Friday night we may not have processed it yet. Apologies, but we do have lives.
Alt.mail builds slowly but continues. SOme good letters coming in. And I knew I had seen You've Got Mail before... And if you want to see just how far people will go to build a dual processor system, see this. And There's more from Talin on his odd adventures, as well as his observations on how credit cards work.
The general concensus is that a discussion group here is more trouble than it is worth; most of you, for better or worse, must share some of my taste since you like my selections of mail and my comments. Or perhaps I stimulate enough bile to aid digestion? In any event, it looks as if we will stay as we are except that I'll try to put the purely social and political stuff in alt.mail.
And it has been a long week...