THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 31: January 11 - 17, 1999
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.
|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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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:
January 11, 1999
Some Y2K thoughts over on that page.
In response to my programming dilemma last week several have suggested I merely ZIP al the wave files. That has some merit and for backing up the files I'll do that. Then too, Windows has a way to make unique 8+3 file names, and perhaps I should let it do that. I'll think on that, and thanks to Mr. Dobbins for the suggestion. Both that and ZP have implications.
From my view, I need either that table I described, or a realible way to generate the unique file name on the fly, since the program is going to generate a text string; in the Mac version that string was passed to the text to speech engine, but in this case it needs to point to a wave file which will then be played. I don't want to change the fundmental structure of the program: generating the text string will happen as before, saving a lot of code writing. I then want that text string handled in a way that the wave file corresponding to it is brought in and played...
January 12, 1999
Now I have errands. If you want to send me mail, PLEASE pay a bit of attention to formatting. It can save me a lot of time.
January 13, 1999
Spent far too much time playing about with Baldur's Gate, which I agree is Wizard's Crown made better. A real time sink. Given the time problem, I wish I had a character editor; some game aspects just take PATIENCE, and having more money would make it a lot easier to get through.
Lots of mail, including a fairly long disquisition on education and teaching. Now I have to go hike, then then work on fiction.
For a weird site with Klingon Buffy, see
which should be strange enough for anyone.
I have tried searching for an alphabet book that begins
A is for APE who took some white tape, and wound up his toes, in pretty white bows.
I had that when I was about 4 in the 30's. I have been looking for a copy ever since. I was once told that it was actually written by a well known English poet, Masefield being suggested, but I have no confirmation on that. I got some odd hits using it as the search string, but nothing that seemed relevant. If anyone knows more about that book I would appreciate a note on where I can find out.
Another request: I had several HEX Editors that would work in Windows. I seem to be back to Norton Diskedit, which requires that I go to DOS and DOS Only. What I want is an editor that does good hex editing on a file, and will then save the file. I had several but they seem to have vanished in one or another cleanup or crash here. Help?
THANKS for the hex editors. I seem to be well supplied now.
One reader directed me toward Ultra=edit. After five minutes of trying to figure out what to do to download and pay for it I gave up. That web site is more confusing than mine, and I quit.
Talin has taken an exchange of letters and made up a dialogue on Sagan and pseudoscience.
And good night... if anyone has found a character editor for Baldur's Gate, or even the location where they store the amount of gold you have. I'd like to speed up the game playing just a bit.
January 13, 1999
I guess I need another hex editor. WinHex would do but it keeps giving me annoying messages about registration every 40 seconds, and if you want to register the only way to do it is to transfer money directly to a German bank account. It would take me at least an hour to figure out how to do that, and that's an hour I don't have. I admit the editor is so obnoxious about popping up that message that I am tempted to use a disassembler on it and find just where it does that, but that too would take an hour I don't have. While I agree that shareware authors have problems collecting mnoey -- we have more downloads of Strategy of Technology than people have sent money for -- I don't think that annoying people is the answer. You are trying to stimulate a conscience, and if you cause people enough grief they will, perhaps with justice, figure they have paid your fee in psychic pain, and will then seek ways to get even, the least of which is not to pay you. So it goes.
I'm sure I'll find one, but mucking around with this one shows that Baldur's Gate uses a more sophisticated system for saving values; I suppose game designers take pride in that? I wonder why? They introduce needless code into games that are already buggy in order to make it harder for a player to go in and change a character's statistics; and to what end? "You will play this game as I intended you to, or you will not play it at all." I suppose it comes from reading Ayn Rand's Fountainhead at an early age? But in my case, either I come up with a way to speed things up a bit or I am not going to do it at all, and what harm is it to the game designer if I give myself enough money to be able to buy some healing potions and such like? Ah well.
January 15, 1999
I agree with those who told me Baldur's Gate is the best thing of its kind for a long time. I have also solved my hacking problem: I found the locations I need for the rather light touch I wanted to do. Actually I could have achieved the same result by having enough patience with the "rolls" when a character is created, since you can roll on and on and on until you get what you want or get tired of it. As to money, you can just go bach monsters until you have enough, which is boring, or hack your way into a saved game and find out the rather ingenious way they store it, and give yourself another couple of thousand, not so much as to change the nature of the game but does let you buy some stuff. I have been sent a dozen programs to "max out" all the money and character stats, but that is too drastic. I want to maintain the illusion of losability; I just don't want to spend all my time killing weak bad guys to get the gold to heal the characters so I can get on with the plot... Game designers need to think some of that through. Some people really don't care to do the same things over and over and over in order to get through the early stages of the game.
I note fantasies are often designed that way: the goal is to kill Foozle, but in the early stages of the game the hero must face dangerous characters who can kill him, but whom he will later be able to squash like small bugs. Meanwhile, at any point in the story until the very end Foozle could squash the hero with little or no effort, but doesn't. LORD OF THE RINGS made that all seem real, but many later copies do not, making most fantasies work through the plot device known as the idiot block: if any of the opposition had not acted like idiots there would have been no story. I am not fond of idiot block stories. Fantasy games work the same very often: you spend all your time building up charaters until they can take on Foozle. Sometimes that works, but far too often it's just programmer laziness.
Haven't got all that far in the game due to writing on Mamelukes, which proceeds slowly but surely, Have to spend a day or so working out plots now. And we seem to have some progress on getting Roberta's reading program converted to Windows; the young son of a colleague seems to be a bit of a VB wizard, and is moving along with the implementation, while I'm doing the overview logic; between us we may have it done.
All of which takes time, leaving me without much time for Linux, which I will get to as soon as I can. My other project is comparing Outlook on Palm III with the Franklin-Covey Ascend PDA software; I have two Palm III gadgets, so I can keep them both up and keep working on them. My preference at the moment is the straight Franklin package, but the problem is that I do use Outlook for mail, and my guess is that Microsoft will keep adding new increments to Outlook and integrating it with Office. But for the moment, the best PDA package I know of is Franklin Covey with the Palm Pilot III; which is more than Good Enough for most of us. And there are far fewer annoyances
If you are not familiar with the O'Reilly "Annoyances" books, you should be. The Outlook one isn't all that good, since the remedy to most of the annoyances it lists is the same: "Upgrade to Outlook 98"; and it's not very complete on what to do about 98. Of the O'Reilly books, this is the one to read in the bookstore until a new one comes out. The others you should buy if you use Windows 98, Office 97, etc. I do wish they had one on Front Page.
Darnell is working up a scheme whereby we move Roberta's page over to his hosting, and also implement the Front Page stuff that it will take to get the search engine going on this site.
And now it's time for coffee
January 16, 1999
I ought to know better than to say anything about relativity. It's one of those areas where classical logic doesn't seem to apply, and I don't seem to have the mental tools to accept paradoxes as normal things. I also start with the premise that people who claim to know what they are talking about have at least tried to make sense of what they say. That latter is I fear a real problem: there are people with odd intellectual axes to grind, and I guess the cosmology question attracts a lot of them. Most are easy to spot since they haven't paid the least attention to what's already known. Others are a bit more plausible.
Years ago I wrote an essay that I delivered as the C. P. Snow Memorial Lecture in Ithaca, later incorporated into some of my other writings: the essence was that novelists need only be plausible. We don't have to prove anything, merely make you believe it, at least for the duration of a story. Lawyers want evidence: they do want to "prove" something, but only in order to win a case. Since the law is adversarial, lawyers can and do select their facts, presenting only those most favorable to their own side of the matter, and if forced to present facts against their own view they can and do minimize their importance.
Scientists aren't supposed to do that. Scientists are supposed to look for data, which is to say, to incorporate all the facts into their case. Of course many scientists do act like lawyers, and a few act like novelists; if they are lucky they were on the right side of the issue, so their anti-scientific behavior never comes out, and no apparent harm was done to the scientific process. If they were wrong, though, they can and do steer whole generations down the wrong path, wasting a lot of talent and resources.
As to journalists, I come from a tradition that says journalists are more like scientists than lawyers: while one may have passionate views, one is still required to be more devoted to the truth than to one's own opinions. I am not sure that view holds with some modern journalists, and worse, with some modern science writers and reporters.
All this is brought about by an exchange of letters on which I don't have any expertise: someone showed me an URL to a site that detailed a paradox I've long known but seldom thought about, on the propagation speed of gravity. (I've even used the device of "the unknown speed of gravity wave propagation" in novels, where all I have to do is get you to believe it for a few minutes.) The exposition at that URL seemed clear as far as I followed it, and I put up the link without much comment as something to look at that might be important.
One of my polymath readers has his objections, strongly felt. The exchange is over in mail, although I may move it to an alt.mail page; but it did get me to thinking about my own obligations here, and the Internet in general.
The Internet is often thought of as a source of lies, and it can be that; but it's also a source of real information. How does one tell the difference? Two ways, of course: first, if a source talks nonsense as if it were truth in areas you're familiar with, you're certainly justified in a great deal of skepticism about what's said in areas you are not familiar with; and second, do the sources seem to care about truth? Anyone can be wrong, and most will be wrong once in a while, either through mistake or genuine error; but those dedicated to truth will correct this.
Anyway, I leave relativity to experts, and if I really need to sound as if I know what I am talking about for a story, I have a number of physicist friends I can ask; for casual conversation I go back to what Dick Feynman once told me about the slit-interferometer experiment: "Sometimes things just don't make sense, and that's just the way it is. Live with it. More tea?"
Things that don't make sense can be a lot of fun, if you can apply logic to all the parts that aren't just plain illogical
Anyway, I have move the whole discussion including a copy of the above notes to a separate page. Now to get back to plotting. Mamelukes, ie Janissaries IV is in a critical stage, and I'm wandering about in a deep fog trying to get the plot straightened out. If I am a bit illogical, you'll have to live with that: my wife says I am too unattached to reality to be permitted to drive, so I need to go for a long walk...
From Pete DuPont
SenateVote.com Delivers Messages Directly to Senate
New Web Site Ensures Citizens Voices Are Heard During Impeachment Trial
WASHINGTON, DCSenateVote.com launched today as thousands of people logged on to the Internet to speak out to their senators on the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
SenateVote.com was created as a forum for people to send their opinions on the impeachment trial to their senators. SenateVote.com collects messages that constituents post on their senators pages, prints them, and then sends them directly to the senators offices throughout the trial, ensuring that all opinions registered at the site get to their destination in the Senate. In addition, the sites content will be recorded and stored on CD-ROM to capture the state of the nation during this historic event, the first time an elected president has been impeached and tried.
"This history-making trial comes at a time when the Internet and e-mail theoretically provide a unique opportunity for virtually all citizens to voice their opinion to their senators," said William "Sam" Sneed, spokesman for SenateVote.com. "Yet, many question what happens to the e-mails they take the time to write and send to their senators. Some question whether they are ever received. Most importantly, recent studies have documented that e-mail has the least impact upon a member of Congress."
"SenateVote.com was created to provide citizens with a more effective voice in the Senate," said Sneed.
Policy.com (http://www.policy.com) and IntellectualCapital.com (http://www.intellectualcapital.com), two of the Internets leading nonpartisan political sites, created SenateVote.com to provide individuals with an alternative method to deliver their opinion to their senators and permanently record their opinions on this history-making event. In addition to collecting and delivering messages to the Senate, SenateVote.com serves as a resource for up-to-date news and information about the impeachment trial.
Organizations with Web sites are encouraged to participate and provide their audience with a voice in the Senate by placing a SenateVote.com icon on their homepage that links to SenateVote.com.
SenateVote.com can be found athttp://www.senatevote.com.
As for me, I am not sure that polls are a Good Thing in cases like this. We get our information from Sound Bites; the Senate for better or worse has to listen to coherent arguments in their entirety. I doubt my opinion is worth a lot. (Or, being a Californian, that there is a shred of uncertainty as to how my two Senators will vote anyway...)
I'm having fun with Baldur's Gate. The official strategy guide is available at Amazon.
And meanwhile there's a new wrinkle in the gravitation debates; me, I think I will work on my novel, which still needs plot work.