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Week 5

Through July 6, 1998

An irregular journal of things computerish.

For the BYTE story, click here.

Previous Weeks of The View 1  2   3  4





 If you buy a book from Amazon by clicking on the logo up above, I get a finder's fee. Not a lot, but every nikkel makes a mikkel...

SUNDAY MORNING urgent question. Click HERE.

FLASH : Full personal settlement with CMP on honorable terms. Click here.

NEW: Picture page, just starting. Esther Dyson to begin. Nearly all pictures have been thumbnailed.

atom.gif (1053 bytes)NEW: Talin on Red Hat Unix.

New Windows 98 discussion page, updates daily.

ALEX has a new page. With experimental layout, which is getting closer to final.

New VIEW layout, with table width changed to 100% from a fixed width. This layout is getting to be final: if you hate it now is the time to speak up. Over time back pages will be converted to something like this.

If you are from Microsoft or Netscape, please pay attention: Microsoft click here. Netscape click here. Avoid the pox...

 If you want to PAY FOR THIS there are problems, but I keep the latest HERE. I'm trying.

If you have any interest in space, see spacemail. There are also papers of mine on space policy, not well organized; drill down from the home page and the best of British luck to you.

I think I have fixed the STARSWARM links. See below. Do buy Starswarm. You'll like it.

Organization of the view: The section down to the first line (planets or balls) is general and may or may not change from day to day; it won't be very long. Then if you haven't been here before, we go in chronological order, from beginning of the week, and all you need do is scroll.

To jump to current entry assuming I moved the bookmark, click here.


The View From Chaos Manor

Week 5: June 29 through July 5, 1998

 To jump to current entry assuming I moved the bookmark, click here.

Monday, June 29, 1998

Well, I suppose I should have known better, but the fact is I had clean forgotten about macros in Word. I used to use them a lot, but lately Word has had built in most of what I wanted, and what I write got simpler, and I just forgot them.

Of course the solution to partitioning my book (see last View near bottom of page) was to make a series of macros. Now when I get to a chapter end, I run the "Chapter" macro. It puts in the page break, skips the requisite number of lines, invokes the Subsection 3 heading, writes the word "Chapter", and inserts an 'autonum" field which adds the next consecutive number. Now so long as I don't skip a chapter that's taken care of.

New copy of Dr. Solomon's Anti-virus software arrived. Dr. Solomon's, One New England Executive Park, Burlington MASS 01803. It's still the one I recommend although now that Alan Solomon isn't running the company I am a great deal more watchful. I have used Solomon's for a dozen years now, and while I don't get afflicted with viruses much, people I care for have, and I've used Solomon's to clean things up for them. Always worked for me.

I would not have thought I could be astonished by what happens here, but someone has managed it. Amazon Books has a mechanism under which you can buy books on my recommendation, and I get paid for it. Not a lot, but last week it amounted to fifty bucks, so it's not insignificant either. What I hadn't realized is that if you enter Amazon through my link, then I get something for every book you buy on that trip, whether I recommended it or not. Thus, if you buy STARSWARM (or any other of my recommended books) through this site, then go on to buy other stuff on the same shopping expedition, it costs you the same as it would anyway, but I get a small finder's fee. That's merely a pleasant surprise. Even less surprising is that Amazon lists the books bought that way and reports it to me(although not who buys them; there isn't the faintest clue on that). The astonishing thing is that someone, having bought some book I recommended, went on to buy a book on Christian marriage which isn't in itself astonishing, given that my wife and I have been married four times in Christian ceremonies over the last 40 years (no divorces in between); no, the astonishing part is that whoever it was went on to buy the Kama Sutra on DVD on the same trip.

Actually, it's only an assumption that these were bought by the same person, but it is an odd juxtaposition. Less of an assumption is that the person who bought the Kama Sutra also bought The Food of The Gods, which isn't the old novel by H G Wells (and still very much worth reading) but the work on hallucinogens...

Adam Marder of CMP called to say they intend to do everything fairly. It still leaves the BYTE staff disperses and some, in Peterborough, with a pretty grim situation, but I cannot imagine that any of them will be out of work long. They're just too good at this. In any event, I have no personal quarrel with CMP. For details, click here.


It's time to go mad. We are fooling with layouts to Alex's Page and finding the inconsistencies in Front Page. In particular I don't understand how cell widths work, and the differences between percent and absolute values. It is clear that we have to learn the html codes. Ah well.

Tuesday, June 30, 1998

We did a lot of work on page layouts last night. With luck most of it won't show, but this page is getting close to the final layout.

A fair number of you sent in checks. Some sent cash, which is fine in small amounts. Thanks. I'm still working on a way to accept credit card payments. At some point we will also look into advertisements. I confess uneasy feelings about accepting ads directly. For 20 years McGraw Hill protected me from such things.

It's also strange working without a net: my editors back at BYTE used to catch really horrible mistakes before anyone saw them. Now it's revealed: I can make careless errors as well as real errors just like anyone else. Fortunately not too many, but they happen. So far most have been caught by one or another reader rather quickly, so I'm not entirely without a safety net, it's just a bit closer to the floor than before. Thanks to all of you. Thanks also to those who have taken the trouble to teach me the tools of web publishing. It's an odd experience to have to worry about layouts and designs: I never had to do that before.

Built some Macros for Word that are handling the formatting of BURNING CITY. I don't know why I didn't think of that first thing. Probably because we never had this complex a book before. Heroic fantasies are long, and involved, with lots of characters and lots of structure: I have "Books", "Parts", "Chapters", and even some internal breaks inside chapters. And probably some editor will want all that changed but at least I will have a submission copy by tonight.

Mamelukes proceeds. Not as quickly as I would like, but it does move.

Lots of mail. Some growing book shelf space as I throw stuff out. Astonishing how much one accumulates over 20 years writing one column all the time and several more every now and then.

We are still open to suggestions for things we can do here. It may take a while to implement them. And I will get the GAMES page going shortly. Today I also hope to organize some of Eric's material onto one page rather than have it scattered through the mail. Its a great life if you don't weaken.

Wednesday, July 1, 1998

Yesterday I did some banking and worked on the submission copy of THE BURNING CITY. About noon I began to feel ill. By 1:30 I was in ghastly shape and went to bed. I didn't get up until this morning, and I'm still a bit rocky. No clue as to what it is, but don't get it! We went to two different parties Sunday and I have many of the symptoms of food poisoning, so it's possible the caterer at one of the places had something spoiled or an employee who didn't wash his hands. I have not been laid this low for a long time. Since I started my megavitamin regime I don't get sick often, but when I do it tends to be a doozy. Ah well.

I am going to include this here for now, but I will move it when I figure out how to organize this place to include this sort of thing. Now for Talin on LINUX. Talin, for those who don't know, was the designer and implementer of Fairie Tale for the Amiga, and former chief dreamer for the Dreamer's Guild, and knows more about how to make these computers do things than anyone else I know. We intended to set up Linux on a new machine here before the fiasco with BYTE, and we'll do it yet; meanwhile, a view from a qualified observer.


  • From: Talin []

    Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 1998 6:20 PM

    To: jerryp

    Subject: A review of Red Hat Linux by Talin

  • I've been doing a lot of mucking about with Linux lately, and here's a mini-review which you might find useful. I don't consider myself an Linux expert, but I know a lot more today than I did four weeks ago.

    My primary motivation for setting up a second Linux box was to get a decent X terminal so I could use XEmacs. Previously, I had been doing my server programming on our primary Linux box, Eyrie, using a telnet connection from the BeBox. That's not Eyrie's main job, however-it's primarily used as the household file server, which it does using the standard Linux FTP daemon. We've also installed the Samba package, a freeware utility which allows it to do file sharing with windows machines-Samba basically makes your other windows machines think that your Linux box is really an NT server.

    However, using emacs through telnet leaves something to be desired. I wanted graphics-syntax coloring, in particular. Especially since I'm not an emacs expert either (although I'm learning, slowly-in four weeks of programming my finger reflexes are slowly being de-assimilated from Microsoft Visual C++).

    Unfortunately, Eyrie is only a P-75, which I thought might be a little short for a full-blown X terminal. It's also deficient in a couple of other respects, and would need a major upgrade. But sitting next to it was Celt, a Gateway P-90 running Windows NT belonging to Joe Pearce, my roommate. This machine hadn't been touched in over a year, so Joe gave me carte blanche to wipe it out and turn it into an X terminal.

    Despite the fact that I was already in possession of a Linux box, I really didn't know that much about setting one up. Eyrie had been set up as a file server running Red Hat Linux 4.2, and with a Linux file server there's very little setting up to do other than partitioning the drive and installing the basic system; and besides, Joe had done most of the work on it.

    I decided first off to order the latest Red Hat Linux, version 5.1. I'd heard that it was much better at recognizing obscure peripherals, especially network cards. Eyrie, running Red Hat 4.2, had always had problems with this, and in fact we had a box full of strange cards that we had picked up cheaply at various computer shows, none of which we could get to work. Similarly, I had a Matrox Mystique which I had attempted to use in a number of machines (including the BeBox) without much luck. Supposedly this card was also supported under the latest Linux.

    While I was waiting for this to arrive, I decided to beef up Celt's hard drive space, with a 5.7 Gigabyte Maxtor drive that I bought for $220 at CostCo. When I got the drive home, I started taking the system apart. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the BIOS to recognize the drive at first, until I read a little note that came with the drive indicating that some older BIOSes had problems with drives larger than 2 gig. Then I did an experiment-instead of having the BIOS auto-detect the drive, I manually put in the number of cylinders and tracks. After that, it booted fine. I also threw in one of the random network cards I had, this one a PCI NE2000 clone based on a RealTek chip.

    A few days later the Linux package arrived, and I started the installation. I put in the Linux boot floppy that comes with the Red Hat package-this actually contains a stripped down version of Linux, so you don't even need to go into DOS to partition the hard drive. The Red Hat install program is one of those "text GUISs", i.e. a graphical user interface where the buttons and menus are made out of the PC's high-ASCII graphics characters. You navigate using the tab key-since the mouse driver isn't installed yet you can't point and click. After a few initial menus screens, asking what kind of keyboard I had and such, it told me to insert the CD-ROM, and I did.

    The next major step was to partition the drive. At this point, the Red Hat install program offered me a choice: I could use the traditional "fdisk" program, which is about as easy to use as the DOS equivalent (in other words, not very); Or I could use a new utility called "Disk Druid" (I like the name) which offered a more GUI-like means of partitioning the drive. I decided to try the Druid, and while it wasn't 100% intuitive (I had to at least glance at the manual a couple of times), it was much easier to understand and use than the older method.

    I decided I didn't want to do anything fancy, just one big partition for everything. Well, almost. Linux needs a separate "swap partition", which doesn't have to be very big-between one and two times the amount of RAM you have. I also decided to leave a gig free in case I wanted to install some other OS like Windows or something.

    After the partitioning was through, the rest of the install went sweetly. I was very surprised that it not only correctly auto-detected the type of network and graphics cards I had, it also correctly auto-detected the PS/2 mouse. This was definitely an improvement over previous Linux versions!

    It also asked me what packages I wanted to install. Red Hat has this facility called "RPM" which is the Red Hat Package Manager. In effect, this is the Linux equivalent of InstallShield on steroids-because the world of Linux software is so heterogeneous, with so many different styles of configuration and installation, one needs a truly flexible and bulletproof installation technology. That's what Red Hat has attempted with RPM. I don't know that much about it (yet), but it apparently can check dependencies (like, it'll tell you when you're attempting to install a package and you don't have the proper prerequisite libraries), modify scripts, and keeps a queryable database of all installed components.

    I did the simplest thing, which was to check the "install everything" box. I figured that there's no way a single CD could hold enough stuff to fill a 5 Gig partition. Actually, the Red Hat Linux 5.2 comes on 3 CD's but you only need the first one. The second CD is full of the source code for all of the stuff on the first CD; The third CD was full of commercial applications and demos, none of which I'd had a chance to look at yet.

    After about a half-hour of copying, the installation was complete; I rebooted the system, logged in as root, and created an account for myself. Then I logged in again as myself, and typed "startx". I didn't actually expect this to work, but in fact it did. There I was, running in 1024x768, 8-bit color on the Matrox Mystique (using the Mystique's hardware acceleration), looking at a desktop which looked a lot like Windows-95, including a start menu, task bar, and everything. The mouse and network cards worked as well, I could telnet to Eyrie with no problem. I clicked on the start menu and ran "GIMP" (The GNU Image Manipulation Program) which is an impressively _polished_ image processing that looks and works a lot like PhotoShop, and costs a whole lot less (i.e. it's free, and is included with Red Hat.)

    All in all, I'm very happy with the way the installation went. However, this is not to say that life under Linux has been entirely problem free. The main difficulty is the sheer complexity of configuring various applications. Those parts of Linux that have been worked over by Red Hat are generally very easy to use; There's a whole graphical configuration system that's equivalent to the Windows 95 control panel, which covers things like network configuration, users and groups, kernel daemons, etc. However, those parts that they haven't gotten around to yet (and there's lots of them) still has one struggling over the subtle nuances of text-based configuration files. (It's not the editing of the configuration file that's the difficulty, it's determining _which_ of the thousands of configuration files which are ensconced in various places in the directory tree that are applicable.)

    For example, after about of week after setting up Celt, we decided to upgrade Eyrie to 5.1 as well, which went fine except for one minor glitch. One of Eyrie's lesser jobs is to function as a CVS (Concurrent Version System) server, so that when Joe and I work on programming projects together we can check in and check out our changes and stay in sync. However, when we upgraded to 5.1 CVS suddenly stopped working, and we haven't yet been able to figure out why. I'm sure it's one of those *$#$%$ configuration files- if I can just figure out which one.

    ( -- Systems Engineer, PostLinear Entertainment.

  • "The only mind-altering substance I use is breakfast."

  • Thanks, David. If you get a chance, tell us about the applications you run with this. My major objection to linux/UNIX has been the lack of applications I understand well. On the other hand I'm willing to learn...

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    There's also this. Both these will go elsewhere when I get organized.


    From: tim67xx on behalf of Tim Keating []

    Sent: Thursday, July 02, 1998 2:48 AM


    Subject: Linux Links



    Hello Jerry

    Glad to see you found a place to stay in touch with your readers. The whole Byte thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth and it will be a long time before I buy another magazine published by CMP.

    Personally I’m glad to see the mention of Linux on your pages. I work in the computer networking industry and I’ve just started playing with Linux in the last few months. I’m pretty happy with it, while the average user who just wants to use it may not be so fond of it. Linux is really still a work in progress and to steal a nice quote from someone very wise ".. being a Linux user is sort of like living in a house inhabited by a large family of carpenters and architects. Every morning when you wake up, the house is a little different. Maybe there is a new turret, or some walls have moved. Or perhaps someone has temporarily removed the floor from under your bed." There’s a few things that aren’t in Linux yet like support for DVD or video. But a the rate new stuff appears it shouldn’t be long.

    Still there is an ever increasing amount of support for Linux. A couple of neat places to track the Linux world:

    If you're looking for applications:

    Corel intends to have an entire WordPerfect office suite ported to Linux later this summer, while WordPerfect 7.0 is currently available. There are a couple of other office suites out there from more UNIX oriented companies while Netscape, RealNetworks, Adobe, all have products available.

    It seems to me that Linux is making the transition from an OS that you use in a universities and other research situations to something you can use in the average commercial environment, and while I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to the non computer literate, it’s a lot of fun for the more technically minded who have the time to play with it. Even if you think you don’t have the time for it the effort invested up front in learning Linux may give you a much more stable, reliable platform to work from.

    While I’m looking forward to seeing more of Linux on your page, if you don’t do any more coverage, well I’m just looking forward to seeing more of your page.

    Thanks Jerry

    Tim Keating

    Why that sounds, well, CHAOTIC, doesn't it?

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    Front Page is driving me nuts. It does more than the SYMANTEC equivalent, but it is SLOW. I type and there is a delay--not as long as with Page View but noticeable -- before the text appears on screen. Backspacing takes noticeable time. This on a dual Pentium 200 with NT 4. Robert Thompson says he doesn't have that problem, so it must be some kind of settings, but I sure do not know what. Suggestions appreciated.

    Worse, if in despair I go to WORD to edit a page, about half the time my little parchment cell property for the left hand column goes away, and I have to go back to Front Page and painstakingly restore it. The spelling checker in Front Page is charitably described as awful. It's a batch thing, not on the fly, and it has its own dictionary not linked with the Word dictionary. It thinks "I've" and "didn't" are misspelled because it cannot see past the apostrophe. There are other defects. It's easier not to use it, which means I have to go to WORD to check spelling. I'm also used to that little red wavy underline when I mistype a word. After I go to WORD, I have to open it in Front Page and restore my parchment cell property. All in all, Front Page 98 is not really ready for prime time.

    One hopes that next iteration Microsoft will integrate Front Page with Office so that at least the spelling checker is the same. Also that they will take the molasses out of the system; anything that can bring a dual Pentium 200 to its knees is certainly bloatware.

    I am watching WORD remove the background="bg.jpg" from my cell properties each time I go to WORD. And if I don't go to WORD I am stuck with this treacle poured into my nice fast Princess machine. Bah.

    Thursday, July 2, 1998

    Finally got BURNING CITY submission copy finished. For all my grumbles about WORD, it does the job, and I sure miss it when I try using Front Page. Word is fast, the macros work, and it sure can merge in old copies of files! I managed to put together three endings, mine, Niven's, and one we did jointly, choosing the best of each, so that it reads pretty smooth now. At least there's some progress here. Now to print and ship.

    Apparently some of the Amazon links I put in last night were broken. Try again...

    I may have to give this up. It is clearly too much for me. For example, I just sent this to AMAZON. I don't expect an answer for days:



    <td WIDTH="17%" VALIGN="top" background="bg.jpg"><a HREF="Default.htm">HOME</a><p><a HREF="view.html">VIEW</a></p>

    <p><a href=""><img src="images/book-around-world.gif" alt="book-around-world.gif (4312 bytes)" WIDTH="119" HEIGHT="110"></a></td>

    is at

    and works.

    <td width="12%" background="bg.jpg" valign="top"><a href="Default.htm">HOME</a><p><a href="view.html">VIEW</a></p>

    <p><a href="mail.html">MAIL</a></p>

    <p><a href="">REPLY</a></p>

    <p><a href="http:/"><img src="readmore.gif" alt="readmore.gif (2103 bytes)" WIDTH="100" HEIGHT="70"></a></td>

    is at

    and does NOT work. They appear identical to me. Can anyone tell me why one works and the other does not? By "not work" I mean that the second produces

    HTTP Error 404


    404 Not Found

    The Web server cannot find the file or script you asked for. Please check the URL to ensure that the path is correct.

    Please contact the server's administrator if this problem persists.


    When invoked. Both appear normal on the web page. What have I done wrong THIS time?



    And now I see that there is a missing / in the second. But the interesting thing is that I used Front Page to COPY the one address to the other. In fact it is worse. The code shown above was from the web. The code as shown in Front Page Editor was href="www. etc" with no http: in it at all. Clearly Front Page is incapable of doing a real translation of linkages. This is really really poor. It is getting clearer and clearer that I have to go to Dreamweaver or Hot Metal or lantern slides and a quill pen. FRONT PAGE makes far more work than it saves, and it is going to have to GO.

    I will now go look at the source in Picture Gallery, which doesn't work either as a link to Amazon. I will predict that it doesn't have any http:// in the href. I will also predict that if I add it there, it will work. The mail2 seems to have been fixed.

    So there are work arounds to Front Page's imbecilities.

    Let me reiterate: when you insert a link in Front Page, it puts one in, but the code it inserts is href="www.etc". Hmm. I see that this time it thinks that link, which was automatic, is href="http://www.etc"   which is correct (although I would be astonished if it actually linked to anything. But suppose I make FOO a link. Now what has it inserted? Sigh. It got it right this time, too. So I do not know how I got my rash of http:/www stuff. It doesn't seem to be a repeatable error, although I may be certain it will repeat as soon as I relax.

    The moral of this story is CHECK YOUR SOURCE CODE, and don't rely on Front page or anything else to do it all. You would probably go mad if you had to do everything in raw html, of course. I at least really need some kind of WYSIWYG web tool; but given it's terminal slowness, I doubt that Front Page is going to be it.

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    Robert Thompson suggests that FP's slowness may be due to a bad installation and I should reinstall. I suppose I can try that. I confess this is getting to me.

    Friday, July 3, 1998

    This has become too painful to endure. Something must be done. Front Page is like writing in glue, and I can't keep it up any longer. If I go to Word, it rewrites all my code so that I have to spend ten minutes or more getting the pages back into shape. Meanwhile, every attempt I make to get the page sizes right makes it all worse for some people, but I can't experiment because even on a Dual Pentium Front Page is so slow I don't have time.

    Clearly something has to be done. I can install more memory in Princess; I realize with some embarrassment that when we first set her up, 64 megs was a reasonable amount of memory, but that's long since been insufficient and given the price of memory there's not reason to be so limited. That can't be the entire problem, though. It looks as if I really will have to scrub down and reinstall some stuff. I would not have thought that NT needed that treatment, but apparently it does.

    Switching to Dreamweaver is worse: it's easier to use but it makes for stuff that is unreadable by older browsers. Now I suppose I could ignore that, but in fact I won't.

    Today I must do fiction, and tomorrow we'll go to Mac Lean's house for Eve's annual party where we tell Mac Lean stories but somewhere this weekend things have got to be fixed.

    Meanwhile if there is anyone here from the Microsoft Word team listening, for heaven's sake, people, teach your silly program to leave the html code alone! Why must it change things to suit itself? Just because your program can't display background fills as cell properties doesn't mean it ought to eliminate them from the code!!! I would love to do this all in Word, if it would just behave itself. I particularly miss the on-line spelling checker and the autocorrections.

    And I just did a spell check of this document. It sucks. Dead bunnies. Through soda straws. The spelling checker in Front Page is not only not integrated with Office, it is an old brain damaged model. It will start ONLY at the top of the file. It will NOt understand that words with apostrophe's in them are still words. It is slow and stupid. I don't know who designed that spell checker but I would like to find him. I sure wouldn't want him to work on anything else.

    So: in case anyone from Microsoft reads this:

          Change Front Page to use the Word spell checker. Better still, use more of the Word engine in the Front Page editor. There is no reason why BOOKMARKS can only be inserted in the 'Edit' menu rather than the Insert menu. There are a bunch of other inconsistencies. And tell WORD to stop rewriting cell code to suit itself. It should be able to IGNORE features it can't see, not ELIMINATE them. As it is I have to put in my cell properties in comments, so that when WORD removes them it's easy to see where they go. This is ungood. Double plus ungood.

    Tons of mail; sorting and selecting is a job, made worse by a machine full of glue. And I really need to generate some kind of generic answer. I presume Outlook knows how to do that. I haven't had enough time to study it. As I have remarked over in the Windows discussion, when this was monthly it was a lot smoother because I could in a burst of energy do a lot of stuff and no one would see any more of the halts and hesitations than I wanted them to see. Now it's all out in the open. Oh. well.

    LATER: I tried to edit this in WORD, but Word had removed nearly everything. The background, the Amazon Logos; WORD simply does not accept that you can have stuff in cells. It rewrites your code something awful. But I can't go on typing in treacle either.

    QUESTION FOR THE DAY: How do you remove AIM from Netscape? My wife uses Netscape. She's hesitant about learning a new browser. However, one of the boys installed an updated version of Netscape (we PAID for ours originally but I think this is one of the free ones) and it automatically launches AIM, and puts an ugly little yellow man in the tray. It natters at you about joining AOL. If I had the time I swear I would sue Netscape and AOL for wasting my time. I cannot get RID of this miserable thing. It is not in the Starup Folder, there is no ini file in Netscape I can find, and I have searched all the entries in the files brought up by sysedit and there is no file with the letters aim in it in any of them. I am now stymied. What launches this horror? Why does Microsoft not have a way to let you CONTROL what programs your system runs on startup?

    And HOW DARE Netscape install an advertising gimmick like that without our consent, and leave us no way to get rid of it? A pox on Microsoft for not letting us have a way in W 95b to take control of what programs are launched, and a double pox with poison oak rash to Netscape for doing this to us. I don't even dare just eliminate the AIM folder in Netscape/communicator/.../program/ without knowing what else those creatures have done to us. This is Roberta's machine and she isn't a sophisticated user, and I don't want to do anything to it that will confuse her. Netscape, if you are listening, stop doing this. And if there is anyone from Microsoft out there, HELP! How can I make Netscape stop launching an advertisement for AOL whenever my wife connects to Earthlink?

    I'll be off for a while. I am going to take Princess apart and see what memory she uses. I have some Kingston 32's and if I can use those I'll put two more in. That may help. Then I will scrub her down and reinstall a bunch of stuff.  Wish me luck.


    OK, the slowdown problem was cured, sort of, Front Page is still too darned slow, but it's not as horrible as before. The cure was 128megs of Kingston Memory, to be precise, a KTM 16x72VN84-60EG 128 meg DIMM inserted into Princess giving her a total of 192 megs. That seems to have speeded up Front Page. Not enough, but enough so that I am willing to write this with Front Page for the moment.  I'm still trying to figure out how to make a WORD Macro that will restore all my formatting so I acen use WORD to write this journal. Maybe the thing to do is a Word document and paste it in. I'll see.

    I haven't had the cover off Princess since the night Compaq Systems Engineer Yat Chan brought her to Chaos Manor, and that was over a year ago; I haven't looked at the log recently. Been a while anyway. She comes apart easily. Remove three gnurled screws and lift the back of the cover. Princess, for the few who don't follow this, is a Compaq Professional Workstation Dual Pentium 200 running NT Worstation 3 SP-3. When we got her she was nearly cutting edge so I guess it's been a while. Anyway, you lift off the cover, and extract the cage that holds the boards, You do not have to disconnect external devices to do that. Then you find the memory is under the drive bay where you can't get at it.

    Reomove the front beezel which is easy enough except for one plastic snapcatch   that's under the drive bay where it would be easy to get at if you were not trying to remove the beezel in order to remove the drive bay. A long thin screwdriver and some dexterity will unsnap that catch. Pulling off the beezel reveals a bunch of screws, only two of which are relevant: they're in front. Take them out and it's not obvious, but the whole drive bay cage and all slides forward. Not quite far enough forward: it hits some kind of stop. Five minutes of looking for what revealed nothing, so in frutration I bashed it just a bit, and lo! the drive bay popped forward. Some roughness in the parts machininn I suppose.

    After that Bob's your uncle. The Kingston memory dropped in just as it was supposed to. I didn't bother to take the 64K Hyundai DIMM out and swap; the Kinstong 128 is in slot 2. Turn on the machine. See it test 192 megs. Beep, Keyboard error because the keyboard connected came loose during all this. Turn it off. Plug in the keyboard. This time "Memory Size Error." Do nothing. Hard disk fires up--Compaq systems do not power up the hard disk until they have done some system checking--trundles a second, and a message: "Automatic BIOS change to update to 192m Memory, press F1 to save." F1. Resarts, and here I am. I have yet to put the cover back on, so the monitor is about 5 feet away, but it's this glorous ViewSonic PT813 21 inch and I can see this just fine.

    Front Page is still far to slow, particularly for backspacing, so I will try uninstall and reinstall with all the new memory and everything. First I need to vacuum Princess. Lots of dust in there, and even so cat hair, Our cat died a couple of years ago and hasn't been replaced so I know it's been a while since we had the cover off this.

    More later.

    Well, that was an intersting experiment. Earthlink pretended to have me conncted at 56K through the Van Nuys line; but in fact I wasn't connected at all. Outlook couldn't get messages, Netscape couldn't find a home page, I couldn't telnet to BIX; all these processes THOUGHT they were connected, because Earthlink told me I was connected, but nothing whatever was happening. Must be their critical need detector: it knew I had just done some hardware mods, and wanted to make my life interesting They're all in this together, you know.  Now that this works again (connected at 28K which is apparently all earthlink supports now; I expect I better see to something faster but in fact line speed is the least of my problems for the moment) I'll put the cover back on Princess and connect up her scanners and stuff. But first I have to go do some banking.

    5:45 PM: So. That's done. Hasn't speeded up Front Page enough to be useful, but at least we know it wasn't lack of memory. Now to the Uninstall routine. We'll kill Front Page entirely and start over. But first I have to go do some banking.


    ACTUALLY, I started over with Dreamweaver. Which isn't so slow as front page as, but on the other hand the tool bar is wrong, or at least not one I am used to. And it is slow. I'm writing this in Dreamweaver. So we will see. I am just starting. To change color takes mucking about with menus, there being no button. At least not one I have found. I'll continue. At least it does not seem to have washed out any of my features. On the other hand it doesn't seem to follow links, but I suppose that's ignorance on my part.

    You cannot use the HELP files if you have Internet Explorer open; you must close Explorer and let Dreamweaver open it with its help file. This is no fun at all. There is no date and time stamp, or if there is, there is no mention in the index. There are these anchors in the text, but how you follow bookmarks to them is not clear. Dreamweaver drags too. Not as bad as Front Page did, but bad enough. The editor isn't as good as Word, and while the spelling checker isn't awful, it's still a batch process. It does start from the cursor and not always from the top. Now if I could just get some tool bars. I thought I saw something like one a while ago, but if so it has vanished. I am still trying to figure out links. There is not one word in the help file about bookmarks, so one wonders, do they exist? Can I insert one? Apparently it calls bookmarks anchors, and recognizes the existing ones. So far so good, but HOW can I make it follow a link? There appears to be no way at all! But there has to be, no? What would that be?

    Read the manual. No help. Nothing in the index. Apparently you CAN'T test links in Dreamweaver. That seems so silly as to be unbelievable, but if so, it's so obvious I can't find it. Let's see. Highlight the button. Shift click. Nope. Control click. No. Right click. No. Alt click. No. Control-Alt-Click. That brings up something with the name of "Frame" which is surely not the way to the top of the page. I retire, defeated. At least Front Page gave me links.

    There's some to like about Dreamweaver, but I sure don't care for the help files. Maybe I have to let it do the tutorial? To find out how to jump to bookmarks? But even WORD knows how to do that!

    No Undo file either. That's frightening. I think I better get out of here while I am winning.

    Midnight: So here I am in Front Page again. It is slow. It drags, not as bad as it did before, perhaps, but it drags. No automatic spell checker. Lots of other problems, but it does work, sort of. I gave up on Dreamweaver when I could not find an undo capability. That's working without a net for real: I have more than once messed things up and Front Page's undo saved me.

    I think what I will do is compose in word, save in a dummy document, then import that into Front Page. That way Word won't have a chance at my code.

    I have done an attempt at reorganizing the Windows 98 page. Don't know if I got it better or not, but there's a New Page. It will soon enough get renamed to Windows 98 discussion and the old one will go away.

    Several people tell me that Front Page isn't slow. I don't know that they mean by that. I may be more sensitive to this than most because I look at the screen when I type. It was one reason the early PC's with their screen flashes like to drove me nuts, and I wouldn't use one: all the engineers were staring at the keyboard when they typed, and they didn't see the screen flashes. But if you watch the screen you see that sort of thing, and with Front Page here what i get is a tiny delay between typing a character and it's appearance on screen. It isn't long, but it'll madden me soon enough.

    Enough. Of Dreamweaver and Front Page, FP is more word-like although it is not yet the Word interface. Dreamweaver is more 'mode' like, and doesn't have an automatic preview and such.  I have both up. We'll see. At the moment I see no obvious advantages to Dreamweaver. More in mail. Now to post this sucker.

    Saturday, July 4, 1998. Happy Birthday, America!

    Far too late, or rather early. I am now more or less back where I was this morning, but with more memory. After all my other problems, Internet Explorer died. It would load, and do nothing. It never connected to any page. I thought for a while it was Earthlink but Netscape could connect fine. Meanwhile the views I was getting in Preview mode of Front Page were bizarre, and one reason I concluded that the W98 discussion page is accursed. It's still accursed as far as I am concerned. I'll start a new one, and if there is anything in the old one that should be moved I'll do it. I expect Eric will consolidate all his observations into one essay to begin with, so I won't have to move those. And I do have a ton of mail I ought to be dealing with. Some commenting on my experiece with Dreamweaver. You people are fast.

    So I have uninstalled Front Page, and Explorer, then reinstalled them both. It took a long time, and was very little fun. My log book is full of statements of hatred for Microsoft. I don't really mean all of them, but I do wonder: I know people do pretty well what they want, and it's not cool to fix bugs and make things work right, but can't Microsoft find SOMEONE who'll take pity on us users and make this stuff a bit easier to cope with? But I suppose not.

    What I want is the Word editor in Front Page with the Office spelling checker; and it want it to run FAST, not drag like treacle. I want to be able to install stuff without having to stop and reboot every flooping time And I'd like programs to stop dying mysteriously as Internet Eplorer did. What killed it? Could Dreamweaver? I sure don't know. And I am babbling, and it is very late, and I think I will go to bed. Good night, Microsoft. Please detail someone intelligent to look at things from the user's view once in a while...


    MORNING. Happy Birthday America. KUSC is playing patriotic music, although some like Danny Deever is more martial than patriotic and certainly not American, not having been one of the works done by Kipling while he lived in the US.

    One always feels better in the morning, and so I do. There's a spat of mail, some fascinating. I can have a whole section on getting that silly AOL message out of Roberta's machine. Even Netscape has only an 'unsupported' method for getting rid of it! Shameless they are, but shame on them anyway.

    Yesterday's adventures have done two things. First, it cured the system's problems regarding Netscape and IE4. Possibly the reinstall of IE4, but in any event I have both open at once now, and they work. Netscape is again the default editor because of that episode. I may or may not change that. One of you observed that IE uses cutesy names like 'favorites' for bookmarks. Astute observation. I may have marked some 'favorites' but I have also marked places where you get information you have to have because Netscape and Microsoft were deficient in fixing bugs and cleaning up problems. Those are needed bookmarks but hardly favorites!

    The second result was I have a method. Open VIEW in Word. Instantly save it as Workview.html. Now the autosave won't muck up the real VIEW. Work in here. I have the on line spell checking and my real dictionary, and it's fast even when inserting text into a big file with lots at the bottom of the file. When done, copy all the new work into the clipboard. Open VIEW in Front Page. Paste. Save. Publish.

    Works every time, and it's FAST. I may be able to do that for Mail as well. It does mean I can't add stuff anywhere but at the bottom or put in links, but that's not a major difficulty. However, we have a problem. Robert Thompson types faster than I do, and looks at the screen when he does, and does NOT see the slow dragginess of the Front Page Editor that I see. Since I have uninstalled FP and reinstalled, and added more memory, and everything else works fast, I can't figure this out. Two remedies. First, I will try this on Blurple, the Intergraph single processor NT 4 machine. Second, I will install FP on a Windows 95 system, and on the new Windows 98 system and see if it works there. Meanwhile, who uses the Front Page Editor with NT? Does it drag with large files?

    Another suggestion for the FP work crew: implement the Word feature, an excellent one. Of 'press F8, then use keyboard arrows and keys to mark text'. It is often difficult to control things with the mouse, especially when the system drags as FP editor does. It's far too easy to hit a cell boundary or oveshoot the bottom of a file. The F8 feature works exceedingly well, and I used it all the time in my novel writing. Let there be a race to see if the Word people can get Word to stop rewriting cell properties, or the Front Page people can make their editor into one 70% as good as Word for everything else! Surely there's one smart person on each team...

    Can't figure out a way to do white on blue on the web because the links vanish. I suppose there is a way to do it, but I haven't been able to find it nor could Alex in an hour of work, and we gave up.

    I do hope the Microsoft crew will assign someone to make WORD leave cell properties alone. Really, that one change would make things far better, and how hard could it be? To make it STOP eliminating code... It even rewrites the cell code, often ABOVE the comment line I put in so I could find easily the place where it does it's needless thing. What is this? Oh well. Enough before coffee!

    I am certain I added material to this Yesterday afternoon and evening, and now that is gone. This system is not working well. Or my memory isn't.

    Sunday, July 5 1998

    This is before breakfast but I am hoping someone can help. Does OUTLOOK have a way to import addresses to the address book other than painstakingly one at a time? Presume I have a folder of addresses; I want them all in the address book and I want them all to have a characteristic, such as a group name, or a category. I cannot believe Outlook doesn't know how to do that, but I have bene unable to figure out how to do it. Are the MACROS in Outlook?  If I have to go through each of the several thousand names of wellwishers, click on each, enter the name, open the name in the book, add the category, and go to the next, I simply won't DO it.

    This looks serious, and nothing I have about Outlook seems to realize this is something you might WANT to do. Once names are in some kind of contact list, it's easy enough to make a list out of them, but how do you give them come characteristic as you put them INTO the list in the first place.

    Let me describe the problem; surely it is not unique with me? I have this enormous folder of email, yours mostly: notes from people who have wished me well. There is often a unique subject matter in the heading, although not always. They are all in one Outlook folder. They are NOT entered into the address book. Double click on the sender name in the list, and it opens the note. Double click on the sender name on the note and it opens a dialogue that offers to add the name to the address book. Already I am in trouble as it will take 30 seconds at minimum to do one this way, and with over a thousand that is quite a bit of time; but it gets worse because I then hit the add to address book button, it trundles, and shows the name. I hit the 'other' tab and it shows me a notes section I can add to, and a "group membership" box which is greyed out, has no entries in it, and does not allow me to type in any information.  If I could just click on a group membership there I could manage, but I can't.

    If I try to create a mailing list, I am offered the opportunity to add names from the contacts list. Bigus dealus how do I get them in there? What I want to do is create a mailing list from the MAIL LIST folder under INBOX.  Is Outlook really this useless? If so what program ought I to be using?

    To help, click HERE.

    (LATER): I have one very complex procedure from Professor Irwin involving exporting to Excel to make a template, then exporting a list to excel, then ---  well, it may work, and if so, that's what I'll do. It looks exceedingly complex but that's better than nothing.



    Trying again in Dreamweaver. The interface is quite different from either WORD or Front Page, of course. On the other hand it is fast. If I remembered it as dragging, it mst have been before I put the new memory in. It seem to have left all of my cell properties alone, and there is no formatting problem. Peter Glaskowsky says it doesn't have a way to follow links: if you use Dreamweaver, you live without that.

    For fun I have changed things to white on blue. I am not sure I like that as much as I do when I am working on text. It's easy to do in Dreamweaver.

    More frustrations. I am going to get rid of this blue on white soon. It is not as readable as my WORD pages are, and it looks bad. I'll put it up for an hour or so.

    But the BIG problem is that Outlook has the most miserable and clumsy way to import mail into contacts, and to make mailing lists from contacts, that I can imagine. The person who designed that does NOT USE IT. No one WOULD use it.

    Netscape is better. If I can import my mail from Outlook to Netscape I can get the addresses into a folder in Netscape's address book, the import that back into Outlook. Better still I find a tool that actually does what I want. There has to be one.

    Look: I want to take a bunch of email and make a mailing list from it. That cannot possibly be hard to do. Some of you must do it all the time. Spammers sure do. So someone, please, tell me how to accomplish that?

    And DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE Outlook keeps its mail files? I cannot find them, so I cannot even look to see what the heck file structure it uses. WHY DOES MICROSOFT HIDE the blasted mail files? They can't be small files, either. This is really truly annoying.

    THIS color scheme has also been suggested. I have not decided which I like. I think I actually prefer my parchment and black letters. Odd.

    Anyway, it may not matter. I am sufficiently discouraged about mail working so badly and being unable to control the table widths, that I may give all this up. Nothing I do seems to be DONE.  Things change to suit themselves, everything looks different depending on what you look at it with, and after a while I just cease to care. Twiddling color bits is no way to make a living. I'd rather be gardening.

    And Front Page still drags, so that it is painful to type, but if I use WORD that appears to be one of ways to blow things up entirely. I am sufficiently discouraged to give this up and write books. I like editing mail, and I don't mind recording my observations, but posting all this stuff is enough to make me retire to the monk's cell and write fiction. The web is maintained with primitive tools, and the reason it costs so much is that the tools to work with are straight out lousy, developed by gurus for gurus with less than no concern for users. It's as if the UNIX wizards were let loose again, and have found a way to punish us all for leaving them for something simpler to use. I feel like it's 1980 again.

    I see my bird vanishes in the blue. Oh well, that blue background goes soon enough.

    EVENING: This is going back to a normal page shortly. I don't like white on blue here, and Netscape users find it worse. Like it or not my parchment is the right way to go. I still hate all this. There has to be a way to just write, and let others worry about making it look right. I never set out to be more than a wordsmith. I have a "new" space paper, which is my testimony to the House Space Committee a couple of years ago, that explains what the government ought to be doing. They didn't do it of course. I'd rather be putting that together than twiddling bits and trying to remember code numbers for colors.

    Oh. Well. Incidentally, I have fixed the broken mail link up above.

    The SPACE Paper is up.

    As you can see, the page has been put back the way it was. More or less. Sorry, I can't fix everything. Enough.

    Now the mail problem fixed itself; I didn't do anything I can see to make it better. Tomorrow is a brand new mail page anyway, and I will come up with better separator lines for the different parts. I am still working on using the import / export by way of Excel method to make mailing lists. If it works I'll have a mailing in the next few days. Emailing of course.

    Bit twiddling is fun only when you don't have to do it.

      Good night.



    Thanks, Peter

    Thanks, Tim of Angle