THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
Thursday, March 30, 2000
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 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this place is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE.
|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:
July 19, 1999
We had a great 40th Anniversary weekend on Avalon. Of course it makes me want to get a boat again. We used to sail over there on Ariadne, my little 20 foot midget ocean racer sloop, and anchor near the old seaplane ramp; now that's a mass of Condominiums not particularly attractive to look at; and most of the paces we used to anchor are now moorages. Still a lovely place to be. First time I ever went there on someone else's boat...
We're back now, and I hope I have the mailing list straightened out. I'll do one more test when I am up to it. Most of the problems come about from Outlook.
OUTLOOK 2000 uses WABMIG in an entirely different way from OUTLOOK 98 and can clobber your mailing lists. It ruined mine which had to be rebuilt. BEWARE. And the documentation of Outlook 2000 meets the usual wretchedly bad standard of all Office 2000 documents, with an imbecilic help system that can't find key file extensions that Outlook 2000 insists on making. BEWARE. This cost me a lot of time.
On the other hand, much of Outlook works well. But they need to iron the bugs out of this so-called finished product.
FrontPage 2000 has some similar problems.
And I lifted this from the home page:
It's time for a facelift here. May as well try out all the new tools. At the moment this is done with Front Page 2000, which, if you can find out about it (the manuals are awful) is pretty good, and is actually quite compatible with FP 98 except for the Extensions. Beware the Extensions if you are located on a server you don't control. I also have HotMetalPro and Dreamweaver. Tests continue, but for the moment FP 2000 is working fairly well now that I have things under control.
I'm also using Windows 2000, and if you are a Windows user you will find this the best Windows yet.
I have not been involved with flying for many years, but I know I would never have undertaken to fly a single engine plane under vfr rules at night over open with any haze or fog at all, and probably not even if I knew it was clear. They used to teach us "TRUST THE INSTRUMENTS NOT THE SEAT OF THE PANTS" and that was certainly the right way. Now true you are not so likely to get lost since GPS, but disorientation is still quite real, if you have not trained yourself to trust the artificial horizon. I don't know if we will ever know what happened to JFK jr but it did seem excessively bold to make that flight with a fairly new and unfamiliar airplane. RIP.
There is a LOT of mail. I'll do what I can with some of it. My Intellectual Capital bit on Taiwan got some very odd comments. Ah well. www.intellectualcapital.com while you wait for me to get the mail up here....
Used the Olympus 400Z camera a LOT over there. Wonderful. Also Dragon's new NaturallyMobile solid state dictation device. I like that a lot too. More on those with the column, but those are great companions to have on a trip.
We stayed at the Vincennes Hotel on Avalon, and I can recommend it.
Now we're home and I am catching up. There's a lot to catch, and a lot of mail.
Some odd problems. There are times when I think life isn't long enough to use Microsoft Front Page 2000: publishing can take forever, even with ftp publishing. Other times it's fast and efficient. I don't get it at all. The real problem is there is no way at all to see what is going wrong. It works or it doesn't and it won't tell you much.
|This week:||Tuesday, July
20, 1999 "That's one small step..."
It has been many years since I listened to Armstrong say that. When I was young I always knew I would live to see the first man on the Moon. I hadn't thought I would live to see the last one, but if you leave it to NASA that is precisely what would happen.
Over in mail Norman Spinrad has been berating me for Star Wars instead of giving the money to NASA. If we'd given the money to NASA DC/X would never have happened. People who trust government to get things done don't understand the circumstances under which that happens. Most of the big high priority projects like Apollo, the Normandy Invasion, the Panama Canal, were done by the military, which understands objective and priorities and doesn't when there is a goal use all the money to build internal structure and bureaucracy that then has to be paid before anything else can happen. Of course at the end of wars you disband the army; if you don't then if you thought a civilian bureaucracy was stupidly inefficient you ain't seen nothing until you see a military peacetime bureaucracy...
If we want to get back to the Moon we have to get to orbit. If you are interested in getting to orbit, join Space Access Society. Write to Henry Vanderbilt, that's firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
And I have work to do. There's a lot of interesting mail today. And my agent called and Niven and I have lots of work to do on our next book proposal, which they want yesterday...
I have lots of requests for separators between mail and my replies. I tried a few over in mail, but each one adds a full second to the download time (perhaps not since after the first one you will surely have it cached? I haven't analyzed the way different browsers work). It also takes a few seconds for me to add the lines, but I can come up with an automation for that. I was using the birdline to separate mail from replies and the gold balls
(I took them out; they are too big and too wide)
to separate mail or blocks of mail. Don't know if this is a good idea or not.
DOES anyone know of an address to send copies of spam to the State of California, say to Consumer Frauds or some such? I'll make a macro and do it. I am getting weary of the "responsible emails" that in fact don't have any way to get you off their list. For that matter is there an FCC mailing address? Maybe we all ought to send copies of this stuff to various Federal agencies. Whitehouse.gov? Algore? There has to be a way to annoy someone with power to get them to make the spammers stop...
There is a long letter from Daniel Sobral about Open Source other than Linux (to wit Free BSD) that anyone contemplating committing Linux will want to read. It will also be referenced in mail. It got its own page because it is large.
A testimonial: I got a 4100-32 memory upgrade package from Crucial www.crucial.com today for my Compaq Armada 4220-T laptop. Previously we had looked to see what kind of memory the Armada needed, but it wasn't at all clear. The Crucial package came with complete instructions, and the installation process took me about five minutes total. I am always more careful with a laptop than with a full size machine.
There were no incidents. Royal Armadillo, the 4220 Laptop, now has Windows 98 SE and 64 megs of memory, and works like a charm. It was as simple an installation as I have ever had. I have previously been a fan of Kingston Memory, and I have nothing against them. Crucial manufactures its own memory so is a bit closer to the process.
The instructions were clear, the memory looks well made, and I'll let it burn in for a couple of weeks, but I anticipate no problems. If you are running Windows 98 SE with active desktop you must have 32 megs of memory and 64 is a lot better. You can get it quickly from Crucial with full instructions.
I have been asked about the next Janissaries book. It is still my next major project once Burning City is out the door entirely. John Ordover, our editor at Simon and Schuster keeps finding good things to do to the manuscript of Burning City, and since it is a potential large best seller and will be treated as such, we have a big incentive to take his advice. Consequently we are still pounding on a book we thought was done. Also, since big heroic fantasies come in trilogies, and we saw a natural sequel to this novel as we were writing it -- you'll love it -- we were ready to do notes on the next book in the set, when our publishers sent encouraging words to our agent about getting a proposal in. So in addition to reshaping some of the early chapters of Burning City, we are working on BURNING TOWER, the second volume in what we are tentatively calling THE FEATHERSNAKE BOOKS. And wow do we have some odd stuff for the next book...
Anyway, the next Janissaries is put off just a bit, but it is still my next major project.
July 21, 1999
From Pete Manly, astronomer and former USAF:
Well, gang, I have a new book
out. As an experiment we’re having it published on-line. You go to http://www.scifi-az.com/manly
to download a free reader program and then haul out your Visa card and
authorize $5.00 to download the novel as a PDF file. There’s also
“cover art” by Armand Cabrera which you can view and save (print out
that image and paste it on a disk and I’ll sign it) or provision to have
a hard copy mailed to you for $17.50.
I include the above as a courtesy to an old friend; I have not read the book. It's an interesting experiment in marketing though. Maybe I should try it...
We are discussing layout and mail separators over in mail. The real question is, do these small gif images add that much to download times once you have got the first one? That is, with a normal browser and caching, is there multiple loading?
I can, of course, use really small ones like and which don't use up much download time. Once again, is it worth it? They do separate things. I'll have to think on this.
Of course I have always liked larger ones but I don't think I can get away with those for long. I do try to keep downloads short.
This guy adds two seconds, at least the first time I use him, while the little ones add almost nothing. Alas, my spinning compass, which I also like a lot, adds 20 seconds to the download, far too much to be used.
But this chap is about 9 seconds. I won't do this again.
I have a bunch of suggestions about Spam I am saving up. It's getting on for time to DO something about it, isn't it? Now I have appointments for the day.
Misunderstandings can lead to improvements: our editor at Simon and Schuster had what looked like the suggestion to kill the whole first chapter. We decided we couldn't do that, but I chopped at it to pare it back a lot. It reads faster now. I may restore a little of what's gone, but I like the fast pace. BURNING CITY is going to be a heck of a read, I think.
The LeMonde article on SDI, NASA, and me by Norman Spinrad is getting lots of attention, so I have given the whole mess its own page. While you are at it, you might look at what else is available in the debates folder.
July 22, 1999
Getting the final ms. BURNING CITY ready, and then the proposal for the next volume in The Feathersnake Trilogy. Lots to do.
I don't normally fix things that ain't broke, but Crucial sent some new memory for Princess, the Compaq Professional Workstation 5000 dual Pentium, and more memory with Windows 2000 is always a Good Thing. It was all uneventful, unlike previous attempts to install more memory; this time it worked first time. I tested it with the case open and since everything worked find I had time to vacuum out the inside of the case. That was when I found that the heat sinks on those processor chips are HOT. Once again nothing was broke, and this machine has been working fine for years, but I had a $20 chip fan from Fry's so I stuck it on the bridge area between the two chips. That brings down the temperature when the case is open. There's a vent just in front of the chips that should be a major air intake with the case closed, so this is probably a work of supererogation. Ah well.
I haven't had any real problems with Princess unless I leave far too many windows open; now with 128 megs more memory I can have a lot more than too many...
July 23, 1999
So this weekend I finish BURNING CITY maps and all, this time, finished for sure. I hope. It has been a lot of work, but the book is greatly improved, which is what you pay editors for... Simon and Schuster hope to make a winner out of this one. I sure won't argue. I'll have portions here once it's all settled.
And now I pull out HIGH TECH WARS, and the fourth Janissaries book, and get to work on those.
I note in today's Fry's that computers are free if you sign up for Internet service. Not surprising, and in fact predictable once Sony and other consumer products outfits got into the small computer act. In fact I predicted it, just after going to the roll-out of Sony's new entry. Given their marketing channels and their marketing strategy, plus their reputation to uphold, it seemed inevitable that low price at acceptable quality would impact the small computer field. In fact, I wonder what took things so long?
This can't be great news to Intel. Next thing we need is software that takes advantage of all this new speed to let us deal with the computers the way we deal with secretaries and other employees. What we need is usable PDA software with voice recognition. "Be a nice girl. Hilda, find me that letter I wrote to George last week about the new lawnmower." And have the computer find it...
(The "Be a nice girl" tag to get the computer's attention comes from a Heinlein story; Niven and I used other such tags in the MOTE novels. Lady Sally Fowler Blaine says "Fyunch (click)" to get her computer's attention. The first one of these I ever saw used "Listen to me." That was a long time after we wrote MOTE, and for that matter, Mr. Heinlein read MOTE years before he wrote his "smart computer" stories; prior to that his computers looked like battleship fire control computers, which, when you stop to think of it, should come as no great surprise...)
That kind of software would be useful, and would also use up some of the surplus cycles we have with modern Pentium III systems. Probably use it all, but who cares? It's what we need next...
I have a lot of stuff on what to do about Spam. I'll have to put it together on one page, I think. One keeps wondering if there is not some way to post a list of "fair game": people whose unconscionable Spamming justifies using any and all legal means to make their Internet lives living Hell. After all, they have to leave traces, and some of our smarter people can find out precisely who they are, and what they need to do business. Include the people who give testimonials, like:
"This list is worth it's weight in gold. I sent out only
100,000 emails for my product and received over 55
Anne Colby, New Orleans, LA
After all, their entire existence is a denial of service attack on the rest of us... But I expect that's a daydream. Oh. Well.
(The testimonial is real in the sense that I copied it from a Spam selling mailing lists, but I suspect it's made up. But think on this. She supposedly sent out 100,000 annoying advertisements to get 55 orders. A hundred thousand people were bombarded so she could make a few bucks.)
Well, that was no fun. FrontPage attempted to publish by ftp ( I have never had any success with the Front Page Extensions ) and somehow got index.html wrapped around the axle so that I couldn't delete it, it had a content of 0 bytes, and the only message I got was "access denied." Fun. But time heals all wounds, apparently: whatever process was running on the server eventually timed out.
This did give me a chance to test the new subscriber list. I've sent mail to all those who should be on it. If you didn't get mail today, and think you should, tell me why: when you subscribed and under what name. But before you do that, check the undelivered mail page. If your name is on there, you'll see I tried to send you mail, and what the result was. Sorry it's a mess.
July 23, 1999
Good letter on upgrading to Windows 98 SE over in mail. If you're contemplating doing that, be sure to see this one.
And don't forget, if you are going to a science fiction convention, the right one this year is NASFIC in late August it Los Angeles/Anaheim. For details see http://www.99.nasfic.org/ and of course I have an interest, as I am Guest of Honor. I haven't done my speech yet, but I never write them out, so what you hear is what you get...
I have a great deal of old mail to clean up, and I'll put that over in mail today. There's a lot, and some quite good. I've been cleaning out the mail locker...
Buried in all that is an essay by Eric Pobirs on flattening the world (and video). It was written in June and some events have caught up with it already, but it's very worth your attention, and will probably end up copied to a report.
And there is a bit more on SDI / NASA.
July 25, 1999
The following is an important commercial. I don't do many commercials. I include the entire announcement to give you a chance to see what SAS does. I've also just sent them my check for $100.
SPACE ACCESS UPDATE #88
Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society
Stories This Issue:
- Latest on Congressional NASA, DOD RLV Funding
- Rotary Rocket Flies ATV, Does Second Round of Layoffs
- Miscellany - USA Sponsored Shuttle Forever Symposium, New US Defense Space Policy,
SAS Needs Money!
Latest on Congressional NASA, DOD RLV Funding
Our current alert (see www.space-access.org/updates/alt0799b.html ) asks you to contact any members of the House or Senate Appropriations committees local to you, and ask them to A: add $50 million to NASA Future-X for reusable rocket low-cost flight ops demonstrations, and B: as a matter of priorities, do NOT fund startup of the premature and oversold "Spaceliner 100" airbreathing launcher project.
The Senate NASA appropriators (the HUD, VA, and Independent Agencies subcommittee, then the full Appropriations committee) were scheduled to "mark up" their NASA funding bill last week, but they once again postponed. Keep after them, but save the phone charges and use paper mail - all they'll say about when they will actually do markup is "before the August recess", which starts August 6th. That narrows things down to either this coming week, or the week after, and we'd guess at the current pace the week after (starting Monday August 2nd) is more likely. So if you haven't yet gotten around to contacting them, or if you did but via voice phone, get their DC office address from www.vote-smart.org , buy a stamp, and send them a letter first thing this week - it'll likely get there in time.
The House HUD/VA appropriations bill, as of last Thursday, was still scheduled for subcommittee markup this Monday July 26th, late in the day. So if your Congressman is on Appropriations and you haven't yet contacted him or her, phone or fax Monday! See the alert at www.space-access.org for details on how.
Over in the Defense Department budget, we're pushing for funding for the X-40B "Space Maneuver Vehicle" (SMV), a spacegoing version of the USAF Phillips Lab X-40A landing-only reusable upper stage demonstrator flown successfully last winter. X-40B will demonstrate a variety of reusable space-launch, on-orbit, and reentry operations we and the USAF think very useful, operations complementary to what NASA plans to do with the related X-37.
We and various like-minded folk have been working this one for a while - the Senate Defense Appropriation was passed weeks ago with $25 million for this project. Last week the House marked up and passed its version of the DOD funding bill with surprising speed - with nothing for SMV in it, oops.
We've been given to understand that there is support for USAF SMV among the House Appropriators, and that it is possible they'll accede to the Senate position of $25 million funding when it comes time for the two to hammer out their differences in conference. We don't know when the Defense Appropriations conference will happen, though we suspect (for arcane tactical reasons) it may take place untraditionally early, within the next two weeks. As soon as we know the timing for sure, we're going to be asking your help pushing hard for full funding for X-40B.
Rotary Rocket Flies ATV, Does Second Round of Layoffs
Rotary Rocket Company at about 8:30 am PDT on Friday July 23rd flew their Roton ATV for the first time, doing multiple rotor-borne liftoffs, low-altitude hovers, and landings over the course of several minutes. The ATV is Rotary's "Aerial Test Vehicle", intended to demonstrate structures, systems, and the rotor-borne landing mode for the company's planned Roton reusable launch vehicle. This initial flight took place several months behind the original (very aggressive) schedule - late, but not in our view unusually so, given the leanness of the budget (Rotary built and flew the ATV on $30 million total funding that we know of) and the universality of Murphy's Law - development projects *always* take a little longer than the engineers expect.
Unfortunately, Rotary seems to have run low on shoestring - their ATV flight coincided with the effective date of their second round of layoffs. We have not been able to get a definitive answer on the scope of the latest round of layoffs (we observe that even for companies in trouble, not being straight with the press is counterproductive) but it seems likely based on what we have been able to dig out that absent an immediate infusion of cash, Rotary is at best in mothballs and at worst is history.
- United Space Alliance (USA), the Boeing/Lockheed-Martin Shuttle operating consortium, is sponsoring the Space Shuttle Development Conference at NASA Ames, Moffet Field CA (actual site seems to be the Westin Santa Clara) with an all-star cast, Wednesday July 28th through Friday July 30th, 1999. The general theme of the conference seems to be the prospects for continuing Shuttle operations for decades to come. Information at www.futureshuttle.com; media registration contact is Jack King at 407 861-4358.
- The US Department of Defense has adopted its first major new space policy in a while - one key point being that we will treat space a lot more like we treat the sea and international airspace, as a medium where we support freedom of navigation and we will defend US assets, another point being that we will be pushing toward more flexible lower-cost space operations, both unmanned and potentially (if the cost comes down enough) manned.
- And finally for this Update, Rotary Rocket isn't the only outfit on a too-short shoestring. Information warfare in support of radically cheaper space transportation costs a whole lot less than actually developing hardware, but it still costs. If you like what we're doing and you want to see more, money is the sincerest form of flattery. An SAS membership is $30, and gets you a discount on our annual conference (Space Access '00, April 27-29, 2000, in Phoenix Arizona) plus direct email subscription to our Updates and Alerts.
Yes, we give away our Updates and Alerts promiscuously - Job #1 is to get across our point of view. No, we don't incessantly nag SAS members to renew or donors to give more - we're old-fashioned enough to think that's rude. No, donations to SAS are not tax-deductible - we do far too much lobbying to qualify for 501c3 tax-deductible status without lying like rugs, and regardless of how common this may be we won't do it. And no, we won't take donations from government contractors that might be affected by our positions; that way lies self-censoring impotence as the next big corporate check gets ever more important. We've seen that, we won't do it.
Given the above self-imposed restrictions, it's a tribute to our supporters that we're still here and fighting after seven years. We've seen checks for five bucks, we've seen a blessed few for a thousand. Money translates very directly to time and energy - we thank you every one for all you've given over the years.
It's settling into a long grinding struggle, alas. Please, help us stick with it. Send your checks to SAS, 4855 E Warner Rd #24-150, Phoenix AZ 85044.
Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety."Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" - Robert A. Heinlein
Winnie, the WinChip system running Windows 95b (because I want one machine running W 95b) has tended to be a fussbudget, so today I replaced the non-name memory with some genuine Crucial memory. So far, the results have been splendid: whereas the machine didn't like to shut down properly, and sometimes would sit there 10 hours then blue-screen, none of that is happening now. Whether that will continue I don't know; if you don't know what causes a problem and you don't know how to make it happen, it's pretty hard to be certain you have fixed it. I have a few signs though: a couple of games seem to play better, with the sound settings working properly.
With luck this has ended the temperamental nature of that machine, which is as well, because it's the system Niven likes to use (well it's in the right place) and it's convenient for me to keep the Win 95b machine at that station; I was about to put an entirely different machine there (he'd never notice the difference) but if this one is stable it will stay in place. While I was at it I updated the network access and added TCP/IP and that all worked as well. I have to say that I don't like this network as much as I might because it takes about 40 seconds for "My Computer" to come up the first time I access it after a shutdown. I know, I know, it's scanning the net, and 40 seconds isn't that long, which is probably a better indication of what I am used to than anything else. After all, at one time it took some 40 seconds to save a CHAPTER on my old S-100 system with 8-inch floppies, and I thought that was wonderful. Now I complain about 40 seconds the first time after I have shut down...
More mail in a few minutes. I'm still cleaning up.