THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 60: August 2 - 8, 1999
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This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 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:
August 2, 1999
With luck that plant at the Huntington will open today. We'll see...
Thanks to all of you who have pointed out links problems. Regarding New Order, Maildex and Viewdex, those will be fixed in the next iterations of those pages. Please continue to give me specifics of broken links on other pages. I think most of them are now fixed.
I sent a mailing to the subscribers last night. If you are a subscriber and did not get that, let me know, but FIRST check the bad mail page; you may be one of those on it. There are many.
And the Huntington reports that plant has bloomed. We are on the way. Picture report later.
We're back. Biggest crowds in the history of the Huntington Library. Report when I get a chance.
There are two short photo reports. They were previously in a hidden area accessible to subscribers; I've moved them out in the open. I fear there's not a lot this time unless you like baby pictures. There's the Christening of Julian Elise Miller, our goddaughter, and some photos taken when Niven and I went looking for a place to have cover photos taken for The Burning City.
And now it's column time. I've sent another letter to subscribers. If you subscribed and didn't get one about Amorphophallus, let me know when you subscribed, how you paid, and what name and email you used. Before you do that, check the bad mail page; there are a number of people whose mail is returned.
In another discussion forum I commented that in my youth everyone in Tennessee read certain works in certain grades. You got Evangeline A Story of Acadia in 7th grade. In 6th you got Horatius at the Bridge and The Man Without a Country. In 8th you got The Lady of the Lake and Silas Marner. (There were a number of other works, including Hiawatha and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and The Wonderful One Horse Shay, but I forget in which grades.) The point was that for every literate person, and that was 95% of the population, there was a bare minimum of literary works you could draw on for similes and symbols and analogies. Made for easier and better conversation. No longer. Now there is no common body of works.
In the course of the discussion someone came up with a bizarre story about Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot, author of Silas Marner and many other works); that she had several other names, hid out from the law with a pseudonym, was persecuted for being a lady novelist in a man's world and was always about one step ahead of the police.
None of this made sense to me, and I spent about 20 minutes on the web looking for a hint of where that story might have come from. As far as I can see, there IS NO source; it was made up out of whole cloth. In the course of looking I found that about half the sites that had the information I sought no longer exist (or were temporarily gone south), and many of the others quote each other. Thus I never was able to establish with certainty that none of the persecutions happened -- Virginia Woolf's biography of Evans was one of those that didn't exist; she'd know and say so if it were true -- but I was able to establish improbability.
Now compared to the time it would take to get the car or a bicycle and go to the library or book store I suppose my Internet experience was faster, but you know, to be definitive, you still can't beat books in libraries...
|This week:||Tuesday, August
We've been studying the site statistics, and apparently my little blimp is accounting for some horrendous percentage of the download traffic. The exploding computer on the home page got a lot more. I've killed them with a bit of reluctance. John Dvorak told me they'd done a study that showed that having something moving on a page got more attention. From our own education work I know that I don't want a very distracting device.
I suppose I ought to have a new contest for clever buttons and illustrations, small things that are amusing without taking up a lot of disk space and bandwidth.
Otherwise I'm working on a column, and that involves putting together a new machine, so it's likely to be a busy day. So of course I spent part of it fixing broken links, particularly in Strategy of Technology. Oh well. If you haven't read that book it might be worth your while.
Column is moving along. Have done some random pictures I found: the Armada after the Desert Crash. And now to finish the column...
Jay Leno says that when the President was informed that Monica Lewinsky had rolled her Explorer, he said "That's odd, I thought she was supposed to fall down a flight of stairs..."
August 4, 1999
You can see a report on Amorphophallus titanum, the "Corpse plant" now on display at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, with pictures. There are also links to the Huntington's site. Tens of thousands of Los Angeles people went to see a plant that smells like a corpse, and only blooms every 15 years or so. See why.
Starswarm, a science fiction adventure novel by Jerry Pournelle, is out in paper as of August 3. You can read about it here, or just go to Amazon and buy a copy. I know which I would prefer you do. Truth in advertising: if you buy on through the link I just provided, I get a small extra commission.
Robert Bruce Thompson has compressed my photo and some of the background of these pages, in theory reducing the time it takes to download. I have a new copy of PhotoShop and I ought to get to work on a lot of this stuff, but there are only so many hours in a month, and I'm dancing as fast as I can. If you notice this is a bit more crisp, give thanks to Bob Thompson
And I am still doing my column.
Earthlink seems horrible the last few days. It drops me every few minutes. As my column will detail this can be serious for Outlook 2000 users. In the upcoming column I go into why Office 2000 is not recommended until they get some bug fixes out. Outlook is really bad when you think you are connected to the Internet, but in fact the "service" provider has dropped you. In fairness I should say that it has been very hot outside the last couple of days.
And Earthlink is so much better than AOL as not to have any comparison. AOL recompresses your file images. That story is also in the column, but if some of my pictures look horrible when accessed through AOL, try looking at them through another ISP account.
I'm told that this is one of the major individual sites on the Web now; not up there with BYTE.COM, which is as well since they wouldn't pay me to write for BYTE if there weren't a lot of traffic (Plug: if you haven't been to BYTE.COM in a while, go there now). We're getting regular stats from Pair.com and they are very interesting. Bob Thompson massages them for me, so I don't have to know how. I may teach myself, but not until the column is done...
I have found some more broken links like /EPCOT/ when it should be /epcot/ and the like; with luck we have fixed most, in part due to the ALLAIRE editor, which is wonderful and which will get written up in the column this month. Thanks to those of you who suggested it.
And we have added some more pictures of Chaos Manor and BYTE editor Paul Schindler during his visit here.
In searching for bad links I came across my short disquisition on Strategy of Technology, the Seventy Years War, and tribute to the late Stefan Possony. I need to move that to a separate page; meanwhile I have put in links to it from the book, and I can reference it here.
August 5, 1999
Finishing the column today. I hope.
Question: Bob Thompson has been studying my web statistics and points out that some of my BIG super high quality files of the Corpse Flower accounted for about 10% of the web traffic yesterday; he has used a freeware program we discussed here about a year ago, Irfanview, to compress these large images into "web ready" VGA pictures.
Now I normally take pictures with the Olympus set to VGA format because one doesn't need the higher quality; but in the case of something like that crazy flower I thought some of you might appreciate the greater detail and better colors.
It comes to this: we are close to the traffic that would trigger about $100 a month more in service charges. That's five regular or three patron subscriptions a month; does it matter to enough subscribers or potential subscribers? Subscribers know how to get my attention. Others with opinions send by clicking here. Please keep them short.
A consensus is forming that makes sense. In future, I'll put VGA pictures in the public areas, and reserve the high resolution pictures for subscribers. Makes sense.
Secondly, pro-blimp sentiment runs about 7 to 1...
August 6, 1999
(Yes, I know, I got this in the wrong place this morning).
OK, OK, yesterday 3% of the hits accounted for 35% of the traffic: all high density pictures. So, as of now, I have replaced them with condensed images. I will in the next day or so let the subscribers know how to access the big images. Sorry to have to do it this way, but we went over the service's limits to a new level of service charges just on those pictures. Which is fine for subscribers...
In future that is how I'll do it. I'll set things so that subscribers can find the high quality pictures (assuming there will be more and there probably will be; I like playing about at photojournalism) and when I publish images in open areas I'll run them through a process that converts them to VGA. In most cases it won't matter all that much. This isn't a marketing move, it's just a way to limit bandwidth use. I probably ought to do each report twice, once with high quality and once with VGA pictures, but that seems a bit much, and given my time availability it isn't going to happen anyway.
My apologies to those who send lengthy mail asking for what amounts to a personal consultation, or students who send "I read your column and please send me all the information you have about x"; I can't possibly answer that mail with anything useful. I have thought of writing a generic reply. I used to do that with paper mail: a 4 page generic reply at the bottom of which I would scribble a line or two. That was possible in the days of paper mail when I got about 100 letters a month with perhaps 50 requiring some kind of answer. Now I get that many a day, and it just can't be done. Alas.
I had a long conversation with a Microsoft Server Expert this morning (she's in Texas so didn't realize the time; I am usually neither civil nor coherent at 0800). Apparently the real remedy for the Server Extensions Problem with FrontPage 2000 is to enable them on the web site and use SUBWEBS to chop things up so that there is a lot less upload and download time involved with each pass.
All of which is fine, except I tried that with FP 98 and the result was a disaster, and very nearly a one-way street. I had broken links all over the place. FP 2000 is supposed to be a lot more friendly and easier to use to do sub-webs. I need to think this through, and possibly experiment with a toy site before I do this. Or maybe I won't bother. I will say that Microsoft is putting some good people on the job.
Niven and I have spent the day working on The Burning Tower which takes place in Mexico and Guatemala 14,000 years ago. Wonderful stuff. And watch out for Terror Birds...
August 7, 1999 My birthday.
"Now it's clear to see my friend, you're one year closer to your end, but Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday..."
Someone broke into my car and stole the cell phone last night, and I have been an hour trying to report it. The police won't take a report until I deal with the phone company, and the phone company has put me on hold... so I hear advertisements about how convenient their new automated service is, but of course it has no automation for a stolen phone.
The police won't take a crime report because it was a phone. If someone had stolen a hat or something like that, they'd send out an officer, but for a phone I have to go there, with a copy of the contract with the phone company. Now none of this will cost me much, due to insurances, and I now have the phone company report, of calls to a couple of local numbers but nothing else. I even have the numbers. And they can't make any more calls on that phone. It's a block of wood. But I don't have a copy of a phone bill or a service contract, so I don't have any way to get a police report, and until I have a police report I can't get the insurance company involved. So I get to spend my birthday chasing paperwork. For my convenience I can go to the local Pacific Bell phone store, get a copy of paperwork, take that to the police station, go back to the phone store to file an insurance claim. I now know why the crime statistics are down. No one can report a crime, or will bother to do it. There's plenty of crime. Just no reports.
I also have to deal with the Ford agency to get the window fixed. Oh well, it was time for servicing anyway. And the chap was nice enough not to damage the car other than to break out a window. Well, serves me right for leaving that phone in the car, but it's going to cost me time.
But that's how I will spend my day. Hope you have a nice day...
It got even more interesting. The Pacific Bell Company had no copy of my service contract. That would have to be obtained from the local Pacific Bell store. The dog was due for a walk anyway, so we went down to Studio City. There I was informed that they file the contracts by date. What date did I sign it? All I remembered was that it was after COMDEX last year, sometime in December. Not good enough. They couldn't look through all those...
So back home, I called Pacific Bell Wireless, who told me what date my service began. Now I could go back to the Pacific Bell Wireless storefront, where the nice young man looked up the contract by date -- he still had to go through a bunch of them -- until he found mine. I got a copy. It was about 1345 by then. Now out to the North Hollywood Police Station. "I want to report a stolen cell phone."
Right. I get to wait in line. There are three other people reporting stolen phones. All of them had been required to get paper work showing their contract with the Phone Company before the police would accept a report. So I sat reading Keegan's World War One until it was my turn. Now I have a police report, but it won't have a case number for several hours. When I get that number I can report this to the insurance company, which will instruct Pacific Bell to give me a new phone, which I can go get in Burbank or Woodland Hills, my local outfit not being one that processes insurance.
All this for 5 phone calls, and I have the numbers called. One answers "Hello", a normal male human voice with a slight Latin accent. Our miscreant called that number twice last night. I gave the number to the police, but since it's in Santa Monica I doubt anyone will do anything about it. Why should they?
I, meanwhile, have to get the glass replaced in my car, and this being a Saturday afternoon I won't get to that before Monday. But of course SIGGRAPH starts tomorrow. One of the few times I can use a cell phone is during computer shows. Only I won't have one.
It has been a day of inconvenience, and it's not over yet, and the criminal got 5 one-minute calls for his effort. Why did he bother? The chances of getting caught were not zero, and making calls to people who could be, were the police to insist on it, persuaded to tell who called at 3 AM last night, made being caught even more likely.
Perhaps I'll find out who those telephone numbers belong to and enter them in various magazine sweepstakes. Perhaps send in a dollar or two to order cheap junk by mail to be delivered to their address. Put their phone number up on men's room walls with a solidification. ("Lonely? For a really good time call 555-555-5555 between 4 AM and dawn! Best rates in town.") In fact I suppose I won't do anything, but I can dream.
So having spent today on this I have another day to go, getting the phone replaced and taking the car out to have the glass replaced. And paper work with my insurance company to deal with. So that someone can make 5 one-minute local calls.
If you have much interest in the science and history of climate try http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/nerc130k.html
August 8, 1999
I had what I thought to be a legitimate warning here. Turns out probably not. See Mail.
I am off to SIGGRAPH, so there won't be much mail today And I have to finish the column tonight, and get the car window fixed. That wretched chap who stole my cell phone has cost me a day which has cost you much of the mail. But I have what is apparently his home phone number. I doubt the police can do much -- it is not a crime to be called by a stolen phone. But we will see what we can do. I confess mild irritation.