Monday July 20 - Sunday July 26, 1998

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An irregular journal of things computerish.

For the BYTE story, click here.

Previous Weeks of The View 1  2   3  4  5  6  7

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

This is a day book. It's not all that well edited, and some of it will be repititious and boring. If you want the original CHAOS MANOR columns, stay tuned: I'll take this mess and make a real 4,000 word column out of it monthly, at least for a while, since the overseas BYTE magazines seem willing to buy translation rights. Stay tuned on that. In fact, see below:

I have am still going mad over making up a mailing list. UPDATE: FLASH: Mailing list problem SOLVED. See Thursday entry.

Monday Tuesday  Wednesday Thursday  Friday Saturday  Sunday


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Monday Night, July 20, 1998

Well, I didn't anticipate any problems but I had plenty. They were all caused by trying to do too much at once. It may be that with standard network and sound cards you can put them both in at once and expect Plug and Play to work properly, but it sure didn't with me.

Plug and Play tried to put the network card on IRQ 3, which is of course the IRQ for the Com2 Serial port. I forget what it did with the Ensonic sound card, They all fought, and Winnie like to went mad. She reboots fast -- she's a very fast machine -- but I sure couldn't get anything working. Finally I took out all the hardware, brought her up in Win 95b (OSR2), got that going right, installed the network card and got it going, then the sound card, and finally the Number Nine Video Drivers. It's all working now, and wow is this one fast machine.

The sound card is NOT as good as a genuine Creative Labs Awe or even Sound Blaster Pro, as I found by running one of my standard Sound/Video tests, MPS This Means War!, a game that does a lot of graphics and sounds -- when it first came out, many games players didn't have hardware good enough for it. TMW ran fine, but when I got a lot of units in play, the sound got confused. I never had that happen with a Creative Labs card. Of course this is a PCI Bus card, and I don't have a Creative Labs PCI card to compare, but I'd think that a PCI card would handle complexities better than an EISA card? Anyway, that has been my only problem.

Then I found that I've been mined out: I don't have any more Adaptec SCSI cards. I've got one EISA PL Logic card, but I'd as soon keep EISA out of Winnie altogether, so I'll wait. One reason for building this system is to have a place for my CD R/W and other such assets.

I'm hardly through testing, but Winnie seems awfully fast; that WinChip is doing pretty good.

One glitch I had: I installed what is supposed to be a 128 Meg EDO DIMM. I'd hoped that would fit in Fireball -- the Fry's clerk swore it would after consulting a reference work and the store's computer, and while I had my doubts it was worth a try. Of course it didn't. It won't even physically fit. Unbuffered EDO is notched slightly different from buffered, and Fireball wants buffered. But since the memory DIMM wasn't more than a few bucks more than an ordinary 128 meg, I though I'd try it in Winnie. Winnie's mother board documents say this should work, and it will handle up to 256 meg DIMMs. However, the system only saw 32 megs of memory. I'm solving that the easy way: I put a 32 meg DIMM in, and I'm taking the 128 back to Fry's. I may or may not buy a standard 128 depending on my mood.

Getting Winnie up, three hours work on Mamelukes, and a couple of hours throwing junk away used up the day. My air conditioning is hexed: it comes on sometimes, and sometimes not, unrelated to temperature. It's clearly an electrical problem since when the compressor turns on there's plenty of cold air. The fan works fine. But most of the time when I turn the system on, nothing happens; no sparks in the little mercury bulb contact in the control unit, no compressor, nothing. Then it will sit there a while, and suddenly it will come on. It's not the temperature; that is, I put the controls all the way over so that you can see that the mercury covers the contacts. If it were a blown fuse, it would never work. Maybe there's a bad relay in there somewhere. Whatever it is, I'll get someone out to fix it. The days when it was cost effective for me to work on anything I can't write about are long over…

Tomorrow a lot more work on Mamelukes. I want to start ginning on that book. There will be three new major characters from Earth, and Rick's kids are growing up out there on Tran, so there are lots of stories to tell. If you recall, back in book two Mason observed that kings and teenagers resent being told what to do, and "We got ourselves a teenage king." Who recently married into an alliance, and isn't sure he needs the Earth mercenaries any longer. Should make for an interesting story.

TUESDAY, July 20, 1998

First and most important: if you are in a country that has a non-English version of BYTE, and you would like to see my column in your BYTE, make contact with the publisher there and tell him so. I have NIKKEI BYTE and BYTE TURKEY signed up already. I hope to hear from several others. Ideally from ALL the others. What they will get is a 4,000 word column substantially the same as the ones they formerly got from McGraw Hill. Price is negotiable. I sent email to most of them. I have not heard back from some that I expected to hear from and it's possible that I have the wrong address.

On memory: only one company makes buffered EDO memory now. California Digital, 408-956-8200. It is not cheap: $159 for a 64 meg DIMM. Of course by old standards that's cheap, but not by today's. Anyway, that's what's required by the W6-LI Micronics motherboard, which is the only board that makes proper use of the Intel Pentium Pro 200 1 Megabit Cache chips. I have found this board runs NT 4 Server faster than anything I have seen except an Alpha. Add a DPT fast SCSI and you have a server that smokes; but it wants 128 megs of memory. I suspect 96 would do, but I've ordered a 64 to join the 2 32's that are already in there. The result is one smoking server, and it will be the main server for Chaos Manor. As NT learns about other assets like CD R/W drives I'll probably add those to it; at the moment Fireball has a SyJet 1.0, a ZIP, and will shortly get a digital tape drive as soon as I have added the new memory.

For the Winchip system: I put in an unbuffered EDO 128 Meg DIMM. Winnie only saw 32 megs of that. The manual says it has no problems with 128 or 256. I don't know enough about DIMM and EDO to know if I have a defective DIMM, or EDO doesn't work properly with this motherboard. I'll return it and buy 2 more standard 64's. At the moment WINNIE has 32 megs of random DIMM (I ran out of Kingston) but I'll replace that with a Kingston 64.

While I was setting up Winnie (see above; a WinChip system), I had some problems. One was caused by an absolutely horrible CDROM buffer program that came with the SIIG sound board, and which I mistakenly installed in the belief that it would be the sound drivers. This program locked up the CDROM something awful, usually in the middle of a long copy, and thus added greatly to the time it took to set Winnie up. There was some other flakiness, possibly caused by trying to install several boards at once, but possibly caused by memory problems. I was in a hurry so I didn't do the systematic thing; I just put in a standard 32 meg memory chip, pulled all the boards out, and uninstalled that hideous CDROM buffer program. Winnie stabilized instantly. I then added the el cheapo 10/100 net card and got that running, installed the SIIG PCI sound card -- that's actually an Ensonic, or at least the system sees it as Ensonic, and the drivers are labelled Ensonic -- and got that going. You saw that report. This morning, reader Dave Farquhar reports:

One problem that plagues all PCI sound cards is the issue of PCI latency timing. Going into the BIOS setup program for your motherboard and making sure PCI latency is set to at least 32 (I’ve heard some people recommend 64, but that seems overly aggressive to me) sometimes cures audio problems. I’ve never tried TMW, but with a PCI latency of 32 I haven’t had any trouble with my AudioPCI either at work or at home.

I confess I don't really understand latency timing, but I'll try his suggestion. I'll also try to read up on the subject. Winnie has a Number Nine video board in the AGP slot, and she is fast. I mean really fast. So far the sound glitch is the only problem.

I've got more cases and motherboards, and more WinChips, so I'll probably build a second WinChip system to experiment with. These things are fast; fast enough that I don't have any programs that need more speed. With the Fireball Server and some of these WinChip systems running either 95b or Windows 98 there's very little I would want to do that can't be done quickly. And of course Princess (Compaq Dual Processor Professional Workstation with NT 4) is now available from Compaq with a single CPU and not enough memory for a trivial price; get one, get more memory and another CPU, you will have one heck of a machine.

Regarding Windows 95b and Windows 98, I intend to experiment with both, but 98 doesn't yet understand the particular CD R/W systems I have.

We're going to the Hollywood Bowl tonight, and I still have to go write fiction. Enough for the day. Well, turned out the Bowl tickets are for next week. Did some writing, and watched Buffy.

Tuesday Evening after Buffy

That sound board sucks rocks. It hangs up a LOT, and increasing the bus delay time helps but doesn't stop the problem. I don't know if a genuine Creative Labs PCI Sound Board will do the job or not, but I can guarantee you that the SIIG is not even remotely useful. I wonder if I can return it? I am not sure I have kept the sales slip. I'll see if there's a real Creative Labs PCI bus board; meanwhile, I have a Diamond Monster, and I'll try that.

Except for the sound, Winnie seems to work just fine. I ought I suppose to put a sound board I know has worked with the other systems into Winnie just to be sure but in fact the only problems I seem to be having are lockups in which the sound repeats, and it takes hardware reset to escape. No fun.

And Later:

Does anyone here have a positive experience with PCI Bus sound cards and older (two years old) games that expect a Sound Blaster? I have installed the Diamond Monster PCI Card, and I still get crumy sound, as if the voices are stepping on each other, and once a lockup.

When there is proper sound it's very good. The music pl;ays nicely from the CD. Voices are clear when there is a single voice. But when several characters are speaking at once, it's often plain lousy. Changing that PCI Bus latency seems to help with the lockups but not with the choppiness of the sound.

This isn't a situation I have much experience with. I'll continue to experiment, but frankly, I miss my ISA bus AWE 32 Sound Blaster…


Wednesday, July 21, 1998 Morning

I've been told that cleaning out my air conditioner with the hose may eliminate some of the problem. It's certainly worth a try, if I don't break my neck climbing on the roof. Oh well. Colonel Rhodes Dawson, one of our Assistant Scoutmasters back when I was the Hikemaster for Troop 139, fell off his roof at age 93, and that did tend to slow him down, but he managed to be pretty spry at the 100th birthday party we threw for him.

It is time to look hard at MAIL. Jesse Berst's Anchordesk for the day promises a lot of tips but in fact consists of a bunch of links in such an unorganized manner that it did me little good. I need to look at Pegasus, Eudora Pro, whether Outlook can actually be useful as opposed to endurable, and for that matter the latest Netscapes. Sometime this week, I hope.

Meanwhile, Microsoft wants to show me Office 2000, which is supposed to make Outlook a much better product. Big beta release in a few weeks. I expect I had better be looking at the others first.

I've probably been told this before, but any help on importing all the old Outlook mail into Eudora will be useful; I think that's the one I'll try first simply because there is apparently a way to make a single ASCII file out of the mail addresses of the big "Mail List" folder I have built, and a way for Eudora to import that into a single mailing list. If so, that sounds like the right stuff. Most of these programs have strengths and weaknesses, and learning them all take time, and I have this fiction to write… On the other hand, Berst's column, while less useful than it promises to be, sure is on the right subject. Email is driving us all nuts.


Had a problem with an Amazon link. Since fixed. It's still a bit of a mystery why things work sometimes and not other times, but it's not worth the worry I put into it.



And now back to the usual problem.




Once more into the breach my friends.


From: Keith Irwin []

Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 1998 6:01 PM

To: Jerry Pournelle

Subject: Revised MAIL LIST HACK for Outlook '98



A super explicit summary of my method of doing what you want. It looks a lot more complicated than it is, mainly because I’m not assuming too much. (I’d suggest copying your outlook.pst somewhere else, then give your self free reign to try this without fear.)

In Outlook ‘98:

1. Select View>Folder list to bring up a pane of your Outlook data folders.

2. Right click on the "Contacts" folder and select "New Folder" from the list, and give it a name.

3. Make sure the new folder is shown in the "Folder List" pane: ie, click on the "+" sign.

4. Click on the "Contacts" folder itself in order to bring up its view in the main pane.

5. Click on any one of the contacts to select it.

6. Hit "Control A" to select all the contacts.

7. Right click on the contacts and choose the "Categories" item.

8. Add (or create) a category (such as Personal) and click okay. (They’re all that category, now.)

9. Holding the mouse RIGHT mouse button down, drag the selected contacts to the new folder (#2).

10. Select MOVE if there’s an option. (All contacts are now in a sub folder.)

11. Select File>Import Export from the menu.

12. Export your mail list folder to a *.CSV (Comma Delimited File).


From Windows 95/98 (maybe NT to?):

1. Goto the start menu and choose Run.

2. Enter "wabmig". (c:\program files\outlook express\wabmig.exe).


From Wabmig: (an import wizard):

1. Choose Text File (Comma Separated Values) and click [import].

2. Browse to the saved mail file (from previous step) and click [Next].

3. You’ll see a list of "text" fields to import. Check the "From: Name" box.

4. Choose "Name" from the resulting drop down list.

5. Select "From: Address"

6. Choose "Email Address" from the resulting drop down list.

7. Click finish. (The wizard will prompt you about what to do with duplicates.)


In Outlook ‘98:

1. Go to the top level Contacts folder (on the Folder List View).

2. Click on a contact to select it, then hit Control-A.

3. Right click one of the contacts and choose Categories... from the menu.

4. Create and add a new category for these messages. (An alternate is to use the easier Tools>Organize wizard.)

5. Choose Tools>Address book from the menu.

6. Click the "New Group" button on the tool bar.

7. Make a group-name, click on one of the address in the window, hit Control-A to select all, then hit "Add..."



After doing this, you can move the contacts around, putting them in a new subfolder, et cetera, and moving what you had in the saved folder back to the main folder, and so on. Make use of the "View using" system to sort and filter your data.


Keith Irwin

U of NT


This worked: that is, I was able to label all the Contacts I had as category "The Old File", move all those to a holding folder (called The Old File); do the above, and find that my contact list was now this huge group from the Mail List folder of mail; move THAT to a folder called "Mail list 1"; and attempt to mail to the list.

The result is ambiguous. I am getting plenty of mail returned. Apparently there is a decided imbalance in the < stuff > and " stuff " pairs, and this is driving the mail parser nuts. Thus I do not know how many got the general mailing I just did. Please don't send me mail if you got it. I can't deal with all that just now.

What I need to do NOW is edit the csv file that was build in the export operation, making sure that " ' ' " and < > are properly paired. I am not sure how to DO that, but I'll try.


Little Willie, mean as hell, threw his sister down a well,

Mother sighed while drawing water, Gosh it's tough to raise a daughter.

I have some of the same feelings.



for an interesting story on science fiction and the real world. The article seems to have cut the fact that I was Chairman of the Citizen's Advisory Council, but it got the rest of it pretty well right. Fascinating…


Thursday, July 22, 1998

Last night I solved the Mailing List problem, as many of you know, since I sent mail to a fair number of you from the list I made up. See above from Professor Irwin on how it was done. The procedure works. It's tedious and needlessly complicated, and I intend to talk to the PM of Office 2000 about a needed change, but it works.

First problem: wabmig (sounds like a UNIX command name, doesn't it? Anyone want to grep?) will import ONLY to the primary CONTACT folder. This means that if you already have names in your contact list and you don't really want to add a thousand more, you must MOVE the original list to a folder named, say, "The Old List"; then do the import; then MOVE the imported group, with the new categories, to a folder named, say, "Mail List 1"; and finally MOVE or COPY "The Old List" back to the root Contact folder. This seems needlessly tedious, and a worthy candidate for Microsoft to fix: all that's required is to give 'browse' option on where to import. Can't be hard to do; but for the moment the root Contact list is hard coded in.

I run wabmig on Princess, my Compaq NT Server. I run it out of Norton Commander for Windows, which is the upgrade Commander that you can bully out of Symantec for about $70 and worth every penny. Most of the drudges who answer phones at the Symantec 800 order line will not admit that there IS an upgrade Windows Commander or Commander for Windows. The box says Symantec Norton Commander Windows 95/NT Trade-Up Edition. The Registration Card says Norton Commander DTR, WIN 95, 1.0 and mine has Serial Number NC9S1024X345460120IN; perhaps with that information you can bully the Symantec clerk into selling you one. I believe it took me almost ten minutes to convince the phone answerer that it existed and I wanted to buy it. I find This invaluable; I put up Commander for DOS and Windows Commander on all my machines. I use the DOS Commander because of the wonderful f3 viewers: they will view ANYTHING. Commander for Windows uses INSO QuickView Plus as its viewer, and while that's better for some modern files since it will launch the application if it can find it (it launches Acrobat for pdf files for instance) there are some exe files that you just want to look into for ASCII clues. I always look into the files created when I eliminate lost chains, for instance; sometimes you learn things that way. Enough on Commander, but if you can get it, you should. I understand it remains a popular product in Germany. If anyone manages to get a copy of Commander Windows 95/NT please let me know, and I'll include the exact how in an upcoming view.

The second problem with Outlook and mail lists is updates, but I have solved that and tested the result. Thing to do is either delete or move all the original mail from the folder where I was accumulating candidates for the mail list, and start a new collect including mail from people who have asked to have their address updated. Now at another time do it all again, only this time import right on top of the original "Mail List 1" and, as always, tell it always to overwrite the old entry with a new. (You must do that in the original import operation also or you will have multiple copies of people's names in the list.) This will update addresses for people with the same name.

Given that it's needlessly complex, it does work, and in fact Outlook has some neat features.

Next Outlook Problem, discovered in exchanges with Robert Bruce Thompson:

Outlook has some PIM features that are pretty neat. You can send tasks to other people, and have them sent to you. Only you can't, if you have selected WORD as the editor of choice for looking at your Outlook mail. Since I MUST use WORD if I am easily to import mail into HTML documents for pasting into Front Page (anyone who tries to use Front Page to create documents deserves the ulcer he'll get) this means that a number of Outlook integration features won't work. I would hope that Microsoft will fix this in the next upgrade to Office.

IN fact, I am just experimenting with the PIM side of Outlook, having found that it's actually pretty satisfactory for handling mail.

BIGGEST PROBLEM with Outlook: that unparsable PST file where it keeps literally everything. That file needs to be tamed down: there needs to be an editor that can deal with it. Maybe Symantec would like to try?

I will integrate all this stuff into the next column, so it will be a lot smoother by the time anyone not here sees it.

Now I am off to Niven's new house for a hike.


The mail list problem is solved. Now I need to learn more about the PIM features of Outlook…



Friday, July 23, 1998

Winnie with a Monster Card doesn't work properly. I have set the latency factor to as high as possible. The Microprose game THIS MEANS WAR locks up a lot. Now that game has always had a reputation for causing problems, and it did for me with some of my systems from Pentafluge on, but it wasn't this bad. Most of the problems are clearly from sound difficulties: the game will lock with a repetitive sound on. Also the sound quality of some of the voices in the game is just awful. None of this happened with a P-166 CYRIX and AWE 32 sound card.

I've just tried installing Seven Kingdoms. This time I could install the game, but when I tried to play it, I got a complete lock, blank screen. I need to do some more tests: is it the combination of Diamond Monster sound card and the 75/225 system, or something else? Locking up to hardware reset can't be normal. For the record, Seven Kingdoms is Direct X 5, and worked fine on Fireball back when that Pentium Pro 200 was running W 95b. Fireball has a built-in ISA sound system on the mother board.

OK, my mistake: I did not reset after installing. The game doesn't demand it, but when I did reset, I got that message about some elements of Direct X being improperly registered, did I want to fix that? Clicking yes put me right back in the game at the locked up point. So: so far, Winnie with Monster Card is doing just fine on a much more complex game than MPS This Means War. This squares with what I've been hearing, that some modern systems just don't deal well with the older games that were transitioning from DOS to Windows based. I believe it. I'll test this with some other games, but it seems reasonable.

Again I spoke too soon: one problem with keeping a diary on line. Seven Kingdoms seems to play all right, good sound and no glitches I could find in 5 minutes or so, but when I did "Exit to Windows" it locked up, again to hardware reset. Ungood. Plus ungood. Not quite double plus ungood. This bears investigation: is it Winnie or the sound card? System Manager shows no signs of resource conflicts, everything thinks it is working properly, but I get that. Maybe 75/225 is just too fast?

I have to go to Fry's today. I'll get a Creative Labs card and try that. It probably won't work, but at least we'll have given the WinChip every chance. It is after all a simple enough installation, with the only "extras" being an IDE ZIP and an Ethernet card. The net works fine. The video card is Number Nine Revolution. Now that's in the AGP slot but presumably it should be. What I'll do is get a Creative PCI card, and also an ISA card. ISA slows things down, but perhaps that won't matter. Then I'll try those. I can afford to do all this thanks to the contributions of readers. I expect I could talk equipment makers out of review copies of stuff, and once I have the overseas BYTE publications settled properly I'll start trying to do that, but none of this amounts to all that much money, and I am curious myself. I have always wanted a good fast machine more or less dedicated to games.

I also want one I can run my CD R/W and other such assets on, but probably the simplest thing to do there is to upgrade Pentafluge. I got under-flow errors last time I tried to copy a CD. (Under-flow means that when the writer was ready to write the system hadn't read enough data from the source.) I have to check to see just what the heck I have in there as a CDROM; the CD/R is a Phillips external and it has always worked properly. Perhaps I need to clean the laser? Of course one to do this is to copy the CD to disk, then burn it from there rather than copy the CD. This is a little more complicated, but it sure eliminates under-flow errors.

I am told that games publishers are now using tricks like they did in the early days, having a deliberately defective sector on a CD: if you can read data from that, the CD is a copy, and the system blows up. This works against the Adaptec EZ CD Creator I have, but I understand there are other copy programs that do an exact copy, warts and all, so that this particular copy protection works about as well as any, which is to say, it works against unsophisticated attempts to make copies and not at all against anyone who seriously wants to make a copy. What I was trying copy wasn't a game, though, and I don't see how one could put in a copy protection scheme that produced an under-flow. Anyway, while I'm out to Fry's I'll get another CDROM drive that I know is Good Enough and see if I have the problem again. If I do, it's more serious than I thought.

I'm running out of physical space for computers. Darnell talked me into making Fireball a server and server only, and he's in the cable room so that's no problem, but I haven't got a place for Winnie, much less any other machine. At the moment Winnie is set up on a work stand in the middle of the Great Hall, and Roberta and I have decided that it's silly for me to have a big, comfortable library so full of junk that no one can sit in it. BYTE folding up was the perfect opportunity to clean things up, and I've got rid of boxes and boxes of old software that I had intended to review or felt guilty about not looking at. I need to clear out some hardware now, and no, I don't have anything I can send anyone; surpluses here go to local schools. But if I clear out the back room I can put in two experimental machines without adding to the clutter in the Great Hall, and that has the great merit of making me clear the back room: there's stuff in there going back to CP/M days. We found a KayPro 10 the other day, and I know I have several older Atari machines. As well as Adele, one of the earliest portables (luggable is a better description), which has the distinction of having sat on a table at Quadri's in Piazza San Marcos in Venice. It has long been a tradition for writers to take an outside table there and work, and I brought this beautiful little machine and bribed a waiter to get me a LONG extension cord. So as far as anyone knows I am the first writer to use a computer in San Marcos, and I really hate to get rid of that machine even though I haven't turned it on in fifteen years. But if I clean out back there I'll have a better work bench situation, and the Great Hall to sit in, so there's nothing for it….

Enough. Clearly I ramble. See the value of editing? The month columns all started like this but then I started paring away…


Meanwhile. Front Page is doing strange things. It keeps saying it cannot open a page that it certainly did open a few minutes ago. Not sure why. The remedy is to close Front Page and restart it again, and now that I have the Chaosmanor site password encoded into one of the keys on this Otrek keyboard (wonderful) it's no big deal; but why is it doing this? It could be that I've had to log off and back on to Earthlink a couple of times? Front Page seems to have some dynamic relationship with the actual web site although what I am not sure, since mostly I keep a copy of everything here on Princess and "publish"; so why would it be unable to open a page? More things to worry about, and enough. I have some Mamelukes plotting to do as well as a trip to Fry's.

Friday night.

Got a genuine Creative Labs SoundBlaster PCI 64 at Fry's. Installation in Winnie was tricky: every time I would uninstall the Ensonic, W 95 would find new hardware and try to reinstall the Ensonic sound board. Eventually I managed to remove the old drivers and start the Creative Labs CDROM installation process. That took a couple of reboots, but once done, I started up THIS MEANS WAR, and played through two complex scenarios that had managed to crash the Diamond Monster Board and the other PCI sound cards I had tried.

No problems. None. Creative Labs has done it again. Their board isn't much more expensive than any of the others, if at all: it was on sale for under fifty bucks today at Fry's. It sure works. I also picked up a bunch of Level 5 Ethernet cable, and turned in a bunch of stuff that didn't work. No problems with that, either, other than standing five minutes in a line to get to a clerk.

Winnie now seems very stable and is running lots of complicated games. The moral of the story is that if you're going to overclock the bus and use Winchips and like that, stick to very standard peripherals. At least that's the tentative moral. I intend to beat up the PCI 64 some more just to be sure, but my guess is that this configuration works just fine. It sure is fast…

After dinner Roberta, Niven and I went to the NuArt theatre to see PI. It's billed as a science fiction film. Whatever it is, it's not science fiction. Review attached.


Saturday Morning, July 25, 1998

Wedding to go to today. Saw PI last night, review or at least notes already up. Incidentally, if you are not too picky about details, Armageddon is the movie equivalent of a page turner. Willing suspension of disbelief needed, but you don't quite have to kill it. Just take the view that you like the movie.

I am going to abandon mail, I think. Here's one view:


From: Robert Bruce Thompson []

Sent: Saturday, July 25, 1998 8:38 AM

To: 'Jerry Pournelle'

Subject: A vote in favor of dropping your "Mail" page



I notice that you haven't updated your mail page in ten days or so, and I'd like to cast a vote in favor of dropping it completely. I don't know how others feel - it might be worth a quick poll - but when I read the mail page, what I'm really concentrating on is your comments rather than the original mail. Given the time and effort that it must take to maintain that mail page, I'd just as soon you do what you're doing now in View - embed a brief summary or excerpt of the issues raised in mail, and then comment on them. If someone has been particularly helpful or has pointed out something fascinating, I think recognizing him by name is just as nice as reproducing his whole message.

I know that everything is a resource-tradeoff issue, and I'd just as soon see you devoting less effort to maintaining the mail page. If you choose to devote more of that time to working on View and the column, great. If you choose to spend it doing fiction, better still. Speaking of which, one of the people I gave a copy of Starswarm to told me the other day that he'd gone out and bought everything you'd written that he could get his hands on. Another convert...


Robert Bruce Thompson


Which makes good points. On the other hand, I get:

From: Dave Farquhar []

Sent: Friday, July 24, 1998 3:06 PM

To: Jerry Pournelle

Subject: RE: SIIG PCI sound card



I should have been reading your PCI sound card saga more closely... I didn’t realize you were trying to run a WinChip 225. There are known problems with certain PCI cards running with bus speeds of 75 MHz (the PCI bus ends up running at 37.5 MHz, which is out of spec—some cards can handle the overclocking; some can’t). I’ve never heard of sound cards failing at the higher speed, but it’s entirely possible that the people who run them at that speed don’t push them too hard.

You might want to see if your motherboard has a jumper setting for asynchronous PCI—this runs the PCI bus at 33 MHz, while the CPU bus remains at 75. Not all boards have this feature, but many non-Intel Socket 7 chipsets do support it.

If you don’t have it, try stepping your CPU speed down to 200 MHz and see what happens.

It’s also possible that the WinChip doesn’t handle PCI sound cards as well as AMD, Cyrix, or Intel CPUs. You’re one of the first mainstream computer journalists to acknowledge the WinChip’s existence, and most of the Net’s hardware sites don’t bother testing new hardware with anything but Quake (which is why they all think Intel’s Celeron is so cool; sure, it may be fine for Quake, but for running Word, I’d be better off with a stinkin’ $35 WinChip-180 and a $70 Asus Socket 7 motherboard).

Incidentally, about that AGP card... You’re right in saying you want AGP. There are known problems with the Intel740 video chipset with non-Intel motherboard chipsets (strangely, the FTC doesn’t seem to have taken notice), but all other AGP cards appear to work fine. The Number Nine card, of course, uses its own chipset. There’s controversy brewing over whether AGP is truly much of an improvement over PCI (see, but all the hottest new chipsets come out on AGP now, and on PCI later if at all, so... Plus, it’s easy to run out of PCI slots if you don’t use the AGP slot.

Incidentally, what motherboard are you using? I may be able to closely approximate your WinChip setup. I’m running a Soyo SY-5EH motherboard (with the VIA MVP3 chipset), an AMD K6, and an Ensoniq AudioPCI sound card at work. The guy in the next cubicle over is running a WinChip-200 (I used the WinChip to upgrade his old Pentium Classic—it’s a very inexpensive upgrade option for those who have older, single-voltage CPU sockets and know what they’re doing) that I’d be able to borrow to experiment. Of course, I don’t have TMW—is it still available?

I look forward to reading about your findings.

Dave Farquhar

Network Support Specialist,

University of Missouri School of Journalism

Which has some very useful information.As I described somewhere--these things get disorganized but I will pull it together for the monthly-- Winnie has a WinChip, MSI mother board, runs at 75/225, and has a SOHO el cheapo Fry's Special 10/100 Etherner card, and a quality Number nine revolution AGP video board. Bottom line on Winnie: with a genuine Creative PCI64 sound card, Winnie, at 75/225 and a hellacious Wintach rating, runs things not even my Cyrix P-166 does; that is some of the "death speaks" scenes in Warlord III are botched in Cyrus, but fine in Winnie. I have yet to hang Winnie up with the PCI 64 card. That card was $49.95 at Fry's yesterday, so it's hardly going to bankrupt anyone. The Monster card has I think better sound; but it can't handle a lot of stuff that the Creative PCI 64 does. And Winnie is FAST.

Time to get ready for a wedding.

Another discovery: if Earthlink drops my connection to binmedia, and I restore it quickly, then when I try to open a page file in Front Page, NOTHING HAPPENS. I don't get error messages. I just get to wait an eternity. The remedy is to close both Front Page Editor and Front Page Explorer and try again. Oh Joy.

Saturday Evening

I spoke too soon, but it may be my fault. Winnie is all messed up again.

It started innocently enough: Winnie with the Creatice PCI64 was stable and working well, so I thought I'd try changing to Ethernet speed 100, so while the machine was off I plugged into the 100 concentrator. Then I turned Winnie on. The result was ghastly. I couldn't even get to windows. I plugged back into the 10 megabit concentrator. Still no joy. I'd get to the network login prompt, then everything would get stuck, I'd have to restart by hardware, scandisk would kick in, and another few minutes wasted.

Boot up in safe mode using f8. Go to control panel, system, resource manager, and remove the network driver entirely in order to let it reinstall. I mean, that seemed reasonable, no? But when things came back up, it found that the Monster card was doing something wrong. There is no Monster Card in there any longer.

Go to resource manager and uninstall Monster. First lesson: if you ever install Monster Card, UNINSTALL the sucker, don't just remove it and eliminate the drivers out of resource manager. They'll reappear if you haven't uninstalled the software. Sheesh.

Eventually I had the network working again, with about, and I am not really making this up, well over a dozen reboots, including a couple in which Windows simply said "Registry problems" and forced a restart. All the resources looked right. I tried This Means War. Lockup.

And one of the messages said that Explorer isn't working and I must reinstall Windows! I sure don't want to have to do that, because I suspect I'll also have to remove all the hardware. But I suppose I will have to do that.

Plug and Play and Windows 95 and WinChip are a tricky combination.

I seem to have Winnie working again without reinstalling Windows. Maybe.

Meanwhile I have done an essay, reflecting on an article I read in the August Harper's. For comments on that essay, see the current MAIL.


DOES ANYONE KNOW why I cannot run fdisk on Winnie? I boot with A:, and run fdisk. It trundles and I get an A> prompt. That's it. In theory there is a C drive and a D drive. I can even format the drives. What I can't do is run fdisk. Why?

More to the point, how can I make it run fdisk? I even took the battery out of the mother board for a couple of hours. It still knew what time it was when I booted next!   I'm stymied.



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