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Mail 109 July 10 - 16, 2000


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This week:



Monday  July 10, 2000

While you are dealing with CD matters, could I pose a question about audio files from the Net?

Up until recently, it was possible to right click on a web page link to a Real Player or Media Player audio file, click "Save Target As", and download the audio to one's hard drive. Then one could execute that file and play it without the perpetual "Net Congestion" interruptions and missing portions of the audio, which make it practically futile to listen to a file in supposed "real time" since the Net just can't deliver that (at least to my place).

Nowadays, it's impossible to "Save Target As"; that function only places a shortcut to the Real Player web location,--not the audio file itself,--on the hard drive.

Is there an alternate method to download these audio files?

I find that this new exclusion of choice on how to handle audio from the Internet has made Web audio listening far worse than in the early days--not better.

--Regards, Chuck

As a result of your letter I have revised the Techweb page I keep here, so the short answer is, go look at my new Techweb page. I'll wait. What happens when you rightclick a RealAudio file depends on the programming at the file server site. If they think you will want streaming you get links, because otherwise the pointers get all messed up. BYTE.COM provides both mp3 and RealAudio sources. And see below.

Hi Jerry

I agree there is little advantage to CD-RWs. In particular, the UDF software needed to do the 'big floppy=random access/random write/random erase' trick is a total pain. IMO CD and CD-Recorder drives are mechanically unsuitable for such usage patterns.

However, you don't need the UDF software to use the RW features of a CD-RW drive and disc. In Adaptec Easy CD Creator, there is an option under the CD menu that lets you do a quick bulk erase of a CD-RW disc. In addition, Easy CD Creator will happily record to CD-RW media, just like regular CD-R media.

How would this be useful? Well, two reasons: 1) you can do eraseable, reburnable prototypes of CD projects and odd CD formats, like White Book VideoCDs, and 2) you can remove the UDF software. Removing the UDF software helped system stability a lot on my Win98 system. I have tried both CeQuadrat PacketCD and Adaptec DirectCD, and I can recommend neither of them.

Me and one of my colleagues have this idea about using a PC as a VCR. There is a ton of problems with that, including the choice of archive medium format. I am all for using a MPEG4 compression codec and putting 1 - 2 hours on a single disc. My colleague wants to use the latest VideoCD format, so he can play the disc in his chinese DVD player. In his case, CD-RW proved really useful: he burned about 20-30 coasters before he got anything working. Fortunately, he only used one disc ;-)

Hope this is useful.

Regards, Klaus Petersen

Right. I was confused on this, although I don't think I was TOO misleading. For some reason I could not get it through my head that DirectCD and CD-RW were not synonymous.  Anyway, it's all fixed in the next column, and see today's VIEW also.

Jerry, I don't know if you've seen this or not but I found this helped me get my Yamaha 4416S working under Win2k with the Adaptec suite of software on an Adaptec 2940U controller... 

Rob :-)

MindProbes - you came for the games, you'll stay for the community!

Thanks. I have never had great problems with Adaptec DirectCD in Windows 98, but I sure did with 2000 until 4.02c and even now -- well, see the upcoming column.

"If you are not the intended recipient, or the employee or agent responsible for delivering the message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited." 

Dear Dr Pournelle,

A recent case in Norway highlighted this interesting problem. A private individual received a highly confidential e-mail from a well-known company. He forwarded it to a newspaper, not to intentionally disclose the contents, but to focus attention on the foolish belief that such communications are in any way secure. They published an article about the e-mail, disclosing the name of the company, but none of the contents. The company sued the recipient of the e-mail, but lost their case, as no confidential information was published. One would think that the company should be grateful for having their lack of security demonstrated. I do not believe there is any law in Norway that prohibits such information being distributed, as it was not from a government institution, and was not obtained illegally (but I am not a lawyer!)

Norwegian banks today announced that they are not liable for losses incurred by their Netbank customers, if those losses are due to hackers breaking into the customers' own computers. Is it possible for hackers to break into private computers and obtain access to such accounts? And is it ethical for banks to entice customers to use a service and then promptly abandon them when things get a little hot for them? It's most certainly legal, otherwise they wouldn't have announced it.

Yours sincerely, Gaynour Sletten

(Loved the 1943 Job Standards and Rules for Hiring Women.)

I put up that horrid disclaimer in part as a joke (and my apologies to the sender, who often sends me interesting mail), but apparently it's not always so funny. I see it in the same light as the notice that tells people not to put their fingers under rotary lawnmower when it's running. The number of people who can read, read English, will heed that warning, and need that warning in the first place is probably zero, but the number of people who might try to exploit things if the warning is not there is small but finite, and the number of hungry lawyers needing to pay off their loans may be somewhat larger.  It's cheap to put on the notice. It is also destructive of civilization, as we chip away at civility and politeness.


Hi, Jerry.

Regarding downloading RealAudio Files:

This is an interesting question; unfortunately, it's one without a simple answer.

You can still download RA files if they are served on a http or ftp server. However, this isn't very common. You can also purchase the RealPlayer Plus which does allow recording of RA streams to a disk file. However, RealAudio provides a server option allowing content providers to block recording and it's the default installations. You'll find that most sites block recording.

There is a shareware program called XFIleGet that allows downloading of RA streams. Unfortunately it won't work with the newer G2 servers. The program was updated bu a company called Streambox. They were promptly sued by RealMedia and forced to drop the ability to save RA files from the program. I'm hoping that Streambox wins this one, both because it would be nice to be able to download these files and because I really would like to see somebody take RealMedia down a peg.

So in a nutshell, unless you can find a copy of the beta 2 of Streambox VCR floating around someplace, you are pretty much out of luck as far as saving RealAudio files.

Regards Keith -- Keith Soltys

Thanks. I have the "Pro" version, paid for it, but nothing good came of that.

I put this up without comment:

Hi! I'm Shally Steckerl with Cisco Systems. I found your e-mail address on a website. Maybe you can help. We are looking for someone to be a dream weaver with Cisco Systems and become part of the company that IS the Internet. Our explosive growth has rocketed us to become the most valued company in the world (value of outstanding shares), according to Fortune Magazine, and we're not stopping there. Cisco is one of the top five companies to work for, according to an employment satisfaction survey also by Fortune Magazine. Cisco is changing the way we live, work, play and learn. Cisco is empowering the internet generation... are you ready?

We are looking for a sharp HTML Magician who can cut up and serve attractive output using DreamWeaver. This 'dream weaver' will track the information in the content delivery system and make web pages look real good. Content comes from an Oracle database that this magician will occasionally have to use and administer. If you know somewone who would like to do this, please reply to let me know or pass along this message. Meanwhile, you can learn more about what its like to be part of Cisco Systems, Inc. and how we empower the Internet Generation... Jobs at Cisco: About Cisco: Best Companies: Cisco and DreamWeaver: A Cisco Macromedia DreamWeaver sample:

Here is the actual job description: ----------------------------------------------------- Title: Content Administrator Location: San Jose, CA [relocation optional but not preferred] Requirements: 3+ years combined corporate and computer industry experience. High-tech content/information management experience. Ddatabase exposure required. Should possess flexibility to succeed in a deadline-driven, fast-changing environment. Excellent ability to coordinate and manage global information content for various Business Units and technology areas. Excellent file management and DreamWeaver skills with a high attention to details. Creative, motivated self-starter with excellent time management skills and ability to collaborate on several projects in tandem. Ability to quickly become knowledgeable of existing content material and content delivery system. Proficiency working with database systems is preferred. Background in writing and tracking materials. Experience HTML editing with DreamWeaver and Oracle database tools and administration.

ADVthanksANCE Shally Steckerl Cisco Systems, Inc. (also:

Well, maybe a LITTLE comment. Is it Spam? It appears to be genuine. Does this mean Cisco is hiring anything that moves in cyberspace? Intriguing in any event. I once did a keynote speech for a Cisco convention, and they're good people; I had a great time.






This week:



Tuesday, July 11, 2000

You want me to publish ths, and with or without your real name?


Please do, and WITH my real name, and email address. I diplomacized two words below and spell corrected it so pls use the following version.



 From: enigma []
 Sent: Monday, July 10, 2000 12:48 AM 
 Subject: Never Thought I'd Live This Long...

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

This website is intriguing: 

It belongs to Chuck Spinney of all people. Never thought I'd live to see that guy emerge as a major Pentagon 'Hawk'. Oh well. Chalk it up to eight years of Clinton. The various emails he posts are interesting. They're expanded variants of datums you get from other correspondents


The most intriguing aspect to me is Washington DC's (including Spinney) current inability to 'think outside the box'. I tried to do that with my New Recruiting Plan email which you posted (and which drew some heavy flack from the politically correct products of Clinton's DoD).


The underlying assumptions in my suggested revised personnel approach were two and simple.


1. We cannot break Spinney's 'Defense Death Spiral' on O&;M, Procurement and RDT&;E so long as personnel costs are carved in stone at 55-60% of the DoD dollar. It is mathematically IMPOSSIBLE. I don't care how artistically that pie chart is sliced with Power Point version whatever.


2. We are not going reinstate a selective service draft. 'National Service', with 90% of the conscripts in domestic fields unrelated to defense, is even more undesirable from the viewpoint of the founding purposes of this country.

I wanted to show a method of reorienting the flow sequence of other tax dollars to benefit our military policy, but without increasing them.

Another thing apparent from Spinney's posts is just how little DoD has reevaluated fundamental assumptions that have obsolesced. The "repair behind the lines and return to the front" logistics structure is a case in point. That made sense when Egypt, India and Hollandia, New Guinea, were six months' round transit away in WWII, and wars were expected to last years. Still made sense in Korea. To take one example, is it CURRENTLY cheaper to maintain the unit-direct support-depot repair chain for M-16 rifles? Might it not now be better to simply replace broken rifles with new ones in toto, keep a warmer production base, and destroy or return to factory the broken pieces of the predecessor? Has anyone actually modeled the alternate costs? Expanding our concept of "combat consumables" might lead to significant logistics tail weight loss. The older model made sense when transit times were slow and wars were largely based on attrition tactics.

Spinney's selection of emails showed that the density of uniformed clerks and mechanics is now corrupting DoD warfighting spirit to the point of ELIMINATING the warrior ethos. Well, transit times are now days and strategic lift returns deadhead from the theatre. Is there a remaining valid reason for anyone short of GE to poke around inside the interior of a jet engine? This also means driving designs towards true modular concepts, instead of the GM Mr. Goodwrench design basis that still prevails with our equipment

My other observation is the utter denseness and lack of perspective of some people. The classic was a "40 years experience" Washington lawyer email decrying the putative Jurassic Park mentality of the Army in maintaining the NTC and Heavy Forces. Vain to explain to such boneheads that::

a. We are in the position of the Royal Navy circa 1820-1900. That is, we are so dominant in the mix of industry-technology-finance-geography-experience it is futile to challenge us in high intensity warfare. Hence China's interest in "Asymmetrical Warfare". It was only when the prospect of SUCCESSFUL challenge appeared circa 1905 that other nations reacquired interest in blue water fleets.

b. The Monday we deactivate said 'obsolete' US heavy forces will see five other nations activating them come Wednesday. They will again have become usable instruments of national policy rather than expensive means of suicide.

Mark A. Gallmeier

Good points all. The debate I would like to see is what our national goals are, and thus what military forces in being we need. Today there's this "balance of power" between the Navy and the other services; which makes it impossible to structure the force to national needs. As a maritime power we need a real Navy, particularly since we have opted to have much of our production done offshore: we no longer have Detroit making cars in factories that can be retooled to make tanks.

We are also a high tech power, and ought to structure that way. 

On the other hand, a Republic with a standing army of paid soldiers has historically been in trouble: Macciavelli explains it well. Of course all those Republics were sure they were exceptions and never in any danger. As do we. Universal conscription is never popular, and is no certain assurance against military adventurism, but it is an insurance; while the fallout benefits of requiring a common experience of all male citizens are great. Alas we went for "Selective Service" which produced resentments in the Vietnamese campaign. But the argument that all citizens of a republic, rich and poor, gifted and sub-normal, city and country and small town, should have a common  experience in Basic military training is a powerful one, and ought not be overlooked; it's expensive, but so are the alternatives. Of course it won't happen: we're too much in the hands of an elite already. They'll opt to keep their kids out, and substitute some kind of silly national service, and the women will scream about being left out.

But there is precious little systematic thought given to what we should be doing now that the Seventy Years War is over. The business of America is business, and "We are the friends of Liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own" was a pretty good policy for a long time. Guarding our own is tough enough.

I wonder are the Haitians better off now than they were before we went in? And why we are still there? 

Pournelle's Law


A co-worker suddenly couldn't make a PPP connection after moving her Mac. She called another co-worker first and they adjusted settings and extensions (bad) and then installed AOL (very bad).

Finally it gets handed to me. Restored extensions and settings to proper values, it still didn't work. After some modem swaping, I finally discovered the real problem was a bad telephone cord.

Switched the cable and all was well. Pournelle's Law strikes again. <G>

--Jim --

Yep. And it has been that way since S-100 days..

Dr. Pournelle,

I start my day with a look at this "Astronomy Picture Of The Day". It serves to remind me of the Big Picture. 

Don McArthur 


Nice review on the install and backup aspects of the Quantum DLT, but have you done a complete, from scratch restore using it?

Or will you wait until you need to do a restore? :-)

BTW, I prefer using cheap hard disk space, FTP, and a 100 Mb switch at home for backups. Off-site storage of important records, like taxes, done via CD-R.

An ex-Byte subscriber,

Colin Valentine

Well, yes: a good drive image of your most important systems is useful, and given how cheap hard drives and network cards are, a "box of drives" to save things on is always faster and neater.  For small outfits like mine, there's no real need of tape: build a system to do backups, and back up to that, and have it back itself up. But you will rapidly run out of disk space even on a box of drives...

Me, I save important files all over the place.








This week:



Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Down at beach house.


Just found this on ZDNet, and I am curious as to your opinion, and your reader's opinion. I, for one, think it reeks.,4586,2602200,00.html


David C. Hampson

I have been in contact with the BYTE editors, and they want me to answer this (and other letters referring to this) over at BYTE. I'll do that tomorrow.  Thanks.


As a corporate attorney for a large telecommunications company in Richardson, Texas, I can state that one very practical use for this kind of boilerplate is for me to let my corporate client's employees know that certain emails are privileged communications. It's not always clear inside a corporation who "the client" is, but once you know "the client," all communications regarding the rendering of legal advice need to protected. In Texas, inadvertent disclosures of privileged communications do not automatically void the privilege. Why non-lawyers use this kind of language is beyond me. Seems that a "Please notify the sender..." phrase would do as much good for them.

John Lanius

Well, I was having a bit of fun with it; I really wasn't trying to be malicious...

Saw your in your July 10th column at on the Olympus Smart Card reader. HP makes a couple of printers optimised for printing digital photographs: The Photosmart 1000 and Photosmart 1100. Both have smart media slots built into them. Once you have installed the Photosmart printer driver you can read and write the smart media inserted in the slot on the printer. You can also print pictures directly from the smart media card, without using a computer. Alas, there's no support for Windows 2000 until September, <sigh>. There's plenty of info on them at the HP web site.

>JjV< John Vaccaro ------------------------------------------------ Pound for pound, grasshoppers are 3 times as nutritious as beef.

Yes. Olympus has had something similar for a long time. I tend to offload all my pictures to a PC for storage as digital files, then print what I like, probably with cropping...

Roland Dobbins sends this with the subject: WOW! 

-- Roland Dobbins 

And I say, WOW!







This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 13, 2000

I bought a Yamaha SCSI CD burner, plugged it my adaptec SCSI controller, and proceeded to boot and install the Windows 2000 CD from it.

Under my new install of W2K I then proceeded to install the software from the CDs Yamaha provided. They included the Adaptec suite: Direct CD, Easy CD Creator, etc... Everything installed flawlessly and works great, other than the fact that the low CPU speed of the machine (166 MHz) tends to produce quite a few CD coasters unless I crank the write speed down to 1x. I have copied CDs, and created custom CD-Rs and CD-RWs all without any software, driver, or hardware errors.

Maybe I got lucky.


I would say lucky but very slow; but SCSI is SCSI and does tend to work when IDE has driver problems. My upcoming column (July column which will be up at fairly soon) has a good bit more on the subject.

Small arms production in the Empire:


In the light of the recent of your recent mention of moving defense production offshore, a great example can be found in the summary of the current small arms programs. We now have Beretta of Italy making the service pistol, FN of Belgium making the current M-16 carbine model, and Gun Week of July 10, 2000 has stories on the award of the Joint Services Combat Shotgun program to a team from Heckler &; Koch (HK) of Germany and Benelli Armi SpA of Italy. Also the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) production contract was won by Alliant Techsystems (US) and HK. Dynamit Nobel is responsible for the ammunition.

The OICW is an especial example of the rule of unintended consequences in US weapons development. The program documentation assumes that the firer will be able to lase the target with multiple pulses, fire the weapon's 20 mm grenade and not attract any hostile reaction or countermeasures. The rifle is said to be employed in similar fashion. The effectiveness of a 10.5 inch barelled 5.56 mm rifle is assumed as well. I know that Army Rangers were killed in Somalia when their short-barelled 5.56 carbines proved not up to the task of killing the insurgents before they could fire their weapons. Nemourlon, anyone?

jim dodd







This week:



Friday, July 14, 2000

And, lo, it came to pass that the trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name of Dot. And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she had been called Amazon Dot Com. And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why doth thou travel far from town to town with thy goods, when thou can trade without ever leaving thy tent?"

And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply said, "How, dear?" And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale and they will reply telling you which hath the best price. And the sale can be made on the drums and delivery by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums. And Dot said, "There will be a lot of banging in the land."

And Abraham replied, "It is my most fervent wish that this be so." And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had, at the top price, without ever moving from his tent.

But his success did arouse envy. A man named Maccabia did secrete himself inside Abraham's drum and was accused of insider trading.

And the young did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Siderites, or NERDS for short.

And, lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums, that no one noticed that the real riches were going to the drum maker, one Brother William of Gates, who bought up every drum company in the land. And indeed did insist on making drums that would only work if you bought Brother William's drumsticks.

And Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others." And as Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel, or as it came to be known, "eBay," he said, "We need a name of a service that reflects what we are." And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators."

"Whoopee!" said Abraham.

"No, YAHOO!" said Dot Com.

Jonathan Sturm (not the author)

Hi! I sucessfully use winoncd 3.7 Power Edition with my HP cd/rw on a win2000 server system and it works flawlessly.

Best Regards

Pedro Bernardo

My experience is that you can use CD Creator or a CD-RW program with Windows 2000 and either will work, but installing both and going from one to the other invites resets.  I am sure they'll get the bugs out one day.  Thanks.


Every so often, I install yet another distribution of Linux, just to see how things are progressing in Linuxland. Today it was the turn of Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4. Much to my amazement, one of the earliest phases of what was otherwise a surprisingly troublefree Windows type install included a blast of music at full volume. My loudspeakers do not have an electronic volume control; just a virtual one. While a chance to control the volume came later in the install, it was too late for my loudspeakers. They had expired. Presumably from the eDesktop. I assume the e before desktop means explode. I feared for my monitor also, as the intensity of the sound affected the internal circuitry sufficiently to severely distort the image on the screen. I don't think Linux is quite ready for the normal user yet. Somehow this reminded me of MegaDeath, the heavy metal rock band in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Perhaps there ought to be an entry in the Guide: beware Linux unless you enjoy the stink of vapourised heavy metal!

Jonathan Sturm



I also downloaded and installed GetRiget 4.2c today. I did this because I had been using it happily on NT4 and the site said the new version would run on W2K, which I am now using. I got around your URL problem by doing a custom install (because I'm suspicious) - but, that may be the least of the problems. I've been using ZoneAlarm and I soon started getting msgs about letting msipcsv contact the internet. I said no and went looking, yep, there was Attune's little advertising program. I uninstalled it, but not everything was deleted (it did notify me of that). I was now getting msgs to the effect that msipcsv.exe was generating errors and would have to be restarted.

Did I mention that the computers on my network couldn't see each other anymore, there are only two of them. By then I saw your msg (thanks for posting your adventures) and simply uninstalled GetRight. The network came back. Then I couldn't get my computer registered with my isp, sure glad I installed the trial version of Executive's Undelete a couple of days ago, recommended. Restored the files GetRight's uninstall took out and Bob's (my) uncle. GetRight is gone - if they deceide to take the junk out and restore it to being a well behaved good program I'd be willing to pay for it, but until then....

Thanks for being there, and continue to write well.


I am in contact with the authors of GetRight, who seem to be good guys, and I am conveying our concerns. My advice is stay with GetRight 3.34 and PAY for that. It works, it is worth it, and it's good stuff.  Since it is shareware there ought to be sources for it. 

Stay AWAY from any later versions.

Trent Telenko says:

The usual suspects want the U.N. to hire mercs for peacekeeping rather than use national military forces.


I'm afraid the usual suspects just don't understand the drawbacks involved with using mercs on a continuing basis (see the URL below). And the fact that U.N. peacekeeping is a payola deal for third world bureaucrats, some uniformed and some in suits. So any U.N. mercenary operation would necessarily be corrupted by the U.N.'s bureaucracy.;xlb=790&;xlc=38836 

Absolutely correct, of course. Macciavelli told of the problems with using hired soldiers. Mercenaries can sometimes be extremely useful, but it depends on the circumstances, and republics reduced to hired armies to defend their homelands are usually doomed. History shows some exceptions. Hawkwood, for example. And the French have had good service from the Foreign Legion.

There is also a terminology problem. Pure mercenary soldiers would change sides for more money; most of the people I know who call themselves mercenaries or soldiers of fortune chose their side for reasons other than just money.

David Drake's "Bonding authority" for mercenary units, right out of Hammer's Slammers," seems to be taking shape.


Selected quotes:

"In terms of regulation, the best approach discussed thus far was laid out in a point paper sent to the United Nations in 1998 by Michael Grunberg, the founder and owner of Plaza 107, a British multinational holding company, who has worked closely with both EO and Sandline. He calls for a general set of rules, governed by an international body such as the UN or the International Court in The Hague, covering the conditions under which PMCs (Private Military Corporations) can operate. They would subject themselves to an audit process whereby the registration body conducts an evaluation of the company's compliance with a predetermined set of internationally defined and accepted operating practices, such as technical competence, adherence to the law of armed conflict, and respect for human rights.

Once registered, PMCs would be kept on a list of approved companies maintained by the regulating authority. It would have the right to remove, suspend, or fine a particular PMC if there was evidence to prove that the company had breached its operating obligations and governing code. Prior to a PMC accepting an operational assignment, it would have to apply to the regulating authority for permission, setting out basic project details, a justification for its involvement, and a statement of parameters within which it would work. If permission is granted, a certificate would be issued by the regulating entity. In this sense, the process is similar to that of an arms contractor seeking an end-user certificate prior to selling its weapons abroad.

Finally, a PMC would deploy to the field with an observer team. This force would monitor the PMC to ensure it was not unnecessarily prolonging participation for financial gain, using indiscriminate military methods in violation of humanitarian law, or using its presence to exploit natural resources.

Of course, such an approach leaves many questions unanswered. Who sponsors the observer teams? How do they factor into operational security? If abuses are discovered, what recourse would the teams have? Who would be penalized? What are the consequences of the misconduct? Would the UN Security Council be responsible or some other international tribune - say the International Criminal Court?"

Insane how people dream of controlling warriors with words.

And now for one of the more interesting letters.

Background: I am in a discussion group that includes Greg Cochran. You may have seen his work on evolution and disease: if the theory of evolution is true, then many "hereditary" diseases including schizophrenia must in fact be caused by infectious agents: the evolutionary burden of those disabilities is so large they would be bred out of the race in no time. 

Studies have shown that one of the most important variables in education is the intelligence of the teacher: the smarter the teachers, the better the results. This is perhaps unsurprising, but it has serious consequences.

I think there is no serious (other than politically correct) disagreement among informed experts that IQ has a strong hereditary component. Murray and Herrnstein put it at 60%; that's actually considered low.

In our discussion this came up. Published with permission:

Once upon a time, the United States had to deal with enemies who talked about supermen - either Nordics, or the New Soviet Man. But that's all they did about it - talk. That may change in the 21st century.

Today the bell curve limits what any country can do . High IQ increases performance in almost every job, but there are only so many people with high IQs. Two or three percent of European populations have an IQ above 132, maybe 1/10th of one percent have IQs above 148. We have reason to believe that children would get a better education from teachers with higher scores, but there just aren't enough people with such scores, and most of them are already doing something else more lucrative. And we needs lots of teachers - if we found that teachers with IQs three standard deviations above average (> 148) were considerably more effective than typical teachers today, we could not ever take advantage of that fact for most students, because there are only a quarter of a million people in the US who score that high, while there are at least ten times that many teachers in the US. 

We could use smarter engineers, smarter doctors, smarter plumbers, smarter soldiers - but right now it can't be done. The best we could do would be to reallocate some smart people currently playing socially destructive roles. Like lawyers. 

In fact, with the current demographic trends, we can expect that the fraction of kids with extremely high IQs will be considerably smaller in the next generation. That's called diversity. We're cloning animals, and we could probably clone humans - tomorrow, not generations from now. There is no physical reason why someone, somewhere, could not do this on a large scale. And if they did, you could have a country where 20%, or for that matter 100% of kids had IQs over 150. 

If any medium sized country (like France) ever decided to adopt such a policy, it would in one generation have more very smart people than the entire rest of the world. I think this would greatly increase that country's competitive abilities in many fields. it would also make all our current concerns about ethnic differences in cognitive abilities seem pretty unimportant. Not only would this hypothetical country be full of talented people, the powers that be would _know_ who was talented, and could skip much of the expensive and time-consuming sorting processes we use to identify them - when we even care. A reasonable biology professor should be willing to hire a 20-year-old clone of Bill Hamilton without having read his thesis.. 

I'm sure that lots of people would dismiss this possibility, on the grounds that genetic influences are not all that important in determining IQ, or that IQ itself is not that important. They're wrong, of course, but in fact those choosing who should be Xeroxed are by no means limited to sorting by IQ. Health, emotional stability, even having ideas could all be part of the selection criteria. None of this requires the sequencing of the human genome, or deep understanding of that sequence - Xerox machines don't have to know how to read.

The real question is whether this is any chance that such a radical step will ever be taken - or,, I should say, taken anywhere in the near future. I'd say that it's fairly unlikely, but possible. Certainly there have been individuals within living memory that had enough personal power for enough years to make such a program feasible. I'm thinking of Stalin, but there may be other examples. Anyone with iron control of a country for a generation or so could probably pull it off. It would be hard to do this in any country in Europe, since none of them are really dictatorial right now and it's hard enough to get women to have any kids, let alone someone else's... 

But you never know.... It is possible that someone would try this in the service of some familiar goal, such as preservation or aggrandizement of some culture or religion, national resurgence or revanche: Ideally, this would result in a country whose superabundance of talent was organized in incredibly inefficient ways - I say ideally, because this would give us sluggish democratic societies more of a chance and make for interesting history. If these guys were immensely smarter _and_ well organized, they'd just win and that would be the end of it. 

We might try to nip this in the bud - although it's hard to say exactly what reason we would give, since our official ideology says that this could never work. We would be far less likely to interfere with anyone trying this who happened to have nuclear weapons. Simple obscurity might also allow success - if the Ethiopians were doing this right now, would we ever hear about it? Foreign-affairs coverage has about vanished from most of the big newspapers and never really existed on network news...

This is not the last, or the most important of the biological innovations that promise to make history more interesting than Frances Fukuyama's worst nightmare. It is just the next one.

Gregory Cochran

We do live in interesting times. And John McCarthy points out that this sort of thing need not be done by a nation. An organization or religion might even try it.

The Boys From Brazil only more so and for real? It would make for a good science fiction novel, but in fact it may not be fiction at all. And as Greg points out, our official ideology says it won't work, so there's no way we could justify interfering, even if we wanted to.  China, anyone?







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Sunday, July 16, 2000

This is a lengthy exchange, and worth reading if you have an interest in IQ:


>I think there is no serious (other than politically correct) disagreement >among informed experts that IQ has a strong hereditary component. >Murray and Herrnstein put it at 60%; that's actually considered low.

There is the "Flynn Effect"--the 3-IQ-point per decade increase in average IQ scores that appears to have been going on for at least half a century. Such gains are not due to changing genes--they indicate either gross measurement error in our tests (in which case we know very little) or a much larger role for environment in determining IQ than Murray and Herrnstein admit. If the second, then there is a natural next question: how much of large estimates of the "hereditary" component is driven by the fact that "heredity" is proxying for unobserved environmental factors because our measures of "environment" are lousy?

The Flynn Effect disturbs me enormously--it ought to have disturbed Murray and Herrnstein, too: it's hard to simultaneously believe that (a) differences in environment have small effects on IQ and (b) IQs have been growing by 0.3 percent per year. It makes me think that we know far, far less than the psychometricians think we do...

Brad DeLong

I replied: Do you seriously believe that no one has paid attention to this other than the people who didn't bother to read The Bell Curve before organizing seminars and AAAS sessions to denounce it?

Thomas Sowell certainly read _The Bull Curve_--he wrote what I still think is the most devastating and effective of the critiques of it. Sowell certainly believes (as a result of his studies of measured test scores of recent immigrants, and the convergence of their grandchildren's test scores to American norms) that environmental effects are much bigger and genetic much smaller than you do.

James Flynn certainly read _The Bell Curve_. He and Bill Dickens were through Berkeley last year with a paper that argued that standard estimates of heritability *massively* overstate the genetically-determined component of IQ.

I haven't heard any half-convincing rebuttals of their arguments. As you know well, they are not people who "didn't bother to read _The Bell Curve_". And their positions are not the result of "political correctness."

At which point I had several choices, but I chose to send this to Charles Murray, co-author (with Herrnstein, thus H&;M) of The Bell Curve, and got his reply:

I hope Brad Delong made his remark about H&;M after reading [The Bell Curve]'s  TBC's discussion of it, which (ahem) gave the first full-scale discussion of the Flynn Effect in a non-technical publication. Named it too. If he did read TBC, ask what in our conclusions he finds objectionable. If he didn't, the main points I'd stress today (I haven't gone back to reread our discussion) are:

(1) Yes, the Flynn Effect is damned interesting, but... (2) The cross-sectional predictive validity of IQ scores (i.e., at any given slice of time) hasn't budged, despite the secular longitudinal change over time. (3) Predictive validity, not the question of genetic versus environmental sources of IQ, is the key aspect of IQ's importance in shaping society. (4) That IQ is passed along in families is the key aspect of IQ's "heritability" (in a nontechnical sense of that word), not whether it is done genetically or through environment, especially since David Rowe &; Robert Plomin have taught us that so much of the environmental contribution takes place through the nonshared--i.e, very-hard-to-manipulate-with-policy-interventions-- environment. (5) There is no evidence that the secular rise in IQ is doing anything to close ethnic differences, with this proviso: It may be diminishing the number of people at the lowest levels of IQ. But there is no evidence, for example, of larger proportions of blacks at the higher levels of IQ. Even just a differential reduction of people at the lowest levels should produce some shrinkage in the B/W difference, but the data from the 1990s, post-TBC, suggest that it hasn't, and that H&;M were too optimistic on that score.

Psychometricians have done with IQ tests the kind of useful work that physicists did with electricity in the 19th century. In both cases, there was indeed a lot they didn't know.

Charles Murray

I also got a comment from another student of differential psychology. I said:

> Every time I mention IQ anywhere, I get Nyah Nyah the Flynn Effect proves > it's all nonsense and no one has paid any attention to that. >

And got this answer:

Be calm. It PROVES no such thing. What it SHOWS, so far, is that there is an unidentified variable among the many that affect an individual IQ score. It could be that Intelligent Designer, doing it all on purpose, just as well as it could be "environment." Even if it were "environment," it could be elements thereof quite foreign to what IQ deniers and nurturists want it to be. That is, not better education, or better nutrition, or the right Congressfolk elected, but -- say, the flood of information and impressions that plays, today, even on residents of the most remote villages, let alone on people growing up with the sensory and information assault of modern cities. What really matters, then, is not the mean change of "IQ," but the extent to which observed *group differences* remain so long as there is no artificial upper limit of the quantity called IQ. If, for some reason, there is such a limit imposed upon the process of testing or the scoring system, independent of language and specifics of the tests, then the differences will disappear as every generation gets, inexorably, a slightly higher IQ than the preceding one. Of course, in that case, the score, IQ, will be meaningless and that will be perfectly evident: IQ will cease to be a predictor of anything. Right now, though, it is a quite good predictor of lots of things -- cognitive.


And of course the fact remains: IQ is the best single predictor of success in nearly all human activities. To be precise: if you have a group of experts rank order members of a group, say accountants, or preachers, or teachers, or soda jerkers, in order of their success at their jobs, and you now want to predict that rank ordering using a single measure, then the measure you want is IQ. 

Note this says nothing about "what IQ tests measure" or "what is IQ?" It says merely that whatever the test measures, it is useful. Having worked on the University of Washington Grade Prediction Program under Dr. A. Paul Horst back in the 50's I can attest to that. It's a powerful instrument.

The Flynn effect is puzzling, since if it continues we will be talking about nations with average IQ's up in the very smart bracket, and no one quite knows that that will mean, largely because no one quite knows what ABSOLUTE IQ IS: it's the scores relative to others that are useful. We can say that IQ 140 and above is bright indeed, and at the moment rare; what 140 will mean if the Flynn effect continues is something else again.

And there is more discussion of the Flynn Effect later.





Hi Mr. Pournelle,

Someone will probably send you an answer before this arrives, but here is one suggestion, that I found on

which is an index of newsgroup message content:

******* The cause of this problem is the wrong license.txt file in the folder windows\help. The right license.txt is in the windows folder. At startup Win 98 compares these two files. If these two files are not identical the error message appears.

Following settings are necessary to get Win 98 working:

1) press F8 to get the Windows start menu 2) boot in DOS mode 3) copy the license.txt from the windows folder to the windows\help folder 4) reboot the machine *****

As a computer repairman, I have found to be an indispensable tool. I hope this has been of some assistance to you. Thanks for writing so many great words.


I managed to find this on my own through a search on SU 0350, but I should have thought of deja. Roland keeps telling me that's one of the first places to look.

Thanks to you an everyone who tried to help.







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