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Mail 143 March 5 - 11, 2001

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Monday  March 5, 2001

The march 1 alt mail page does not appear to use the brick-red colour for your replies that I have come to enjoy.

A uniform interface is convenient for someone who does not read in detail every post. I enjoy the obvious distinction between you ("the editor") and your correspondents in these extended conversations.

 Since alt mail has one page for several weeks (months? Years?) of conversation, I would appreciate a date on each entry. We get this with the day boundaries in the regular mail pages.

All very reasonable requests, but there's only me to do it. One of these days...

Bruce Sterling had a good article on three competing high tech chairs (Herman Miller Aeron, Steelcase Leap, and the Humanscale Freedom) in Wired magazine some time back. Here's the link: 


Jim Riticher

It's a decent article I suppose but a bit long, and I have never quite cared for that "just among us boys" style. A bit like the kid who tells his mother about the wonderful Boy Scout trick that comes with pulling your finger. But that's me. In any event I am happy enough with this chair. I sure spend enough time in it.


I saw the letter from Jim Potter with his favorite saying "if ISPs ran airlines, planes would be falling from the sky every hour."

He went on to complain that ISPs: chronically oversell beyond capacity, deliver as advertised about 10% of the time, and always have a handy excuse to blame someone else for the problems. I laughed reading that, because if you changed "deliver as advertised about 10% of the time" to "arrive on-time about 60% of the time" you'd have a pretty good description of the airlines. (I hope Mr. Potter doesn't work for one).

That said, my last trip via air went off without a hitch, and we were on time both directions. Also, when I signed up for DSL service, I too got the modem/hub months before the service was hooked up (actually, when I called to complain that they were a month late hooking me up, Verizon apologized and sent me another DSL modem/hub! Sigh).

Anyway, hang in there; it is well worth the trouble. I've had DSL at home now for a little over six months, and it's a pure joy to use. I have had very few outages, fewer actually than with my previous dial-up ISP. Given the ludicrous rates charged for a second phone line, it's even close to a financial wash. I no longer hesitate to download demos, patches, etc.

Best Regards,

John Hawkins

I keeps trying...

Hi Jerry I'm a South African looking for a good Windows 2000 web hosting service. I came across HostPro, which calls itself a Micron Company, and wondered if you or your readers had ever heard of them. The service they offer sounds good.

Cheers Allan Jackson - 27 31 2060542 // 083-777-6862

Allan's Article Archive: 

I know nothing about them but then I know nothing about any web hosts: Bob Thompson did a good bit of research before he found a place for his web site, and he recommended to me; I have used it ever since and despite my short temper which has caused me to explode at them a couple of times, they have been as near perfect a host as any I ever heard of.  I recommend highly. Others I simply don't know about because I have no reason to look around.

One day when I get more bandwidth and a fixed IP Address I will host one of my alternate web sites here on the Penguin, just to get the experience; but I am not mad enough to move this site from Pair.

Hi Jerry,

You might not be aware of this site: 

It contains downloadable/distributable updates/upgrades/drivers/etc MS files. You should be able to find W95 (and other) update/upgrade type files that you can download, save and re-install from local copies.


- webmaster, network admin, janitor

I think that is the one I was looking for and couldn't find. Thanks.

Mr. Pournelle,

I regularly install Windows 95 systems for companies which refuse to upgrade, or on my older sub-P233MMX systems.

I don't seem to have the problems you encountered, though I don't doubt that you did indeed have them.

I have a pre-made Windows 95 boot disk with a generic IDE CD-ROM driver and FDISK and can easily load it that way.

I have a ZIP Cartridge loaded with Windows 95b and a DOS boot disk with the Guest Driver.

I also have a disk made for an Adaptec/Trantor SCSI Cable (Parallel Port SCSI) and can load from my external SCSI drive if all else fails.

As to having IE without having to download it for many systems, any MSN Signup disk, (which you can get at any Radio Shack) has the full version of IE on it. So do most copies of the AOL CD, or signup CDs from many of the Major ISPs.


you can go to this Microsoft Webpage and download all the updates as installable files: 

It's all there and can be downloaded and burnt onto a CD.

Copy the webpage down to your HDD and put that on the CD also as a handy directory to the files.

I do wish Microsoft would have a quarterly subscription which was affordable to end users which would have all the possible updates and free stuff on an easy to install CD.

I think people might pay $39 for something like that. I know I would.

You should be able to buy it in a store with the current CD, and then send in a card to get 3 more updated CD's mailed to you.

Microsoft could easily advertise new products on these CD's as well as include the MSN client and offer that service to make this even more worth the effort to do.

Why they don't do this already with the glut of MSN disks they distribute (fill up the empty space with the most downloaded or important updates) as a service to their customers is beyond me.

Regards, Al Hartman (Macintosh Emulation List Host) 

My Homepage 

Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life. - William Blake

Well I have a magic disk with all the OS's on it, but that was as hard as anything I ever did. Now I have to move software. They do not make any of it easy.

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm sorry, but I don't know what the term "pre-breathing" means referring to space suits, and there's no reference to it in the article in "Current View".

I'm afraid that NASA's first priority is Geopolitics, and proper science has to take a back seat, as it does in Antarctica. The US is building a station at the South Pole to mark our territory down there, and the committee that reviewed the decision stated that it would be valuable for geopolitical reasons alone.

Thank you,

Stephen Borchert

Prebreathing means you have to spend time breathing pure oxygen in order to get the nitrogen out of your system.  Current suits use under 5 pounds of pure oxygen, and at that low pressure any nitrogen in your system will boil into bubbles and cause the bends. The remedy for bends is pressurization but that of course ends the EVA and fast.

With 12 pounds of air or enriched air the pressures are enough to prevent nitrogen bubble formation. Ideal is of course 14.7 pounds of air: that experiment we have run for a very long time.  But in fact 10 pounds of oxygen-rich air along with the nitrogen is enough (I am not up on the very latest research on all this but it's not hard to find out if you really want to know.)

Higher pressures mean stiffer suits, and tire old geezers out. Astronauts tend to be geezer nerds, not jocks. For construction you want riggers, young jocks who can work hard and gut being tired. But in fact you can make perfectly usable non-pre-breathing suits that even the superannuated astronaut corps can manage in. No one builds them, in part because the industry lobbies are very powerful. Why take away a meal ticket? Suit maintenance contracts are VERY lucrative.  We pay more for one space suit than you would pay for a small submersible good to 30 atmospheres.  Feh!

The public has been ripped off on space suits for 20 years and more.

A small correction to the email I sent you earlier. When using Setup method 2., I recollect that it seemed necessary to copy the files back to their original folder in its original location before re-running the files. It was my impression that at least in the initial IE 4.x release the files seemed to have paths that were more or less hard-wired. Method 1 for IE 5.5 always works from any location.

Keith E. Risler 

-----Original Message----- 

 Subject: Your recent column, installing IE locally

I noticed in your latest posted Chaos Manor column that you wondered if there is a way to avoid having to install IE 5.x from the web on each machine via web install.

There is a way, although it is not obvious. Actually, there are two ways to get a complete re-usable install downloaded. Either technique should work on Windows 95, although I can only vouch for the Windows IE 4.x approach on Windows 95 as I no longer use that OS.

1. IE 5.5 download: IE 5.5 Internet Setup has an Advanced install button (or something similarly named) on its setup web page. That option lets you download all of the files involved and store them in a folder of your choice. However, only the components of the install selected at the prompts are downloaded; so it's important to choose all of the IE options (except foreign language packs unless you need them). Then, when the advanced option is used, all of the files will be available locally. I have complete installs for IE 5.5SP1 for Windows 2000 and Windows 98 on CD-R right now. When the stored setup is used, Setup will not in my experience need to connect to the Internet unless a component is selected that was not originally, such as a language pack.

2. IE 4.x or IE 5.5SP1 This approach is my earlier technique for capturing a reusable download if IE4.x or later. IE 4 seemed hard to get a reusable download for, but there is a trick here. Run the customary setup from the web, again selecting all of the options except foreign language packs unless they are needed. Let the online Setup complete with a reboot as usual reboot. After install there is usually a new folder on the PC (somewhere) called "\Windows Update Setup Files". This folder contains the setup files. They can be re-used. When the stored setup is used, Setup will not in my experience need to connect to the Internet unless a component is selected that was not originally, such as a language pack. This type of download seems to be a little more prone to need to connect to the Internet during setup that IE5, I would guess because the IE4.x Internet setup didn't download all of the selected components reliably. Certain media features seemed to always be re-downloaded to my recollection When IE4.x was involved.

In either cases 1 or 2, the time taken to reinstall IE is greatly reduced. Just run IE Setup from CD-R.

Keith E. Risler 80 Adelaide Street South, London, ON Canada N5Z 3K5 Wireless: (519) 851-1323 | FAX: (630) 214-5568 Email: | Send secure email via:

And that's the point: it's not obvious how to do it. Thanks!

Jerry, for Windows'98 you can download many of the updates, including IE 5.01, from . Since Win'95 seems to have hit MS's self-decreed end of lifecycle the equivalent page for it has disappeared, indeed any business link points you at an explanation of what the lifecycle dates are for the various OS'es. NT seems to be slated for "Extended" phase June 30 of next year which means, if they follow their standard practices, NT is dead one year later at least in terms of support. Thought this would help.

Brian J. Bartlett, PearTree Associates Compuserve SysOp: IBM Forum, Vintage Computing Forum

Yes. That seemed to be what I ran into.  Well we will abandon 95 some day, but since many schools still have it we have to be sure her program will run with 95.

Dear Jerry;

I just got finished reading the March 5th Byte column and boy do I agree on the Intellimouse, and on a Macintosh no less. Without the software it's a great optical, no hiccups, And with the software the extra buttons are so handy for web browsing alone that they are worth it.


Indeed. I do love those red eyed mice.




This week:



Tuesday,  March 6, 2001


Dear Jerry:

I've been following the discussions regarding genetic testing and insurability, and I have a couple of comments.

Clark writes,

<I>"I don't know that the Republicans are any better (or worse) at this that the Democrats but we will indeed all be uninsurable."</I> 

I can imagine a sort of "King Christian effect" taking place in the health insurance market. Just as King Christian of Denmark, ordered to force Jews to wear identifying markers, ordered everyone in the country to wear yellow stars, declaring "We're all Jews now." If everyone's a Jew, will the Nazis be able to imprison the entire population? Likewise, if everyone's uninsurable, does that mean people will cease to obtain medical care? I have a feeling that somehow, people who want to get medical care, and people who want to make a living providing medical care, will come up with some sort of business model that makes it possible for people to obtain it. In fact, we'll probably be seeing all different kinds of models, from flat-rate-if-you're-breathing-we'll-insure-you to high-tech plans that monitor your activities and dynamically adjust your rates depending on what you're doing from moment to moment. 

(Mike Reagan mentions that when he used to race boats, his regular health coverage lapsed as soon as he got into a racing boat. It was void until he left the boat at the end of a race. For coverage during the race itself, he had to buy another policy. Imagine a plan that charges you one rate while you're at home, another while you're behind the wheel of your car, another while you're in a crosswalk...) As long as we protect the consumer's right to vote with their dollars, I think health care providers will be forced to develop something people can live with.

...........Karl Lembke

Poul Anderson used to love telling the story of the old king, who took a morning ride from his palace every day. On the day after the decree, out he came, and he and his whole household wore yellow stars. The Danish monarchy has been rather sensible since the Schlesswig-Holstein affair (about which Palmerston said only three people had ever understood it: one had died, the second had gone mad, and he was the third but he had forgotten it).

But the essence of insurance is discriminations. I have insurance that covers me while I am on trips, from door to door so long as I travel in cabs or other public conveyances. That's one risk group. And of course it's understandable that certain activities might be excluded.

The question is what about involuntary conditions such as genetic defects later discovered?

I am now informed that the current Danish Queen says the story is not true. I wasn't there, and I had it from Poul Anderson who is rather proud of his Danish heritage. Its truth or falsity is irrelevant to the current discussion of course.

(Of course there are at least two "debunking" web sites that are themselves no more than rumor mills designed to draw attention to themselves. I know little about this one. I am not particularly impressed by the credentials of the site sponsors because I can't FIND them: it appear to be rather anonymous. Watching it for a moment I saw a banner ad for day trading.)

I may prefer the old legend of the old king.



*This message was transferred with a trial version of CommuniGate(tm) Pro* I was just curious as to your reasoning behind a statement made in the above noted column. 

"Race and equality are important matters in a Republic ..."

I'm afraid that, although I can see the importance of equality, I'm not sure that I understand what makes race important to a Republic.

Mike O'Hanlon

Come now. The absence of a policy is a policy. Although in the US we have just spend a very great deal of money getting racial information in the Census, although for some purposes the US government now uses the old Jim Crow "one drop" rule: no matter how many other categories one checks, if Black is one of them then you are officially Black. Very odd. And that's the point. Clearly someone thinks these things are important.

Note that I put the two into one phrase.

Note also that over history many governments have had different laws depending on race and culture. The Roman Law was to some extent developed through the law cases arising from those heard by the Praetor Peligrinis, who heard foreign law cases to be decided under the customs of the participants rather than by the old very rigid Roman Law which applied to contracts between Romans. As citizenship spread, contracts would explicitly state that they were to be enforced under the rules of the Praetor Peregrinis rather than the domestic courts even when between two Citizens: because the "foreign" law was preferred, being based on the universal principles of mankind deduced by the Roman Courts.

In Gothic Spain one law applied to Goths and another to everyone else. Of course in the South under Jim Crow there were racially based laws. I grew up in a legally segregated society.

It can be argued -- I have argued -- that the Federal government has no business collecting racial statistics. It does, though. So how can you say it is not important? Perhaps it ought to be ignored by law, but that too is a legal matter.

I have nothing against legal fictions, but one ought to know they are fictions.

Editor Daniel Dern forwards this from one of the mailing lists he has to read:

> "On Sunday night, Napster started filtering out copyrighted song names from

> its system. People have been proposing alternate ways of naming their music

> files so as to defeat such filtering, but no workable solution has

> emerged... until now! AIMster is offering a Pig Latin encoder that will

> encrypt your mp3 titles. They state that, under the DMCA, it would be

> illegal for the RIAA to reverse engineer their encoding scheme and try and

> filter the encrypted filenames from Napster. Beating the RIAA over the head

> with the DMCA is fun!"

anderGay AusceSay

Dr. Pournelle -

A totally minor quibble in a very interesting and succinct report on the AAAS meeting: MUD does stand for Multi-User Dungeon. There is no need to stick quotes around Dungeon.

I might have named it MUA after ADVENT(ure) [a text adventure popular on DEC-10s around the world] but a game called Dungeon appeared and saved me from trying to find a way to say MUA without sounding silly. There was also some slight influence from TSR's Dungeons and Dragons.

Keep up the good work.

Toodle pip, Roy [Trubshaw] 

[-- "You haven't lived 'til you've died in MUD." Some marketing guy, who's name I forget: British Telecommunications: New Information Services.

Well, clearly you have a right to say it, but I used the quote marks because the guys at the conference clearly implied them after I asked. For some odd reason science people looking for grants aren't interested in being associated with dungeons with or without quote marks!


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

 I have to take exception to your characterization of astronauts as geezer nerds. Certainly the four Navy Test Pilot School classmates of mine who are now at Houston don't fit that mold. Eccentric, yes. But we're too crazy, as a group, to be true nerds. Now, I won't deny that NASA is too concerned with protecting the Good Deal Ricebowl, and with zero-risk/zero-innovation policies. Personally, I always thought that for space construction, the bottle suit concepts had a lot to recommend them. But that would involve innovation. Mustn't have that.


Actually, good suits don't even take a lot of innovation. The technology has been known for 20 years, and experimental models of suitable 10 psi air suits were constructed. The problem is the astronaut corps and George Abbey, who apparently are in thrall to Hamilton Standard, which has a VERY lucrative contract to keep the silly junk that we use for suits going despite total obsolescence. 

It's all politics, not science, and the result is that we do not have on-orbit construction capability. And no riggers in space. Which protects Shuttle, whose purpose is to protect about 20,000 jobs and a $1 billion per launch budget.

NASA ate the dream, people. If you want villains there are plenty there, people concerned about protecting their miserable existence while destroying the chances for the rest of us to get to space.

We will go. We means humanity, and we may not speak English. And when the history books are written, the NASA villains will be right up there with the Mandarins who ended the Chinese treasure fleet expeditions, And for the same ignoble reasons. There are damned few heroes and many villains in the NASA manned space program.

I read your testing using WinTach on your article. Your conclusions are actually quite different than some other benchmarks that I've seen. Essentially they seem to say that the P4 screams on memory intensive stuff (RDRAM gives it a much higher memory bandwidth) and a few graphical applications (Quake III), but for most other stuff, including DirectX based games, a P4 1.5 GHz and a 1.2 GHz Athlon are about a wash, with the Athlon actually winning most of the time. See:

And I recall you writing that you were working on the latest Janissaries novel a few months ago. Where's that at? Did it get finished?

Thanks, Pete

Close enough. Understand that the P 4 shines when running applications compiled to use its special instructions. At the moment there are not many such applications.

I am still working on the Janissaries book. As well as Burning Tower. And some others. 





This week:



Wednesday, March 7, 2000

It is column deadline day.

Lays of Ancient Rome

Thank you for making available Lars Porsena. I read him in grammar school, also. At a family reunion last year a cousin I had not seen for forty years began reciting it, and I joined in. It was something else to bring us closer, though we had been educated in different states and now we live on opposite sides of the country. You and e-mail are both wonderful.

Enid Cyphert 

Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate, to every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late, and how can man die better, than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods...

Thanks for reminding me.





This week:


read book now



COLUMN overdue.






This week:



Friday, March 9, 2001

- Subject: origin of Scientology question (please delete if inappropriate)


I read the following at Slashdot, which reported the story if a Swede being hounded through the court by the Scientologists. I'm curious (since you knew them both) if you could comment on the veracity of this?

Thanks much for your daybook and the stories.

Robert Maxwell 

One time, a long time ago, Robert Heinlen (a first rate author) dared L. Ron Hubbard (a 7th -12th rate author) to start a religion. Hubbard, a certifiable wacko, decided it was a great idea.

So, rather than work off the Messianic principles of religion (some human who is the spawn/creation of/voice of God) created a "scientific" system, wherein you hook yourself up to a machine designed to "audit" your feelings and thoughts and "soul". Note that I built one of these in my 5th grade science class, its a simple resistence meter. I am told the device is a battery, a meter, and a couple wires attached to what looks like a coffee can.

Anyway, Hubbard patterned the organization after the Navy, where he served (some say dishonorably) in WWII. His naval record is a consistent source of material that his entire life is one big falsification.

The real meat of Scientology is that you try to make yourself a better person based on this "auditing" deal. There's lots of little twists, turns, and details I have purposefully omitted, but thats the appeal. There's no one telling you you can't eat meat on Fridays, there's no strict moral code. Its very popular in Hollywood, as it reflects a certain "new age" vibe.

The REAL interesting part is how Hubbard, as a crappy sci-fi author, wrote an interesting backstory for his religion. Turns out, the reason you feel bad sometimes (mentally, although bad thoughts lead to bad physical condition) is because... well.. I never get this part right, because its just dumb. Something about a Galactic Civil War, and all these alien people being imprisioned in a volcano on Earth (when it was just forming) and then having atom bombs (not thermonuclear weapons, mind you - we're talking Fat Man and Little Boy here, and these were aliens which could do FTL and lord knows what else) dropped on them. Their spirits came to become Man, or something like that, and the auditing process is supposed to release them.

The story is incorrect. Robert wasn't involved in Scientology at all. Hubbard wasn't exactly a 7th rate author, either, To The Stars and Final Blackout were pretty darned good novels, as was Fear. At a penny a word Hubbard could turn out yards of stuff, but most of it was quite readable when written and some still is and a few of those books rank with the best science fiction. Read Final Blackout, then look at when it was written and published.


I never met Hubbard. Mr. Heinlein was a good friend to me for twenty years. So far as I can tell he did not meet Hubbard after about 1950 although they did talk on the telephone sometimes. Robert's widow, Ginny, never met Ron Hubbard except by telephone in all her life.

The story about founding a religion comes from a casual remark made at a poker game among science fiction writers in the 30's, and Robert wasn't there; I believe Phil Klass is the one who was there and tells it. Phil has been known to embellish a personal experience to make it a better story. The story is that several writers were sitting around and Hubbard said "We're in the wrong racket, the way to get rich is to found a religion." I have never seen any published reference to that remark until long after Scientology had become successful. When I asked Robert one he shrugged and said "It's the kind of thing Ron might have said, but then it's the kind of thing any of us might have said."

Hubbard's navy experience is certainly not what is publicly stated in his biography, but Mr. Heinlein, who did know Hubbard well, claimed until his death that Ron was a good friend and a good man. It may be that Hubbard was involved in Navy Intelligence, but that is only an inference on my part; I know only that Robert had little patience for cheap crooks, and, I repeat, made no secret of the fact that he considered Ron Hubbard a friend. He once told me "If I was in real trouble, Ron is one of the people I would count on to help."

The description of Dianetics and Scientology above is of course satire and hardly accurate. I know little about the actual precepts of Scientology, but at one time I read everything on Dianetics including the book when it first came out. Dianetics claimed (claims) to be a science, and had no mystical elements, although it did assume a sort of collective unconscious; that was of course at the heart of Jungian psychiatry, which in the 40's and 50's was quite respectable and not regarded as unscientific at all.

I have my own theory about Scientology, which became a religion after the medical and shrink unions gave Hubbard real problems about Dianetics, Dianetics was a synthesis of Jung and Korzybski and not a bad one at that, and was based on at least a much data as Freud's theories and psychoanalysis, which was (and among some who don't pay attention still is) respectable. But that's another story. Hubbard certainly did not "found a religion" to get rich. He did turn Dianetics into a religion to get First Amendment protection for Dianetics.

As to E-meters and the galvanic skin response (GSR), there was precious little data on the subject in those days. My first job in psychology was as an assistant to Dr. Al Axe at the University of Washington. Axe was working on physiological differentiation of fear and anger among other things, and there was a time when he and his assistants probably knew more about GSR than anyone else in the world. There is no reason why GSR cannot be useful in the kind of non-invasive psychotherapy postulated by Dianetics, so long as it is understood as a tool and a rather unreliable indicator. Learning to interpret GSR is an art, and possibly one not worth the time investment required, since there are far better indicators now; but it does remain one of the essentials of a polygraph examination. Polygraph examinations are also art, not science, which is why they are not admissible as evidence in courts; the results can be pretty accurate but the examiner must know what he is doing, what he is looking for, and something about the subject.

This has gone a lot further than I intended when I began this response to this letter. It's not a defense of Scientology or of Hubbard. I've written my views of both in other places. I am not a member of the Church of Scientology, and I have never studied any of its inner dogmas; what I have heard of them sounds pretty silly, but that can be said about most religions, and it's not entirely clear to my what is to be believed, what is symbolic, and what is cover: the Rosicrucians have an inner core of beliefs almost diametrically opposite some of their public statements (or did 25 years ago when I looked into the matter).

I don't think Hubbard was the greatest science fiction writer of all time (although he may have been the most prolific), and on some matters of science he was just plain dead wrong: his book on radiation is not only nonsensical physics but potentially dangerous to anyone who actually believed what it says. Dianetics, like Freudian analysis, was based on structures that can't be found and are unlikely to exist. Freud made up most of his data -- it's now known than some of the crucial cases he presents were imaginary -- and given the circumstances of Hubbard's life it seems very probably that he made up many of his "case histories" also: no matter how fast he could write (and he could write faster than anyone I every heard of, Isaac Asimov included) it takes a certain amount of time to "audit" people with problems even if you know what you are doing and what you are looking for, and by his own accounts he didn't start with the theory presented in the Dianetics book. It seems extremely unlikely that he saw as many "Junior" cases as he claims; or for that matter as many of any kind; and it's not impossible that there were none at all, the "data" being arranged to support a theory. It's pretty clear that is what Freud did.

I have good friends who belong to churches whose theology I find either amusing or absurd; that doesn't stop them from being friends. And my wife observes that down at the Scientology headquarters you find teen age kids not long off the streets reading books and drinking softdrinks, while no more than a hundred feet away our on the street you can see drug deals including teen age prostitution (male and female) for drugs. I'd rather see those children in a Newman Center, but I'd far rather they were in the Scientology center than in the streets. And that's a matter for a much longer discussion than this one will be.

For more see next week.

Dear Jerry:

As a subscriber of yours, I value your creative effort. I should also state that I support Harlan Ellison's cause as outlined on the document you published and I am totally against those who publish whole works (or large excerpts) of others under the faulty premises of "fair use" or "Information must be free". That is frankly absurd (at least in the short to mid-term life of a work) and truly would, as Harlan asserts, cause the demise of most professional writers.

I think many individuals who are acting in this manner do not truly appreciate that they are hurting the author/musician/artist that they admire and instead perceive of themselves as hurting only "big business", you know, the evil corporation. It is precisely these "evil" corporations and business interests (such as the RIAA) that are a catalyst for the criminal action of these pirates. These business interests have caused many individuals to feel that they are being threatened with never being able to enjoy a work for their pleasure without paying a licensing fee for -each- use. Personally, I do believe that these big corporations would enjoy nothing more than charging for each viewing/listening of anything and would prefer that books at we know them today did not exist (why, you might read it more than one time without paying or - horrors - turn someone on to your favorite author by lending them your book without that person paying for that book).

Such laws as the DMCA, UCITA, and the other revisions to the copyright law since first codified in the U.S. have only served to further business interests of large corporations at the expense of the public good (and even the good of the true creators of works) and compel some individuals to turn to the extremes of piracy. The prior copyright law with relatively short but adequate durations that balanced the proprietary interests of the creator with the long term benefit to mankind of knowledge free and in the public domain (after a reasonable number of years) has been replaced with laws giving rights to the creator of (what is it) life plus 75 years! Certainly the recent previous law of 26 years renewable for 26 more years was and is good enough.

What do you think is a fair balance between the proprietary interests of the originator of a work and the long term public good of that information being made freely available such as was more realistically the case under older versions of the copyright law?


Bruce Edwards

Niven and I discussed this yesterday during our hike. I need to give a lot of thought to the balancing of interests. I ask the public to protect my intellectual property rights; clearly the public has some interest and some right in setting limits and conditions (unless you believe that intellectual property rights come directly from God, and that's another discussion entirely; in the United States "rights" are a matter of law, some derived from the English Common Law, some from the Roman Civil Law, and some from the Framers).

The Constitution makes it clear that it doesn't like monopolies, but allows temporary monopolies to promote the useful arts and sciences.  Copyright law is based on this. 

The real question is the definition of "fair use" and I don't know that I have a definitive answer. I'll give Harlan credit, he's got us all thinking about it.






This week:




I took the day off







This week:


read book now


Sunday, March 11, 2001

Took the day off. Roberta sang in Mozart Concert with Wagner Chorale. Dinner with relatives.







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