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Mail 145 March 19 - 25, 2001

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Monday  March 19, 2001


I've been reading your articles online for quite some time -- it's nice to have some of the issues placed in a "user" point of view as you seem to attempt. In your recently posted article concerning the AMD motherboards and processors vs. Intel's line, I must say I disagree with you quite strongly.

While I do run a dual processor motherboard for Intel processors as my primary system at home, it is utilizing a VIA chipset as Intel refuses to release anything of theirs that you can use good old SDRAM with (at least in a dual setup for the faster P3s). RAMBUS memory is finally becoming more of a feasible option, but in my opinion there's still no compelling reason to use it over traditional SDRAM, and even less of an argument when considering DDR SDRAM. In that respect, I agree with your opinion to stay away from the Pentium 4.

I work at your typical mom &; pop computer shop, and our sales have gone at least close to 50-50 with respect to AMD vs Intel systems. The fact of the matter is that VIA is producing some very stable chipsets now and many of the big motherboard manufacturers are making some very interesting, feature-filled motherboards based around those chipsets. Most boards -do- have thermal monitoring of some sort and typically offer many more features than you would normally find on an Intel motherboard. In addition, considering Intel's change of socket design with the P4 (and oddly enough I hear they will change it very soon AGAIN for another revision of the P4), AMD has committed itself very strongly to pushing their Socket A platform as far as possible. In that respect, considering AMD based systems on VIA chipsets that are just as stable, in most cases faster, and in almost every case cheaper than a comparable Intel system, I can't help but recommend AMD systems over Intel time after time to my customers. As I stated I still am an "Intel-man" with my home system, but if something catastrophic were to happen and it needed replacing, I would spend my money on AMD.

On a side note, it's interesting that I of all people would be responding in this manner. For quite some time I've been strongly opposed to AMD products. I've seen far too many K6s and K6-2/3s go bad for no particular reason and cause general system instability. For me to be recommending them over Intel really does mean something IMO. Thanks for you time. For your info, some of the motherboards we use are the ASUS A7V133, the MSI K7Pro 2-A, and the ABIT K7T.

Jeff Messer

It may just be innate conservatism on my part. I can only go by my own experiences and the reports of people I rely on. I've had a lot of systems here and I have had fewer problems with Intel systems on Intel motherboards. That may be peculiar to me, but it seems to be the case with most of my correspondents.

It's also true that I haven't built any dual processor systems recently; the dual that I use is a Compaq Dual SP750 which my workhorse system and has been for over a year. All the systems I have built in the last year have been single processors of nearly every kind, and all have used either Kingston or Crucial SDRAM. You may recall that I gave RAMBUS a dubious achievement award for a fractional gain in performance at an enormous cost increase.

My colleagues at Nikkei BYTE have been impressed with Athlon and gave the Athlon system the Best In Show award at the Tokyo PC EXPO.

My conclusion remains: for single processor systems, Good Enough is an Intel D815EEAL motherboard with on-board AGP video, really good sound, and a good LAN card; with the capability of adding a different AGP video card if that's what you want. Any processor you are likely to be able to buy for that board will be good enough; I like 750 P III but you aren't likely to notice the difference in faster or slower chips (within reason) unless you're doing high end video processing in which case you already know what you are going to need.

I am grateful to AMD for bringing the prices down for all of us, and I'll continue to build and use Athlon systems, and we'll see; but for now the D815EEAL board is the main reason I prefer P III for "standard" systems.

Dr. Pournelle,

Just a note on your article concerning the lack of heat and voltage irregularity sensor support on Athlon motherboards. I have one of the first Athlon boards produced - the FIC SD11, with a VIA 82c686A frontside chipset. This chipset does indeed support such sensors, as the output from the "sensors" command (part of the lmsensors package used to talk to i2c devices) on my Linux machine will attest:

debecker@oberon:~$ sensors 
Adapter: SMBus vt82c596 adapter at 0400 
Algorithm: Non-I2C SMBus adapter
 Memory type: SDRAM DIMM SPD 
SDRAM Size (MB): 128

Adapter: ISA adapter 
Algorithm: ISA algorithm 
CPU core: +1.61 V +2.5V: +0.22 V I/O: +3.24 V +5V: +3.11 V +12V: +7.55 V CPU Fan: 6490 RPM (min = 3000 RPM, div = 2) P/S Fan: 0 RPM (min = 3000 RPM, div = 2) SYS Temp: +24.2 C (limit = +60 C, hysteresis = +50 C) CPU Temp: +29.0 C (limit = +60 C, hysteresis = +50 C) SBr Temp: +24.5 C (limit = +60 C, hysteresis = +50 C)

No idea why WinTach wouldn't work on an Athlon, i've had no problems running anything on mine (but then I haven't tried WinTach and have no idea what it might be trying to do -- for all I know it's trying to do a CPU ID and failing, and then refusing to run further).

Best regards,

Phil DeBecker

I have no idea why Wintach didn't work on the Athon system earlier; it does now. On the other hand it gives such ridiculously low numbers that I have no intention of reporting them. There is something very wrong here. Note that we have an AMD-built Athlon with nVIDIA geForce 2 board and it screams at Crimson Skies and such like; and I have no complaints at all about the Athlon system. (Well, one minor one: the CD-RW drive was put in as the top drive and the DVD as the lower; but that's not any fault of the machine or the chips, merely a preference of mine minor enough that I haven't taken the trouble to adjust -- I won't say fix or correct.)

I'm not a big testing lab. I draw on some experts for advice and sanity checking, and I am not getting into religious wars. I do have more reports of heat and power problems with AMD than with Intel, but I do not have high quality data -- and it may be that there are more people trying to overclock AMD systems (because they can) and that may contribute to the Athlon's sensitivity to power stability and cooling requirements. 

Thanks for the data. And one more solid commentary:

I'm sure that you're going to get flamed about your comments about Athlons as many people are passionate about their CPUs. On my last upgrade last year I went with an P3-550E and overclocked to 733 as at that time your comments about Athlon MBs were correct. However, over the last year Intels chipset blunders (ie 810 and 820, the 815 is actually pretty good just overpriced) gave over 50% of the Intel chipset market to Via. The Via 694 northbridge chip in my current motherboard is fully equal to the 815 and came out more than six months before the 815. The 686 southbridge chip which can handle both Via's Intel and Athlon northbridge chips has voltage and temp monitors built in. Via currently has more than 90% of the Athlon chipset market and the current KT133 MBs and the new KT133a MBs are equal or better than any Intel chipset board. Athlons are much cheaper than the equivalent Intel CPUs and the MBs are roughly equal in quality, features and price. This makes Athlons the pick for most people and is indeed the current source of Intels troubles in Europe where AMD currently has more than 50% of the CPU market.

I would mainly agree with your comments about the Duron situation as the Via KM133 motherboards with built in Savage video is not in wide distribution yet. However, this will shortly change as the KM133 is cheaper than the 815, has more features and has much better 3d video. Since the Duron price/performance advantage over the Celeron is even bigger than the Athlon-P3 margin, Durons should quickly take over the low end of the market.

========== Bob Whitworth HST LAN Support Goddard Space Flight Center 

When I get a KM133 I will be more than pleased to build a system around it and beat the holy Hell out of it; as is my bent. And I certainly never recommended the 810. You may recall I even warned that they had cost-reduced the 810 to a worrisome point; an observation that was not popular at Intel. Later 810's  seem to have been better built than the first ones I saw but I was never all that happy with them. The 815, though, is Good Enough, and the sound quality is splendid.

There are plenty of publications and writers who specialize in detailed examinations of all these things. I have always been in the "good enough" business. I will confess that saving a few dollars, particularly at the expense of time or uncertainty, has never been high on my priority list. 

Thanks for the information, and I'll look into sources on new Via motherboards.

And for it to be put as bluntly as possible:

I enjoy your stories about struggles with systems and getting things to work; I can definitely relate. But you are really off base in your comments about Athlon vs. Pentium III and Duron vs. Celeron. The price/performance differences are quite remarkable, in fact. Please check Tom's Hardware Guide for detailed facts. In my own experience, I just assembled for home use an Asus A7V133 with 1Gig Athlon, ATA100, SoundBlaster Live Value, Geforce 2 GTS, 256MB PC 133, Wireless Ethernet, Antec case, Win2K, DVD, TrippLite UPS with power management, CD-RW, etc. The system is rock solid. The equivalent Pentium III would have been at least $200 more. At work, I have an Intel 815-based system with a 866MHz Pentium III and I am pleased with it also. My experience indicates:

a. At the same price point, Athlon is dramatically faster than Pentium III. The same difference is true about Duron vs. Celeron. 
b. For the same performance, Athlon is much less expensive than the Pentium III. Same for Duron vs. Celeron 
c. At the same clock speed, Athlon performs better than Pentium III and costs much less. Same for Duron vs. Celeron. 
c. For the good boards, such as Asus, VIA systems are rock solid. 
d. Intel processors convert to mobile processors for laptops better.

I have been buying Intel, AMD, etc. systems for 20 years. You seem to have a thing for Intel, which is reasonable given all the goods things they have done over the years. But they have recently dropped the ball. You seem to realize that about the Pentium IV; good systems with 800 memory are ridiculously expensive for the performance. The same is true, though not as dramatically, for the other processors.

Bottom line: If you are spending your own money, then there is no reason now to buy an Intel desktop. AMD rules (for now).

And I would say it depends on what you are doing with the system. The cost of a video board is not trivial. The Athlon systems available to me at the time I wrote that did not include video, sound, and LAN on the motherboard; adding those makes a significant cost addition. If you are setting out to build a really hot games machine -- no bad reason to use an Athlon -- then the video board will be the same for either machine, and one advantage of the Intel 815 is washed out. I implied that but perhaps I should have said it more explicitly.

These matters change like dreams, and it may be that in a few weeks I'll have a different view. I'm particularly interested in seeing the new Athlon motherboards. We'll see. But for now, if it was up to me, I'd stay with Intel.

For a correction from a frequent correspondent that may be significant:


I have what I believe is a correction to your latest Byte column.

In it you state "Athlon changed all that, and it's no longer possible to compare Intel and AMD chips directly."

I'm pretty sure _Intel_ changed all that - when they shifted everything over (temporarily) to the slot-based CPUs in an attempt to squeeze AMD and Cyrix out of the market. Once they had broken that hardware compatibility, AMD had to come up with _something_ to succeed the Socket7 format.

Is my take on this correct?


Calvin Dodge

And I expect you are right, as usual.

And finally a comment by Bob Thompson on much of the above:

Actually, there's nothing wrong with the 810/810E chipset at all, and the only problem with the 820 was when Intel tried to support SDRAM via the Memory Translator Hub. That was a disaster, but used with RDRAM as intended, the 820 is a solid chipset. VIA chipsets, in my opinion, and that of many other observers, are and always have been a good step behind Intel's in terms of stability, robustness, and performance. The KT133/133A/266 are pretty decent chipsets, but they still aren't up to Intel standards. Whether or not the chipset has support for thermal/voltage sensing has nothing to do with anything. The problem is that the AMD processors themselves have no thermal diode, so unless the motherboard maker puts a thermal diode inside the socket itself, there's nothing to sense. In the absence of a motherboard thermal diode, an AMD processor can burn to a crisp without the chipset knowing anything is wrong.

The KM133 boards will indeed provide a challenge to Intel at the low-end, once those boards become more readily available. Right now, Celerons sell for more than Durons simply because Intel can afford to price them higher, knowing that there're no integrated motherboards for the Duron. Once those become readily available, you can expect to see pricing parity between Intel and AMD at the low end.

The chances of Duron "taking over the low end of the market" are pretty slim. Corporations still buy Intel, even if they have to pay a premium, and the mass market consumer grade PCs are unlikely to shift to AMD if Intel can provide a similar solution at the same price point. Relative performance actually counts for very little. People buy MHz numbers, not performance, and if Intel has a 900 MHz processor that's much slower than the AMD 900 MHz processor, it won't make any difference to buyers. They'll regard them as equal because they're both 900 MHz. That's why the Pentium 4 is such a deadly threat to AMD. It may well be that a 1.4 or 1.5 GHz Pentium 4 is in fact slower than a 1.2 GHz Athlon, but buyers won't see it that way. They'll see only the slower number for the AMD part and assume the Intel is better because it has a higher number. And the Athlon is about out of room to grow in terms of MHz, while the P4 is just getting started. I'd bet that AMD executives are wondering now if they can re-introduce the old PR rating scale.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson 

Note that my reservations on the 810 were with the original boards delivered to me which seemed to have been cost-reduced to less than optimum reliability; later ones worked fine and are the basis of the machine named "Seattle" here as well as others. The video and sound are not as good as on the 815, but they ain't bad.

And as Bob notes, Intel has lots of room for maneuver. And I think this may be enough on this subject until I hear something new. Perhaps at WINHEC

Subject continued below.



One interesting aspect of recent technology related to paternity testing. In many places (30 some states was the most recent number I saw) a young women giving birth at a hospital is once more legally required to provide "father's" name. She may not decline to do so under law. The named "young man" is then sent an "invitation" to appear for paternity testing within 30 days. Again, compliance is non-optional. Should the named person prove not to be the father, the young woman is informed that she has apparently made a mistake that must be corrected. At least a couple of jurisdictions are holding repeated "mistakes" (in non-extenuating circumstances) a criminal offense.

Why? It seems with the new welfare economy of the '90's there's increased interest in the System not continuing to pick up the full tab. The change from traditional insurance to HMOs is another factor (who will pay long term?). Of course, there are also the growing databases of DNA samples useful in locating all kinds of "criminals" and no statute of limitations to appeal to . . . . With April 15 fast approaching I must admit to a certain sympathy. Just not sure I'm going to like the world we'll be living in . . .

 Brian Belleville

I am not all that sure I will like it either. On the other hand, making babies for the State to raise is a serious matter. Perhaps it would be better for the State to bug out and leave it all to charities; or perhaps the State could raise unwanted children in creches and turn them into Janissaries; or --

What a brave new world.

And now for something completely different:

Dr. Pournelle,

Shooting yourself in the foot with various programming languages. Examples:

1. C++ You accidentally create a dozen instances of yourself and shoot them all in the foot. Providing emergency medical assistance is impossible since you can't tell which are bitwise copies and which are just pointing at others and saying, "That's me, over there." 2. Assembler A) You try to shoot yourself in the foot, onoly to discover you must first invent the gun, the bullet, the trigger, and your foot. B) You crash the OS and overwrite the root disk. The system administrator arrives and shoots you in the foot. After a moment of contemplation, the administrator shoots himself in the foot and then hops around the room rabidly shooting at everyone in sight.

Don McArthur

These stories have been around a while and I love them all. This seems to be a link to the most complete collection. Thanks!

  Dear Jerry,
 I hope you didn't put much effort into the font change, since on my system, the difference is invisible between the two fonts (until you get to 24pts with font explorer). To be honest I had to go check make sure I had Giorgia installed, I've never noticed it before. 
Besides your natural desire to tinker (which is why I read you, of course), I for one can say I'd rather some little extra anecdote from your vast experience than this kind of subtle graphics detailing. Keep up the good work, I'll keep coming back anyway for the content. Best wishes, James SIddall jr

Dear Jerry, 
After taking a closer look at the HTML code in your current VIEW and MAIL pages, I didn't even see a trace of any default font definition. 

There aren't any CSS Cascading Style Sheets or links that I can find, and neither Times New Roman nor Georgia are cited as font specifications, so I think you may have set the default for YOUR browser, not the HTML document. There are several pieces which are defined using Arial or Traubuchet, which appear correctly in the selected font. Your change either was only on your local machine, or FrontPage didn't make it stick to the pages you published. 
Best wishes,
 James Siddall jr

In fact I don't know how to set it so that Georgia becomes the default on other people's systems, I guess. But I set the Front Page editor to have Georgia as the default font. I then had to do that for my Internet Explorer as well. I think it looks a little better, but there's not a lot of difference I suspect. As to time, it took about 30 seconds.


Hi Jerry,

Perhaps you or one of your other readers could recommend to me a source of high quality analog vga cables?

I have an electronic switch box that connects the keyboard, monitor and mouse to my 4 computers sitting under my desk. Unfortunately, the vga cables that I have are of low quality and significantly degrades the quality of the video output above 800x600.

I would like to replace these as I prefer to use 1600x1200 resolution.

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance.

- Paul

Fry's sells Belkin cable sets and they work fine for me.  Cybex makes systems including cables that are legendarily good.


Interesting article. When we are dumping our Pentium III (retired to be test machines) and upgrade them machines to machines with Athlon. You are promoting Pentium machines.

Frankly speaking, we think even Pentium IV can not compare with Athlon in the near future. 

Chang-Hsin Chang

P.S. One of my program takes 47 minutes to be compiled on Penium III 400, but it only takes 17 minutes compiled on Athlon 700 Mhz machine.

I think you make my point for me. 400/700 x 47 = 27, which presumably you would get by going from a 400 Intel to a 700 Intel. You say you get 17 in a highly CPU intensive task. That sounds like a LOT better, and 10 minutes is 10 minutes, but not many people are going to have 47 minute compilations to begin with.

400/1000 x 47 = 18, about what you get. I can believe that for that task, a 700 Athlon is about equivalent to a 1000 Intel although that is better than I expected, and is about the best I have ever heard.

Good luck with your changeover. You will probably be happy with it, but do pay attention to power supply quality and cooling. But you knew that.

As I have said, I can only relate my own experiences.

Jim Allchin wasn't just commenting on the GPL out of a theoretical or legal concern; he was commenting based on specific brushes Microsoft has had with open-source software.

Microsoft took some heat when Windows 2000 came out for its broken implementation of the Kerberos authentication spec. They added Windows-specific extensions to Kerberos that conflicted with some planned ones the core Kerberos maintainers were working on, damaging interoperability and--in a very real way--hijacking the specification. Impolite, but not uncommon in the open-source world.

Where this gets interesting is how they used licensing to their advantage. Microsoft didn't provide documentation for their changes to Kerberos. Unix administrators were left to scratch their heads and wonder why their systems couldn't talk to Win2K systems supposedly using Kerberos. Microsoft was put under pressure by security organizations to publish documentation for what they did so that WIn2K's security could be properly assessed.

Microsoft complied by providing skeletal documentation for what they'd done, but did so in an interesting way. They distributed it as an unlocked, un-watermarked Word document--and distributed it under a clickwrap NDA. They made the docs unusually easy to obtain and distribute, with contractual penalties if anyone used the spec to make an interoperable system. By handing out an explanation of the algorithm and data fields they used and claiming them as protected intellectual property, they poisoned the well; any interoperable system would be difficult to prove "clean", since it wasn't code but rather the method that Microsoft was handing out to all comers.

After an even bigger uproar--from security bodies and governments--Microsoft retreated and relaxed the terms and conditions on use of the spec. But they were in the middle of an antitrust trial that was going badly for them, so a characterization of what happened as a "misunderstanding" comes across as disingenuous.

The point is--and make no mistake, this is where Allchin is coming from--that this episode was only possible because Kerberos code is released under a BSD-style license. MIT's code is released freely as open source, but there is no GPL-style provision requiring that modified versions or derivative works be open source. In other words, anyone can grab the code, modify it, and distribute it as a closed, commercial product if they wish.

Normally, this is largely harmless. The splintering of BSD Unix, only now being rectified mostly because the commercial BSDs are fading and the open-source ones are gaining and their developers are working together on merging things back together, came out of this. But for the most part, the BSD license doesn't lead to interoperability problems because most companies don't want interoperability problems themselves.

Unless you're Microsoft. With their market share and degree of customer lock-in, they can distribute intentionally "broken" versions of tools and still hold on to their customer base because the cost of switching out is so high. And doing so only further raises that cost, so it's to their advantage to do this.

If Kerberos were GPL'ed software, this wouldn't have happened. Microsoft would have had to release their changes, without use-restrictions, and would have had to release the source code for use by all comers. Which may still have meant two conflicting "flavors" of Kerberos, but it wouldn't have prevented anyone else from taking Microsoft's changes and using them. If Microsoft wanted to shy away from GPL code, well, their other option was reverse-engineering, just like he rest of the world does when faed with Microsoft's own technologies. But the DMCA, which Microsoft fought for, may put an end to that.

All of this means that Microsoft has a deep and urgent interest in seeing that what open source software is out there s licensed in such a way that it can be grabbed and pulled behind the corporate curtain son that it can be turned into something proprietary and exclusive. Imagine if, say, Berkeley, California made hundreds of bicycles free for use by residents on a wide-open honor system and a local company took the bicycles and brought them to its office campus, where only its employees could get to them. Under the terms the city laid out, no theft has taken place, but the company in question isn't playing well with others.

You start to see the wisdom in the GPL, especially when it's applied to low-level "plumbing" software. See also flareups of controversy regarding Microsoft's DNS server (based on BIND), its FTP client, and other Unix-world technologies they've rolled into Windows NT and Windows 2000 over the past few years. It's the same story.

And one more thing: your remark about Ada wasn't all that well informed, or maybe I'm not getting your point. When the GPL covers a program, it only covers the code for the program itself and things that incorporate the program's own code, not things created through use of the program. There are quite a few compilers out there under the GPL, not the least of them the ubiquitous GCC compiler and its accompanying Fortran, Pascal, C++ and Ada(!) compilers. Programs built with it aren't in any way bound under the GPL unless they contain part of the compiler itself.

Some tehnologies--some fairly hefty ones--are already developed by the US government under the GPL. Take the Beowulf clustering technology for Linux. It was developed by NASA, and since it's made up largely of kernel modifications, it had to be released under the GPL. A few thousand supercomputers later, the world hasn't come to an end and NASA hasn't moved to ban Linux.

You probably wouldn't want the US military to develop missile guidance software under the GPL. But why would it? And why wouldn't they use GPL'ed tools to do it if they wanted to? Not everything should be written under the GPL. But plenty of it can, with benign results to all but a few boards of directors.

-- Steve Koppelman

Thank you. Well said, and well reasoned. Roland Dobbins more or less agrees. I have my own view as to why Allchin said what he did, and perhaps I didn't say all of it in the article, but the reality is that I think no harm was done and perhaps some good was: a trial balloon was launched, it was shot down, and perhaps we are all better off allowing it to pass forgotten. Microsoft certainly got The Word following Allchin's remarks and that is the important thing. 

As to the ADA example you certainly missed the point I intended to make, and thus clearly the example was not well chosen. You are welcome to add your own.

There is a tension between the commercial and the free parts of this community, and there ought to be. If we are going to take advantage of the new hardware capabilities we need companies that can afford to invest in plumbing. We also need the insightful people who do things because they want to do them. Sometimes those coincide, often they don't.

My own view is that we won't make real progress until we have languages that can be learned incidentally as part of an education, so that physicists and chemists and social scientists and operations researchers can write programs as they write models. When I was at Aerospace Corp. I could model nuclear exchanges, and while I knew some FORTRAN I didn't know enough to do it very well; fortunately the company had programmers who could work with me to get them running, and I could fight my nuclear wars (bloodlessly) several times a week with different components of the US Strategic Offensive Forces, and look into the relative merits of spending resources to increase reliability vs. survivability vs. simply adding to the force. It's that kind of casual use of computers I have in mind when I say "real progress" and "new languages."

And that may well come from GPL. In any event thank you for the informative letter. For more on this see below.

Hi Gerry,

Sorry to be contentious but it wasn't AMD or its Athlon that changed all that. Intel put an end to CPU interchangeability when it broke away from the Socket 7 design on which it held no patent to a new (Slot-1) which it could patent. Intel did this in order to kill AMD but was spectacularly unsuccessful. The move to Slot 1 ended all chance of Intel/AMD compatibility for the foreseeable future. And now the introduction of the P4 ends backward compatibility with the P3....way to go Intel

Thanks for putting out your column, I always enjoy it.

Please call me if you need more info. 

Regards, AH

  Alan Hart (Technical Sales) 

I expect you are right; what I meant and should have said was "the advent of" changed all that. I wasn't really trying to assign praise or blame.

As to the backward compatibility of P4 and P III, we will see what success that experiment has. As I have said, unless you know you do there is no reason to go to P 4 at all. (That is if you need to you know it and know why; if you have no idea about why you ought to you have no reason to.)

As I've said many times, for what most of us do, you can't tell the difference between a high speed Celeron and a 1.5 GHz Athlon or a P4; they all work fast enough to get most of our work done. If you have 50 minute compilations then you have a need to look into the fastest hardware; but for most of us the best improvement you can make is to add memory, get rid of Windows ME for either W 2000 Pro or W 98 SE, and only then think about a faster processor.

Former BYTE editorial colleague Russell Kay says

Joseph Pfeiffer wrote: I read your last column on Celeron processours and heatsinks. I'm wondering about the question: Are there possibilities to have completely quiet computers? Without noisy fans, maybe with a watercooling mechanism? Have you ever heard of this?

There are quiet machines; see my article, "Selecting PC Components,",1199,NAV47_STO54941,00.html 

This was originally going to be all about quiet PCs, but I had to change the spin on it some, so the stuff about noise is mostly buried in the middle. Still, the Silent PC case is quite special.

Russell Kay Sr. Reviews Editor, Computerworld 500 Old Connecticut Path, Framingham, MA 01701 508-820-8175 fax: 508-875-8931 main: 508-879-0700  

Thanks. In the old days we'd have got together before I replied to that letter. On the other hand in the old days neither the letter nor the replies would be in print yet...

And of course I have many letters pointing out that the new Macs don't have fans. Neither did the 128K Mac which needed one (and you ended up putting an external fan on top of it, at least if you lived in Los Angeles). I probably need to get back to Macs, but David Em and my son Alex do that for the high end graphics world, so that's one area I don't have to cover; and for good or ill the variety of software and peripherals for Macs is just not large compared to the Wintel world -- which is itself too large for me to cover or even stay completely informed about.

 Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Sorry to hear you're getting flames over the AMD vs. Intel debaters. Some folks seem to have entirely too much time and energy on their hands...imagine what they could achieve if they channeled it into productive avenues!

About Fergie:

Doesn't Win2K pre-allocate the swap file? WinNT does. That would keep it contiguous, if it was created at installation time and not subsequently messed about with. Of course, even then it can grow, and the newly allocated space can be fragmented to heck and back.

I don't know if Diskeeper has changed, but as of a couple of years ago it only defragged files, not the filesystem as a whole. So, even when it can get each file nicely contiguous, there'd be empty blocks between files such that new files would instantly be scattered about the disk. SpinRite used to defragment both files and the filesystem, but I don't think it runs on NTFS.

Another idea would be to access the C: drive from another box, to see if you could access files normally. WinNT always had "administrative" shares for each fixed disk (e.g. C: was shared as "C$", a hidden share). If you haven't reformatted, you might want to give that a whirl, just to see if it's the GUI part that's hosed or the lower-level parts of the OS.

Just tossing my US$0.02 into the Intel motherboard debate, I haven't tried the 815 series, but I have a rackful of 810-based systems, which are configured as Linux servers for web, database, Java app server, and one WinNT/SQL Server. The Linux boxes have Celeron 466s and 128 MB RAM, the WinNT box has a PIII-800 and 256 MB of 133MHz RAM. All run fine, and I couldn't be happier.

It will take the next round of MSFT bloatware to get people to upgrade again, the stuff that's out now is plenty fast for the majority of work.

How's Sasha doing? Hope he's well.


-- It doesn't get any easier, you just go faster. -- Greg LeMond

I never pay much attention to email that has clearly been generated by people who didn't read what I said. A few did and responded rationally and I have posted some of that; some have good points. Apparently there are some boards out now that I had least heard were just coming out. But the last time AMD made any contact with me about boards and systems none of that was mentioned.

As I said in the column, I am not concerned about high end games; if you want the screaming latest you don't read me to begin with. Nor do I much care about dhrystones whatever those are; I do care about reliability and confidence and "good enough" in the speed, video, and sound departments, and I am willing to pay a bit extra to have those. 

I have mail telling me that Intel is a has been, doomed, sell all your stock (of course I don't own any) and then berating me for being childish and inaccurate. I have a folder for such mail...

Sasha is fine. We walked down to the district today. He thinks we should go up the hill but the vet says not until the end of the week.

And your final point is the one I was trying to make: it hardly matters what systems most of us use now. They are all fast enough, and what we want to to stop thinking about them. And for better or worse I had enough problems with VIA chipsets a couple of years ago that I hesitate to recommend them now. Perhaps that leopard has changed his spots. Some do. And I will be glad to look at the new stuff and get my scope out, and go on reporting what I find. Which is all I can do.

Dear Jerry:

As you say, "this is getting silly." Arguing over which is a better (and what does that mean? Faster? More reliable? Less costly?) processor, Intel or AMD, reminds me too much of the old Chevy versus Ford debates that raged endlessly in my youth. Those owners of yore, most of them, had very good reasons for their deeply held belief, but by their passionate allegiance to one brand or the other the simple fact that whichever car was in the garage got them to work for the most part safely and reliably, let them take the family for a Sunday drive in comfort and security, and expanded both their horizons and their freedom got lost.

Competition is a good thing. Beyond that, six of one and half a dozen of the other; may it be ever so (and in Redmond, too).

All the best,

Tim Loeb

Amen. Amen. Amen. And Good Enough remains Good Enough. Why people who have not read what I said take the trouble to send me hate mail denouncing things I didn't say is beyond me, but what the heck.









This week:



Tuesday,  March 20, 2001

The following is a warning about Regclean.

Dr. Pournelle, Just read your column over on Byte and have to caution you and any readers about Regclean on Windows 2000. The most current version, Regclean 4.1a, does run on W2K, (overstating the obvious here) but it appears to do too good of a job. At least if you're a software developer.

It appears that on a W2K box with Office 2000 installed Regclean removes necessary Office 2K and COM+ server entries from the registry, complicating development in Visual Studio 6.0. When starting Visual Basic 6.0 after running Regclean on a W2K/O2K box you will be prompted for the O2K installation CD. . . relentlessly. After providing the CD, Windows installer will buzz-and-whir for a moment and all will appear well. I have also seen cases where an executable that was developed in VB will prompt for the O2K installation CD just out of the blue. Very disconcerting. This one is very hard to reproduce, which makes it even worse.

A more serious side-effect complicates the life of developers using COM components built on NT4 and designed to run in MTS 2.0. After running Regclean the only way to get them into Component Services on a W2K box is to register them with RegSvr32 and then use the Add Registered Components wizard. Drag-and-drop and the Register New Component wizard will fail with the TypeLib not found error. Even worse, it has been my experience that the components will mysteriously fail in use after some random amount time with an "Unspecified Error &;H80004005". Bah! The O2K install CD doesn't fix this.

Neither of the above errors occur prior to running Regclean.

I currently have an open support incident with Microsoft on this issue. They tell me others have also reported this (mis)behaviour and they are working on determining the cause which should lead to a fix.

While I know that this is a very "vertical" problem that will probably not affect most of your readers, it still gives me pause when running Regclean on W2K; if for no other reason than the sheer number of registry entries found in the undo file after Regclean's first run. I wonder what else may be affected that I just haven't run into yet.


Innovate. . . Relentlessly!

Thank you. I run Windows 2000 and Office 2000, and I have VB 6; I'll have to install that and try again. Up to now regclean has given no problems and has fixed many, but clearly an overzealous cleaner is a dangerous thing. I suspect as you do that this is a matter of no concern to most users, but to software developers it could be. Thank you for the the information. For more see below.


"The Intel motherboard has sensors that watch for heat and voltage irregularities"

This is standard fare for all motherboards, AMD or Intel. The monitoring sensors are built into all Via chipsets for one thing, which makes it even cheaper to include on AMD platforms (or Via chipset based PIII platforms).

"When the AMD 760 chip set comes out, it may be at different story, but at present with Athlon you must use VIA chip set motherboards. "

The AMD 750 works with older Athlons. The AMD 760 (DDR) has been out since well before Christmas. The ALI Magik (DDR) is now available as well (a couple of weeks). The SIS 730 All-In-One is available and has been since late Jan.

"The heat and voltage irregularity sensors are not in the chips. They may be in some motherboards, but BIOS support apparently isn't as good as Intel's."

The AMD Athlon does not include an on-die thermistor. On this you are correct. The Intel PIII and Celeron do. However, all VIA chipsets DO include inputs for three temp sensors and voltage monitoring. The "BIOS support" comment confuses me. These features (other than the ability to check them) have absolutely nothing to do with the BIOS. Some systems may have a "shutdown temp" or "shutdown on fan fail" option in BIOS, but usually these only work up until Windows starts at which time BIOS is taken out of the loop (and you should be running a decent hardware program under Windows to handle this).

"And regarding Pentium III vs. Athlon, the better boards available for Intel as opposed to Athlon chips make the decision easy. "

The majority of the more feature rich and "high end" boards available today are actually for the Athlon platform (Asus A7V133, Abit KT7A-RAID, etc). Additionally, the i815 chipset, while a VERY good chipset, does not even equal the memory performance of Intel's older BX chipset and cannot even come near the performance level of the Via KT133A series.

"With the Duron you can't use the D815EEAl, and you'll have to buy both video and LAN cards."

Well, its fairly obvious you can't use the D815EEA1 (Intel only) but there are numerous similar or better boards out there for AMD that offer the same. There are boards available now based on the Via KM133, KL133, and the SIS730. The Via KM133's internal video is based on the S3 Savage series and is an order of magnitude faster than the rather pathetic 3D built into the i815. The SIS 730's video is similar in performance to the i815's. Both VIA &; SIS chipsets include solutions for video, audio, LAN, and modem.

"The resulting system will be faster than the Celeron, but it will cost more, so the decision isn't quite so clear. "

Even if you go with a standard AMD (non-integrated) motherboard solution, the price difference between a ~700-800Mhz Celeron and a Duron 700-800 will most likely make up any overall difference. Via KT133 based boards are available at as low as $73 that include Audio, modem, &; Lan. The only missing thing is video and you can add a low end 3D card (that is MUCH faster than the i815) for less than $50. If you go with an integrated SIS 730 solution, you can get the motherboard including video for as low as $71 and have nothing more to add than the Duron itself ($50-$60).

The Intel Celeron line of processors is so overpriced right now (and performs so poorly) that it is hard to justify it under any circumstances.

Certainly many can and do disagree with that last statement. Celerons are priced where they can sell, and Intel can drop that price at any time. It is one of the items that makes competing with Intel so difficult. As to "poor performance", for WHAT? And on what? Benchmarks or actual work?

Jerry, just a bit more detail:

While this may go back "many moons" I, for many years, subscribed to Byte (The magazine, if the print version is no longer in existence, my apologies for it's loss) along with other great journals no longer with us - Nibble, A+, etc.. ah, the days of the early Apple II :-)

My argument with your article isn't that I feel as though it is "wrong" but rather that it doesn't correctly represent the situation in the current environment. While you may enjoy "Wintach", Wintach has been around long enough that I have a copy with my Walnut Creek Windows 95 "invite" CDROM. (see:  < > )

What however, I do worry about within the context of your article. It has to do with the implication of availability; several wholly integrated boards have been shipping for AMD for quite some time, with very positive reviews. (which seemed to be the point about "you'd have to buy a lan adapter and video card) in fact, while the i815 does have onboard video, it's performance in routine tasks (Powerpoint, MPG handling) is also weak.

I have no "love" for either company; let's face it, if AMD was in intel's shoes, I'm sure they'd do the same thing, they are in it for the profit, that's it. Kingswood (where I'm writing from) is a very large scale retirement community (   <> ) which is on the cutting edge of computer activity for our field - we will soon by offering ethernet into residents apartments for internet connectivity, and we deploy a very creative mixed mode environment combining thin clients (NCD Thinstar 300s) and PCs.

Your article, by the way, was brought to my attention by someone who, considering a PC is over 80 years old; to give you an idea where the computer revolution is going.

In our server environment, we deploy solely Intel; there really is no suitable alternative. But Intel has also been somewhat lacking in this environment. Not only do they not have a truly stable SMP P3 solution - which requires those like myself to seek out Serverworks based solutions or depend on on site contracts from companies; but they have no P4 SMP solution in the works. As we have been told by those "in the know" (our Dell &; IBM representatives) there is no P4 SMP solution coming, as the chip itself specifically doesn't support SMP. More then that, at common business applications, the P4 solution has been abysmal; while it may handle video &; quake well, it's handling of SQL Clients (Pervasive) and statistical applications is seriously lacking.

So, to sum up: I'm simply in disagreement on the implication that an integrated chipset doesn't exist for the AMD.. in fact, they have been available for months. And I also disagree with "difference between P3 v. Athlon" I've found no practical benchmark that shows this to be the case (with the only exception being quake). But what I have discovered is that some of the most taxing applications available - the ones that truly push the limits of PCs, that are fundamentally required for businesses - like AOD (  <> ) Abra (  <> ), Blackbaud (  <> ) will not just say "AMD works" but at this point, they will recommend Athlon solutions.. because the difference in SQL transaction handling is enough to make your head spin.

I think it all boils down to this paragraph:

>At the Duron level, it's a bit more complicated, but once again, for a business system you can get a fast Celeron and an Intel D815EEAL motherboard cheap. This can be upgraded to Pentium III 1-GHz performance by changing the CPU (provided that you bought good PC-133 memory, but you did, didn't you? Why would you buy anything less at present prices? Get Kingston or Crucial memory no matter what system you're building). With the Duron you can't use the D815EEAl, and you'll have to buy both video and LAN cards. The resulting system will be faster than the Celeron, but it will cost more, so the decision isn't quite so clear. <

Which let me counter:

D815EEAL Cost: $135 (local) Celeron 700 w/fan: $85 (local) 128MB PC133 CAS2 SDRAM: $50 (local)

KM133 Pro MB $88 (local) Duron 700Mhz w/fan: $47 (local) 128MB PC133 CAS2 SDRAM: $50.

So, it's $80 cheaper (almost 50% more) and I can still upgrade up to 1.3Ghz. More importantly, we have a 32MB onboard video - which significantly outperforms the I815's limited video abilities, and it "doesn't cost more" in fact, it costs significantly less.

BTW, I've very impressed with your interest to correspond. BTW, I agree in whole on your 2000 Pro vs. NT 4 Workstation; if it weren't for a handful of applications that still do not work under Windows 2000 Pro, I would migrate every last NT4 workstation machine tomorrow; the scripting and security methods behind Windows 2000, especially in an active directory domain, are far superior to anything previously offered by MS.



One sure sign of a person getting old is unwillingness to experiment, to try new things. If you did, you would realize that Athlon has become the leading edge, state of the art processor since the release of Thunderbird core.

Pentium 3 is your father's Oldsmobile, which just can't keep up (as evidenced by the recall of the 1.1 GHz parts that were not stable at that speed). Thunderbird just keeps going and going with their 1.1 GHz, 1.13 GHz, 1.2 GHz, and this week, we should see 1.3 and 1.33 GHz.

Your impression of Via is right on the money, that is of Via in 1999. But today, I think you are not really up to date. Via has made a lot of progress over last 1 to 1 1/2 years with their chipsets. If you really want to avoid Via, you can buy Athlon processors with chipsets from AMD, Via, Ali, SiS, with NVidia and probably Micron entering market later this year.

The bottom line on AMD vs. Intel is that the fastest AMD CPU is faster than the fastest Intel CPU, at significantly lower price. At every performance level, you will get a less expensive AMD system, At every price level, you will get a faster AMD system.

Based on this, it is hard to see any computer enthusiast in his right mind buying or recommending an Intel based system. Unless you really insist on paying a few hundred dollars for the "Intel Inside" sticker.

Joe Halada New York

Gosh. Am I THAT old? And not in my right mind, either. As Bob Thompson puts it, gosh, it's been almost two weeks since I tried something new. Incidentally, I would rather have my father's Oldsmobile than my neighbor's (older with Lucas Electric) Jaguar. Or the Jaguar I had when I met my wife. But that's now. I might not have been so successful in my courtship if I'd had an Olds rather than a Jaguar back in the late 50's. So it all depends on what you really want, and I guess I AM that old. Well, this correspondence ought to shake up my placque...

And now for one of the reasons I tend to be conservative. This from a senior tech support expert at a major ISP:

For the few years, a lot of computers have come with HSP "modems." I put that in quotes because it's really just a lobotomized soundcard, with 4 Meg drivers that hog your CPU. Whenever you use your connection, your entire system goes into molassas mode. The reason I'm mentioning this here is that the drivers are hand-optimized for the Intel chip. If you're using AMD, or any other possible non-Intel chip, the situation is even worse.

Why do so many computers come with HSP's? They're cheap, that's why. I've seen them for sale for $9.95 at times. Considering markup, that means they cost a little over three dollars, wholesale. Not only that, they can make a big deal about the "new technology" they're using.

I remember having to help numerous callers with special-built computers with AMD CPUs and built-in HSPs. They were almost impossible to get working on the Internet, causing no end of trouble.

Joe Zeff, Earthlink Technical Support


Thanks to all of you. See today's VIEW for my thoughts on this. But then see also Bob Thompson's comments below.

And now for something else:


I'm rehashing a bit here, and I feel bad about it, because I try not to.

One of your readers made comments about Microsoft's Kerebros implementation. He was pretty much on target (there's a minor point or two I disagree with, but they don't effect the overall statement). Microsoft did not handle that at all well.

They've made other mistakes, too. Goodness knows, there have been lots of opportunities, when your products affect the lives of as many people as Microsoft's do.

The reader went on to state that Microsoft wanted to get software licensed for control reasons. That is true also, but probably not because they have chosen to be an evil corporation. Microsoft is a commercial company, in business to make money, make no mistake about it. Their business model is not the 'open source' model (which is a very difficult thing to define anyway, with as many individuals and companies out there that are theoretically supporting one of the many versions of open source).

My view of the whole process is that in the small/midrange market is that you tend to have two extremes, Apple and Sun on one side, who is made of up of total control freaks. They only want you to buy their software AND hardware, and the 'open source' folks on the other end, which says you can pick and chose from many parts, but it comes with no support, and can quickly turn into a many headed monster. Many of the IT folks using the 'open source' model end up being control freaks of the worst kind, people with a mission, but no clearly defined path to get there.

Microsoft is in the middle, and in the middle in several places. From Win98/ME, which tries to accommodate as much hardware and third party software as possible, but tends less stable, to Win2K Professional which locks down some requirements, but is much more stable, to the various Server products, which lock down hardware and software even more, and are extremely stable.

The Microsoft and 'open source' products are cheap, sometimes free, support is available from a myriad of sources, some free, some not. On the other end of the spectrum, few things are free or cheap (well, some versions of Quicktime are free).

This country is based on free enterprise, and there is room for all the models. People can fit into the equation wherever they desire or need to. As with the Intel or AMD discussions, that doesn't make anyone bad or stupid, just their preference.

Of course, I realize I just said the same thing that has been said here many times. And I probably just wasted 10 minutes in that reiteration. Sigh.


Well not everything is a matter of opinion. I really was out of date on the availability of newer AMD boards. My fault, and there's no point in making excuses. I was pressured into writing about something before I had time to gather all the information, and I pretty well knew it. Lesson learned.

But on the GPL vs. commercial software, once again, it's not so much opinion as picking and choosing.

And if you want something free and wonderful, get IRFAN! ( or just to go google, search irfanview, and feel lucky.


With IrfanView you can extract icon images from .exe, .dll and .icl files. You can take any image you like (say, a picture of your kids) and resize it (e.g.--to 32x32 for standard icons). Then you can save the image as a .ico file.

More coolness: as I was just testing out IrfanView I was using the browse arrow function to step through the images in the Windows directory. When IrfanView came to .wav files, it played them.

The more I use this software the more impressed I am with it. When Irfan figures out a way for us to pay him I am going to send him some money.

BTW--I use 72x72 icons on my 1024x768 desktop. Family pics come out as great icons at 72x72. I'd probably go larger if Windows would let me.

Ed Hume

From: cabello [] Sent: Monday, March 19, 2001 9:42 PM To: Subject: amd

I think that your research was poorly done when it comes to your information.their are about 300 boards supporting athlon that is a good choice for many who don't have to pay too much money for a pentium III or pentium 4. Competition has indeed make this possible since people can choose which cpu they have to choose from and dont' have to play into intel greedy little hands. As for windows 2000 their is another choice like linux which is more stable than windows after all who wants too pay too much for a progam that has close to 6000 bugs in it.

Indeed. Thank you.

And Bob Thompson says:

> There are boards available now based on the Via KM133, KL133, and the SIS730

There are? I haven't been able to find them. Oh, many boards have been announced, and some are even sampling to hardware reviewers. I suppose I could get samples of many of them if I asked. But I sure don't find any of them shipping in quantity from my usual channel sources. Some places are advertising these new boards, but all of them are showing "not yet in stock", "limited availability", "backordered" and similar disclaimers on them. Perhaps I'm just shopping at the wrong places.

Someone also said that the AMD 760 boards had been available since Christmas, or something like that. As far as I'm aware, AMD sampled the 760 chipset some time ago but just last week started to ship the 760 in production quantities, which means boards based on it won't be widely available until this summer.

I think most of the nastygrams you've gotten about ignoring "available" chipsets and motherboards for the AMD processors are in fact based on reviews the person has read rather than on any direct experience with the boards in question. The only "new" AMD chipset I know that you've missed is the KT133A, which is basically just an enhanced version of the old KT133. And even KT133A-based boards have been slow coming into the channel, to give vendors a chance to clear the older KT133 boards.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

There is also:

Subject: Are you smokeing Crack! 

When and were did you get you're info?WOW! You need to get out more.Read a white page,web page or something dated 2001,not Q3 2000!(heck even Q4) It's amazeing that anyone would post such dated and bias material. Thought I would help you out with a few link's to get you started...., , or any other [H]aedware site. I buy and use these products on a regular basis,and I can tell you that my Intel buget is very small indeed (almost zip)!

James LaPerriere [ ]

Which probably needs no reply.



Don't fault yourself too much for being behind the curve on the availability of AMD 760 motherboards... At least 1 board has been available since January (well before Christmas indeed, as one of your correspondents noted; 11 months before!), but it is not a full implementation of the 760 chipset, and it still doesn't have the distribution of other boards. Integrated chipset boards became available about the same time, but honestly, anyone who is uneasy about using a VIA chipset board would run screaming from the thought of using an SiS chipset board. And again, the distribution, and level of integration, are not as complete as some other solutions.

As for trying new things, well, I'm still in my middle 30's and I'm hesitant to deploy a VIA chipset board in certain environments. And some of my younger friends are even more reluctant. I think that the higher quality boards are just as good as the Intel boards, but there are a lot of cheap boards out there bringing down the curve. I just put together a new server for my home, built around a Microstar board and a Duron CPU, and I'm quite happy with it... but I'm also quite happy with the Celeron and Intel board system I built my wife 6 months ago (combo on sale at Fry's; Intel fully integrated board and Celeron 700 for $180. What's not to like?)

Most of the people yelling at you about the wonder of VIA/AMD, I would venture to say, are building home systems for their own use. And in that role, I agree (to an extent) that the Intel package may not be as cost effective. BUT, if I were building systems for a business to use, or for servers in a serious role, I would go Intel, every time. What is cost effective for the two environments is different. What some people have a hard time grasping, it seems (especially surprising considering the youthful flexibility of their minds), is that different problems sometimes call for different solutions.

For keeping on top of the latest developments, I like to stop in at  and  once a day or so. Most new things pass through one or the other of those pretty quickly. Ars has more general technology news. Anand has more reviews. And their reviews tend to be reasonably fair, without any of the screaming anti-Intel bias that permeates Tom's Hardware.


Robert Brown

Thank you. Perhaps I have not lost my mind after all. I confess  to not much caring for screaming bias of any kind.


Running Visual Suite 6.0 Enterprise Edition on Windows 2000 (with FAT32 for convenience dual booted with W98SE - can't even install the full Visual Suite on W98 it hits limits on registry size)on a fairly well loaded system, at home mostly for my own amusement so I am not pushing anything very hard, I use Norton System Works from Symantec to clean the registry and speed the disk. Note that I chose to smack down the default Norton installation hard on background and scheduled processes.

The Norton Windows Doctor can be used to display every issue it finds in the hives and offer choices rather than trundle in the background. The good news is it allows more control the bad news is it forces more choices. Similarly I like the analysis and graphical and tabular information from Speed Disk. If I were pushing things harder I might well make different choices. It's possible the Norton just doesn't find enough problems to get into trouble but my system is stable for my needs. Of course my dialup is too slow to download enough to fill my drives before maintenance.

Seems to me that Windows 2000 shows that it is NT by being harder to break and breaking harder when it does.



I have Systems Works and I used to use it religiously; I should install and test it again. Thank you for the reminder.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I would be happy if you could forward that question to your readers:

Ten years ago, it was no problem to buy devices called "pocket computers". SHARP and CASIO had dozens of different models available.

Nowadays, this kind of device seems to have vanished completely.

A friend of mine needs to do specific calculations. Therefore I managed to buy him a SHARP PC-1262 device some years ago.

It had a 2 lines 48 characters display, about 40k RAM and - the main thing - it was programmable in BASIC.

Now his device is dead, and I tried to locate a store where I could buy another or similar one.

I remember SHARP had also made a follow-up, the PC-1270, and I remember the bigger "luxury" models, PC-1500 and PC-1600, with a typewriter-like keyboard layout.

No luck - the only thing I found was several "computer museum" sites with pictures of these devices.

Nobody even seems to sell USED devices.

What my friend needs is a small device that can be programmed in BASIC within an affordable price range. A device like one of those SHARP pocket computers for about $125 would be ok - buying a laptop would be a total overkill.

And - very important - he really needs to have it in his pocket.

A Windows CE device would also be to much overkill - and it would also exceed the price range.

A device like a PALM would fulfill the SIZE limitation, but it is also to expensive, and on the other hand there's no way to develop simple BASIC applications. Of course there are BASIC interpreters available, but this is more for somebody who wants to play around with the interpreter, no way to create simple stand-alone applications.

I found "Satellite Forms" - a development workbench that runs under Windows and creates PALM applications. Backdraw: Far too expensive to buy - several hundred dollars ...

No matter where I look - nothing that could compare to an old, basic programmable pocket computer!

If anybody has a clue where I could buy used, but working SHARP pocket computers - if not the PC-1262, then including a manual - or something similar -- PLEASE, let me know!!! Send email to . Thanks in advance !!!

Peter Heberer []


(If you would publish this, I will owe you something!) Kind regards, Peter

And then there is:

Dr. Pournelle:

Most of the chip technology currently being argued over on your site is way over my head, but my two cents worth:

I don't care which chip is fastest, neatest, or whatever. My biggest worry is that the damn machine will work, and not kack up on me in the middle of a deadline. There may be a lot of people out there who have a great time fiddling under the hoods of their computers, like they used to do with high-maintenance sports cars. But when I need to get a kid to the doctor, I would rather be driving an Oldsmobile. It would start. Every time.

Unlike many users, I do high-res renderings, so I do need above-normal speed and power. I am attempting to build a system from scratch using dual Pentium III at 933 MHz (note: not even 1.0 GHz) on an Intel OR840 board (your hardware recommendations are coming in very handy.) Unfortunately, none of the standard computer builders had exactly the combination of stuff I needed.

Maybe there are faster chips. Maybe I could "overclock" something. As Niven would say, I'd as soon step into a bandersnatch's mouth. If this new computer works at all, I will be one happy camper. What I lack in genius, I hope to make up with persistence, a psychotic attention to detail, and the knowhow of many on the Web who know more than I do.

Reliability is everything. I don't need blue screens. I don't need "bugs." I need compatibility. I learned a hard and expensive lesson a few years back when I figured an Alpha chip computer would be better, stronger and faster. In this age of sixty-page "read me" files, I am staying firmly in the center of the highway.

My laptop runs Win98, not WinME. I have been using NT 4.0, and will eventually be using Win2000. I'm still running AutoCAD 13, for God's sake. Why? Because it works with the old rendering package I have become skilled in. I will learn 3D Studio, but not quite yet.

I think there are a lot more conservative--okay, "nervous"--users out here like me than there are "hot rodders." Don't apologize for your opinions. And don't apologize for being behind the curve once in a while. That you can keep up with this tidal wave of technology as well as you do is amazing. I'm still trying to get around the idea of writable CD-ROMs.

Tom Brosz

Build your own. Get an Intel D815EEAL motherboard and an Intel 933 Pentium III chip. Maxtor 30 or 60 gigabyte ATA-100 hard drive (your Intel motherboard will come with the right cables for ULTRA IDE). Get 256 megabytes of Kinston or Crucial P-133 memory. Get an 8x DVD drive for about 75 bucks, a floppy for about 20, and a good Plextor CD-RW drive; since the new 16x ones came out you should find 10x and 12x on sale. Alternatively and depending on file sizes you need to work with, get a fifty buck internal IDE Zip drive. (Or get both CR-RW and Zip.) Get a good PC Power and Cooling case. Buy an extra muffin fan and put it into the case to exhaust so that air will come in around everything including the cracks between the drives. The whole mess  shouldn't cost too much, call it $300 for the chip and motherboard, $120 for the hard drive, $20 for the floppy, $50 for the Zip (reconditioned is fine here), $70 for the DVD drive, and no more than $100 for the case with extra muffin fan. Memory will run up to $150 depending on how much you put in, and it's about $200 for a PlexWriter. About a grand all told.

You now have a good system. Go looking for the better sound drivers on the Net unless your D815 comes with the latest. Put it together in an evening. There are no particular tricks to it, and if you do it yourself you will know more about what you have. Make the Maxtor hard drive the Master on IDE 0 and the DVD drive the slave on that string; make the CD-RW the master on IDE 1 and the Zip the slave on that string. Instructions for how to do that are packaged in with the drives and are simplicity itself. 

Use the onboard video to get the system running. Now go find a better video board if you don't care for the built in, but meanwhile you will have a good system to put Windows 2000 Professional on.

You might be able to get a faster system with lower costs  with Athlon based technology, but it won't be that much faster or that much cheaper. If you do get Athlon be sure you pay a lot of attention to power and cooling. Me I still prefer Intel for workhorse systems. That may be sheer prejudice, but it's still my preference and recommendation and the quality of the letters denouncing me for my views hasn't been persuasive.

And I think I had better revise and revive my recommendations and what we use pages. I note that my prices are still too high as of this morning's Fry's ads.





This week:



Wednesday, March 21, 2000

Subject: Chips

I listen to Jeff Levy On Comuters, KFI radio, Sundays at 9:00 AM. One thing Jeff says whenever the question of what processor to get arises is that on his "day job", he consults for physicians who are using various medical office management software.

He's had numerous cases where the software misbehaves on a non-Intel processor, and works fine when it's moved to an Intel machine. His conclusion: Intel has become the standard which people address when they're building software. Other chips may use slightly non-standard methods of crunching data, which creates opportunities for software written for the standard to fail.

If you're technically oriented, and/or have the time to experiment with your system, feel free to use whatever floats your boat. But if a computer failure means you miss work, and have to pay someone to come in and get it working again, you want to stick with the standard. It may not be the most robust setup, but everyone will know how to deal with it.

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

We also have:

When I made my last upgrade stability was an important concern, but I still ended up going with AMD. I knew there were some issues with VIA chipsets, so I settled on a board highly rated for stability and one that had been around for almost a year. I also made sure to download all the latest drivers and insured the system was setup with adequate cooling.

So now I'm very happy with the result... an AMD Thunderbird Athlon running at 1Ghz, 256MB of Zeus ram, an ECS K7VZA mobo. For about $450 I was able to get all of this including a nice ATX case with 300W Athlon PS, a GeForce2 MX videocard, and all applicable shipping charges.

Speaking of places to buy motherboards. I got mine from an outfit called ... good prices via pricewatch and I have no complaints so far. They seem to have a pretty good selection of Athlon mobos and I have heard good things about them.

--David replies to:

And that should be enough on that...


There's a devastating column in today's Wall Street Journal on the sad state of Calif. It sums up far better than I can why we left... and why there's no income large enough for us to return to live. 

The concept of "cause &; effect" has not been taught, learned, or even spoken of in the Golden State for years. And they are determined -- they will NOT learn from their mistakes.

It reminds me of New York in the sixties. Infrastructure was crumbling, taxes were sky-rocketing, and entitlement programs were the only growth area. And, every week, there were ads in the business section of US News &; World Report from southern states, always featuring the governor's name, proclaiming that the state government wanted your business, and would help in site selection, employee training, a ten year moratorium on property taxes, very low business taxes etc. New York is no longer a manufacturing area, but the south is booming.

Already other states are running ads pointing out that they have electricity.... and lower taxes.


The concept of Federalism is to leave it to the states; some will do it right, some wrong, and the competition will produce better laws, and more importantly, the consent of the governed. Abortion is a prime example: leave it to the states, and some states will forbid it, some will regulate it, some will make it simple, and California will make it compulsory.

Nationalizing all problems means the states are shielded from the consequences of bad decisions. Inheritance taxes: leave it to the states. And power policies including Environmental Protection. Yes, some of that can be interstate matters, but federal law now requires us to use stack scrubbers on western coal -- and our stack gasses go INTO the scrubbers cleaner than they COME OUT of the eastern scrubbers burning eastern coal. If power generation were not subject to imbecile federal laws, California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico would be generating power all over the place with less pollution than Pennsylvania.

Same with nuclear power. Sure there are some Federal matters. No positive void reactors, for example. But Europe manages nicely on nuclear power. Japan has more than we do. What man has done California can aspire to. The reason nuclear power is expensive is legal not economic, and everyone who has spent an hour examining the subject knows it, leaving me to wonder if the "journalists" who routinely dismiss nuclear power as "too expensive" are truly that ignorant. (As to nuclear waste: build the equivalent of the SuperDome in the Mojave Desert. Put a chain link fence topped with razor wire around it. Let the garrison at Ford Irwin protect it from any idiot who actually tries to break in. No one will ever see it, and the SuperDome can hold all the nuclear waste California will generate for hundreds of years.)

But so long as the feds try to run the c0untry we will have loony politicians in big states who play the game and hide from the consequences. 

And I still like it here. I live in a village, it's safe, and both mountains and sea are pretty close. But I am under no illusions: I know I could sell out and move to a silicon glen and live off the interest from the sale of my house after buying a new one. I prefer here, but then I have been in this house for 35 years. It's sure not the quality of California politicians that keeps me here. 

Face California with the consequences of its politicians and we'll learn. Bush may be doing that. Hurrah.

Subject: MS Outlook getting extremely slow

I've been using MS Outlook 2000 on my Fujitsu sub-notebook (running Win2K Pro) for about 6 months now. Until recently, performance has not been an issue. But lately, Outlook seems to take forever to open a new window. I've checked all of the obvious things like disk space (have plenty) and fragmentation (none) and have reduced the number of emails to a manageable level by archiving to a separate .PST file. Nothing seems to have a noticeable effect on improving performance. When switching views within an open window, response is immediate, but if a new window (email, calendar, contact, etc.) has to be created, 5-10 seconds may transpire before the system responds.

I've been through Microsofts's Technet site and have searched repeatedly through other technical sites, but have yet to find any references to the problem I'm seeing. Because I use a notebook, I'm hesitant to open it up an play around with the "guts" like I would on one of my workstations. Therefore, I have not reseated the memory, etc.

I'm hoping that you or one of your highly informed readers may have experienced a similar problem.

Regards, Bob Ferry Herndon, VA 

Hmm. It sounds as if you have lost some memory. I would now try regclean, but do note the warning above. It has worked for me. If the pst file has been ensmalled then I don't know what in the world to do here. Are you sure the POWER SAVING nonsense is not in the way? When things that used to work don't any more, clearly you need to know what has changed.






This week:


read book now


Thursday, March 22, 2001

In your Byte Column on Feb 13, 2001, concering your HP LaserJet you wrote:

"It appears on my network as several different printers, depending on the driver set selected. For printing from DOS programs run in Windows 95 or 98 it is "Jedi_DOS."

I looked (more than casually), but could not find any "Jedi_DOS", only reference to the game Jedi .... Since I'd like to fix my current HP LaserJet 4000 TN printer setup, any hints to where I can find the appropriate software would be appreciated.

Jerry Kazdan

Sorry, I should have made it clear. We installed the LaserJet with the name "Jedi" derived from Jet-Send. If you didn't give it that name you won't find it with that name, of course. Jedi is installed first on the Windows 2000 Server in several avatars: very basic (Jedi_DOS), PostScript (Jedi_PCL) and so forth. When I connect to a system on my net I choose the appropriate one. Jedi_DOS will print from DOS programs. But those are the names I gave it; they aren't inherent to the system. Apologies for the confusion.

We have lately found an anomaly in Active Directory that I will address in the April column. I can connect to the JetSend from any of my machines, but finding them using the Windows 2000 Printer Setup Wizard is confusing and shows that Microsoft hasn't completely and adequately implemented Active Directory into the user interface. It works, but it's possible to get confused figuring out how.

The following link was sent to me without comment:;in_review_text_id=318071 

One man's hate speech is another's free speech, and one man's harassment is another's muckracking. Presumably the London crime rate is now low enough to make this an efficient allocation of peace officer resources. (Clearly those guilty of violent assaults regardless of motives should have been in custody all along. I can't think anyone questions that. This does not appear to be a roundup of perpetrators of assault and battery. Web sites, graffiti, and the like may be important; the question is an allocation of resources.) It may or may not have some connection to this: 


You make the point that we need a good programming language for non-gurus so that people can get work done. Several different people whose intelligence I respect have independently pointed out Python to me as one such language: 

Python's got a very readable introductory text (Learning Python, by Lutz and Ascher, from O'Reilly) and a more serious reference text (Programming Python, also from O'Reilly). A port to Windows exists (and a port to the Palm Pilot!), as well as a Python-Java interface ("Jython"). It's all free. There may be features that, as a Fortran veteran, you consider missing, but one virtue of Python is that it's being actively developed; it would probably be feasible to expand the language if incorporating Fortran functions is necessary.

--Erich Schwarz

Good. I will have to have a look when I come up for air...

Subject: Disk-fragging browser caches ...

... are better dumped to their own disk partition, IMHO.

A couple of years ago, I got annoyed at the amount of disk grinding caused by defragmenting lots of small MSIE cache files, randomly sown in amidst my regular documents and programs. I created a 128 MB disk partition, labeled it "Pigpen", told MSIE to put the files there, and forgot about it. Big relief. No need to defrag it, given the turnover it gets naturally.

Pardon me for the piece of uninvited advice, but I thought you might like the idea - even if fragmenting wasn't the source of your reported troubles with "Fergie" (I'll be checking in next week for the cliff-hanger denouement ;-).

Thanks for your books and columns - I've been a reader for a couple of decades, and your byline always draws me in. Best wishes, - Antonio B. Leal

-- IST/Inesc, Lisbon, Portugal

A very good notion. I'll get out Partition Magic and do something of that sort myself. Thanks!

On the subject of SCSI vs. IDE:

IDE works great for a typical business system: one hard drive, one CD-ROM drive (or DVD, or CD burner). As soon as you start to push beyond that, you have to be careful.

With SCSI, you need to be careful of cables and termination, and you need to make sure all devices have their own ID numbers; but that's simple, and if you do that, everything will just work. And I really love it when things just work.

I don't like paying too much for disks, so I like UltraDMA IDE disks and CD-ROM drives. But anything beyond that, and I go with SCSI. I've tried mixing CD-ROM drives with hard disks; it doesn't work well at all. I've tried mixing Zip drives with DVD-ROM drives; it isn't worth the trouble. I've tried adding extra IDE controllers, so the Zip can be on its own channel; it turns out that extra IDE controllers only really work for disk drives, and the Zip documentation specifically recommends only using a Zip drive with a motherboard IDE port.

I'm not surprised if someone had multiple IDE devices, one of which was a CD burner, and then found he got better results with a SCSI CD burner!

On the subject of Athlon vs. Intel:

I built my wife a Duron 800 computer. It is so fast it is wonderful, and the Duron dissipates far less heat than an Athlon. I chose parts carefully and it is very quiet: PC Power and Cooling Silencer 275 power supply Quantum lct15 30GB hard drive Radeon 32MB DDR graphics card 256MB of Crucial DRAM

By far the loudest thing is the cooling fan on the Duron. (Anyone know of a really quiet cooling fan for a Duron chip?) The lct15 drive is a bit slow, but with 256MB of RAM it's peppy enough once things are loaded. Running Linux, it screams, especially since I went to the 2.4.1 kernel.

On Linux:

There is a new company, Progeny, putting out a new version of Linux. They are giving it away. This is actually rational.

They plan to make money by selling and supporting NOW software. NOW, Network of Workstations, is a scheme for making it easier to support users, make the systems play well together on the network, and use idle workstations to run jobs. They wanted a standard Linux version as a platform to put all this on top of, so they took the one that they liked best, polished it and improved the installation, and called it Progeny Linux. I think they will also sell Progeny and support it, but meanwhile they are giving it away while they work on it.

Their Release Candidate 1 version just came out. I'd be very interested to see if you find it any easier to install than other Linux versions you have tried.  -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" 

I have a new Plextor 16x PlexWriter in Fergie, and it would be hard to get better results: is there anything that burns CDROM faster in SCSI? If so I don't have it, but this works reliably, even with Roxio software.

I have had this a couple of days but it didn't get up because of the AMD food fight:

Subject: If Steve Stirling Wants My Linux Box, He Will Have To Pry It From My Cold Dead Fingers


Steve Stirling writes:

"If some find the measures intolerable, they're at liberty to not use computers at all; after all, everyone got by without them until quite recently. They can go back to typewriters and Xerox machines..."

I don't understand this at all. Is he arguing that all the existing hard drives and CPUs -- currently free, mostly, of crippleware features -- should be made illegal to buy? Or own? Is he arguing that open-source operating systems such as Linux should be legally barred from circumventing CPU IDs (as Linux currently does by default with the Pentium III) or hard drive IDs (as I have little doubt it'll be patched to do, if somehow Stirling's preferred hard drives become compulsory)?

If not, then what *is* he hoping to achieve and how?

As far as I can tell, we have a technology that gives anybody with $1K the capacity to run what used to be a supercomputer (hundreds of megahertz, hundreds of megabytes of dynamic memory in RAM, industrial-strength line-command compilable OS). That's a stupendous capability for transmitting and duplicating information for nothing, and the only way I can see to prevent it being used is to do with computers what the Soviet Union did with Xerox machines -- make unlicensed use of Linux boxes a felony.

In other words: the population of North America now has the equivalent of printing presses that are world-wide in potential distribution and capable of making any number of copies for pennies; this necessarily makes previous distribution systems look like crippleware; so Stirling's response, as far as I can tell, is ... to legally mandate the use of crippleware.

Stirling will probably argue that the abuse of computing power is what he wants to crack down on. It seems to me that, on very similar grounds, this is the liberal argument for greatly increased gun control; his books may be pirated, but it's free ownership of guns by ordinary citizens that arguably should terrify him. I don't know whether he would accept the parallel, or whether he actually agrees that private gun ownership should be greatly curtailed; but it seems to me that the cries for restrictions on CPU and hard drive use -- registration and top-down control -- are not that different in spirit from the calls of liberals to end "America's gun culture."

I dislike irresponsible behavior, but I loathe generic criminalization -- not of individual wrongdoing, but simply of individual power. I detest such criminalization, whether it is through gun control, or through laws mandating that I *must* use a crippled hard drive, and an ID-numbered CPU, on pain of felony. It seems to me that the U.S. government should be spending its time and effort paying down the swollen national debt, preparing for the mass aging of the baby boom, renovating our armed forces, encouraging rehabilitation of our public schools, maintaining its support for long-term scientific and technological research, resuming its highly abortive efforts to make space travel cheaper ... and generally focusing on keeping the peace, upholding liberty, and providing for the common welfare. It will take some arguing to convince me that locking up Linux users in the Big House has anything to do with the proper roles of our government.

--Erich Schwarz

Well, it's called freedom. Or something. My guess is that it's moot. They can't jail us all...

Then there is

I thought you might get a kick out of this...

Bill Cavanaugh


"This may be the first known illegal prime. When written in base 16 (hexidecimal), this prime forms a gzip file of the original C-source code (sans tables) that decrypts the DVD Movie encryption scheme (DeCSS). See Gallery of CSS Descramblers (and its Steganography Wing) for more information. It is apparantly illegal to distribute this source code in the United States, so does that make this number (found by Phil Carmody) also illegal? [Caldwell]"

And we have this reply:

Dear Jerry:

With respect to Eric Schwartz's comment on my letter:

>but it seems to me that the cries for restrictions on CPU and hard drive use -- registration and top-down control -- are not that different in spirit from the calls of liberals to end "America's gun culture."

-- well, there's one big difference. Copyright and content protection have extremely wealthy and politically powerful interests backing them, rather than simply individuals and associations of same as is the case with gun control.

It's therefore my bet that while "gun control" is a complete non-starter in the US, politically speaking, copyright protection and effective measures to ensure same are very much alive. The US is the big obstacle to corrective measures and resistance in US government circles is crumbling under lobbyist influence.

Crapola walks, money talks.

If a technology allows people to do intolerable things -- blow up entire cities, for example, or prevent effective enforcement of property rights -- then that technology should and will be brought under control. Experience (Napster, for instance) has shown that without regulation, theft will occurr and on a massive, intolerable scale. Therefore property-owners demand that government protect their interests.

Politics trumps technology. Selah.

If this causes you anguish and frustrates solipsistic power fantasies, my sympathy is underwhelming. Sitting down in front of a keyboard does not make you a sovereign country of one immune from law, nor "as a god". We are social animals and that means obedience to law and regulation, backed up by the power of the rods and the axe.

And if you find the measures necessary to control theft intrusive, then blame the "information should be free" types. If nobody was using this technology to steal, then there wouldn't be an effective demand to control it. Toughski ****sky, as they say in the Polish Marines.

>It will take some arguing to convince me that locking up Linux users in the Big House has anything to do with the proper roles of our government.

-- I consider protection of property a proper role of government; the most important one, in fact, after national defense. The proper response is to bow the neck and obey.

Yours, S.M. Stirling


And on a grim note, from a correspondent:

This was predicted by Phil Rushton over a decade ago. Instead of paying heed, the Western medical/academic community called him names.

Rushton deserves a gold medal for good science. gw  

One in nine South Africans is HIV-positive, says report

By Alex Duval Smith in Johannesburg

Shooting the messenger is probably not optimum for making problems go away.

For the details:


Noticed this on SLASHDOT: Bad news from Microsoft: < >.

It seems that someone pretending to be a Microsoft employee got Verisign to issue two digital certificates to them.

For background, companies depend on CERTIFICATE AUTHORITIES, such as Verisign, to produce digital certificates which, in effect, say that this person really is who they claim to be.

For instance, we own a digital certificate for ''. They wouldn't sell us the digital certificate (just a few lines of computer code) without first verifying that we really do own the domain name '' and that we really are a legitimate company.

Someone managed to work their way around Verisign's security procedures and purchased two digital certificates labeled as "Microsoft Corporation".

Our digital certificates are used for our web servers. The bogus "Microsoft Corporation" certificates are for Active X controls and MS Office macros.

Someone could set up a web site and when you go to that website you get a Security Warning asking if you want to "...install and run [name of program] signed on [date] and distributed by Microsoft Corporation."

Your choices are Yes, No, or "Always trust content from Microsoft Corporation".

While the warning looks like the program being downloaded is from Microsoft, the villain in this case could be sending a program to your machine that could do just about anything.

Microsoft is working on a software patch which would trap for these bogus certificates and let you delete them.

...brig -- Brig C. McCoy | <> 









This week:



Friday, March 23, 2001

I work for an Investor owned utility, three years ago they were talking about how we at the Nuke would have to cut cost by $200 million or we would not be profitable under Deregulation. They had numerous dog and pony shows in support of this. During one I asked if they had considered what would happen if the price of Natural gas went up significantly, double or triple? His reply was that is was considered but was thought unlikely in the short term the rate freeze was on. I followed up with do we have an escape clause if things became unprofitable. He said no. Their thinking was that power would be under 2 cents a kwhr for years to come and were worrying that the summer price rises would not cover costs for DCPP. 1999 was a good year where prices were slightly higher than normal but were also high enough that they were talking about ending the rate freeze early due to paying off the transition costs.

However the early cold winter coupled with several pipeline fires prevented any excess gas stockpiling to counter temporary price increases. Our Management lobbied the CPUC to end the freeze based on collections all the winter and spring of 99-00 but were stonewalled. As the price of electricity soared out of sight the CPUC would no longer consider it as the agreement in place would allow us to raise rate by 300 to 400 % just before elections.

They were so afraid of our "market power" that the legislature made it illegal to enter into any two way agreements with generators to hedge against the kind of sky rocketing prices that occurred.

The unloading of all our own generation except hydro and the nuke was wise as all were over twenty years old and some forty. In hindsight it was unwise as they would have buffered the price rate of change. However the cost of gas would have still caused much higher rates..

Please strip name if posted as I can't speak for the company I work for and they may not agree with my right to an opinion.. As a nuke operator I have found that I have no rights in regards to search and seizure, self incrimination or what I can do any where in the world on my own time.

Remember Chernobyl was a government owned and operated plant.

I recall discussing all this with Amory Lovins who kept telling us how it made such great economic sense to conserve our way to prosperity and not by building new generating capacity.

Deregulation would make sense if everything were deregulated. Regulation made sense if there were some intelligence used in the regulation. What we got was the worst of both.

Three Mile Island was an expensive worst case experiment that showed that plants can't melt down even if everyone does the wrong thing so long as you do not have a positive void reactor as they had in Chernobyl. But we do not seem to have taken the right lesson from the TMI incident.

Re Chaos Manor Alert:

Dr. Pournelle, 

This attack, compromising a "certificate authority", is one of the weaknesses in current security systems described by Bruce Schneier in Secrets and Lies. A "malicious host" as described on p115. I think this must be the 5th or 6th time I've told you about this book. But it seems that every time I turn around I see where someone has used the techniques he describes. He's also the author of "Applied Cryptography", the canonical reference in the field, so he knows whereof he speaks.

Mr. Leal recommended a separate partition for the MSIE cache files. I would also recommend one for the Windows swap file. And if you can put those swap files on a separate disk it will tend to speed up the system, as the system can read off of the main disk and write to the swap simultaneously.

Mr. Stirling said " If nobody was using this technology to steal , then there wouldn't be an effective demand to control it. " Think I'll pass that argument on to Handgun Control. I think that what we have here, and I tend to be on Mr. Schwartz's side on this, is the collision of two sets of rights. Yours and Mr. Stirlings property rights (Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution) and Mr Schwartz's and my communication rights (the First Amendment). One of those wonderful gray areas that make lawyers rich.

On Byte, I think the failure of the advertising model online is the cause of their problem. The websites that are doing well are acting as extensions to dead tree publications. and the Washington Post newspaper, and Dr. Dobbs, and and Linux Journal. And also the various zdnet sites. Most of these sites are probably loss leaders on the books, but are probably useful for getting, and keeping, subscribers. Note that the successful ones also update often. I only hit Byte on Monday, as that is the only time content there changes. Zdnet, however, updates several times a day, so I usually visit it at lunch, and when I get home from work. The subscription model may be the only way a large commercial website can survive. That's what the Wall Street Journal does, and what Salon is going to try.

Sorry for the length.

Sincerely, Kit Case

I will have more to say about Stirling's argument another time.


I'm wondering how someone who might have *already* indicated that he wished to "Always Trust" Microsoft signed ActiveX controls is supposed to protect his system against these bogus signatures? Many system administrators have done this because Microsoft uses so many signed controls on their "Administrator Download" page. If you don't select "Always Trust" you must select "Yes" between twenty and fifty times per visit. Clearly unacceptable for a busy professional.

I see no reason that Microsoft couldn't provide a simple FTP server from which we could all download our software updates. It worked for years before technology like ActiveX was even considered. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

R. Neil Heidorn MIS Manager InsureMax Insurance Company


And Jim Warren sends the following Year 2050 headlines:

1. Florida to Be Readmitted to Union

2. Plague of Spotted Owls Threaten Crops, Livestock

3. Texas Executes Last Remaining Citizen

4. Mother Monica Dies: Revered Hero of Bangkok Slums Overcame Lurid Past With US President

5. Wealthy Widow Anna Nicole Smith, 83, Weds Handsome Young Actor."This Is True Love," He Beams.

6. Construction Begins On Grenada War Memorial In D.C.

7. Liberal Allowed to Speak For Full Minute On National TV; Confuses Viewers.

8. President "Bonecrusher" Jones to Face Chief Justice "Mad Dog" Ortega In Cage Match

9. Pope Phil II Settles Custody Battle With Ex-Wife

10. Upcoming NFL Draft Likely to Focus On Mutants

11. D.C. Zoo to Receive Rare Cow

12. Authentic Year 2000 Chad Sells For $6.9 Million at Sotheby's

13. Court Clears AOL-TimeWarner-GE-Disney-Microsoft-RJR-Nabisco-Exxon-Mobil of Monopoly Charges

14. 50-Year Study: Diet and Exercise Key to Weight Loss

15. Baby Conceived Naturally

And so it goes...






This week:



Saturday, March 24, 2001

Dear Dr Pournelle,

You wote, "Well not everything is a matter of opinion. I really was out of date on the availability of newer AMD boards. My fault, and there's no point in making excuses. I was pressured into writing about something before I had time to gather all the information, and I pretty well knew it. Lesson learned."

I learned more in ten minutes perusing the AMD/Intel stream of correspondence that I could have in a working day of trying to track down that information over the net, all of it vital to me. Please don't let 'pressured into writing ... before I had time to gather all the information' stop you from doing it!

Your readers form a community of interest which appreciates what you do and why you do it. Those who don't probably won't read you for long, more fools them.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole (BA/BSc/BE {Auckland} BA(hons) {VUW}) (, 64-3-4797739 fx:64-3-4798427 ) System Administrator, Dept. of Maths and Stats, Otago University PO. Box 56, Dunedin, NEW ZEALAND

Thanks for the encouragement.

Dear Jerry,

First, I was an avid reader of your column in Byte from 1984 until I absentl-mindedly let my subscription expire. Your column was often the ONLY thing in that magazine that I read. Then I was shocked! I could not find the magazine at the stands anywhere! I had no idea that Byte stopped publishing on paper.

I was so elated to find Byte on the net, and of course your columns.

That said, two things:

1. I read your column "How to Get My Job." I loved it - it covered the writing part well. However, can you offer any advice on how to: a. format a manuscript in a way it would be acceptable? b. get your manuscript seen, even published, if you are a new writer?

2. In high school, we did an experiment with a strip of paper. We twister the paper 1/2 turn and then glued the ends together. We were all thrilled to find that this made an infinite loop - you could start drawing a line along the strip and continue forever without removing the pen from the paper. DO YOU HAPPEN TO KNOW WHAT THIS FAMOUS LOOP IS CALLED? It was named for some famous person, I think. Or if not, can you tell me where to look for the answer?

Thanks for all your wonderful advice through the years. God bless you and yours, sir.

Marty L. Stephens

Mobius Strip.  Formatting is discussed in all kinds of writer magazines, but in general, 6 inch lines, double spaced, about 1 1/4 " margin all around for typescript.

Getting someone to pay attention is harder, but you want to be sure you have something you want people paying attention to...



My brother Roger keeps sending me snippets from your web site; he must think you're really something. In spite of that, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. :-)

I watched a show on Fox last week called 'Conspiracy Theory', maybe you've seen it. This one was alleging that the US moon landing was a fraud, and it really made me angry. Almost everything out of the supposed 'experts' mouths was scientifically inaccurate, pure speculation, or downright wrong. I'm not a rocket scientist, but even I could pick up on most of the errors in judgement and bad science. I really wish someone with some credibility would put an analysis of this piece of trash up on the web. Care to take it on?



- -- Jim Shorney -->

Not really worth dignifying with an analysis, I fear. Anyone taken in by that particular conspiracy theory is beyond the reach of reas0n. But then:

Dear Jerry:

I hate to bother you with this, it's so ridiculous on its face, but there is nobody else I can think to ask about the technical details.

Two usually intelligent and logical friends this week saw a TV show which contends that our Apollo missions to the moon were faked, and that while we have achieved Earth orbit we have never sent live humans beings to the moon and back.

I did not see the show, and thus could not comment on the "evidence." But arguing from logic and common sense alone I held that even if such a massive fraud and conspiracy could be successfully perpetrated in the US over the past 30 some years, at the time the Soviets and every other first world government (England, France, Germany, Japan et al.) would surely have known that the radio and TV signals purporting to be from the surface of the moon were actually originating from an Earth orbit or from Earth itself, and few would have been shy about announcing it.

I further maintained that in this country most major universities and advanced technical colleges would have had both the interest and the technology to discover that the signals were not coming from where they should have been. My assumption was that it would not take much advanced equipment, even by 1969 standards, to triangulate the point of origin, and I also suspected that advanced-amateur or semi-professional level telescopes of the day were capable of, and did, follow the course of the capsule visually at least partway on its journey, thus making the number of people who would have been "in the know" not hundreds but thousands, most of them outside of government control.

My question is, do my arguments hold up scientifically? Was orbital satellite tracking reasonably easy to do in those days or not? One fellow says I'm all wet, and the technology to track the Moon missions would have been strictly limited to NASA alone, making such a colossal fake at least theoretically possible.

What are the facts? I'm almost too embarrassed to ask, but I just don't know.


Tim Loeb

Faking zero and low gravity is very difficult. Apollo was about the second most complicated event in human history. D-Day was the most complex. Neither would have been easy to fake because too many people would have to be involved in keeping the secrets. Including me. Then there is this:


Here's a good place to send anyone with questions about that idiotic Fox special - 


Calvin Dodge

And indeed it is a good place to go.


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Given some of the ongoing discussions regarding how Microsoft might react to the DoJ lawsuit, I thought you'd find this interesting:;$sessionid$OAET5AIAAAZQHQFIAGWCFFA  

(A copy of this article also appeared on The American Spectator website at  )

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht


When I saw the video of the Mir re-entry on television today, I thought about a scene from MoteLight (A Step Farther Out) where a New Ireland ship was damaged in battle and fell from orbit around New Scotland. The only thing missing was the violet flash of a dying Langston Field. What a shame they couldn't push the thing to a higher orbit. It could have been a flying museum relic, if nothing else, for future school children to visit. First Skylab, and now Mir. I never thought of space stations as disposable.

Ron Booker


I very much like the maturity of Linux people.

My email has fifty copies of the following each with a different subject header. Does anyone know why?


Subject: Linux Today - Microsoft vs. Innovation, AMD vs. Intel [Jerry Pournelle on Allchin and Stallman]  -- You Don't HAVE to be NUTS to be a SysAdmin./WebMaster. BUT it Helps! -----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK----- GAT dpu s+: a++ C UL++++ P+ L+++ E- W+++ N+ o-- K w O M- V-- PS PE Y PGP- t-- 5 X- R- tv+ b++ DI++++ D G- e h--- r+++ z+++ ------END GEEK CODE BLOCK-----

And another:

Subject: Linux Today - Canada Computes: Boys (and Girls) and their Linux Toys  -- You Don't HAVE to be NUTS to be a SysAdmin./WebMaster. BUT it Helps! -----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK----- GAT dpu s+: a++ C UL++++ P+ L+++ E- W+++ N+ o-- K w O M- V-- PS PE Y PGP- t-- 5 X- R- tv+ b++ DI++++ D G- e h--- r+++ z+++ ------END GEEK CODE BLOCK-----

And so on, fifty or so in all, each with a different subject but all from the same person. Is there something here I am supposed to understand? It was easy enough to delete them all and add him to my junk mail list, but one wonders what, if anything, he thought he might accomplish? Surely there was some work involved in sending 50 messages each with a 50K attachment (I have no idea what is in the attachment, I am hardly insane enough to open it); and I confess mild curiousity as to what it was all in aid of.  Oh well.







This week:


read book now


Sunday, March 25, 2001

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subject: Modern Life

Dear Jerry:

Check out for a previously unrecognized peril of the new millenium, and its solution.

Best, Stephen

Wonderful. Just wonderful.







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