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Mail 160 July 2 - 8, 2001 

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This week:



Monday  July 2, 2001

Mail Posted July 1, 2001 from last week is available in last week's mail.

This will presumably get me caught up; we missed a week due to PC EXPO


As the court of last resort I have to ask you this question. I've been using Outlook Express 98 as my email handler since 98 ( I still miss Pine sometimes). Now I like to have it record my Sent messages, but I don't think to clean them out very often. I just looked and there were about 500. Now according to everything I can find by Microsoft, the only way to clean out all these messages is to highlight them and delete them ( after of course going into preferences and telling it delete means delete, not save them somewhere else). This seems an awful case of man serving the machine to get rid of 500 messages this way, 10 or 20 at a time. I've asked this questions of all the techs I know and none of them can come up with anything more elegant than my personal method which is anything but.

Launch C:\WINDOWS\ cd to APPLIC~1 then cd to MICROS~1....then cd to OUTLOO~1 at this subdirectory ERASE SENTIT~1.DBX . Be sure to Enter then ask to see the .dir again to make sure the file was deleted. When I go back to OE, everything is fine and all the files are gone. Jerry does this really seem reasonable? ;-)


JH in Syracuse, NY

I know how to do this and I have forgotten. The best thing to do is get OUTLOOK 2000 and the book OUTLOOK 2000 In A Nutshell.  I do not use Outlook Express, alas.

Perhaps you've already had this answered, but for JH in Syracuse: select any message in the Sent Items folder. Type CTRL-A to select all. Hit Delete. Bob's your uncle.

Bob Taylor Vestal, NY

That's certainly what I would have tried...


Every now and then I get to post something like this for my own purposes...

June 20, 2001

Dear Jerry:

I just finished THE BURNING CITY about 10 days ago, and have wanted to tell you what a marvelous book and story it is, but I'm still on the road in the RV and modem hookups are scarcer than bison (literally) out here!

You and Niven have accomplished something really special in creating a world that is both startlingly original and mysteriously exotic while maintaining a rational internal logic and order. The characters are so well defined and realized as to seem alive and ready to step off the page. I'm not usually a fan of the genre, as you know, but I think THE BURNING CITY is the best new sci-fi slash fantasy book I've read in a decade, maybe a generation! It was just a vastly enjoyable delight from word one page one to the very last, and I can't praise it highly enough.

I loved the frequent allusions to present day, and the whole Jispomnos = O.J. Simpson myth was a treat (I assume Samorty = Sam Yorty, your old boss, and many others are in there I didn't get?), but your linkage of that story to OTHELLO caught me by surprise, pleasantly so, as I had not considered it before but it does seem to have merit. Who, however, was O.J.'s Iago? Or does such a present day embodiment of evil need no external fuse or goad - was that your point? All the Darkness is now carried within?

In any event, before my gushing admiration offends your considerable modesty, let me just say that in the past I have resented your fiction writing from time to time for taking you away from contributing to the Web site and the column. Now all I can say is get up to that Monk's Cell and get busy, won't you - and keep Niven at it, too - I can't wait to start THE BURNING TOWER!!!

All the very best,

Tim Loeb

PS: I don't know if you've considered this but the Tep's Town part of the book would make a fabulous 3D computer or even video arcade action game. I'm sure your agent has shopped the book to the movie folk, but how about to the people over at Sega or Eidos, et al.? Seriously.

Or a two-parter: Part One = THE BURNING CITY: Escape from Tep's Town! Part Two = THE BURNING CITY: Morth's Revenge! It's all right there, it just needs good game engine, animation and music, don't you think?

One minor point, Burning Tower is a girl's name, so it's not THE Burning Tower for the second book. And we are moving right along...


I think if you were to email Ben about this issue, he'd more than likely get back to you. He's very responsive to constructive criticism. (  scroll down to the fourth letter for my experience with this)

Of course, as a fan of both of you, I feel kind of like I did back when I was a kid and two superheroes would get into a fight in a comic. "Hey! They should be friends! This all just a misunderstanding! Stop fighting!"

PS - The Strategy of Technology PDF file reminder.

I look forward to seeing the titles you are working on now, once they are complete.

Ryan Greene

Not fighting, and I did send him a copy, but I didn't expect to receive a reply and have not.  I doubt they ever heard of either Stephan Possony or me; we old cold warriors were around when Stein's father was the economics guy in the White House. Long time ago.

And I will do something with the pdf format of Strategy of Technology. At the moment I am swamped...

Now this:

I think you're on the right track, Jerry, regarding firewall settings being the possible source of your FTP problems. I had similar problems after installing BlackICE Defender on my firewall machine until I made the IP address I was trying to FTP to, a "trusted" address. Had to do it all over again this weekend when I upgraded BlackICE (The upgrade includes "Advanced Firewall" settings in addition to the previous settings). Before I jiggled the configuration, the FTP process was sporadic - sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

I Remain, L. R. Kephart LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants

And indeed I think it is just a matter of messing about with firewalls and things. It will be made to work (if need be by a separate router). When everything works it works really well, and we've been doing things here not so usually done. It is another instance of why Aunt Minnie isn't going to be using Linux soon: on the other hand, as this sort of thing matures, there will be scripts that Cousin Will can install and they'll work just fine. No wonder Microsoft is running a bit scared of Linux.

I missed the announcement of Mortimer Adler's death, but Roland didn't:

RIP et lux aeternae..


Overall, I'm pretty happy with Win2K SP2, but that soundblaster shutdown bug I wrote to you at some length about a few weeks back has reemerged since I applied SP2. When I go to shutdown or log out of my system, devldr.exe refuses to exit (again). However, unlike before, my system doesn't BSOD when I log back in again.

One step forward...

-= Scott =-



A thought for an upcoming column: I just read your comments about the Windows 2000 SP2. Thanks. I had read that on notebook computers the SP2 can kill hibernation. Have you installed W2K and the Service Pack on any notebooks?

David Housholder Marietta, GA

I did install it on a laptop but I don't much use hibernation: when I am working on an airplane I use the NEC 780 MobilePro, and when I set up the Armada in my hotel room I generally just leave it there.

I have had remarkably little trouble with Win 2k SP 2.

But then there is this:

SP2 from MS worked flawlessly on Win2k Pro workstations, but caused a near-disaster on a new server running SP1 with 2 dynamic IDE disks with RAID mirror. After installing SP2, the prompt to restart appeared. I gave the go ahead, but received a blue screen w/stop code with a failure to boot -- holy frisson.

All data was backed up before. I successfully booted to the RAID mirror via a boot floppy, but, what a freak out. I had to pay $240 to MS tech to get drive0 to boot. Ultimately, I had to use the MS DiskProbe Utility to view and change the hidden-sectors parameter on drv0 in the NTFS boot-sector view of sector 63; changed it from an incorrect large number (33190?) to the correct value of 63.

We never pinned down the cause, but I strongly suspected the presence of an EISA partition (used by server manufacturer to store utilities) on drv0 screwed up the SP2 updater. I found an MS Knowledge Base article about a problem with EISA partitions with SP1, so there's some bad history in that area.

To be safe, with the mirror removed, I deleted all partitions on drv0, including the EISA partition, which never existed on drv1, then booted via floppy, reestablished the mirror, used diskprobe to write the above mentioned value, tweaked the boot.ini on c: and was back in bootable business. The users never knew of a problem since I worked after hours. The MS tech was very good.

Out of breath and circumspectly, John Gordon

Well  at least you knew what to do. But this is the first story of this kind I have heard.





This week:



Tuesday,  July 3, 2001

Today I will be busy... So it is short shrift time.

With the Fourth coming up tomorrow:

Dear Dr. Pournelle, With the 4th of July coming up I thought I would send you this link to somed ocuments at the Library of Congress. 

The Declaration of Independence The Federalist Papers The Constitution of the United States

Bob Cringely has hacked together a DSL to 802.11b link between a neighbor, 10 kilometers away, and his 486/100 Linux router box. Thus allowing him to finally get a high speed, low latency connection. Now that you've got Ricochet it might be a bit redundant, but it's still an interesting read. 

Kit Case


I think I will not try Cringely's solution. After all, when I knew Cringely, Laurie was writing the column and Robert X was a snail husk on the outside of Jonathan Sack's window... I actually wrote a couple of those columns myself back in the days when I did Infoworld...

But thanks for the pointers.


Subject: Easy Solution

The real problem is that the currently deployed networking lingua franca protocol, IPv4, has vulnerability to IP Address spoofing at the very heart of its kernel...

Ok. I disagree with this comment. I've used and programmed IPv4 since 1980 (including some things with raw sockets). The address spoofing problem is very easily solved. On your own network with either ipchains or iptables, you can add output rules to your linux firewall/router that drop any packets that have a spoofed source address which don't match your networks legal, valid address range. This doesn't completely stop spoofing since one machine can still spoof another machine on _your_ network. But it completely stops spoofing _every_ other address. In addition, even if the machine does a "little" spoof of another legal address on your network, the target machine can still very easily determine which network (and therefore the correct administrator) where the zombie really lives. A simple ethernet sniff by the administrator and problem solved.

Cisco and other major routers can also be setup to drop packets with bad outgoing addresses. If every stupid, lazy ISP set their routers up this way, no more spoofing problem.

Even more important, since the change is in the _routers_ not even a security expert can get around the problem using a compromised _computer_. The best hacker with the most hacker friendly OS can't get around this without compromising the security of the ISP's router.

In the old days, I also considered SpinRite a lifesaver but Steve Gibson is wrong about this. The problem isn't computers that can spoof addresses but routers that allow obviously illegal packets to be forwarded. And this isn't an inherent IPv4 problem.

Martin Dempsey

This being a bit beyond my competence (I may pretend to know everything but I am aware of the real world too) I asked Roland to comment:

Egress filtering is something everyone should do, and few actually implement. Yes, it would pretty much eliminate spoofed attacks if folks would take the trouble to do it.

But spoofed attacks aren't really that big a deal, anymore. The most devastating attacks these days are from machines with legitimate IPs which have been zombified.

IPv4 does in fact make it pretty easy to spoof addresses, which is much harder, if not impossible, with IPv6.

Roland Dobbins

More on this follows


And on another front:

This article suggests your fave CD burner, Burning ROM, is also a backup tool. It will do disk sector backup, which can be unwieldy with contemporaneous jumbo hard drives.,23102,3335154,00.html 

My working solution for the awkwardness of a multi-disk backup at CD-R speeds (start a disk, come back in 20 minutes, repeat 'til done) is to partition the drive so C: contains the boot file, the \WINDOWS tree, the \DATA tree and the swap file, totalling less than 700MB (so all will fit onto one CD-R).

Applications and multimedia files, the lion's share of disk use, go to D:. Those can be backed up when one has all day and the appropriate amount of beer to do so, as they change very little.

This might be worthy of mentioning to the membership (once you find a more elegant way to explain it than I can devise) as I can't recall you having mentioned Burning ROM as an imaging backup tool previously. I don't find it in a search of your website.

Until DVD-R becomes cheap, this might save some folks' data (such as another Baen author John Dalmas, whose hard drive just went south on him).

Please tell Fuzzy and Larry Niven that Oregon fandom wishes him well.

John Bartley



Jerry :

Glad to hear you made it back from NY in one piece. The travel gig gets harder every year, it seems. Just coming back from a conference in Sweden two weeks ago, the impact of the flights, connections, and tremendously sub-standard service when back in the US was like making a twenty mile hike trying to run all the time with a heavy leaden pack.

The conference in Sweden was a process safety and environmental protection meeting, and was very much worth the trip. The European conferences tend to be more of "Here's a problem, our solution, where it worked, and where it didn't. What's your input on how to do this better?", where many conference discussions here in the US now tend to be, "I'm a consultant, you have a problem, pay me to solve the problem."

Having said that, the conference in Sweden offered many interesting ideas, especially in areas of risk assessment and hazard analysis. The Europeans don't shrink from quantitative risk assessments (QRA), where the North American scene is dominated by concerns about legal liability that essentially stop such analyses in their tracks (excepting certain very specific areas such as nuclear systems). By contrast, QRA is an essential element of the process needed to move to construction and operation of chemical facilities in Europe, and provides the public with consistent answers about plant installations.

What was equally important was that several speakers discussed the uncertainties in QRA efforts, walked through the differences these create, and then showed the relative strengths of the latest methods. One left the conference with the impression that we've gone well past the very fuzzy and loose results of many years gone by, and into methods that are robust enough for very serious land planning and use decisions (note that the methods have been used for these things for some time anyway).

A great deal of the progress in this area stems from the relative lack of legal challenges in Europe to making rational decisions on matters of safety and the environment. This is notwithstanding the hysterical and violent sorts of protests such as occurred in Gothenburg and elsewhere in Europe of late. Even though there are significant and powerful European groups opposed to all things technical and modern, the general European governmental approaches seem to be firming more and more into logical assessment.

And then, there's the ongoing debate on Kyoto and global warming. Most people I met queried me about the US decision to stay out of the Kyoto accord. Many were genuinely puzzled by the decision, while some simply ascribed it to political factors. Still, the question on everyone's mind was, "What's the next step if this one is halted?"

With all of that in mind, today's NYTimes has a good article discussing the limitations and areas of uncertainty in modelling the global climate. This can be found at : 

It's a good article, IMO, because it addresses many of the important issues regarding such modeling, and further discusses future solutions. One point of minor interest is the assertion that the US lacks the computing power to model these questions because of tariffs on Japanese supercomputers! The results of the newer models on a global basis seem to be consistent, but there's huge variability in the results for specific locations. But they're getting better on that one as well.

In any event, the article's worth reading, if only to see that the global climate models are being more carefully assessed and considered, not just accepted on faith.

Who knows, we might actually see global climate models soon that are robust enough to base rational decisions upon. One can hope.

John Palmer

No present computer model of climate can be run from 1900 and get us where we are today. NONE. So why have confidence in what it says about 2100?

The fact is that in historical times it has been warmer -- farms in Greenland in 800 -- and colder -- Hudson river frozen enough to drag cannon over in 1776 -- than now; and that by all cyclical prediction models we are due for an Ice Age NOW. And we don't know much more than Arrhenius did in 1905.

If we have better computer models who will use them? Regulatory science is to science as deer hunters are to deer.


On Wednesday, 11 July, I begin the 13 hour flight to Korea, where I will be the Regional Defense Counsel for two years. Since I am going to be making that 13 hour flight about 4 times a year (8 times, including the round trip) I have ordered a portable DVD player, with a plug for airline power supplies. I thought this might interest you and your readers as I had to decide whether to buy an extra battery (3-5 hours worth, $169) or a power cord for cars/planes ($129). After checking with the airlines to guarantee power access, I went with the power cord. Approximately 8 rows of seats have a power point. It is my experiment with this traveling entertainment, and its power source on which I thought I'd report.

In your travels have you made use of the power outlets for lap tops? I was unaware of the wide availability of the power points until facing this trip. Hopefully, I will be able to reserve seats in the appropriate rows on each of my flights.

In any event, I also face the challenge of trying to get broadband internet access in Korea. As their internet presence is near ours per capita, I expect it to be doable. I will be in Seoul, so if it's available, it should be there. I'll be writing to you on this experience as well.

Bryan Broyles

Thanks. I have no experience with cables. I use batteries and heavy duty baggage carts...

Dr. Pournelle,

Just a few comments on caching web data (referring to your Day 3 report on BYTE).

Local caching is virtually useless to many internet users including myself. I have caching turned off on my main computer even though I use a modem. The problem is that a great deal of the important and entertaining content on the net is dynamic. Cache for more than 15 minutes and you're waaaay behind. Cache online quotes and you can lose lots of money in a hurry. Cache CNN and you'll miss out on the headlines.

Sure, there is a time and a place for caching data, but there is currently no way to intelligently select which sources to cache and which to ALWAYS load from scratch. Even if there was a way using Microsoft software to manually select which sites or pages to cache, there is no mechanism to automatically tell the browser "cache this by default" or "do not ever cache this page".

The only data I personally ever see online worth caching are little buttons and assorted web page fluff that add no content and increase load times. Since I can't tell internet explorer (or netscape) to cache only buttons and worthless little graphics, I'm left with turning off caching to ensure I get the current content and asking the owners of my favorite web sites to keep the fluff to a minumum.

I don't need 100 gig to cache web page fluff, and almost everything else is dynamic so I generally wouldn't want to cache it even if I could. If I need that much static data, I'll go to the local bookstore and buy it instead.

V/R Sean Long

Actually I tend to agree, but my system seems to cache buttons and pictures and stuff used over and over. And I think software that does that will be more important as time goes along. But I forget what I had in mind when I wrote that at 2:00 AM

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subject: Education and John Dewey

Dear Jerry:

John Welch thinks I have "mistaken Dewey for his opponents, the conservatives, one wing of whom did, indeed, think that public schools should train working class children to be sort of obedient factory robots." Perhaps, but I doubt it.

Mr. Welch writes: "Dewey grew up when the traditional education was a training in Latin and Greek, when history meant the study of Thucydides and Tacitus. There were serious battles around either side of 1900 about whether American colleges should continue to require classics, and whether they should tolerate the teaching of the hard sciences and engineering." The implication is that it's either science or classics, and in a world of science and engineering, classics are useless. I disagree.

We might recall the opinion of an ex-engineer, Robert A. Heinlein, that the foundations of good education are math, languages, and history. Or one of my science teachers when I was studying respiratory therapy, who told us that Latin was the single most useful subject she'd ever studied. Imao, a wider knowledge of the classics might have left the US American public better prepared to evaluate Hitler, Stalin, and other would be tyrants. Certainly the Founders thought them useful when creating the Republic.

And I'm puzzled by Mr. Welch writing that Dewey's "argument against traditional education was ... that it worshipped handed-down facts," and then going on to say "Dewey was on the side of the scientists and engineers." All the science and engineering classes I ever took required the learning of loads and loads of handed-down facts. The idea of people without that grounding encountering "the real problems that need to be solved" and ACTUALLY SOLVING ANY is kind of hard to believe. But they'd fit in fine on the assembly line.

In short, when you ask what the kids who learn Dewey's way are going to know, the answer seems to be "Not much." Somehow, I can't help but think that was the intended result.

Best, Stephen

Dewey discussion continues

Then up spake brave Horatio, the captain of the gate... I have not forgotten that since I had to learn it in 6th grad.  Which is why it is here on this site...

And Greg Cochran on cancer:

For a lot of strongly familiar cancer subtypes, a single gene _is_ the relevant risk. Usually thtis is some basic gene whose failure destabilizes the cell - restinoblastoma is a classic example. As for trying to say what heritability really means, I am not even going to try until I've had a few drinks. I can say something about environmental risks and cancer, though: every cancer that is common anywhere in the world is much rarer somewhere else. There is no cancer that because of the natural limitations of the human body 'just happens" at a fairly high rate everywhere. My conclusion is that if we could eliminate various pathogens ( papilloma virus, h. pylori, hepatitis B and C, schistosomiasis, etc), and various historically new environmental insults (smoking, UV on pale people, etc) cancer wouldn't amount to much. There would still be some but the sum would be maybe ten to twentyfold smaller than today.

Gregory Cochran

Think about that one for a while.






This week:



Wednesday, JULY 4 2001

Happy Birthday America


Roland says of this one, heh!

But see the Gibson debates below






This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 5, 2001

Begin with something odd but very interesting:

Subj: Japanese continue work after company "closes"


An article in The Wall Street Journal today (5 Jul 2001), "In Japan, layoffs Don't Stop Some Workers From Working", by Yumiko Ono, reports how one Yasuo Kiuchi, a 37-year-old Japanese blue-collar worker, and five colleagues, "took control" of the small machinery factory in which he worked, after the company went out of business. In American agricultural history, this sort of thing was called "squatting".

Seems it is not only American workers who feel they cannot retrain for other work.

And apparently the flip side of "lifetime employment" in Japan is that companies almost never hire anyone over 40, so an older worker couldn't get a job, even if retrained.

Yet something else seems to be going on, too: Mr. Kiuchi turned down "a good job as a manager at another factory." According to the article, a main reason he did that was solidarity with his colleagues, whom he expected to have a harder time finding new jobs.

Reminds me of a pattern I've read of in America, albeit following it somewhat less formally (not to mention less legally!) than we customarily follow it here. For example, the Springfield Remanufacturing Company was a to-be-shut-down divison of International Harvester, whose management and workers bought the business and have, as far as I know, been making it work. Of course, most such employee-owned salvage attempts in the US go bust.

I've been reading Edward Luttwak's Turbo-Capitalism. Haven't finished it yet, and haven't fully digested even the part I've read. But I get the distinct impression that Luttwak, writing in the late 1990s, though Japan's policy superior to US policy, in keeping workers employed. Luttwak characterized Japan's policy as "full employment as the national goal."

Yet now it looks like the whole Japanese structure was fundamentally rotten. It has been unable to recover -- at least so far -- from the bursting of the real-estate-value bubble. And it has been politically unable to bring itself to liquidate the bad loans that had been propping up fundamentally unsound enterprises. Building up a whacking great bunch of bad loans is, perhaps, just a reflection of the business cycle. But refusing to bury the dead, take the losses, and move on -- keeping the zombie-companies on life support, while the non-performing loans on their books keep the banks from extending credit to new companies that might be viable -- seems a treatment worse than the disease.

There is always tension between maximizing efficiency and maximizing human happiness, and there are definite conflicts between global happiness and national happiness. Maximizing production with minimum resources is a good war time goal. It may not be the best one in peace time. On the other hand, if you favor your citizens you will put some people in other countries at a disadvantage.

I say this again: I have never seen an economic analysis that takes account of political externalities. You cannot have a large footloose population. You cannot have a population that doesn't care for their country. "For a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely," said Edmund Burke, and he was as usual correct. 

So we have political constructs that take care of the losers in the economic game. What do those cost? Are they better than keeping people working, making contributions, feeling useful? Are we better off with a few highly productive people, most jobs exported, and a vast population on welfare knowing they are useless? Clearly not: that thought experiment has only one answer, and it is not maximizing production and efficiency. Idle hands are the devil's workshop: people who feel useless and superfluous will find ways to draw attention to themselves and make mischief. Do we then hire more police?

And so forth. No economist I know thinks much about this although Roepke came closer than most.

Then another odd letter although perhaps not so interesting:


Subject: (no subject)

hey send me stuff

I have included it precisely as I received it. I suppose I could accommodate him by sending his name to half a dozen spammers? But in fact I do nothing other than note that it is the silly season.

Subject: David Gelernter

Might have talked a bit about us who use, or did use, Newton Messagepad 2000/2100.

After using it, and getting back to Mac or Windows, one really ask, why do we have files? I never used "files" to find or put things in order on my Newton, yet I can find things faster, and be more organised while using the Newton.

Its been tried in real life, and the only drawback is that messer Steve Jobs killed Newton, instead of letting it be an free Newton Inc. (The managment of Newton Inc even had as goal to be profitable in six month, and they had an plan that looked OK:ish for me)

Keep up the writing


Orjan Larsson


On Ricochet and well worth your time:

Dear Jerry,

I read you recent Byte article about Ricochet, and decided to send you an email. By now you've probably heard that Ricochet's parent company, Metricom, entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At this point it isn't clear what is going to happen, although I think I speak for many people when I say that I hope the Ricochet network and service can somehow continue.

The reason for my email is that I wanted to alert you to an interesting story that has been running parallel to the whole Ricochet/Metricom saga. This is the story of individual investors who hold stock in Metricom and who have come together in a kind of virtual community over the Internet message boards. Needless to say the investors have lost their money, but this is not very unusual and happens routinely with startup companies like Metricom.

The interesting aspect of this whole business is the people and the community - not the actual investment. I am/was an active participant in the online communities, and let me tell you: there are certain aspects of the experience that are downright fascinating. I can't really describe this coherently in one email, but let me give you some examples.

1) The message boards become a kind of oral history. The most active message board is the one being hosted by Yahoo's finance website. In the space of 2 years, this message board has accumulated over 200,000 messages and at first sight appears to be incomprehensible babble. However, I was able to download the messages and put them into a database, and discovered that the board literally contains every possible bit of public ally available information about the company. With 1000s of posters, every magazine article, every rumor, every development becomes recorded on the message board. Many technically competent people have posted on the board, and there are in depth discussions of the related technologies. It is like some kind of a self-organizing encyclopedia. I don't know if anyone has noted this aspect of the message boards, but it is really quite the remarkable phenomenon.

2) There are interesting psychological aspects - I guess you can call it mass delusions. People put forward theories, the theories attract adherents because they resonate with peoples' hopes and fears, soon a kind of mental construct shared by many people takes hold, and then people begin to exist in a "separate mental reality". One of these "mental constructs" involves Paul Allen. He has an investment stake in Metricom, and has some representatives on the Board of Directors. However to the message board posters Paul Allen has become some kind of demon demi-god, who plots and plans and shapes the destiny of Ricochet and Metricom, and contends against other demi-gods like B. Ebbers, the CEO of Worldcom (Worldcom also had a sizeable investment in Metricom). People speculate ad nauseam about what "Paul" and "Bernie" are thinking, planning, doing, and plotting. It is a group induced delusion, and quite the remarkable one.

3) Politics and paranoia play a role as well. An unfortunate aspect of the internet message boards and usenet is that this mediums of interaction attract "trolls", malicious posters whose intention is to bedevil and have fun at the expense of the genuine message board posters. These are the kinds of people that post on rec.pets.cats about dropping kittens from 10 story windows. The Metricom message boards have attracted their own share of trolls, and that is not so unusual. What is more interesting is the investors' reaction to these invasions. The illegitimate posts are incorporated into elaborate conspiracy theories involving competing interests and stock manipulations. Again these theories gain adherents and take on a life of their own. One development that arose from this phenomenon was the formation of a private posting club, basically a moderated message board, that was designed to exclude the "adversarial" elements found on the public boards. The moderated board is a quieter place, and is home to more substantive discussions than is are the public boards, but it is also a better vehicle for the promulgation of shared delusions - the posters on the board have a stronger commonality and reinforce each others' views.

For the last year I have been an active participant in all of these developmens. I have lost money on Metricom, and learned a great deal about the Ricochet techology and the formalities of securities' trading. I have also seen first hand the amazing attraction that online communities can have for human beings. I don't know if this kind of story interests you, but if it does, feel free to get in touch and I can provide more details.

All the best 

(Name withheld on request)


Dr Pournelle:

I have been reading your view and letter sections about the effects of global warming. It seems that the group with the loudest voice has the correct science. That is opposed to what my grandmother taught me about opening your mouth and removing all doubt about your intelligence.

We are going through a similar bout of loud special interest groups and weed control products for lawns. The supreme court in Quebec recently held that a municipality can enact by laws that prohibit cosmetic uses of pesticides. This brought out all the environmental groups that have proclaimed that pesticides ARE BAD. I have not seen any studies which show even a slight correlation between pesticide use and illness. At last count the authorities in the States and Canada have in excess of 600 such studies. I would expect the EPA to shut down the use of any harmful pesticide but it is still in use.

The by-laws were passed by high pressure and junk science. In one case the working group at the City of Toronto held its meetings without any opposition as they did not tell Landscape Ontario where and when the meetings were. The rational was they could get more done without interference.

Thanks for reading this weeks rant. Hope to talk with you later.

Glen Shevlin

Regulatory science is to science as deer hunters are to deer. They have an interest in keeping the herd going but it is not quite the herd's interest.

I read through the appeals court decision, and it doesn't look like good news for MS at all. First, the appeals court upheld the findings of fact, and they're pretty conclusive. Second, the appeals court did not find actual bias, only the appearance of bias, so assigning the case to a new judge doesn't protect MS from getting hit with severe penalties and liability for the damage caused by its conduct. Only by settling can MS avoid that playing itself out, and I'm not sure all of the plaintiffs will be willing to settle.

I once was called on in a rugby match to stop an all-pro NFL middle linebacker who had gotten the ball. My playing weight was 175 pounds, and all I personally could hope to do was slow him down enough for the rest of the team to catch up. That's what the current situation looks like to me. -- -

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>

It is all too wonderful for me. I use the phrase in the King James biblical sense.





This week:



Friday, July 6, 2001

Let's open with some mail about the column:


I have read your latest "offerings"

( )

via a post in the GRC.* newsgroups, that references you. I feel that your "poke" at Steve is somewhat "dismal" did Steve do something to "madden you" ?? I would certainly trust you IF, you didn't speak of stuff like "Norton" and "in a word, be aware"... you must be being paid by these "sponsors"... O, I see, Steve doesn't "sponsor" you... I get it...

Open your eyes please, as it would be VERY funny to find that one of these "crackers" (we call them "wackers") was to use you as a zombie, against in their next volly, Oops... I see that it has been already done via your last offering.... Hum... didn't know a person could be used as a zombie... intresting thought.... you are getting very sleepy....... now close your eyes....



Since your article on, Steve has had a phone conference with Microsoft engineers. You might find that his pov (better a simple lock than no lock at all) is not so far-fetched !

With his words: 

"Microsoft and I have been arguing about this quite a lot recently. Last Thursday, this culminated in an eight-way telephone conference: My page explaining the XP threat: < >

About our phone conference: "

Follow the second link to his report on the phone conference...


Danny Smalle Izegem, Belgium.

and this exchange:

hey jerry....did i have the right page or is this some of your science fiction? and i used to be a long time fan of yours from way back when byte first started.

fishnmike []

              To which I replied:

                     What in the world are you talking about? And why?

 And received the answer:

slamming steve gibson and grc

So at least I now know what the complaint is. Unfortunately none of these people seem to have been very specific in their complaints.

So far the substantive mail on this subject is one sensible letter:

I think you miss the entire point of Steve's (sic) crusade here. And I suspect, many people do because his strident attitude is beginning to wear.


The premise is true. Yes ......... any Windows machine CAN be set up to spoof addresses, but who would do so except a savvy user. And savvy users are not the ones that are normally hit by hackers, using trojans to hi-jack the machine for nefarious ends.

No, the danger is when technically superiod OS's are being used BY THE MASSES sooner than later if xP is a success. These machines need NO tinkering to be able to spoof their IP right NOW ! By largely unknowing users, most probably with more $$ than brains ! and who have the where-with-all to get online with cable modems and DSL. Now you're in deep s*^t country.

I grant you, Steve may be out on a limb here. However, he may not. I suggest that to ignore him and his warnings is premature in light of the fixes, updates to the fixes, and changes to the updates to the fixes that MS puts out to FIX just about everything THEY issue before it's ready for prime time !

Hope you have time to read this.................... enjoy your articles .......have for more than 15 years ......... too bad Byte is gone :-(

Norman Brooks

I have asked for substantive comment on this from my advisors. Meanwhile, let me differ in one detail: BYTE is not gone. We have as many readers as ever, and my columns and articles and show reports get up and out in a much more timely manner. While I miss the old paper BYTE I have to say it is easier to write if I don't have to guess what will be interesting 90 days after I file the story...

I will also quarrel with the premise that I have advocated ignoring the problem. I do contend that running in circles flapping your arms and crying DOOM! DOOM! is not the right answer, and while there is some substance in the body of Gibson's postings, the headlines and general emphasis looks a lot like Chicken Little proclaiming the falling sky.

Yes there is a problem. Yes it is serious. Concentrating on trying to get Microsoft to ignore a standard that has been out for years is not the optimum way of dealing with it. Better would be to get fixes in place before XP becomes widespread. And that, I am told, is in fact happening.

I never said, 30 years ago when I predicted universal intercommunication, that there would not be problems: indeed one the standard keynote speeches I used to make back when I was on the lecture circuit, was that universal connectivity and the universal availability of information would present civilization with some fairly heavy problems including the dissemination of information on how to make gun cotton, nitroglycerine, and various war gasses from stuff easily available to a smart teenager...

And I also have this:

 Your article on the ddos attacks was well received by me. I've also read the info Mr. Gibson has published on his web site, and found it interesting if somewhat flamboyant. I appreciate your taking time and making the effort to explain, in plain english, what the risks are, and what we should do to protect our systems. In my opinion, Mr. Gibson invested quite too much of his publishing effort in attempting to slay the Redmond Dragon.

I also found this particular Byte column extremely relevant to my work as a system and network administrator. I generally read your column the moment it arrives, and have for years, starting well before Byte became web-based. But, I confess I have little interest these days about Everquest, extreme graphics and sound, and many other cutting-edge subjects. Internet security, now that interests me.

And. Thank you for being a prolific and professional writer. I've read much of your work over the years and have enjoyed every bit of it. Enjoy. Publish. Get Wealthy.

Chuck Sterling System/Network Administrator NASA White Sands Test Facility Las Cruces, NM

Which is the sort of thing that makes this worthwhile. 

But I gather I am not popular with the slashdot set. Alas, but that too will pass away... But see below.


And for something else to think about:

Dr, Pournelle:

I read your interesting column in, and have a few comments on the whole issue of digital files. The thought of a magic software solution that could organize modern lifestyles is very seductive. But take a step back and look at how most people actually live their lives, and David Gelernter's PC-based solution becomes less attractive. Interaction with a PC, a PDA, or any other gadget running code is basically a solitary experience. Cliff Stoll ("Silicon Snake Oil") makes this point eloquently and it bears repeating. These gadgets demand our time and attention to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. It may come as a surprise to some, but most of the world has no interest or intention of living in that kind of isolation. Perhaps that's why so many well-intentioned technology products fail miserably in the market when they are exposed to real people.

Another area overlooked by the geek/gadget crowd is the ephemeral nature of almost all digital content. I can go to my closet, pull out a 1948 Hank Williams 78 RPM record and listen to some wonderful sounds, using no microprocessors and only minimal technology. With some loss of quality, even electricity is optional. That is not the case with digital data. Without constant forward migration and almost fanatical backup regimes, digital content disappears over time. What will we do with today's CDs, DvDs, and tapes in 2051? This whole notion of "archiving" everything in digital formats is a fool's errand, and I believe it will ultimately result in the loss of much of our accumulated knowledge.

A neighbor works for BlueCross/Blue Shield, and they recently completed an internal study/audit to look for the best ways to maintain medical records. Their conclusion? Even with the best commercial technology and systems, there is no way to guarantee the integrity of digital records over the average patient's life span. The only sure way to maintain records over a 50-100 year period is to keep multiple _analog_ copies (paper, microfilm, etc.) at separate locations. I don't know a solution to this dilemma, but putting one's life story in the hands of some C++ code is probably not the best route to take.


James McSheehy

On the other hand I can read just about anything I have here except 8" floppies, and it doesn't take long to transfer the backup files to new media. DVD-RAM looks good to last for a while and that technology will be around for years.

Acid-free paper stored in nitrogen vaults works  but it's fairly expensive.

And good sense as usual from Talin:

This is one of the most sensible articles on the recent controversy on the

DMCA and copyright issues I've seen: 

-- Talin                          "I am life's flame, respect my name,
Explorati, Inc.                    my fire is red, my heart is gold.           Thy dreams can be, believe in me,   if you will let my wings unfold!"
                                       -- Heather Alexander

And with that I have to get out to Niven's.

Then we have:

Just read your comments on Steve Gibson's concerns for the raw sockets in the upcoming Windows XP. I agree with much of what you say, but it does not address Steve's concern. Sun, and other Unix systems tend to be run by experienced and technically competent people. XP is for the whole world. So you will have people so un-sophisticated that they have never even heard of you, much less raw sockets.

You are from an era when most users were fairly competent. That is no longer true. Most do not have a clue that there is anything they should be doing, much less Routers and Firewalls.
Regards, Shaun

Which means they should be stuck with non-standard systems? Not allowed to have one? No full computer with Internet Access without a license? Or shall we all run in circles flapping our arms because The Standards Are Coming and The Skies Will Fall?  Really, there have to be ways to light candles. Cursing the darkness isn't known to be too effective.





This week:



Saturday, July 7, 2001

We begin with more on the Open Sockets situation:

Hi Jerry

I enjoyed your analysis of the IP Spoofing/Win XP controversy on I think, however, that you (along with many others) may have missed one significant part of Mr Gibson's thesis which is, perhaps, not spelled out as clearly as it might be.

The problem stems from a combination of factors.

It is, in my opinion, an undeniable fact that a DOS attack employing IP spoofing is much more serious as it is nearly impossible to block with filtering. A competent administrator can block a non-spoofed attack and maintain a certain level of service. (I don't believe that you have disagreed with this point).

Various Unix/Linux flavours and even Windows 2000 require the user to have root (administrator) privileges to use raw sockets. While some Linux users habitually operate their computers as root, most have more sense. Thus merely cracking the machine is not enough, you must obtain root access which is considerably harder.

Windows XP (personal edition) places no such restriction, so any machine which is compromised can easily provide IP spoofing.

While it is possible to do this with older version of Windows, it's quite hard and has not been widely done.

Assuming that Windows XP is widely embraced by home users (as I think it almost certainly will) there will be an increase (by orders of magnitude) of easily crackable computers with easy access to IP spoofing.

A skilled and determined cracker can always generate a devastating attack, and until IPV6 becomes accepted there is little we can do about that - except be thankful that skilled and determined crackers with malicious intentions are reasonably uncommon (so far).

What we will now see, however, is a great decrease in the difficulty level of such an attack, and very likely a very large increase in such attacks from the so called "script kiddies".

I think that that is what Mr Gibson fears, and I suspect he fears it with good reason.

I guess that time will tell if he's right.

Even if he is, the sky may not fall. IP spoofing can very easily be filtered in outgoing traffic. If ISPs start doing that, then spoofed DOS attacks will be choked off at their origin. (Though currently, few ISPs do so).

Again, time will tell.

As you would expect, these are my own views. If you seek my employer's views, you must ask them.

------------ Michael Smith, Senior Software Engineer Australia

I think the quarrel is with the single word "great" in referring to  the decrease in the difficulty level of such attacks. As I said in the column, most people who make these attacks do not know what they are doing: they follow scripts. For the people who write those scripts there is no "great" change in difficulty; for those who use them blindly there is no change at all.

It is a dangerous world out there, and something must be done, but cursing the darkness does not often work.

In one of your responses, you said: "Which means they should be stuck with non-standard systems? Not allowed to have one? No full computer with Internet Access without a license? Or shall we all run in circles flapping our arms because The Standards Are Coming and The Skies Will Fall? Really, there have to be ways to light candles. Cursing the darkness isn't known to be too effective."

In the case of raw sockets, the standard was designed for OS's that have the "Levels of access" security measure. Only people with root access are allowed the full power of these raw sockets. The problem with XP is that, by default, there will be no "Level of access" privileges, so that this raw socket power will be available to any trojan or worm that infects the computer, without the executable having to gain access to any special privileges. And this OS is going to be released to folks who don't even know there is this problem, let alone how to fix it. There needs to be a lock on this capability that needs to be taken off by the owner, at least; a kind of mini-level of access, if you will.

Giving folks machines that adhere to modern standards is good, but we have to remember to put those standards in the environment they were designed for.

Don't worry too much about the slash-dot crowd, they remind me of that fable of the father, son, and mule, and all the folks they met on the path who would take them to task for their behavior. I think in the end, both of them were carrying the mule! No matter what you say, there will be folk who disagree (sometimes vehemently) with you. Just keep plugging away and speak your mind! There's an amendment to the Constitution that gives us the legal right to do just that!

- David

See comments above. All this was possible before if you knew what you were doing. If you did not, then nothing changes now: you use the scripts those who do know what they are doing provide. The new standards may or may not make it easier for those sophisticated script writer people; that is beyond my competence, and I suspect beyond Steve Gibson's. When it comes to remedies we are in a pretty rare atmosphere: and if I had to bet on Microsoft vs. Gibson I would take Microsoft, which despite a lot of the railing against Redmond, has a pretty hefty incentive to fix this problem before it gets out in the real world.

It is a problem. It is commendable to draw attention to it. It probably doesn't help to go a lot further than that unless you are a security expert.

There was also this exchange:

yes ... i also agree with this, and it didn't occur to me until you
mentioned it..... just what is the problem? I guess since problem is
unclear, we get unclear thinking and "solutions".

Rob Schneider

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Jerry Pournelle []
>Sent: Saturday, July 07, 2001 10:39 AM
>To: Robert M. Schneider
>Subject: RE: The Steve Gibson Debate
>Well of course we do. I fear I don't understand what is so controversial?

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Robert M. Schneider []
>Sent: Friday, July 06, 2001 10:14 PM
>Subject: The Steve Gibson Debate
>Re the Steve Gibson-IP Spoofing-XP debate, some seem to believe that
>becuase it takes a sophisticated user to do all this may be missing the
>point? I would guess it's simple to write a program or script that can
>configure any capable program to configure the computer to do whatever
>... distribute that program/script widely and there you go.
>We need systems which are inherently secure. Someday.
>Rob Schneider

This needs no further comment.

In the following I have no simple way of reformatting so it's going to be a mess, but:

Mr Pournelle,

I know nothing of hacking and cracking. That said...

I stumbled accross Steve Gibson's DDOS allert page as it was happening. I was in the process of searching for info on personal internet firewalls for an internet commerce class I took this past semester. I got on his mailing list and later read Steve's article when it was all over.

I've just read your article in weekly newsletter as I do every week "...I say it now: If you're running Windows of any variety and you have Internet connectivity, you need to be sitting behind a firewall...".

I then inserted this URL that I got from Steve's article (below) into my browser and replaced the XXX... with the IP addresses of some of the "Zombie" attack Win2k machines listed in the article. As of this writing quite a few of them are STILL vunerable.

I could see a DIR listing of their harddrive at the server directory. Elsewhere in the article it was indicated that changing the "c+dir" to another DOS command like "format" may actually work. There are even obvious hacks onto their hard drives with files named: ... 03/26/2001 11:45p 16,384 sam 07/06/2001 01:19p 0 sammy 07/06/2001 06:34a <DIR> secure_your_system! ... Notice the date on the files. You'd think after all the hubub, warning e-mails to the system, and pop-up messages warning the same, this would not be so.

To that end I think these OSes, Win 9x\NT\2k, *NIXes, & Mac OS X should come preconfigured out of the box so-to-speak in their least vunerable configuration. God knows most users won't do anything about it after it is installed. WinXP and Linux alike may prove to be the downfall of the Wild Wild Web.

As for myself I immediatly installed ZoneAlarm, turned on Norton AV in System Works, and applied all the current security patches to my Win2k, and I'm only a sparatic dial-up internet user. two cents

Mikka, WebStore Manager

Hi Jerry,

As I understand it, the big problem GRC is talking about is access to raw sockets for non "root" users. It means that any kind of access to a windows XP machine is enough to be able to spoof addresses. Al Unix like operating systems only allow root to access the raw sockets, so it is more difficult to take over a machine and use it to spoof IP-addresses. And the point is that if you have taken over a computer that can generate random ipadresses when used in a DOS-attack, it is no longer possible to filter out the packets on the basis of their IP address. Still a bit farfetched to see this as a new and greater threat to the internet. I think it would be better if Steve Gibson would urge Microsoft to make Windows XP much more secure in the first place. (So back to text only mail and no automatic opening of attachments and stuf like that).



I thought the point of my column was SECURE YOUR SYSTEM or you are part of the problem.  Precisely. I don't think we have to be quite so drastic as all that, but we do have to DO THINGS and some smarts have to be built into the OS. That is called innovation...

Now for another topic (brought over from View)

And now for something frightening:

Thoughtcrime is here. This guy got 10 years for writing nasty things in a private journal that he showed

to no one. Maybe someone won't like one of your manuscripts one of these days, eh? 

-- Michael Juergens, 


Psychiatrist and (non-practicing) lawyer Ed Hume says:


Thought crime. Bad business, that. You can get arrested and convicted for writing and keeping in your home ugly, forbidden things that you have never shown to anyone.

What to do?

Might I suggest the following (I have not consulted a practicing attorney, so I can only believe this will work based on stuff from law school 20 years ago):

Establish an ongoing relationship with a clergyman or a priest. As part of one's therapy, engage in "journaling", where the client writes down his thoughts and takes them to counseling/therapy. Anything in the possession of the clergyman or shrink, depending on the laws in one's state, is then privileged, and not reachable by the courts unless they indicate that the client is about to commit a crime (depending on the state, the clergyman or shrink may have a legal duty to prevent crime).

I would think that anything found at home, as long as it is part of an established exercise in journaling, might be considered part of therapy and not evidence of a crime.

If I am right about this, then . . . well, if I'm right about this, then the solution is as silly (and sinister) as the case that Mr. Juergens brought to your attention.


Which may work but seems a long way to go "to secure these rights."  I have no great sympathy with the Marquis de Sade (who seems to be a hero lately) or others who engage in sadistic fantasies, but until they DO something I have no reason to jail them. Perhaps letting the local Justice of the Peace issue warnings, and letting the police pay attention to them in the interest of safety, but arresting and jailing people because the may, or even probably will, commit a crime is an abomination and a government that wants that power is a tyranny.

Once there was the people,

terror gave it birth...

Thought Crime

I'm confused as to what is more frightening, the fact that someone was sentenced to 10 years for merely writing, or that people seem to think that it's okay to write about pedophilia.

We had a similar case in Vancouver, BC. A man was convicted of the same sort of "crime", though his case didn't include torture, but did include drawings. The accused had been convicted in the past of sexual abuse against children, and was a proponent of Man/Boy Love. He successfully appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court of BC, which was later overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada. And thank goodness! Our world is bad enough as it is without some sexual predator hunting our young, and defenseless children.

I will admit that at first I was upset that thoughts could now be considered criminal, but hasn't it always been so? Thought crime is not new, some of the world's greatest authors suffered imprisonment for it, some for their "heresy", others for their political beliefs, others for their overtly sexual stories. I'm sure Mr. Rushdie would be able to provide an insight of the perils of writing unpopular beliefs! While I personally regard freedom of expression to be a worthy ideal, and I certainly don't condone wrongful imprisonment, I also respect that said expression cannot be allowed to harm people, and especially our young. I regard freedom from fear to be far more important than freedom of expression.

However, this person wasn't writing about a tyrannical government, nor was he criticizing the Pope. He was writing about his darkest sexual fantasy which included the imprisonment, torture, rape, and presumably, murder of pre-pubescent children. He wrote this depravity for his pleasure. He also wrote this while on probation for pandering child pornography, and since one of the conditions of the probation was periodic searches for material such as what was found, this "private" journal has become public knowledge.

Let us not forget that probation is a period of time where the convicted maintains their general freedom, with restrictions on those freedoms that lead back to re-offending. Mr. Dalton didn't live up to the deal and now pays the full price. I consider this to be a case of saving some future unknown child's dignity, sanity, and quite probably, life. Hopefully this poor, sick fool can get the help he obviously needs in the next ten years.

IMHO, of course!

Bill Grigg

PS on second thought, maybe you should back off on your comments about wishing harm to spammers and rotten programmers!

While I agree that probationers (on probation from an actual crime, not a thought crime) have fewer rights than citizens, I am not sure that is the point here. I don't want anyone thinking about torturing little girls, but I would not have jailed Marquis de Sade for his thinking in writing. He DID plenty to get him locked up...

In all the Gibson discussion I've seen only one mention of ZoneAlarm. He has been pushing it as the best software firewall and my experience with the free version (for a year) and the inexpensive Pro version (needed only for a Windows router with firewall software and Internet Connection Sharing -- better than no protection at all) has been excellent, and confirmed by many friends. For a single user the free version outperforms Norton (per Gibson) and at an infinite performance/price ratio.

I told you earlier that when I finally upgraded to a router box the D-Link product worked for me just by plugging it in, while a good four hours on the phone to support techs, a firmware upgrade, and an extra trip to Fry's for a new uncorrupted firmware never did get the Linksys to work with the Cisco DSL modem/router required by my telco.

As ever, thanks for the daybook, the fiction, the columns, helping win the war, etc. etc. Haven't seen any grandbaby pictures in a while....

Tim Herbst

Interesting. I have had several good reports about ZoneAlarm. As my column said, mostly we all need to DO SOMETHING; once we do anything at all that's sensible we make life tougher on the crackers.

And when this column is done we will go down to the beach house stopping to see superchild on the way...

Hello, Jerry,

I believe that Mr. St. Onge is mistaken about John Dewey, although I freely admit that I might not summarize Dewey's positions well. I suggest, instead, that your readers pull out a copy of Dewey, starting with _Democracy and Education_, or _Reconstruction in Philosophy_, or _Experience and Nature_.

(1) Dewey seemed to hate dualisms, and argued persistently against the splits of subject-object, theory-practice, thinking-doing. He says in Reconstruction (p145) that "notions, theories, systems, no matter how elaborate and self-consistent they are, must be regarded as hypotheses. They are to be accepted as bases of actions which test them, not as finalities....They are tools. As in the case of all tools, their value resides not in themselves but in their capacity to work shown in the consequences of their use". The British analytic's, such as Bertrand Russell, grabbed this sentence, stopped, and claimed that Dewey believed that whatever works must be True and Good. They neglected the rest of his argument, which maintains that inquiry cannot start from knowing what it intends to prove, that the "only situation in which knowing is fully stimiluated is one in which the end is developed in the process of inquiry and testing".

(2) By doing this, Dewey put experimentation into the middle of philosophy. He argued against the refined idea that an educated man learned Latin grammar, but did not get his hands dirty with experiments. And he argued against what he saw as traditionalist notions of the Absolute, and a traditional philosophic method that says that there exists absolute Truth somewhere outside lived reality, and that we can attain Truth by logic and deduction, just as we can do mathematics. Dewey, in contrast, called one of his important books _Essays in Experimental Logic_, to the horror of continental European thinkers. See Max Horkeimer, _Eclipse of Reason_; Horkeimer saw the methods of science as an attack on Reason, and saw himself as one of a few people fighting the armies of Dewey-led irrationalists in lab coats.

(Incidentally, I did not intend to suggest that Dewey was against learning from the past, or against remembering past events. He was against an older educational philosphy, but he was sensitive to issues of history, time, movement and change. He was a sort of reformed Hegelian, who had given up the Absolute; he had given up the idea that history and change would stop at some perfect point that a philosopher could deduce from first principles.)

(3) Dewey wanted an education of active inquiry -- every student should be a mini-scientist. He tells a story, in _The School and Society_, of trying to find the right desks and chairs for the Chicago Lab school. One educational supply dealer finally said, "I am afraid we have not what you want. You want something at which the children may work; these are all for listening". That, he says, "tells the story of traditional education". Studying lessons from a book is a variety of listening: "it marks the dependency of one mind on another. The attitude of listening means, comparatively speaking, passivity, absorption; that there are certain kinds of ready-made materials which are ther, which have been prepared by the school superintendent, the board, the teacher, and of which the child is to take in as much as possible in the least possible time".

(4) He wanted an actively involved student for at least three reasons:

- Passive listening bores students, who don't learn much. He wanted the teacher to lead the student to ask a question, test, refine the answer, and test again. Dewey suggested that the teacher had to guide the students to feel the need to solve the problems. There are two sides: society, represented by adults who teach, sets the things that its next generation needs to learn, and students need to feel that the things are really necessary. In our industry, we often find that we skim a manual, try to use a product, go back to the documentation after we hit a problem, try again, read more, try more. That is how I learned assembly langauge, C-language, all the rest. As a matter of fact, I learned about base 2 in 1960, in 7th grade, but thought of all non-decimal systems as just curious oddities until I had to add offsets to addresses.

- Active inquiry fit Dewey's notion of philosophy. Humans beings learn, and the most important thing they learn is to set new questions and problems out of the solutions to old problems. His objection to traditional education, and to traditional philosophy, was that it assumed that there was a fixed, settled, ending point. A limited block of knowledge.

- The ideal of every student an active scientist was most important to Dewey because he believed that the only way to make and keep a democracry was by having active, educated, citizens. This can be seen all through his _Democracy and Education_, but it is clear in his debate, in the mid-20's, with Walter Lippmann after Lipmann argued, in _The Phantom Public_, that democracy was impossible. (Dewey's reply is _The Public and its Problems_).

(5) Between 1913 and 1917, Dewey argued against the economic and political conservatives of the National Association of Manufacturers over the nature of vocational education. A report from the Massachusetts Commission on Industrial and Technical Education, in 1906, had begun an effort to develop vocational education, which resulted in the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. The NAM wanted a dual educational system, with a separate vocational system which trained most students for factory work. (I am following the account in Robert Westbrook, _John Dewey and American Democracy, pp 173-179). Westbrook quotes Dewey as saying that "those who believe in the continued existence of what they are pleased to call the 'lower classes' or the 'laboring classes' would naturally rejoice to have schools in which these 'classes' would be segregated". He was against it, and he was against "regarding as vocational education any training which does not have as its supreme regard the development of such intelligent initiative, ingenuity, and executive capacity as shall make workers, as far as they may be, the masters of their own industrial fate".

Dewey wanted an education that integrated culture and utility. He was accused, by conservatives, of wishing, undemocratically, to force culture on working class children, rather than the simple education that simple people deserve. He answered that "Nothing in the history of education is more touching than to hear some successful leaders denounce as undemocratic the attempts to give all children at public expense the fuller education which their own children enjoy as a matter of course."

Here, I believe, Mr. St. Onge has mistaken Dewey's position for that of his opponents.


John Welch

The problem arises when "progressive education" loses all sense of proportion. The only way to learn arithmetic skills is to learn the addition and multiplication tables and learn them well, and the best way to learn those -- perhaps the only way -- is the method that the progressives call "drill and kill".  Without drill and rote memorization much becomes impossible for all but the very brightest and most motivated students.  Yes the little red schoolhouse with reading and writing and arithmetic taught to the tune of the hickory stick may have been a grim place: but are the moderns schools which turn out undisciplined louts ignorant of everything much better?

But the fact is that the progressives had some right on their side, and so did the traditionalists, and education ought to be concerned with what works -- and with which students.  But having varying methods of teaching implies tracking, and the modern progressives are very much against tracking, and that means that for the kids who must learn by rote -- there is nothing at all.  

You cannot have all things all ways. What bores some children is the only way for others to learn. Now what?

Jacques Barzun covers much of this in his Teacher In America, a book I heartily recommend to everyone concerned with this problem.




This week:


read book now


Sunday, July 8, 2001

Larry Niven in his own words:

Things have changed.
 I wrecked my knee April 12. Operation on April 18. I got into my pool on July 4. There was a party going on, and I was surrounded by friends. I left the leg brace at poolside, of course, and crawled out to reach it. 
Next day I "hiked". Twenty or thirty minutes of walking with a collaborator and a dog. It wasn't all road; we got to turf I've never seen, though we only circled a handful of houses. Somebody's keeping a dune buggy and a more serious racing vehicle on one of the vacant lots. I can do a sun salutation: a basic yoga move. My leg brace is set for 60 degrees of bend. 
I had no sense of how many of my friends, relatives etc, had injured themselves until we had that in common. I've done a lot of listening. My sister-in-law went down the stairs on her ass for her breakfast, at a stage where my choice was to camp out downstairs in the den. Charles Brown was in a wheelchair at Norwescon at the same time I was, and talking the same timescales. They tell me I'm ahead of the curve of recovery. If all goes well, Jerry Pournelle and I will be on a research trip at mid August.

Not so long ago--talking about myself to a stranger at a meet-the-neighborhood party--I found myself looking around to be sure he had a means of escape. It felt like I'd backed him against a wall. I'm not so worried about you; you could just stop reading. I still flinch from talking about myself this much. You're getting this because I told you when I was disabled; I should tell you when I'm getting better.

Larry Niven

Dear Jerry,

I came across the following tidbit in Harper's Index for July 2001:

"Factor by which the radiation-dose levels found in the Library of Congress exceed typical levels outside a nuclear power plant : 260"

I always knew that Knowledge was Power, but I didn't realize that it was atomic power! It reminds me of a story that I heard almost twenty years ago from a student when I was working in a college Chemistry lab. He was an engineer at Babcock and Wilcox who was boning up on his Organic Chemistry to better understand the limitations of polymers in his work. At a nuclear plant that they were constructing (I can't remember which one) the radiation alarms kept going off, even though the plant was still under construction, and there was obviously no fuel present. It turned out thet they were being triggered by fly ash from a nearby coal fired plant, and that if one went out in the coal yard with a gieger counter, it was somewhat hot. It just goes to show you that exposure radiation did not suddenly appear on the scene during WWII.

On a different note, I must heartily recommend David McCullough's wonderful new book _John Adams_. My perception of Adams was the pedantic stuffed shirt portayed in "1776". While Adams could be pedantic at times, this book uses his copius letters and journals to illuminate his sensitivity, intellect, and devotion to democracy. An interesting subplot is his relationship with Jefferson, his political rival and close friend. Jefferson is obsessed with the perfectibility of Man, while Adams believes just as fervently that although Man is capable of great good, Man and Government must be restrained from doing evil. It is ironic that the heirs to Jefferson seem not only to have given up in the perfectibility of Man, but that our society must be debased to better accommodate Man's failings.

This book is very thought provoking, and one occurred to me as I read of Washington's death from a strep infection. In Niven's story "The Return of William Proxmire", a trip back in time to deliver a hypo of sulfa given to a tuberular Robert Heinlein changed history. If Washington had survived his infection, he probably would have restrained the loose cannon Hamilton from splitting the Federalists, and Adams would have been reelected. Adams supported the Louisiana purchase, so our borders would still be similar, but there would be no _Marbuy v. Madison_, and thus no precedent for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation as unconstitutional. In our timeline, the Court did not overturn another piece of legislation until Dred Scott in 1857 (yes, I had to look the date up-one thing that is also evident from Adams' writings is the advantage of a Classical education!), so this power may never have been acquired by the Court. It is amazing on what tiny pivots the wheels of history can turn.

Cheers, Rod Schaffter

------- "Powder and artillery are the most efficacious, sure and infallible conciliatory measures we can adopt." - John Adams

Mad Dog Adams has always been my favorite Framer. And note that G. Washington thought him the right man to be VP and later to be President. Washington was one of the best judges of character in history.

Liberals believe they can make things work right. Conservatives just hope not to get things too wrong. and do as little harm as possible. Adams was that kind of conservative.

John Marshal was clever: there was no way for Congress to overturn the Marbury v Madison decision because it mandated that nothing be done...

And Ed Hume:


I think Microsoft needs to consult their lawyers. If they release Windows XP with raw sockets and with the security turned off by default, I would think that they would be liable for losses of business due to distributed denial-of-service attacks using XP machines as zombies.

The problem has been predicted. Maybe it won't happen. If it does, it won't be "unforeseen", and certainly not unforeseeable. Maybe I should go back and reactivate my bar membership. It would be FUN to sue Microsoft for something like this.

Time will tell. Money will talk.


And we will see.

Finally, on the Japanese DC/X:

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I don't know if you've seen this, but thought you might find it of interest. ISAS has conducted a second flight test of a reusable rocket vehicle at ISAS's Noshiro Testing Center in the northern part of Japan's main island. It's actually considerably smaller than the DC/X, but it looks similar otherwise.

Here is a nice general description of the thing and a QuickTime video of a test flight: 


R.P. Nettelhorst 


I have not seen you comment on this, and wonder if you are aware of it. 

I start to agree with others that the traffic signs in luna city will not be in English. The Japanese appear able to actually bend tin. We no longer appear to be able to do that. (Note that venture star has disappeared into the never-ending-study land again. )

See pictures at these links: 

ISAS web site (in Japanese) 

ISAS web site (in english) 

Rick Boatright







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