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Mail 166 August 13 - 19, 2001 

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This week:



Monday  August 13, 2001

It seems the 'Aunt Minnie' secretaries at City Hall are a bit more adept than Mr. Robert Brown (your mail page for August 10, 2001)

It's amazing how fast you'll post stories about people's difficulties with GNU/Linux, but refuse to even acknowlege any desktop success for the Aunt Minnie users: 

Darren Remington []

__________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Send instant messages & get email alerts with Yahoo! Messenger.

Actually, I tend mostly to post letters from people I perceive as friendly or at least polite. But have it your way which makes me wonder why you bother reading things here.

If I seem a bit irritated the day started with a long session with Microsoft on problems with XP. But I think those got fixed.

There is also this from Roland:

Subject: Secretaries using Linux 

Which is encouraging. I got the same story again

While I agree that Linux may not be ready for Aunt Minnie (or Esther in my case, although I personally think my 80+ year old aunt would actually love it, but then, she's the curious sort), but I expect corporations and other organizations with professional support staff are ready for it. As shown by this story: 

Granted, this organization has a lot of background in this type of thing, but the cost savings are significant enough (both in windows licenses and hardware costs) that most organizations can not afford to NOT look at it seriously. If I lived in Largo and paid taxes there, I'd be *extremely* happy with this and I'd make sure the elected officials know it.


which was already in the To be Posted folder when I got both Roland's message and Mr. Remington's.

The truth is that no one buys a computer to run an operating system. It's the applications that are important.

Dr. P.

I don't know if you can stand one more "Is Linux ready for the desktop" letter, but here goes anyway ;-)

Perhaps 3/4 of the comments saying Linux isn't ready for the average user are about installation issues. I agree, installing Linux isn't for the faint of heart. Recent releases get _almost_ everything right, but to a newbie user trying do that first-ever install any problem at all translates to "This OS doesn't work; I'm going back to Windows."

The remaining 1/4 of the complaints (the Linux user interface isn't intuitive) are, imho, _partly_ valid, and efforts are underway to find and fix the parts of Gnome and KDE where you need to be a nerd to find your way. Some of the user interface complaints are because the Linux box doesn't act exactly like a Windows box or a Mac. I feel that's just a matter of training -- if being "non-standard" makes your interface more self-consistant, so be it. After all, how "intuitive" is the Mac convention of dragging a disk to the trash to eject it?

So... your average Uncle Bob and Aunt Minnie aren't going to be using Linux just yet, UNLESS your nerdy cousin Terry is willing to set everything up and act as the system administrator.

One place where I think Linux could make its big breakthrough onto the desktop is in the mid-small office environment. I'm talking about businesses of 40 to 150 here... large enough to have a real computer department but small enough so the person-who-signs-the-checks and the person-who-makes-the-computers-run might sit down and have lunch together. When those two get together and decide Linux applications can handle all the critical business needs Well Enough and save hundreds or thousands per Worker Bee, the whole company could suddenly switch over to Linux.

The Killer App that will, imho, make this possible is an automated way to convert the latest Microsoft file formats to some other (open, published) file format. When Worker Bee Mary gets an email with a PowerPoint 2003 attachment, she can forward the file to an 'Oracle' computer sitting in the wiring closet. The Oracle fires up a real licensed copy of PowerPoint 2003, opens the file, spits it out in some recognized format, and automagically emails it back to Mary. The company needs to buy _one_ copy of Microsoft's latest to be able to work with other, Microsoft-adicted, companies.

Microsoft recognizes, of course, this is a Microsoft-killer App... they will go to great lengths to break the Oracle. And so the battle goes on...

--- Rich Brown --- --- (with Linux at home, Win 95, 98, NT, 2000, Mac OS-9, OS-X, Linux at work)

We do seem to live in interesting times. Interesting for all kinds of people...



Subject: Astonishingly good sense from the New York Time 

Roland Dobbins 

So we have many miracles today.

On the current game of the month


I can't agree with you more, I love Diablo II Expansion Set Lord of Destruction. My only problem is getting my kids off the computer so that I can play. Good to know that I am not the only person over twenty-five on BattleNet. I think Act V is the best yet, and the expansion characters are great. Anyway, good call.

Jim Young

And an interesting question:

dear jerry

 i've been reading your columns since it was on paper and now i read it on the net. concerning the possibility of filling those big hard disks you mentioned in column 250, well i would suggest to leave it to Bill's company to fulFILL that with the release of their newest OS!

more seriously, i wonder if someone has worked out the amount of storage needed to store someone's lifetime experience. what i mean is that you have a hard disk on your head (so to speak) and record everything you see, hear, feel (most of the senses). then you could with some intelligent software have Computer Aided Recall Experiences (CARE). so what would be the amount of storage needed to store images and sound for say, 50 years?

hope to hear from you cyberly naushad-from Mauritius

This is different from Freeman Dyson's version of eternal life by downloading yourself to electronic hardware, and in fact complete recall of visual and auditory experience ought to be possible fairly soon. Or perhaps not. I have not done even a first cut at the math.  I am sure someone will do so in hours.

And on space:

Subj: Space: improved engine cooling From:

You and your readers may find this item interesting: 

Apparently Orbital Technologies have figured out how to control the circulation of gases within the combustion chamber, to keep the hottest areas away from the chamber walls.

So some progress is being made towards better engines suitable for reusable launchers.

Rod Montgomery

And on DSL in Korea



Much like the United States, getting DSL here seems easy, but the actual practice is unreasonably complicated.

The process began smoothly, signing up for DSL at the same time as signing up for a phone. The technician was promised to be at my apartment two weeks after the phone was installed, between 1 and 4 in the afternoon (sounds familiar, I know).

On the appointed day, I took the afternoon off work, and waited. And waited. At 4:30, the tech called and promised to be at my place by 5:00. At 5:55, he arrived. The language barrier was an immediate problem. My korean is limited to hello, with much pointing and gesturing, and his english, while good, was notably deficient in technical language. After determining what phone was the "main", he eventually had the line set. He installed an ADSL "modem" card in my computer, replacing my T-10/100 ethernet card. I attempted to obtain the mail settings for my email, and the news server settings for USENET. Neither concept is possible to explain by pantomine. As he was leaving, he assured me the service would be working the next day at 6:00. Despite the 2+ week advance time, the main office had not initiated the service.

The next day, 6:00, the system was online. However, unlike ADSL in the states, I am not "always on". I must first log on to the system. The interesting feature is the connection icon in the system tray. By hovering the mouse over the icon, I get the connection speed, even when I'm not actually logged on. As this speed varies drastically, I appreciate the information. On DSL in the states, my speed varied, but was unknown, generally. My speed here ranges from very fast (640 up, 4,500,000 down) to abysmally slow (340 up, 1,200,000 up).

I have yet to discover my news server settings. I have puzzled out the mail settings. The ISP home page is exclusively in korean, so no joy there. Otherwise, I am overjoyed to be online, and able to surf at home again.

Bryan B. LTC, US Army

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED


And some advice to a previous letter writer:


Dimitrios Stathopoulos writes "It seems that I am always operating with a 2 month gap in security releases. I suppose the ultimate blame is mine for not properly cataloging any updates I download post SP-2" 

If he looks in Start --> Settings --> Control Panel --> Add/Remove Programs, the installed hot fixes will be listed, along with the related Microsoft Knowledge Base article number. Information about whether the patch is pre-SP1, pre-SP2, or pre-SP3 is also given. This is very useful for trying to figure out what patches have already been installed.

I've never noticed a delay with the  site, but if this is a problem, I suggest he subscribe to the NT Bug Traq mailing list at  , which gives me more information than I can keep up with.

Robert Racansky

And for a foreign view of the US legal system


Dear Jerry, I've been reading you for most of my adult life (both in BYTE and SF). For many years you were one of the few hard-boiled authors out there,and it's nice to see people like David Weber continue to work in the genre. I'd still like a few more Falkenberg books, though ;-).

Was moseying (spelling?) around the linux sites and noted that not only has Dimitry Skylarov been arrested for decrypting e-books ( but that the same bunch of big media are suing Matthew Pavolich, the co-ordinator of the livid project (an open source attet to get DVDs to run in linux, see The case report is at What is scary is that the pavolvich case is field in california, a state where Pavlovich has not worked. The lawyers argued that as the internet connects Texas (where palovich lives) to california, this is legitimate. I am unure if they would try that in another country... but they did arrest the 16 year old norwegian kid who wrote DeCSS.

Now sometimes it is important and legitimate to get at the raw data. For instance, I am working or a project where i have to rewrite a topic every 8 months. (See if you are interested). I usually take the last pdf file and rum pdftotext to get a nice plain text file I can then edit (in emacs), and end both back to my editors.

I could go on and discuss other issues, but they all seem to relate to the digital millenium copyright act. Well, in my slightly stupid way of thinking, If I buy one of your books I can give it away: I can even donate it to a lbrary, or use quotes from it when I lecture: I can write criticisms of it and then copyight those. If we did not have these personal use and research outlets, we English as an academic discipline would be limited to works over 150 years old. (i'm aware that that may be a good thing... see CS Lewis (Suprise for Joy ch 2) for an argument on that topic).

I get the impression that the US legal profession believes that US law does not stop at state or even federal boundaries. If this is the case, is the US then functioning as an empire? That might explian why I immediately quted that famous Revolutionary saying "don't tread on me" when I aw this. It may also explain in art why there are riots at large international meetings: the majority of the world cannot vote or influence the US (which is the 800 lb gorilla of the world at least) and thus take to the streets.

I'm afraid that your pessimistic view of the codominium is coming true.

Best wishes and my sympathy about Poul Anderson.

Chris Gale

For more on this matter see below.

And that ought to do for a Monday.




This week:




I never know what to make of mail like this:


Makes you proud to be associated with Microsoft, doesn't it?,4586,2800510,00.html 

Regards, Alex

Alex Kalium []

_ Do You Yahoo!? Make international calls for as low as $.04/minute with Yahoo! Messenger

Does he mean the he is associated with Microsoft? Implying that I am? Unfortunately, now that I am back to modem access, it takes blooming forever to download ZDNET stuff. Apparently Microsoft offered some stuff to an Australian charity, and the Australian charity says it's not good enough.

I have mixed emotions about the charitable obligations of joint stock corporations to begin with: they are not founded as charitable organizations, and their purpose is ruthlessly to make as high a return on investment for their stockholders as they can. Note that I don't say I approve of this. I am not at all sure that corporations, being legally but facetiously beings with rights and attributes of "natural persons" are creatures of the social order, and as such I see no reason why the law should not impose some obligations to act with at least ordinary decency as a condition of their existence.  (Some do; some of those that do try to act decently get sued by stockholders who say this isn't making money.)  This isn't quite the place and certainly isn't the time for an essay on fiduciary responsibilities and conditions of creation for corporations.

But unless Australian law is different from the US and English laws on corporations, there isn't any obligation for Microsoft to give anything to Australian kids. It might well be a good thing to do, it might even be a profitable goodwill gesture, but I don't see the obligation.  And many company PR firms muck up what they think is a goodwill gesture, particularly when the lawyers get in the act.

Apparently the real issue is over copyright, and over explicit permissions on use of "obsolete" equipment and operating systems. I am not at all sure that the value of 100,000 licenses for Windows for WorkGroups or even Windows 95 is very high, or that Microsoft would lose much by giving those licenses to charitable organizations -- so long as this didn't imply obligations of technical support. THAT obligation could be high indeed. It's one reason I have to be careful what happens with obsolete equipment here: giving it to a local school is one thing. keeping it running is quite another.

So I am not sure what to make of this article. "It's for the kids" is a standard line for charities to use in getting money from corporations, and it often works regardless of what the "it" for the kids is.  How much obligation a company has to give away licenses for "obsolete software" isn't just a matter of reason: copyright law and "implied warranty" law really does get into the act, and the cited article doesn't go into any of those details.  Like it or not, Microsoft's first obligation (and this really is law under the heading of 'fiduciary responsibility') is to its stockholders. And some other time I do want to write an essay on whether corporations ought not have other responsibilities as a condition of their legal protection as fictitious "natural" persons.

In any event I have no association with Microsoft. I'd have gotten a lot wealthier if I had taken my last BYTE payment the day Microsoft went public, bought Microsoft stock, and got out of the computer journalism business. A LOT wealthier.  And worse, I knew darned well Microsoft was a good investment. I said so: one reason I couldn't buy any of their stock. Ah well.

And now for a matter of importance. From here on this is the letter I received:

Dear Dr Pournelle,

I noticed Chris Gale's message posted Aug. 13th: "I get the impression that the US legal profession believes that US law does not stop at state or even federal boundaries. If this is the case, is the US then functioning as an empire? That might explian why I immediately quted that famous Revolutionary saying "don't tread on me" when I aw this. It may also explain in art why there are riots at large international meetings: the majority of the world cannot vote or influence the US (which is the 800 lb gorilla of the world at least) and thus take to the streets."

"I'm afraid that your pessimistic view of the codominium is coming true. Best wishes ... Chris Gale"

Oh dear. Can I offer another foreign view from the same place? This will be longer than I would like. At least it's good revision for public and contract law. Chris Gale raises the issue of jurisdiction. US Law, like any other, struggles with the question of just which law applies, and when. On the whole I don't think the US courts are being unreasonable.

- Sklyarov's arrest under the DMCA was for a criminal offence, not a civil copyright offence, and he was on US soil at the time which makes it a fair cop - one notes that Elcomsoft has not been so charged. Of course the DMCA may turn out to be unconstitutional.

- Pavlovich's case also involves a decryption tool illegal under the DMCA, but the jurisdictional dispute was between two states of the US. California's statute is at least operating within the borders of a sovereign state. Such "Long Arm" provisions are not peculiar to the US. Australia and Canada are other Common-Law jurisdictions where they may apply.

- Copyright matters are resolved by international treaty (the Berne copyright convention, to start with) and jurisdiction is cut and dried.

It is true that some cases fall in a dodgy grey area;

- For international contracts, from rules of thumb such as the 'postal rule' we infer that wherever acceptance happened, the law of that place shall prevail. Internet communications have made a hash of this. Lars Davies wrote (ch6, "Contract formation on the Internet" in "Law and the Internet: Regulating Cyberspace (1997)") that "The best conclusion to be drawn is that viewed in the cold light of day contracting on the Internet is a complete mess." Or even more explicitly: "...contracting over the Internet is legally problematic due to its disregard for national boundaries." (Andrew Murray, ibid.)

So what is a poor US, or British, or Kiwi, or German judge to do? The only reasonable course is to allow a hearing, then decide jurisdiction on the merits of the case. Of course if each party to the dispute succeeds in persuading their own country's courts to hear the case, there is the clear potential for a dispute between nations. Fascinatingly, this never seems to happen, but one worries.

The DMCA is a particularly frightening bit of work in this regard, but it is not unique. I get the impression the Russian establishment is on the whole very pleased that the US is taking the initiative in this matter. Did you ever wonder why the Russian government was not threatening the end of the world over Sklyarov's incarceration? Their own law almost exactly matches it, cf. the discussion on "Adobe's thuggery"; (sorry for the ghastly URL );p=2

By Andrei Volgin - posted Mon Jul 23, 2001 (12:15 PM)

"I think it's very important to emphasize that breaking software code and violating software publishers' copyright is illegal in Russia. Russian Criminal Code provides for up to 5 years in prison for this kind of crime (coincidently, the maximum penalty in the U.S. is also 5 years).

It is very unfortunate that our law-enforcement agencies lack determination and sophistication needed to fight copyright piracy and developing a software to circumvent copyright protection, but Russia is not a barbarian country as Mr. Sklyarov and his supporters try to present it."

This is especially interesting because the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a (otherwise excellent) FAQ on Sklyarov's case which states:

"... it is EFF's understanding that manufacturing such a tool is not illegal in Russia. "

One wonders who they asked. But the EFF has a superb summary of whether US law can be applied outside national boundaries at

Terry Cole []

I suspect we are not done with this. And indeed there is more:

(Part 2. For some reason my email client refuses to post this in one part.)

Basically the answer is "No-one knows (yet)."

The question could be moot. It's not just the Russians who don't seem fazed by the application of the DMCA. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think NZ law would be opposed to such an extension of a foreign statute into this country. The DMCA seems to have been quietly embraced by our government (I have at least one advisory on how government departments must now meet their responsibilities under that law), and others . For example, the Norwegian police actively enforced the writs issued under the DMCA against the teenager who invented the DeCSS algorithm (as Chris Gale observed), even though such laws apparently violate individual rights under Norway's constitution.

Personally I suspect that the whole world over, policy-making bodies are seizing on the DMCA and evolving statutes like it as a means of safeguarding commerce and the national polity. On the whole these are seen as being of more importance than individual liberty. The underlying idea seems to be that without prosperity, liberty is not worth having; and commerce is essential to prosperity. This ghastly syllogism leads me to believe that in the end Richard Stallman's intellectual gift to the world - 'Copyleft', or the GPL, which explicitly sets its face against commercial exploitation - has only a few years left before either a successful legal challenge is mounted against it or it is castrated by statute. At which point, of course, we may farewell GNU/Linux, Apache, et al.

Oddly, the US is one of only two countries - the other being France - where I have seen some legal and governmental institutions express disquiet over the implications. Both countries have a sort of Bill of Rights (Amdts 1-10, Declaration des droits de l'homme) which may or may not be a factor.

I apologize for the length and prolixity of this note. Some subjects do not simplify to epigrams.

Regards, TC (Trying very hard not to annoy anyone with a few million dollars to spend on lawyers)

-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.

My quarrel is over the use of criminal law in what is at worst a civil matter. And indeed this is connected with the first letter today: do corporations have obligations to be more than money maximizers? Under the "fiduciary responsibility" doctrines corporate officers may be required to take unethical actions or face financial ruin. The best example of this I know of was the US Naval Institute board, all senior serving and retired officers, who were told by their lawyers that they had a fiduciary obligation to allow the Institute to sue Tom Clancy for ownership of the Ryan character in HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER on the grounds that the Institute had been the first publisher of the book, and the contract was worded in such a way as to suggest that the Institute might have a legal right to those characters, and even if they didn't win they might be able to settle for a lot of money and the Institute was thus entitled try for that money and the Admirals and Captains had to let the suits go forth or face personal obligation suits against THEM for failing in their fiduciary activity.

More than one senior officer resigned from the board over this since it was clearly at best sharp practice, and looked to many as so unethical as to be unbelievable.

Use of criminal law to protect corporations from publication of material that might be used to develop tools to damage the corporation seems, uh, a stretch.

Adobe put a man in jail for a month, sending him around on Greyhounds in Club Fed. And declined to pay for his defense after it was shown what they did. Adobe has much to answer for here.

Now on the LINUX and usability and Largo issue (that Mr. Remington who now says I am an old goat -- isn't that the term Gildersleeve used for the judge? I know I used to say it about my friend Julie Schwartz -- said I would not publish). This has a different view:


Just read the posts for Monday August 13 regarding the situation in Largo. As a corporate support guru in a largely MS environment I too have asked myself many of the questions you frequently ask regarding Linux. While this post and the situation in Largo is interesting, my initial take is that if anything it really supports your position. 

Notice this is a relatively small government environment with a substantial technical staff, not a home environment. In fact, if the story is accurate, for that size environment the staff is somewhat larger than I would expect in a similar sized MS environment (of course, the real issue is what Applications are being supported, not the OS). Moreover, while their staff clearly has substantial Linux experience, the cited quotes (assuming they are accurate) in regard to Windows are significantly dated. NT 3.5x may have been "flaky" beyond a limited number of users but in my experience on the hardware cited either NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 Pro would not be. 

So we don't have "Aunt Minnie" setting up Linux but rather using a Linux environment productively. Seems to me that's been your whole point for a while? Nor are secretaries the real applications delivery test (try a financial analyst or engineer). Finally, a thin client environment in Linux should be compared to a similar MS environment (Terminal Server/Citrix) if one want's an apples-to-apples comparison.

To me the significant question would be to ask these office workers (secretaries, etc.) who are obviously pleased with their work environment if they are running a similar environment at home? Given both practical experience and the potential cost savings, why wouldn't they be doing so?

Brian Belleville


Precisely. I have never in my wildest dreams thought that a Linux environment with competent technical staff could not set things up so that secretaries and even temporary data entry clerks could not use it do do productive work. Whether that is a cost effective way to go depends on the work, doesn't it?  Certainly there have been UNIX establishments that work that way for decades.

The real question is whether Linux has now (it doesn't) or will ever have (it may) a distribution that one can take out of the box and install and get useful work done without knowing a lot more about operating systems than most users who aren't BYTE readers are likely to have. Intermediate to that is Linux on shipping computers. If IBM had bitten the bullet and shipped IBM desktop PC's with OS/2 and not Windows, we would not have a Windows monopoly now.  IBM chose not to do that. So did all the other PC companies. We will see how Linux fares in that war...


While I find recent developments in copyright and pattent law problematic, Congress has had the right and duty "To promote the Progress of Science and usefull arts" since the Constitution was adopted.

I would be interested in seeing that Dimitry Skylarov had the resources to push his case through to the Supreme Court. Of course the Justice Department is not going to push a case likely to establish an adverse precedent up the system that far.

One problem with establishing law through an adversarial process is that the powerful get to pick their fights too.

David Schierholz

Well said.



This week:



Wednesday, August 15, 2001

So can one safely upgrade from Win98 to XP or not? I was planning on doing this to test RC2 but after reading your note the other day I decided to install in another partition and multi-boot. But now it seems you've overcomed your difficulty... what's the secret?

-- David

I know no reason why you can't go from 98 to RC 2. Do NOT got from XP Beta to RC-2 without going through RC-1, but from 98 it is said to be no problem.

Hi Jerry, longtime reader and fan, sometime correspondent, and frequent student...

In light of your occasional laments about maintaining Chaos Manor, the website, and editing with FrontPage, I'd like to point you at two products that may be of interest. The first is an HTML editor, HTML-Kit (, which is very flexible, customizable, and easy to use (though this come from someone who's written batch files with copy con autoexec.bat). The other product is Zope (, a web application environment, used to develop things like web based message boards and suchlike. It contains its own webserver, interprets Perl and Python natively (though scripts in other languages are fairly easy to implement), has a lot of hooks for database connectivity, and there are quite a few add-ons for such things like access control and event scheduling, though of primary interest to you would be the CMF, Content Management Framework. It's most often implemented as the server for dynamic portions of websites, while a plain vanilla http server like Apache takes care of the general website services. The downside is that not every hosting company runs Zope. I'd also comment on the user interface, but it's not notably user surly, and though I haven't run Dreamweaver or Coldfusion, the two closest competitors to Zope, I rather suspect the user interfaces of all three are about on a par. HTML-Kit is free-as-in-beer, while Zope is free-as-in-speech. Both are certainly worth the time it takes to download and install.

Now as for Outlook Express, I rather like it. First there's the multiple account trick. An old trick, but a goodie. But the main thing I love is the fact that it understands NT can be multi-user system, and it identifies the current user based on the NT logon, and stores user preferences and data in the user's profile in the system directory. But there are three security flaws that Microsoft must fix (though not all of these are unique to Microsoft). First, disable HTML rendering in the preview window. If I open the message, sure render the HTML, but not in the preview window. At least include some settings to disable/enable rendering at various points. Second, assume all ActiveX controls and other scripts are malicious. On a website, I visit there, I take the risk, I acknowledge the risk, but email comes unbidden to me. These controls and scripts could contain anything. And third, disable the "punch-through" from attached MS Office documents. I've installed the MS Word and Excel viewers, as most of the time all I want to do is print or view documents, and it's faster to open the viewers than to fire up the full programs. What's more, there's no macro processing facility, so they're immune to macro viruses. So what happens when I receive a Word or Excel document? Even though the viewers are registered as the default viewing programs, Windows decides it ought to fire the complete programs. This should not be. What's more, why aren't the viewers offered as options for the "expanded" or "complete" Internet Explorer download?

On a side note, during the recent Sircam epidemic, I was guarded by both using Yahoo mail as primary email, and Zonealarm (, which renamed any executable extension (.com, .bat, .pif, .exe, et al) to .zl0, and not letting me open the attachment without first warning me of dire consequences and asking me twice to confirm what I was doing.

And Chaos Manor, the site, looks just fine, thank you very much. Bruce Dykes

Thanks. I am staying with FP 2000 just a little longer, but I will probably go to FP 2002 eventually when they get paste special fixed. I think.

At the moment I am discouraged by losing Ricochet.


You wrote

"If IBM had bitten the bullet and shipped IBM desktop PC's with OS/2 and not Windows, we would not have a Windows monopoly now"

As I remember, they did. Or at least, they gave us the option. I remember at that time buying several IBM PC's with OS/2 V2 installed, and trying to use them. The problem was not the OS. I thought then, and think now, that OS/2 was technically a better OS. The problem was the apps. What my users wanted to use was Word for Windows. OS/2 wouldn't run it, first not all, then not very well. I think largely because of kludges which Microsoft had put in to STOP it working properly, but that's another debate. The point is, it's the apps, and only the apps, that decides what OS runs on the corporate desktop. Which I guess supports what you were saying, more or less.

Keep well,

Andrew Duffin

Actually they didn't: IBM could be bullied into sending you a PC with OS/2 preinstalled but it probably came without sound card or CDROM, and getting those to work was never easy. As to Word, well, at the time Word wasn't the only product. There was Word Perfect, and Symantec Q&A Write, both as good as Word at the time. But Microsoft kept plugging along and IBM kept being IBM. When they eased Lucy Baney out OS/2 was doomed.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I have a warning I must pass on regarding two Microsoft Service packs--the installation of which has caused me to loose several *days* in total system rebuilds and further testing.

Just recently Microsoft released Service Pack 2 for Windows 2000. As is my normal habit I ordered the CD-ROM and installed from that. Not long afterwards Internet Explorer SP2 became available via Windows Update. Installing Internet Explorer 5.5 SP2 was my downfall.

IE 5.5 SP2 "breaks" QuickTime which I use heavily for viewing online tutorials and other streaming content. Uninstalling and then reinstalling does not fix the problem. My normal procedure at this point would be to do a backup to DAT, scrub the drives, and restore from the total backup that is most recent. All appeared to go well until I tried to restore. Towards the end of the restore the tape was ejected and I was asked for my Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 CD-ROM. No matter how many times I inserted the CD-ROM I was given an error message saying it was not the correct CD-ROM. Finally, I hit Cancel thinking I could reinstall the Windows 2000 Service Pack manually. I was given another, rather cryptic error message about File protection and unrecognized versions. Upon rebooting I discovered to my horror that my video drivers, scanner drivers, and sound drivers did not restore. On top of that *nothing* I could do would get anything but a blank page to load when I went to Windows Update.

Nothing for it at this point but to scrub the drives again and manually rebuild a basic system so I could test whether or not loading IE 5.5 SP2 before loading QuickTime 5 allows QuickTime to work (it doesn't). Next on the Agenda is testing a trial version o Dantz's Retrospect Desktop Backup for Windows to see if it will let me do full restores. Unfortunately, unlike HP Colorado Backup II v.9.1 I must first install Windows 2000 and Retrospect from CD-ROM before doing a restore. (with the HP software the 6 Disaster recovery floppies I created *used* to allow for full restores without having to install Windows 2000 and the backup software. I'll keep you posted on the results.

I'll tell you one thing, if Microsoft's own Service Packs have put me in a position where I cannot do full restores when needed I'm switching platforms. I've been a Windows user since 1990 but this is uncalled for. Things are only going to get worse now that Microsoft will be putting product activation in everything. I *will not* use an OS that forces me to call MS after a certain number of installs unless I pay a premium for the corporate version. That is simply gouging the individual user by another name.

Thanks to my DAT drive I've only lost time, not data. But time is valuable too. As you are fond of saying: You have been warned.

Sincerely, T. Patrick Henebry

Thanks for the warning. I haven't had that bad an experience. Now I will have to check QuickTime....

But see below

Hi Jerry,

I came across this link detailing the windows 98 keyboard shortcuts. 

You might like to keep it around as a reference, or use it to learn some new shortcuts you did not know of before. (I've learned a few more)

- Paul

=== Paul D. Walker

Chief Technology Officer






This week:


read book now


Thursday, August 16, 2001

Begin with something important:


The problem Mr. Henebry describes regarding Windows 2000 with SP2, Internet Explorer 5.5 with SP2 and QuickTime 5 is not universal.

The combination works fine on both the desktop and laptop machines here.

One possible consideration, which I have not tested, is that QuickTime Pro works better than the free QuickTime download.


Ron Morse

Thanks. I hadn't had a chance to do any testing. I have a situation with one of my machines that is certainly my fault for using flaky el cheapo memory; not a Microsoft problem at all. Sometime things are not as they seem.

And this from Fred Brown on the same subject:

I ran across this article on Free Republic this morning.

Here is the original.,4586,5095728,00.html?chkpt=zdhpnews01



And a reader who couldn't find me...

This turned out to be an interesting problem (hey, I do these things so you don't have to). I tried out a shareware program called "Broadband Wizard." It worked resonably well, speeding up my connection considerably. However, it had a "feature" that stored all my DNS addresses in my bookmarks in their native format so I wouldn't have to go through Internic(?). Fine . . . until the DNS was changed. The number remained, but the site had moved. My browser continued to try to access the old address, hence my dilemma.

Once I figured out that this might be my problem, it was a short jump to their site and FAQ to find the name of offending file (with the site DNS numbers) and delete it. All, now, is well.

BTW, Earthlink (my ISP) tech support was excellent despite the fact that they couldn't fix my problem. At least they tried for more than a half hour to help (and they knew their stuff, just not about Broadband Wizard, alas).



Dear Jerry,

In your Chaos Manor article of 07/23 ( FrontPage XP Bad, Ricochet Good) you mention the above fonts. Where can I get them? (Andale and Georgia)


Well, Georgia comes with Explorer. Andale is an Adobe font I believe; it's a good monospace font that looks good on screen. Robert Ransom tells me you can find the fonts at 

Note that Andale Mono is actually from Agfa Monotype, not Adobe.



I do not normally do press releases but this may be relevant:


Sebastopol, CA--"Looking back, it is almost funny to imagine I fell in love with a language that had just over 30 language elements in its 1.5 release," says Rob Brooks-Bilson, author of the just-released "Programming ColdFusion" (O'Reilly $49.95). "At the time, though, ColdFusion had enough power to handle any web programming task thrown my way. And as the tasks have become more complex, ColdFusion has kept pace.

And this is from the W2K newsletter which is often worthwhile iof you have network security concerns:

I suggest you subscribe to the new win-security list server and fill out the security survey we have for new subscribers. The results will be shared with everyone. Here is the link: 

I have found them to be useful in the past.

I think that the bit starting "Oh dear. Can I offer another foreign view from the same place? This will be longer than I would like" is your comment. I really like the red times versus black Arial distinction you make.

Chris's comments are in a different sans font, followed by your (?) comments in a more normal sans font. I can't read raw html fast enough to comment on real font names from the source.

Anyhow -- The comments after Chris should be in red and serifed. Right?

It was formatted properly. I do tend to use a different font within a letter when a letter quotes something else, but I am pretty careful to make it clear what is mine and what is the contributor's. In general I use Georgia in rust as my own, and Arial in Black for the contributors.

And now for something completely different

I ran across this on Yahoo. No pointer to the original source. 

The reason I'm sending it is that I read an SF novel in a past couple of years that postulated something similar--that space was divided into regions in which the laws of physics could differ--sometime radically. So your ship had to have multiple methods of propulsion, which might include dragon power.

Bill Seward

We saw this in the Daily News (San Fernando Valley paper, which actually has local news unlike the LA Times which seems to tell me more about life in obscure Balkan villages than in my own city). I haven't digested it yet. Thanks.

And another odd tale:

Hi Jerry!

I have read your articles since the early nineties in Byte. Although I always had a feeling that you are sort far to kind to Microsoft, I really enjoyed your articles. I'm very sorry for you loosing Richochet, by the way. I knew you enjoyed it and was I feeling sad when I read in the news that the company was folding.

Anyway, I have a very funny (pronounce 'frustrating') experience with Windows 2000 SP2 on a PC. It seems to work well, but quite a few programs crash in a reproducable manner. The programs I have problem with are:

CoolEdit 2000 Winzip StarOffice cannot install Java Crash in help system

Programs that work are for instance Photoshop 5 LE, Scisoft SciSandra...

What hapens is that Windows say the program had some violation and a log file is created.

The computer is ASUS K7VT, using the VIA KX133 chipset. I was using it for a year with different Linuxes. Now it was time for a new computer, and I planned to give this one away. I first tried Windows NT 4/SP6 and it was working fine, with all the programs mentioned. I decided later that my Father probably would prefer something more modern. I have thus the option to go back to Windows NT. I shelled out something like 230$ (plus 170 for a disk drive, so I could buy OEM) for Windows 2000, but it may work on another computer.

I did reinstall Windows about six times, changed almost everything in the bios, reformatted the disk all times and so. I made the C: partition 9 Gbyte, that should be OK?

I just thought I could mention this problem, partly because I feel it's a bit bizarre, but also because I know that you have had a lot of nightmarish experiences with computers, so you may have seen something similar before?

I still enjoy reading your articles, by the way.

Your sincerely, and hoping that you have a good time!

Erik Kaffehr

-- Erik Kaffehr alt. Mariebergsvägen 53 +46 155 219338 (home) S-611 66 Nyköping +46 155 263515 (office) Sweden -- Message sent using 100% recycled electrons --

Love those recycled electrons. As to too soft on Microsoft, I just try to be fair. I know far too many Microsoft worker bees to believe any kind of vast conspiracy nonsense, and while I haven't been particularly close to Bill Gates I have known him off and on for 20 years and more, sat at his table at lunch and dinner several times, and have been friends with people who worked with him daily, and I simply cannot believe that he is insincere: with Gates mostly what you see is what you get. He may have an exaggerated idea of how good Microsoft is, but when you look at his competition you can see why he thinks that only Microsoft can save the world. After all back when he started IBM really and truly hated the idea of distributed computing, and really and truly thought of the desktop PC as an "entry level" system. Gates always knew better: give him credit for that. 

But as to your specific problem, no I haven't seen it but perhaps another reader has.

And now for something completely different:

It is not widely known that King John of England tried to make his country Muslim back in A.D. 1213.

Having alienated absolutely everybody in Europe--Pope, Emperor, French, his own barons, the guilds, etc etc--John got fed up. He sent emissaries--the knights Thomas Hardington and Ralph FitzNicholas, and a London cleric named "Master Robert"--to Mohammed al-Nassir, the Emir of Morocco, with an offer of homage and tribute.

The envoys were instructed by John to tell "the great king of Africa, Morocco and Spain that he would voluntarily give up to him himself and his kingdom, and if he pleased would hold it as tributary from him; and that he would also abandon the Christian faith, which he considered false, and would faithfully adhere to the law of Mohammed."

Mohammed (who was busy trying to hold on to Spain) gave the emissaries a dusty reception, and dismissed them with great scorn:

"I never read or heard that any king possessing such a prosperous kingdom subject and obedient to him, would voluntarily ruin his sovereignty by making tributary a country that is free, by giving to a stranger that which is his own, by turning happiness to misery, and thus giving himself up to the will of another, conquered without a wound. I have rather heard from many that they would procure liberty for themselves at the expense of streams of blood, which is a praiseworthy action; but now I hear that your wretched lord, a sloth and a coward, who is even worse than nothing, wishes from a free man to become a slave, who is the most wretched of all human beings."

Stirring words from a Muslim "despot".

The whole story is told in Chapter 3 of Gabriel Ronay's THE TARTAR KHAN'S ENGLISHMAN.

"King John, he was a bad king. He had his little ways. And sometimes no-one spoke to him For days and days and days."

John Derbyshire

Ye gods.

Dear Jerry, I saw your comments on what fonts you use:

"I use Georgia in rust as my own, and Arial in Black for the contributors."

I think you should be aware that while you see the page in Georgia and Arial, others may see it using other fonts. The only fonts that I could find that are specifically defined in the HTML that you are producing with FrontPage are Arial (used for readers) and Trebuchet MS (used only in Chris Gale's letter I think). Your comments appear as Times New Roman (rust colored) because the default font in my browser is Times - your default probably is Georgia. If someone else were to have changed there default font to Arial for example (for readability or personal preference) they would see most everything in Arial, with different colors. I switched just to check, and it still seems readable, (even though a bit "ugly" or graphically boring, as you have been recently accused) even with Arial, but I enjoyed reading the content just the same, and understood it as well.

Keep up the good work, and don't worry about slowing down with the heat, it is still worth the wait of an extra day to read your trials and tribulations.

James Siddall jr

Well yes of course if you have Times New Roman as the default that is what you will see and if you have Arial as default then I can't do anything about that. I used to use Times New Roman, but I find Georgia is a better default. Trebuchet is pretty good, which is why I use it for quoted material.

Of course I could use something like this.

But I won't.





This week:



Friday, August 17, 2001

From Robert Racansky


Earlier, you posted my advice to one of your readers on how to check which security patches have been installed on his Windows 2000 box .

A better tool is now available for those who have to keep track of security patches on more than one computer.

Microsoft's Network Security Hotfix Checker (Hfnetchk.exe) tool, available as of this week, can scan mulitple Windows NT and Windows 2000 workstations and servers over a network to determine which hotfixes need to be installed, which hotfixes are installed, or both.

This tool is available from Microsoft at  (Knowledge Base Article Q303215) and  (download page).

I have tested this program, and it works.

There is also an article about this in The Register (15 August 2001 at ).

Thanks to Amir Brown, who sent the information about this utility to the NTBugTraq mailing list.

From: Amir Brown [amir@NIDUS.UGATE.NET] Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 9:08 AM To: NTBUGTRAQ@LISTSERV.NTBUGTRAQ.COM Subject: Hotfix Net Check

The Register ( reports that Microsoft has released a command-line utility that will scan the local PC and PCs on the network to see if they have the latest patches. The utility checks for patches for IIS (4.0 & 5.0), SQL Server (7 & 2000), and IE 5.01 or later, Details are available here: 

The link to the download on the MS site is: 

The link to details and instructions are here (it may not be live yet): 

I have run the program on a test server, and here is the contents of its help screen and some sample output:

[help screen and sample output ommitted -RR]

I'm sure this tool will be a blessing to many.

-Amir Brown


Dr. Pournelle,

You'd think this kind of thing would naturally die out, but... 

Sean Long


And this should be enough for the morning:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I read in your Thursday Aug. 16th Mail a reader who says the problem is not universal and that QuickTime Pro works better. It may be that QuickTime Pro does not rely on Netscape plug-in technology.

According to the following story at CNET: 

(NOTE: the ZDNet link you have in mail appears to be the same story as above. Not too surprising since I have read that ZDNet bought CNET.)

IE 5.5 SP2 *removes* support for Netscape based plug-ins. Henceforth developers must use ActiveX for plug-ins on the Windows side. Apple is now aware of the problem and working with Microsoft on a fix. I can confirm that the free version of QuickTime will work in Netscape 6.1. (Netscape's built-in mail program is being used to send this.) So my experiences would seem to bare out the statements in the CNET story.

On the backup front things are still in limbo. HP Colorado Backup II v.9.1 remains incompatible with Windows 2000 Service Pack 2. I was finally able to get through to HP technical support yesterday, and it would appear I received one of the few remaining SureStore 24i drives with that software in the box. HP began shipping Tapeware with the drives some time ago. (There was a version of Tapeware in the box sealed in shrink-wrap, but the minimal documentation lead me to believe it was only for servers.) Hp is sending me the latest version of Tapeware. I also received a follow-up call from the support rep at HP today telling me what he had found out fro the makers of Colorado Backup II. According to the developers Colorado Backup II will work with DAT drives, but is not really designed for them. So one the Tapeware gets here I will test it in addition to Retrospect.

My original stance about switching platforms remains unchanged. Between never knowing for sure what a Microsoft update will do to my system and the forthcoming universal inclusion of product activation--which will lead to nothing but headaches for those of us who make frequent system changes--I feel it is time to switch.

Sincerely, T. Patrick Henebry

You do seem to be getting good help form HP though. I used to use DAT drives a lot, but I find now it's simpler to have a "box of drives" on the network. Of course I don't have as much stuff to back up as many do.





This week:



Saturday, August 18, 2001

Two items today, one a query, the other infuriating if true.

Dr. Pournelle,

I couldn't find it in your orchid listings, but I was wondering if you use or recommend any backup software that can write to CDR (not CDRW). I am absolutely NOT looking for a $100 one-trick wonder or a large backup package that I won't use except for occasional archiving, but microsoft backup won't write to my CDR without filesystem trickery that would convince windows my CDR is a large floppy, and that hasn't been reliable in the past.

Shareware or other non-retail-store distributed software would be a bonus...

Thanks in advance.

Sean Long []

I don't back up to CDR so I fear I can't help. Can anyone? It's a good question I ought to have an answer for.

But we have an answer:

Mr. Long's needs will be well met by Veritas Backup Exec, which is just a greatly enhanced version of the basic backup engine they provide to Microsoft for OS distribution. It will write to a huge variety of media (though not all possible devices are supported, check their website  before you buy) with compression and multivolume spanning capability. The disaster recovery feature is a big plus that has gotten me fairly painlessly through more than one hard drive failure.

Unfortunately it's retailware, and possibly near that $100 limit. FWIW, the copy I bought several years ago (as a $20 upgrade from the freebie with my QIC tape drive) has been updated for free more than once as I upgraded my burner. The new Pro edition probably works across networks better than the older one I use, which struggles at times, and can fully recover only the local machine.

Regards, Tim Herbst


Now for something infuriating if true:

If this happened as reported, this is a gross misuse of prosecutorial and police power. Period. I can't believe I'm sitting here thinking that the FBI is looking more and more like the KGB.

Jim Riticher

Excerpts here, complete story at: 

"A good deed may lead to prosecution for Brian K. West . . . because he alerted a local business to a serious security flaw in their website. . . West realized that the webserver hosting the Poteau Daily News site required no authentication to edit any file on the site. The lack of authentication meant that anyone could edit the Poteau Daily News website by using FrontPage, without ever having to provide a password. Clearly, this was a massive security hole. . . In the course of explaining the problem, West let Mr. Burchett know that other companies, including West's own bank, had experienced similar problems configuring server software. Following their phone conversation, Mr. Burchett gave the tape to the Poteau Police Department.

That's when the FBI got involved. . . Brian K. West has yet to be charged with or convicted of any crimes, yet the prosecutor claims that if he doesn't get convicted under Title 18 Section 1030 of the USC, then the prosecutor would try for wire fraud.

Brian K. West, who did nothing more than try to get a local copy of an html document to pre-test how an ad would look on a webpage, using Microsoft FrontPage, may well have his reputation ruined and his finances destroyed as a result of his actions. He did not deface the site. He did not damage anything. He accidentally found a security hole, tested it to make sure it was real, and then called the owner of the site to inform him of the problem. In short, West faces a felony conviction for telling the Poteau Daily News that he discovered a serious misconfiguration in their server. Documentation on this case, in .pdf format (Acrobat) can be found at the following URL:  "

I have read the account at the freerepublic website, and it's pretty infuriating; but I have no feel for the accuracy of the reporting, and part of the story doesn't ring quite true to me. I would appreciate real data: please don't send long speculations assuming the story is true until we have reason to believe it is true. There may be more or less here than reported...

It appears you were correct about there being more to the matter than initial reports indicate. If you look in Mitch Wagner's newsgroup on SFF.NET there's a lady (Modean Moon) there who is apparently local to the people and companies in question. She has a few messages with some thoughts on the issue, of which I'll quote one in case you don't have time to track them down. This is still hearsay, but it does give some more insights.


Subject: Re: Systems administrator arrested after being Good Samaritan From: (Modean Moon) Newsgroups: sff.people.mitch-wagner

But wait! There's more.

And this just in, from a reliable source (faster than a speeding bullet...)

He's not being indicted for breaking in. He's being indicted for theft of intellectual property. A proprietary program that had been almost 2 1/2 years in development. It was designed for small newspapers wanting an online presence. According to my information, he downloaded the entire program and had almost completed the re-write on the machine's Hard Drive which the FBI now has in their possession.

Also, since the *article* states he is being charged with violation of Title 18, Section 1030 USC I went looking for that: 

Sec. 1030. Fraud and related activity in connection with computers

Which would seem to cover any violations springing from the *Two* banks I have in the past few minutes learned were involved, as well as downloading the in-preparation software.

I see that Mr. West is posting in the comments in his own defense on the article site.




-- Robert Brown

There often is more to these matters than at first appears. I used to look into them and go to many places. Then I got Ricochet and high speed and did that even more, and also got in the habit of including more incidents. then Ricochet went away, and I find that trying to do this at modem speed is just plain awful...

In any event, the significant thing is that there might be a story. A few years ago it would have been dismissed out of hand: we could be certain that the government is not that vicious and the FBI not that incompetent. Would that were so now. Now we have to look into matters like this.

But we were born free. 


Subject: netscape 6.1

some reviewers say it has no redeeming value.... but it does have speed and one very important thing.... it's nice to look at. IE5.5 makes you feel like you're driving a used car. I can't speak to all the technical details, but it was worth ordering the CD




Here's another example of the publik skool system in this country failing the children, this time for a blatantly political purpose.

In George Orwell's novel "1984," the ruling Party was embarked on a program to change the English language so that it would be impossible to have, much less articulate, "incorrect" thoughts.

Orwell's "Principles of Newspeak" (which is the appendex to "1984") is available on the internet at 

[Before you go there, see below. JEP]

A few weeks ago, I came across this real life example from the WALL STREET JOURNAL Online of Newspeak being pushed for by a teacher in Oregon (I don't know how I missed it when it first appeared three and a half months ago). 

Monday, May 7, 2001 12:56 p.m. EDT

"Speaking of Butterflies..."

...[West Salem, Oregon, fourth grade teacher David] Price is also trying to change the pronunciation of "Oregon." Even the National Public Radio Style Guidebook says it's supposed to be pronounced "OR-uh-guhn," not "OR-uh-gawn." But Price and his collaborator Toby Abraham-Rhine (the mother of one of his students, whom he enlisted "because of her progressive views and performance artist background") insist on "-gawn," which, as any real Oregonian will quite emphatically tell you, is dead wrong.

Why? Barks Abraham-Rhine: "I hate guns."

Robert Racansky


But then we have:

Hello Jerry,

I know that you are not responsible for the content for web pages that people send to you, but are you aware that the link on Orwellian Newspeak < > contains an advertisement for "fisting sluts" and quite graphically illustrates fornication?

While I am no prude, and am not personally offended, I can't imagine you wanting to be associated with this particular advertiser. The web site on it's own appears to be harmless, though perhaps the people who are responsible for it do not show enough good judgment for me to continue visiting their web page.

On other matters, I think your web site is fine. It loads fast, is easy to navigate, and I think that content is far more important than style. I've always enjoyed reading your opinions (especially when you get a "bit" between your teeth about something).

Best wishes!

Bill Grigg Kelowna BC

I certainly had not seen that advertisement. Unfortunately being back to 28K Internet access (we are about to try something else, but it will take a while) I don't get to check everything.

And then there is this:


Besides the animated advert for fisting, on the bottom of the page containing the NewSpeak essay linked to from Current Mail: 

you'll find the following:

"That's how much it costs to subscribe to ETR, and gain total access to all the filthy, dirty, nasty, porno on this site. And that's non recurring, so there's no need to worry about canceling. Just sign up, download, and fuck off. No worries, no strings, no hassles. Check back often. New pornography added weekly."

What the "Eat The Rich" website has posted (without attribution) is an excerpt from "The Principles of Newspeak", George Orwell: 1948. You can find the same essay (w/o porn and properly attributed) at: 


Jeff Elkins

I think I had better get wideband Internet so I can look at everything myself. Thanks





This week:


read book now


Sunday, August 19, 2001

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Subject: The Dewey Debate, interim report two

Dear Jerry:

To my annoyance and chagrin, I find I must partially retreat on the John Dewey front. I originally began this by accusing Dewey of the attitude "THOSE people don't need academic subjects of the sort we teach OUR kids in prep school. Lets make sure they get ready for the factories, where they belong." Mr. John Welch disagreed, saying I'd confused Dewey with his critics.

Well, as I read Dewey's educational works, I am finding passages that conform to Mr. Welch's assessment. The problem is, I also find stuff that talks about fitting the children into society, preparing most of them for the world of work, etc. This stuff does sound like my original assessment of Dewey.

Still, the path of intellectual integrity requires looking at all Dewey's nearly interminable writings on education, as well as secondary sources such as Barzun's _Teacher In America_ (borrowed, not yet begun; thank God for public libraries) and Diane Ravitch (see her important new book _Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms_), then summing it all up. So far, when I do, Dewey cancels himself out to a great extent through contradiction. As yet, the only consistent points are a passion for 'manual training,' and a hostility to the traditional classroom in method, curriculum, and goals.

But Mr. Welch was at least a third right, and I at least a third wrong in our original positions. DAMMIT!

Best, Stephen

I think you will find Barzun's Teacher in America the best book of the lot including Dewey.

And some kids do need to be fitted for work suitable to their intellect; not everyone needs advanced education. On the other hand, what we used to teach in high school to nearly everyone is now considered advanced in many places.

On the Brian West matter:

Dear Jerry--

This popped up on Slashdot yesterday, and I took the time to go look at the legal documents Brian has posted at . Assuming the statements in the affidavit are true, then there's a lot more here than you see at first glance. It appears that Mr. West did a lot more than "notice the server was misconfigured, then tell the editor of the paper about it". It appears he also downloaded, then used, a file of username/password sets, using that to access secure servers from, for example, a bank. Specifically (from affidavit-hack.pdf ):

"During the conversation, West advised Burchett that West had previously, by accident, entered the Web site of 1st National Bank in McAlester, and was able to look at customer's checking and savings accounts as well as the transfer of funds West claimed that he informed the bank of his intrusion and of the bank's lack of security and that the bank officer thanked West but also reacted in a hostile manner. West further advised Burchett that West purposely accessed 1st National Bank' s Web site on two other occasions. After those intrusions, West claimed that West contacted a senior vice president of an Oklahoma City branch of 1 st National Bank and advised him of what West had done."


"19. The IIS log infomlation indicates that on February 1,2000 at between 16:05 and 16:48 at least thirty attempts were made to connect to the PDNS web server from This was followed by five attempts to connect to the PDNS server from between 16:48 and 16:49. These attempts are followed by at least five separate attempts to connect to the same computer at PDNS from In many cases, the logs reflect that the attempts to connect were not simply requests to view the webpage, but attempts to access the files and Perl scripts that cause the webpage to operate. At 19:47, was able to enter a command line to access the file containing user identifications and passwords to access the webpage. At 19:50 a user logged in to the PONS web page edit program from using the user identification and password of CRTI employee, James W. McCoy, Jr. An FBI interview of McCoy determined that he did not access the PDNS webpage edit program on February 1,2000 and did not authorize anyone to use his user identification and password."

If Mr. West had simply done what he says he's done, I'd be a lot more willing to stand behind him. However, it appears that he went a lot further than any reasonable person would. That's what he's (apparently) being prosecuted for.

Anyway, a little more grist for the mill.

On another front, I sympathize with your internet feed hassle. I used to run my office on a Northpoint feed (which replaced an ISDN line), and my house is currently on Covad DSL. Having also had a Richochet die, I'm getting a weee bit tired of re-provisioning, so I know what you're dealing with. But, to the point. It sounds like you're too far for DSL, and ISDN is a bit unreasonable, so I presume you're somewhere up in the hills around the San Fernando Valley. May I presume you've got a reasonably accessible southern (sky) exposure? If so, one possibility that you might what to consider is a bunch called Starband ( They do satellite feed service, providing the service for Dish Networks, and Primus. Latency is a bit of an issue, but it looks like it's fairly viable as a solution if that's not a problem. They promise 60K up/150K down, peaking to ~500K down, so that's more-or-less in the ballpark of what I understand you to be looking for, speedwise. Anyway, just something to think about.

Charlie Prael

I suspected there was more there than at first met the eye. How much I don't  know. 

We are going to look at Starband next. And at evil and potent black magic...

Mr. Pournelle,

While I'm writing, please let me thank you for all the superb science fiction you've written over the years. I still feel Mote is one of the great science fiction titles of all time, perhaps the greatest first contact ever written.

Anyway, about the Jan column where you consider the age old question of analog vs digital music quality.

I'm a computer science major. My past advisor, who has a fairly strong knowledge of both computer science and electrical engineering, claims that the perceived problem with digital music arises in playback. Evidently DAC converters are as equally likely to add odd as even harmonics to the output signal, and human hearing is *extraordinarily* sensitive to odd harmonics, which are supposedly much less freqent than the even ones in natural sounds.

So: The problem is not with the input signal; 44.4 sampling rates are fine, as information theory assures us, and as you point out.

o Measured distortion ratings in cheap playback equipment miss the point, since the statistics are typically for THD, rather than featuring separate measures for even and odd HD.

o Even harmonic distortion can actually sound *good* to some people; I believe it's part of what's behind the "warmth" I hear in LP recordings, as compared to CDs, and those who prefer tube amplifiers probably are also hearing the same thing.

o Most of us (myself included) buy cheap CD players, since who wants to pay many hundreds for a good DAC when the transport/laser will die in two years anyway.

o Knowledgeable audiophiles know better, and get the real quality that is available out of their CDs.

o If you have a truly good stereo system, with digital input taken from the CD to an amplifier with good quality DAC circuitry, you may well be able to fool listeners into believing you have analog inputs.


Bill Pippin

Maestro Gregory tells me he can tell the difference between analog and digital. He's said to be extremely good, and he certainly invents musical instruments. So I just don't know. But bits is bits, and sample rates is sample rates, I keeps protesting...

Jerry: The New York Times recently had an article on the same topic.  I find it a better explanation of what's going on than the one linked by Bill Seward.

If the observations pan out, it means that the fine structure constant may have changed by as much as 0.001% over the last 12 billion years.

Some formulations of string theory hold that the physical constants may have changed during the early lifetime of the universe, but most theorists expect that they would have "settled down" pretty quickly.

I imagine there are theorists who are plugging the changed fine structure constant into their calculations to see what impact it may have on the expected ratios of hydrogen and helium isotopes formed as the universe cooled down.

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

P.S. Next time you're absent from a LASFS meeting, I'll try to ensure that you're properly slandered. :-)

Thanks. I recall an old Astounding story in which the fine structure constant began changing rapidly, with disastrous results to all...








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