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Mail 178 November 5 - 11, 2001 

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This week:



Monday  November 5, 2001

Dear Jerry,

Your CHAOS MANOR MAIL for October 29th contained discussion of a fake CNN page. Among other things there was a following statement:

... So, this means that the "" in that URL is ignored by your browser, and the REAL page is at the location of, aka "".

I don't know much about intricacies of the Internet, but I can assure you that has nothing to do with this hoax. We are a legitimate automotive magazine and there is nobody here who is technically capable of such things.

I liked the idea though...


Mike Galkin Editor-in-chief 'Motor' magazine Moscow Russia

Fascinating. Thanks...

And Roland urges us all to read the "whole thing..." 

And indeed it's worth it.

And now Linux for Aunt Minnie!

Dear Jerry,

Well, I dunno yet, but it may be that I've found a Linux that even Aunt Minnie can install and use with only minimal instructions.

It is available from and logically, the OS is called RedmondLinux. I downloaded the ISO file and burned it to a CD, then stuck it in a computer (Intel P3) at work. It already had Windows on Drive C:, and a second harddrive for another OS. I clicked on the RedmondLinux icon in My Computer, and window came up telling me that to install RL I would need to reboot. I did, and the Computer came up in the RL setup mode. It played a soundfile (already having determined the soundcard) and asked me if I wanted to set up RL on my computer. It found the empty drive, and defaulted to it, but gave me a choice of sticking it somewhere else. I chose the default. It found the mouse (a scroll mouse), it found the correct video card, asked me about the keyboard and monitor, and off we went.

As it trundled, loading packages, it gave me a solitaire game to fill the empty 25 minutes or so. When it finished it rebooted, and came up in a pretty KDE desktop, and looked uncannily like Windows. It comes with KWord, a spreadsheet program, a presentation manager, an organizer, Mozilla web browser, GIMP Image manipulator, a ton of other programs and the Network Browser. The Network Browser freaked me out because it seems to be a fully implement Samba setup and allowed me to go into both a Windows box and a Linux box on the same network and grab files or even run Windows stuff with WINE.

I took it home and set it up on a PC I had at home. Same seamless install with an AMD K2-450. It found the network card, but not the modem. Unfortunately, it is a Supra Winmodem, HSP instead of DSP. I'm not sure if I want to download one of the various problematical setups for Conexant HSP modems, or just buy a better modem.

Anyway, thus far I am impressed. It did a beautiful quality setup. The only thing I REALLY don't like about it is the execrable Linux fonts. That will change, however.

--Jerry Wright

I will look into that. And keep me posted...


I believe that you could more clearly label your political views by using more than the two labels commonly used to characterize such views. Liberal v. Conservative does not really do your views justice. Even using a Guttman ratio scale (Archimedean Ordered Field) to place yourself on the Liberal-Conservative continuum doesn't seem to do the job. You need more descriptors!

For example, consider the four labels: Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, and Populist. There are (at least) the following possible permutations:

Liberal Conservative Populist Libertarian Liberal Populist Conservative Populist Liberal Libertarian Conservative Libertarian

There are other labels (Anarchist), but I don't think you will need them.

I make this point about labels because your point of view has been rather unfairly characterized by some, most recently the NTK newsletter regarding your "WTC monument" suggestion.

While I share your opinion that America should be a (democratic) republic and not an empire, I believe that you are incorrect in implying that we actually have this choice. It is not a matter of whether we have the will to empire. We will become angry enough to have the will to empire, given likely further provocations. Suppose a conventional dirty bomb were detonated high enough in the atmosphere to spew radioactive Cesium over the cornfields of the midwest. Or suppose a dirty Plutonium bomb were detonated in an American city. I believe that either would convince most Americans to go to war with the aim of empire.

I'm not concerned with will. That is not the obstruction to empire. It is the lack of means that concerns me. I do not believe we have the means. We are not a very strong military power at present. Our "allies" will not wish to be client states in an American Empire. We have many critical dependencies on resources beyond our shores. Its not just about oil. If we took steps to become strong enough to engage in Empire building, we would meet overwhelming resistance, and not just from the Chinese. Democratic Republic is the right choice because it is the only choice.

Instead of impossible empire, let us aim for the stars, for that is our current "manifest destiny."

-- Steven Belknap

Well you won't get a big argument from me... Thanks


WSJ reported last week that Capitol insiders are taking "cip for thrax".

As for Occam's Razor and the distribution of antrax outbreaks, I think the geographic distribution of the attacks suggests the source is Middle East influenced. Their worldview of the Great Satan sees an east coast face, so they strike on the eastern seaboard.

Perhaps Enquirer got it for suggesting OBL is a bumb lay or similar insults.

The Chinese look at the west coast, and one of the Red Army generals is fond of threatening to nuke LA.

jim dodd San Diego

And now I am told there has been an arrest...






This week:



Tuesday,  November 6, 2001


Sorry this is about a post from nearly a week ago, but sometimes I just can't get past the homework, wife, child, dogs, church, work, etc. to get on the web. 

I hope the new world order warrior Cheney has a better grasp on the Present and Future than he does on the Past. Specifically from :

>Instead, the Spartans built massive, well-trained armies. When the two countries fought, who won? Sparta. And, guess who lost their entire civilization because they didn't think it was important to build an appropriate army? Athens!>

I'd have thought someone with your knowledge of History would have pointed out they fallacy of this argument. Athens had an excellent army, remember Marathon? The citizen-soldiers whipped the professionals and mass levies of the empire Persian style. Later discovery of silver led to building a fleet that won 10 years later. Here's the rub: Athens began to embark on Empire and subject states and the rest of Greece grew alarmed at Athens' pride and power. Sound familiar? A disastrous overseas expedition (sparked by demagogues at home) to Syracuse in Sicily wiped out Athens best army and defecting clients ended in siege and defeat. Sparta's victory was short-lived, the barbarians from Macedon were soon on the scene to assume the Hellenic Civilization.

Your posting of those remarks has got me to thinking about dusting off Thucydidies for my next history book; I try to read one history and then some fiction (what of _Mamelukes_?) when possible. Right now I'm reading Toynbee's history: the one-volume abridged work. Interesting point from it: barbarians use a civilization's transportation network to attack.

Vive le Republic!

"They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin, 1759.

I often leave some things as exercises for the reader. And Sparta itself succumbed to Thebes although the nation wasn't conquered. Sparta was a kind of Empire: the whole country was organized to keep the helots down. 

One can learn from history, but one needs to read it. Thucydides is no bad place to start.


I watched tonight's Nova episode on the state of Russia's post Cold War nuclear defenses and was scared out of my skull. Not so much by the subsistience wages being paid to the Russian armed forces in charge of their missles, nor by the aging technology. What boggled my mind was the segment on the psychological evaluation of candidates for missle command. The Russian psychologist confidently explained the criticality of biorythms, and the location and phase of the moon and sun at the time of birth in establishing personality traits. For God's sake! At least the narrator (Vladimir Pozner) commented that he was tempted to ask her if Tarot cards were also in their suite of psychological tools.

I'm almost afraid to look into what methods are used by our forces.


Leander Kalpaxis

No comment is needed...

Jerry, I have never understood why the Chinese hate us so.

>From the Telegraph: "Beijing produces videos glorifying terrorist attacks on 'arrogant' US"

Steve Howell

Again no comment needed.

You wrote:

Larry happens to have a fast Slot 1 chip). He inserted two 256-MB Kingston memory DIMMS. They were known good, and worked with his Windows Me system. Windows XP wouldn't install. He took out the memory chips and tested them. They are both up to specification. However, Windows XP will not install with one of those chips in the system. It will with the other. Once installed with just one installed, it seems to run if you put both in.

My experience:

I have never been able to install any Microsoft OS when the computer had over 256MB in it. Now, I always put 256MB in the computer, load the OS, then add the memory. Perhaps you could find out what the problem is.

I have never had that problem, and I recently built two D815EEAL boxes, each with 512 megs to begin. No problems with Windows 2000, and my upgrade to XP problem wasn't caused by too much memory.

I have no idea what is going on, alas.




This week:



Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Hi Jerry

I just read your latest article on the joys of installing and re-installing Windows XP. I must admit, you do know how to tell 'em. I thought you may be interested in my experiences installing XP.

I installed evaluation version RC1 (Professional) to a blank hard disc on my AMD K6-2 300 system. The first time, I got the same sort of errors copying many of the files as you did. The installation slowly ground to a halt after that. I cleaned the CD, reformatted and tried again. All ok this time and XP works very nicely too.

I then upgraded my Win 98SE installation on the same machine, different hard disc. I kept FAT32. This Win 98SE installation has been somewhat unstable recently with blue screens and Explorer crashes. Probably due to all the stuff I install, then remove from it. I suspect the odd hardware glitch too in their somewhere.

Installation went ok and ran much more stably. Got one bad crash where the machine rebooted without warning. XP now came up with the 'classic' interface style, instead of the pretty XP style. Oh, ok, I'll just select XP style again.... err no, it was no longer present! Maybe the registry got corrupted, I don't know. I rebooted, but to no avail.

As this is a time-limited eval version I decided to uninstall back to 98 until I buy the retail version. Uninstall worked very well, with everything on my old install restored perfectly. Now my 98 setup works with hardly any crashes. Odd but welcome.

Have you heard of any availability problems for Windows XP? I live in London, England and have tried getting hold of the pro version from PC World (special discount  ), but all they ever have is the home version.

Is this some conspiracy by Microsoft to limit the number of copies and hence rebates it has to give out? Are other computer shops also suffering supply problems? I would love to know.

And finally, a little plug for my computer club  They really are a smashing bunch there. If you ever come to the UK, come check us out, you will be most welcome.

Best Regards

Michael Stirling

My problems were from the installer, not hardware, as I'll explain in the November column. I don't know anything about Windows XP availability but I'd be surprised if Microsoft were doing anything goofy on that. Thanks for the kind words.

Jerry Pournelle,

I had the same problem with my "upgrade" of Win2k. About fifteen different scenarios of removing memory, testing hard-drives & CD-ROM, checking jumpers, and changing cabling did no good ... same problem, installation failed to copy files.

A week, and several empty hair follicles later, I whittled it down to the VIA chipset IDE Drivers in Windows 95. And, I could only do an Upgrade not a "dual-boot".

I re-installed Windows 95 on a clean partition, tweaked the VIA IDE drivers up to the maximum revision...manualy (the automatic .exe screwed it up every time). Then, "upgraded" to Win2k ... all files installed, and it's still running 10 months later (knock on wood).

I will NEVER buy another "Upgrade" of and operating system again. The $100.00 savings of Upgrade vs. Full Win2k from Fry's just wasn't worth the aggravation.

Of course I did all this the week before final projects were due in two computer classes at college. You may "do silly things so we don't have too", but some of us just never learn.


I don't in general advocate buying "Upgrade" editions of software. On the other hand I like Windows 2000 better than XP anyway...


The one thought that occurs to me while absorbing the news from many sources on the recent anthrax non-demic: I have no biology training, most of my education is in basic physics and computer science. Judging by the news, the care and handling of anthrax in micron-scale powder form doesn't seem to be a kitchen-counter operation. If it was, wouldn't we be seeing a lot more dead terrorists in NJ?

Having a jar sitting around from the "good old days" or a baggie-full from some unnamed foreign source may be all we and good for them - but how does it end up in our mail system?

Anyone who's helped with baking, or any other work with powder, knows how uncontrollable things like flour and icing sugar can be. Things like plaster also tend to plume, spread, and stick. I assume the size of anthrax particle in the news makes the dust in a sunbeam look big. You don't just stick a spoon in your baggie, pick up a bit, and drop it in an envelope, and lick it shut.

If a sorting machine can squeeze the contents out into the atmosphere, how do you handle this stuff to get it to the mailbox? Someone in rubber gloves and a dust-mask emptying a ziplock bag of envelopes into a mailbox should look suspicious; and the vehicle they drove to there should also be a death-trap if the zip-lock was leaking, if New Jersey roads are as bumpy as the ones I have driven...

Even a decent lab vent cabinet (buy and install one of those in your house without arousing local suspicions!) may not protect you from the dust. It may just spread the infection over the rest of the neighbourhood.

Would the material come pre-packaged from outside the country, complete with pathetic fake addresses and silly warnings? If the true purpose is to infect people and spread terror, why give them a warning in Grade-4 handwriting? Disguise it as generic junk mail, or standard business mailings - or even as a piece of legitimate mail in the wrong address. (Or like the MS scare - as porn, that is likely to be passed from hand to hand).

This whole business seems very amateurish, considering the alleged precision of the planning in al-Queda activities. It seems the precise details of delivery were left to the individual in charge, who improvised without much imagination.

Another thing was not mentioned much in the media - there were many and frequent hoaxes about powder for years before this. (When I was in NYC in 1999, a ritzy shop on 5th Ave. was cordoned off and surrounded by fire and police vehicles because of one such letter.) What was this all about? Were any of these hoaxes solved? Was this a warm-up by terrorists, or did it give the idea to the terrorists?

Maurice Daniels Email:

You make some good points here. I don't really know much about the procedures for moving fine powders about without getting exposed to them. If I were doing it I guess I would make the equivalent of a moon suit out of plastic raingear and masking tape...

Dr. Pournelle:

Here is something that might be entertaining, recalling your work with maps for your writing: 

very interesting stuff

Mike Zawistowski

Interesting stuff. Thanks!

Now this:

Someone sent you this quotation from Dick Cheney: "It's not only Americans who can go to bed feeling safe. Children everywhere from Israel to England, from Brazil to Japan know that, if their country is attacked, the U.S. will be there to help."

Only, it's a thoroughly Inaccurate description of how we expect the USA to behave. In an old phrase, as it's for a domestic audience, it's "for Buncombe". It's especially worrying if he really believes it.

Certainly in my own case, ever since the wind back of support for South Vietnam, and most especially the manner in which support was withdrawn, I do NOT have that sense of security from the USA. I don't quite feel the same way about it as David Niven's description of Errol Flynn, "you could rely on Errol, he always let you down" - but it's close. In fact, sometimes I'm more worried about what might happen if the USA tried to help and got it wrong. The image I get there is Steinbeck's Lenny in "Of Mice and Men".

You can't take me as fully representative either - but I am a lot closer to these things than Dick Cheney.

A thought: you might like to look at the 27.10.01 issue of the British magazine "the Spectator", and see its article of advice to Pakistan entitled "With friends like us". PML.


I.e., a Goods and Services Tax (or almost any other broad based production tax), with a Negative Payroll Tax, promotes employment.

See  and the other items on that page for some reasons why.

Peter Lawrence []

Well, the US may muck things up, but the Brits were glad to see us in WW I, and the Australians weren't all that unhappy when we got there in WW II... on the other hand, I certainly am no fan of the American Empire.

I do want to break enough heads that people will leave us alone in future.

This one came with the subject "See what free men can do!"

The 10:00 news broadcast had a short piece tonight. The Mayo Clinic has developed a DNA-based test for anthrax that gives results in an hour instead of a week. The test is being produced and distributed by Roche Laboratories. It will initially be available FOR FREE to qualified test labs.

No technical details were provided, beyond the statement that they used off-the-shelf DNA testing technology and applied it to anthrax. I engage in totally unqualified speculation when I say that I expect that this is probably some flavor of polymerase chain reaction test.

--John Strohm

And finally:

Hi, Jerry

I read your last Republic vs. Empire essay and I disagree with some of the premises of your argument. I think a stay-at-home Republic would still be hated, and an Empire may be safer than you think.

Going home and closing the door won't help, that's not the key reason they hate us. Their preferred lifestyle can only survive if their children see no alternatives. A girl who watches American movies won't be content with spending her life in a burka. Every bright lad who wants to improve his life dreams of coming to America. As long as we exist as an example what free people can be, we threaten the stability of societies that demand unified thought-whether it be Communist, Fascist, or Wahabi.

To avoid offending the mullahs we'd have to not allow Americans to visit other countries, prevent foreigners from visiting or immigrating, strictly punish anyone who exports a book, video, or CD, and ensure that no foreign computer can ever connect to an American internet site. Exporting recreational or education goods would have to banned, lest it inspire new thoughts among the customers. Our citizens would have be barred from hearing news from abroad, lest they demand some atrocity be countered. No food or other aid could be sent to the starving so as not to reveal our wealth. That's not a Republic by my lights.

The hazards of Empire are real, but we're more resistant to them than the Romans. We have a tradition of military subservience to civilian authority, even when bad orders lead to soldier's deaths or lost wars. Our government draws its legitimacy from the will of the whole people, not just a few aristocratic families. This is a profound inhibition against soldiers wanting to seize power or thinking they could succeed. The past few centuries show that Empires can be built without that danger. The British built their Empire without facing any military coups, and were more republican in practice at the end of the Imperial period than at the beginning. France did see such an Imperial backfire after it withdrew from Algeria, but the revolt was swiftly suppressed. Even in ancient history, Athens did not lose its democracy to the strain of running its empire but as a consequence of being defeated by Sparta. Rome seems to be the exception, not the rule.

A national effort of space industrialization could free us from Arab oil, but won't free us from Arab hate. I really like the plan you proposed--I risked my health and marriage trying to make one of the RLV start-ups succeed--but I don't think it will solve the problem of 9/11 attacks. We may need to do it to generate the wealth needed to pay for the empire. The only solution I see to Al Qaeda and its brethren is to give a free citizen's education to all those children currently being indoctrinated in hate. That can't be quick or cheap or easy.

Karl Gallagher

I don't care if they hate us. I want them to be afraid, and more, I want their governments to worry: if someone is plotting against the US, the head of that state will wish it had not happened. The head of ANY state we don't particularly like. We want a grave of a hundred heads, and on the top of the grave is the head of the headman, and below it that of his son...

I would read Thucydides a bit differently from you, I think.

Stay well.







This week:


read book now


Thursday, November 8, 2001

Subject: The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

While diagnosing a problem with Microsoft Exchange, the following became apparent from Microsoft's Knowledge Base:

1) Applying certain security patches to fix Microsoft's porous web server (IIS) breaks Microsoft's email/collaboration server, Exchange.

2) There is a later security patch to apply to Microsoft's web server that incidentally (not by design) fixes the problem with Exchange introduced by the earlier patches.

3) That later patch was re-issued by Microsoft because in its original incarnation, it reversed the effects of a previous security patch. In other words, as originally released, it closed a newly-found security hole but opened one that had been found previously.

I am reminded of the opening credits to "Monty Python and the Holy Grail": "Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked, have been sacked."

Steve Setzer

Ain't higher management fun?


I am hoping you or one of your readers might be able to help me. I am trying to find a way to have Outlook (Im using Outlook 2000) show the due dates of tasks in the calendar. This way when I sync with my palm all my tasks will show up in the daily schedule. The reason for this is I want to be able to set alarms on the tasks to remind me to get things done. I know that Handspring has datebook+ software on the their device that does this. I do not know if when it syncs with outlook it will move the tasks into the task folder or not. I like the task folder in Outlook because it gives me a simple way to see how I am doing big picture wise. Thanks for any ideas.

Richard Lynch []

I don't use either of those so I can't tell you. I blush to say I have gone back to Franklin Ascend and printed daybooks...


This is an FYI on some things I've read recently. this article:

< >

describes some hardware that the reviewer testing various embedded Linux toolkits on.

The interesting thing about this is the hardware they use. They used three EBX formfactor Single Board Computers (SBC). These are all x86 based, but all come with integrated video, networking, multiple serial ports, compact flash/ide, etc. One even comes with 40-pin digital IO. All support both Linux, and vxWorks BSPs appear to be available from all the vendors.

This EBX formfactor is a small 5.75 x 8.0 in board, and they use standard PC power supplies. EBX SBCs support PC/104+ expansion boards as well (which is essentially the PCI bus, only setup to "stack" parallel to the original board rather than perpendicular), so they can support a wide range of peripheral add in cards (if needed). See: 

for EBX information. See  for PC/104 information.

I would think that by removing the Ziatech backplane and card cage, at least two of these boards could easily be inserted in the same space (or different space). After arranging for redundant power supplies, I expect you will end up saving space.


Subj: Anthrax - DNA Evidence of US Origin

Wall Street Journal article 8 Nov 2001 "Two Scientists Tracing Anthrax Family Tree Investigate Origins of Strain From Attacks", by ANTONIO REGALADO, says there is a lab at Northern Arizona University that catalogs anthrax strains.

The evidence in favor of US origin is DNA similarity to the "Ames Strain", which has apparently been grown for research purposes in several US and British labs since at least the 1930s.

This doesn't _rule_out_ Iraqi origin -- the Iraqis could have got hold of some Ames strain.

One annoyance is that the media furor over the "Ames Strain" prompted researchers at Iowa State University to destroy their own anthrax collection -- with FBI and CDC permission, they say. But now there's no way to find out whether anything in that collection matched the strains used in the attacks or not.

There is some possible evidence in favor of Iraqi or other nation-state-supported origin of the strains used in the attacks: the Ames strain doesn't drift genetically very much in culture, but the samples used in the attacks are not quite identical. That's more consistent with the conjecture that the spores used in the several attacks were sampled from the very large production runs one would find in a state-sponsored bio-weapons program than it is with the conjecture that those spores came from a small batch or two that someone cooked up in his basement lab.

But the NAU researchers apparently regard the DNA evidence so far as not really pointing very strongly either way.

Rod Montgomery ==

I guess my astonishment is how large a frog people will swallow in order to believe that this stuff was from some "domestic hate group" and unrelated to the Black September War.

Handling that stuff without leaving contamination traces isn't rocket science but it's not trivial either. Milling to one micron isn't easy. Getting things set to mail it to different places isn't easy. Getting hold of anthrax isn't trivial. Of course neither is doing a coordinated hijack of 4 airplanes and successfully crashing 3 of them into major public buildings.

Which leads me to ask, why postulate more groups capable of this when there is one that certainly was capable, had access to anthrax sources, and has every reason to try using it against us?  Absent evidence to the contrary, why not assume Iraqi anthrax, probably obtained originally from strains available in the US and likely on the open market from US labs back when that was a lot easier, grown in fermentation tanks in Iraq and milled there, and then passed along to bin Laden's people possibly without the consent of Saddam Hussein himself? That doesn't take many assumptions at all.  But apparently the media like swallowing large toads.

AP) - In buses and trucks, pickups and vans, more than 5,000 people rolled out of a northeastern Pakistan village Saturday morning, bound for the Afghan frontier and vowing to fight a holy war against the United States. Thousands of Pakistani men, young and old, had massed in Temergarah on Friday night with assault rifles, machine guns, even rocket launchers. A few even carried axes and swords.

One does have to feel sorry for them. (feeling the pain and death to come, and fearing it)



It doesn't really matter that Russia was chased out of Afghanistan.

It doesn't really matter that the Northern Alliance is outnumbered 4 to 1.

Why? Well, to quote Messrs. Pournelle and Stirling:

"Military historians like Creveld, in considering how successful insurgency aided by one Superpower could be used against the other did not, until the end of the Cold War, consider the improbability of the success of LIC against both Superpowers acting in concert.

Insurgency against a modern state requires powerful allies operating from sanctuary. The allies need not be of 'superpower' status; but they will require that one of the Superpowers, or both of them acting as the CoDominium, protect the sanctuary status of the supplying nation. Unfortunately, given supply of war material from a sanctuary, insurgency can be continued practically forever." ("Go Tell the Spartans", 344-345).

The Taliban "government" is hardly a "modern state." The Northern Alliance and Southern tribes, given both supply and direct bombing assistance by the US and with the less-active support of Russia and regional powers like Pakistan and India, will in time be able to wear down a Taliban state that has no friends and no real means of large-scale resupply. If the CoDominium oops I mean U.S. ground forces are sent in, the Taliban's lifespan will be much shorter. And unlike "Prince of Sparta", there will be few forces defecting to the Taliban's side.

Steve Setzer

By the way, when are you going to get back to Lysander and Christian Johnny?

Oh, I agree. And it never troubles a wolf how many the sheep be... I'm dancing as fast as I can.

From another discussion group:

For too long we have assumed that since being a "nation" has been good for America, it must be good for everyone. It's time for us to Try Something Else. Instead of artificial "nation-building", let's try amplifying the natural "nation-destroying" forces at work in "tribal" areas. Letting (and even helping) Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. splinter into hundreds of little principalities run by warlords with no allegiance other than to holding power for their families might well be the best way to neutralize the danger that "failed nations" pose to the West.

Hooking all these little "country-lets" on Western food aid would be a sound move. It would provide us with something to do with our farm surpluses while destroying their indigenous agriculture. They would then be like the U.S. inner city, only far away--we could subdue them with just an aid cutoff rather than our military.

Anyway, trying to make foreign lands "like" us has not worked. Let's try something else.


And then send in the computers and Internet, and try Snowcrash for real!

But at least we know why it happened now:

Bill Clinton, the former president, said yesterday that terror has existed in America for hundreds of years and the nation is "paying a price today" for its past of slavery and for looking "the other way when a significant number of native Americans were dispossessed and killed." 

"Here in the United States, we were founded as a nation that practiced slavery, and slaves quite frequently were killed even though they were innocent," said Mr. Clinton in a speech to nearly 1,000 students at Georgetown University's ornate Gaston Hall. "This country once looked the other way when a significant number of native Americans were dispossessed and killed to get their land or their mineral rights or because they were thought of as less than fully human. 

"And we are still paying a price today," said Mr. Clinton, who was invited to address the students by the university's School of Foreign Service.



Dear Dr. Pournelle,


You noted a month or so ago the report that suggested that the Ebola virus may have been the actual cause of the Black Death. This comes rather late, but my computer chose that rather financially inopportune moment to force a system upgrade, and it has taken me a while to catch up. While the suggestion is, as you said, interesting, it doesn’t have much to back it up. Contemporary accounts of the Plague describe symptoms quite in line with y. pestis and very little like those of Ebola and related strains. There is little reason to go wandering far a-field when there has been a reasonable explanation for a century (that old doctor’s adage about hoofbeats and zebras applies). The buboes common to plague victims bear little resemblance to the lesions of Ebola and, from what I’ve read of Ebola, it would far more likely have been referred to as the Red Death than the Black.


I think this is more a matter of Ebola being the demon plague of the hour (or rather it was; anthrax seems to have pushed its way forward with smallpox waiting in the wings) and the media willing to take the opinions of any self-proclaimed expert as hard fact. There were similar—and slightly more credible—efforts to tie Ebola to the Athenian plague of 429/28 BC several months back. In my own layman’s opinion, however, Ebola is a recent cross-over to the human population. It seems to me that the extremity of its symptoms and the speed with which it can run through a population demonstrate that it has not quite fully adapted to a human host. Any disease organism that destroys its host so quickly will be far less successful than one that lets its host live for a longer time and come into contact with more potential hosts. Had Ebola been around for the 700 to 1000 years necessary for it to be the source of the Black Plague, I think that it would be far more adapted to us and we to it.


David Levinson

The question is, do the contemporary accounts actually square with bubonic plague?  I always accepted the rat fleas theories, and that's still the most likely I suppose, but there seem to be anomalies. 

Your evolutionary biology point is a good one.




You mentioned on your site a few days ago when you were looking for a thesaurus that reference CD from Microsoft is no longer available. The site at the link below has a Compton's/Webster's reference CD available for free plus S&H (prolly an older CD, but how often does the thesaurus change?). 

Includes Compton's Concise Encyclopedia, Compton's Concise Atlas, Compton's Internet Directory, Webster's New World Dictionary, Webster's New World Thesaurus, The World Almanac and Book of Facts, The Columbia University Complete Home Medical Guide, World History: A Dictionary of Important People, Places and Events, Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary and The Merriam-Webster Concise Handbook for Writers All Ages Published by Compton's New Media for Windows

Ted Borreson 



Thanks for the discussion on your site about where to go for the best online versions. It's little stuff like this that makes your site such a wonderful resource.

If you don't know about J.I. Rodale's "Synonym Finder" you should. As far as I know, it's only in book form, but I've had it with me for more than 15 years, and would never be without it. Roget's pales by comparison--not even in the same league. It never fails to provide me with what I'm looking for--and sometimes that's pretty obscure.

Get the hardback copy; the soft cover won't stand up to professional use. I've recommended it to quite a few professional writers, and if you don't end up raving about it, you will be the first.

--Best, Chuck

Dear Jerry, and other responders-

Hello out there, WordPerfect still exists, works well, and now has a dictionary/thesaraus for you based on the Oxford English Dictionary (WP Office 2002/ver. 10), it may possibly overwhelm you with choices, including verbs, nouns, and adjectives for "fool". I am forced to admit that among the many choices I didn't find "idiot" associated with "fool", but "fool" is associated with "idiot". Incidently, I'm finding that Word files are now 3-4 times the size of WP files for the same text, with no associated benefits that I have been able to discern.

End of sarcastic rant. Thanks for being here.


And to copy from a previous mail so we have much of this together,

Hi, Jerry,

As a writer myself, and one not lucky enough to have Microsoft Bookshelf (drat it!), I noticed quickly how politically correct, and how bad overall, the thesaurus in Word 2000 is. For those interested, I found a quick, simple, and free solution. It's a freeware thesaurus/dictionary called WordWeb. It can be found at 


StarOffice does have a thesaurus, but it's even more politically correct, and less useful otherwise than even the one in Word 2000.

Other than the PC test, I check a thesaurus in other ways. One of the simplest is typing in the word "red." The StarOffice thesaurus doesn't even have it listed. The Word 2000 thesaurus gives only six, not very, us, colorful synonyms. WordWeb, on the other hand, gives dictionary definitions, plus 21 synonyms, plus such things as Antonyms, Similar Words, Type, Types of, and Part Of.


During install, it also gives you the option of letting it automatically macro itself into Word 2000. This gives you a pretty little button on the toolbar. One click of the mouse and you have all you could ask for. When you have it check "fool" you get not only get noun and verb definitions, but fifty synonyms. And under 'Types" you get sixteen words, starting with "ass" "buffoon" "clown" "cuckoo" "fathead" "f****r," etc. Politically correct, it ain't. As a writer, I wouldn't be without it.


Love your writing. I know you're dancing as fast as you can, but you know how selfish we fans are. Good reading is hard to find, and you and Niven do it better than anyone.



James A. Ritchie

THANKS!! I will download that as soon as I get home! (In fact I didn't, but I'll get it today.) [And have done so.]









This week:



FridayNovember 9, 2001

>>>By the way, when are you going to get back to Lysander and Christian Johnny?

 There are a not-insignificant number of your fans in uniform -- full-time, part-time, and retired -- who're a-wonderin' the same thing! The Low-intensity Conflict (man, I LOVE that phrase) people in particular recommend the 'Skilly books' as a general audience introduction to the subject. I'm told there's a book review, dating back several years, in one of the professional magazines saying so. 

So, no pressure, Doc!

Yeah, I know. We had another planned. I just need some more time. I used to be able to write a book in a month, but I don't seem to be able to do that now.

Jerry, Perhaps your experience with customer service at Palm is part of the reason that the CEO of Palm resigned. I wonder if they haven't squandered the lead they had in the field?

Thanks Robert Walker, MCSE Information Systems Engineer

No data, but it was painful.

And for something completely different:

The Guardian is left-wing, but seems to share some attitudes with Debka.

First story: <,1361,588580,00.html >

I'm especially worried about the suggestion that the Pentagon should take over direct control of special operations. Why am I reminded of Vietnam? On the other hand, the Battle of Albuera (Penisular War) may also ring some bells in your memory. I suspect we need to stop discussing what we will do when we win and start discussing how we will win.

Second story: <,7495,588567,00.html  >

"The ruling implies that anyone who enters into a sexual relationship has a duty of confidentiality to the other party, similar to that of an employee to an employer. The judge said the law should protect that confidentiality within and outside marriage, subject to individual circumstances." 

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

I think it is merely time to stop discussing. It has been two months. Think of that as February, 1942...


Let me confess an idiosyncrasy: When I get mail that begins this way, I seldom read the rest.


I keep seeing you bitch and moan about your email list problems.

You are trying to do things with OE that it was never intended to do, and your complaining about dirtlink stopping your bulk mail when you are perhaps the only non-spammer sending bulk mail.

You recently touched on the solution. Go to someone who does mailing lists right.

I see 2 alternatives:

1) Get pair to install the LISTSERV software from Lsoft. There is a Lite version which is free. The full version is priced according to how many lists it supports and how many subscribers you would want. (See Lsoft for details, I don't know them.)

2) Subscribe to Lsoft's EASE service which is tailored for what you need. Its priced by number of subscribers, but again see Lsoft for details.

I would reccomend #2. Let the experts handle the crap. Once its set up, all you do is send one email to the server and it spits it back to all subscribers. Errors which are suficiently RFCwhatever compliant are handled automatically (you get a daily report), the rest go to you (or someone you designate) for handling. If you choose this route, I would be able to assist setting it up.

You can select options in the list config file (the "List Header") so users can subscribe themselves or you must approve subscriptions. You can select who can post (anybody, subscribers only, chosen few only) etc etc.

Yes, it costs. How much is it worth to get rid on the dirtlink headaches? -- Rich Greenberg 770 563-6656 m/s W7C2-2

It also makes me reconsider the whole notion of keeping a day book.

What people see in columns is what I want them to see, polished and bereft of unseemly emotions. I warn people that VIEW is a daybook, and this place is a record, not quite a diary -- I  know it will be seen by others -- but something like that.

So when people like Mr. Greenberg let me see myself as others see me, it makes me wonder what in the world I think I am doing?

In fact the mail list problem was solved without my having to do anything drastic, and yes, it did involve using another mail service, and did not involve my having to re-enter the subscriber list or transform it into an ACCESS Data Base, which is what I should have done from the first and will do at some point, but I just don't have time now if I am to do much else.

I will try in future to do less bitching and moaning and whining, and I suppose I should thank Mr. Greenberg for showing me up, but it will take a bit longer before I can do so.

And a letter about the hidden costs of supporting the Saudi regime:

Hardly the first corrupt regime we've allied ourself to.

Too bad we dream too small in solving these problems. For example, I've heard knowledgeable people say we could build a solar power satellite system that would free us totally from dependence on foreign oil -- or oil at all, for that matter -- for about $100 billion over 10 years.

Now, let's recognize that engineers never guess costs accurately; they're always too optimistic. So, applying the "first time costs 3x" rule, let's say it really will cost $300 billion. And let's say it takes 15 years instead of 10.

In 15 years the US economy will generate, in round numbers, $90,000 billion dollars of income. 300 / 90,000 = 0.33%.

So for 1/3 of one percent of our national income we could end our dependence on foreign oil. And make dramatic improvements in the quality of our environment. And get cheap access to space, and all the resources it holds. And give us a very valuable card to use at the international bargaining table ("we'll sell you cheap electricity if you'll promise to do 'x'"). And end our need to hold our nose while our "friends" continue political practices that violate everything we hold most sacred.

What's more, many of the most important benefits wouldn't even require that we wait for the project to be completed. Simply committing to do it would cause change, for the better. The growing likelihood of losing a stranglehold on the West would force many of these regiemes to adopt a more conciliatory stance >>now<<, so they wouldn't be shut out in the future.

But the thing I like best about the idea is that it leverages our strengths -- advanced technology, superior ability to organize and manage gigantic projects, enormously vibrant capital markets, the "we can do it" attitude that built "the shining city on the hill" when those who chose to stay behind didn't believe it could be done -- in a completely non-threatening way.

Well, at least not directly threatening <grin>. And not threatening at all to freedom lovers.

- Mark

Of course I agree.


As a spacecraft system engineer I had to reply to the statement that "engineers never guess costs accurately; they're always too optimistic". In my experience engineers provide well supported cost estimates that are then modified by management to meet managements unrealistic cost commitments. Engineers typically are pessimistic in their cost estimates, because they know management is generally clueless. Time after time I have seen the engineers original cost estimate proven correct when management was forced to admit their mistake.


Complete agreement.

And I do these silly things so you won't have to...


Keep bitchin'. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Greenberg.

I have been a reader since your first Byte column. I find your complaining to be a tonic for the bizarre notion that I should adapt to my machine. No way, says Pournelle, the machines should adapt to us! Your best columns have been about the sometimes Herculean efforts you made to stomp on some obscure, intermittent bug. What joy when an explanation and fix were disclosed! (Oh, I see, the installer for the old CD-ROM reset the PROM, which resulted in a memory leak when the new hard drive controller was installed...)

Forget about Lsoft's EASE service. Set up a listserv using Apache on a Linux Machine. Or better yet, do it under MacOS X. You can doubtless find some place somewhere to connect an offsite machine to a static IP address on a DSL connection, then administer the server via satellite or modem from Chaos Manor.

These suggestions to sanitize your computing environment are pure drivel. Reminds me of Blind Grandma in one of Bradbury's books. When the family tidied up her kitchen, the food lost its magic flavor. Your readers (some of them anyway) are also trying to set up listservs, blogs, web pages, database backed websites etc. on a limited budget without professional assistance. The rest of the readers just enjoy a good yarn about tech troubles overcome by logic and luck. That's why we read Chaos Manor.

Here's the deal, Jerry: you struggle with balky technology, eventually triumph, and write about it. We'll read about it, and learn from your trials and tribulations. What you do is actually *useful*! Also entertaining. So keep it up. I think the day book is fine, but wish it had a bit more content. I don't mind the rawness a bit. -- Steven Belknap



I just put together a home network to connect three computers to each other and to the Internet. It all works. In the process I learned a few things I'd like to pass on:

I set up my homenet first and got it working before my DSL "on" date. That way, I had plenty of time to get all the pieces working together. My friend who did it the other way around has Internet service on each of his machines, but no communication between machines.

I found that I could not make an initial connection to Verizon DSL through my router. I pulled my computer off the homenet, hooked my ADSL modem to my computer, then hooked up directly to Verizon DSL by installing the software provided. After I got the DSL connection running I everything off, connected the modem and my computer to the router and turned it all back on. After I set up the PPP-over-Ethernet (Verizon uses this) on my SMC Barricade router, it all worked. . .

Except that here in Princeton we have times when the Verizon DSL does not let the Internet through. So here I was, connected to DSL with no Internet service. The first time it happened I called my friend who lives an hour closer to NYC. His Internet service was fine. We could get Internet service from our old dial-up provider, but no DSL Internet. So it was some problem with Verizon.

We had another outage tonight. I just left myself online, and eventually I heard the tone of incoming e-mail. Now all three computers are back on the net.

I think the network first, Internet second is the best way to approach homenets. I also think that Verizon customers will want to establish DSL connection and Internet service with a single computer before moving to a connection through a router.

NB--I have been using ZoneAlarm for quite a while and like it. However, ZA is not network-compatible and interfered with my computer's using our homenet: my computer was invisible to the other machines on the net (well, ZA is supposed to do that) and they were invisible to me. I upgraded to ZoneAlarm Pro, which is network-enabled. Works fine. The other machines on the net won't need it because the only connection they have to the Internet is via the router with its NAT firewall. Only my machine is connected to a dial-up modem and will continue to need firewall software.

The SMC was easy to configure and use. The manual is actually useful, and its troubleshooting guide is actually helpful.


I'd recommend WinProxy. run Windows 2000 on the system to which the modem will be attached. Get your network going properly, then connect the "master" system to DSL, then install and run WinProxy (which you can download through the DSL for that matter.) After that things will work pretty well with defaults. Add the router upstream from there, WinProxy won't care.

And congratulations.








This week:



Saturday, November 10, 2001

Dear Jerry:

We're getting a very vivid demonstration of what a really efficient modern air force can do, given help on the ground and complete air supremacy.

The British papers (Time, Guardian/Observer, Independent, Daily Telegraph) are describing rout, panic and slaughter among Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan.

Thousands were caught in the open by waves of American aircraft, in convoys on the highway south to Kabul from Mazar-i-Sharif and the other Taliban garrisons north of the Hindu Kush.

It's another "highway of death", a massive burning traffic jam of bodies, equipment and flaming wreckage. (Pick-up trucks rather than tanks, in this case.)

Still more are throwing away their weapons and going home, mainly the press-ganged locals.

So much for the Taliban's fanatical courage... 8-).

More thousands are fleeing into the desert on foot, there to die miserably of thirst, exposure and peasant reprisals.

Looks like the once-and-future King of Afghanistan can start packing for his trip home.

Incidentally, there are massive street demonstrations in Iran -- young people shouting "We Love America" and "We Love Reza Shah" (the former Shah's son).

Who'd a thunk it, eh?

BTW, on a personal note, I've now shifted my status -- since I've been a legal alien for the requisit 5 years, I'm applying for American citizenship.

Steve Stirling






This week:


read book now


Sunday, November 11, 2001 ARMISTICE DAY

Arrived at COMDEX.






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