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Mail 181 November 26 - December 2, 2001 

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This week:



Monday  November 26, 2001

I have lately got a number of mail messages, all of them similar to the following. Typically there will be a message with no subject, although there may be one. There is a name in the from box. 

The message appears to be blank, and if you reply to it inquiring what this is about the reply is returned.

Here is a typical version, with the complete header:

Return-Path: <>
Received: (qmail 91811 invoked from network); 27 Nov 2001 04:13:00 -0000
Received: from (HELO (
by with SMTP; 27 Nov 2001 04:13:00 -0000
Received: from ([]
by with smtp (Exim 3.33 #1)
id 168Zbm-0004Yj-00
for; Mon, 26 Nov 2001 20:12:34 -0800
From: "JoAnn Gustin" <>
Subject: Re:
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/related;
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Unsent: 1
Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 20:12:34 -0800

The contents appear to be blank, but if you VIEW SOURCE you find that although it is invisible the contents are:

<HTML><HEAD></HEAD><BODY bgColor=#ffffff>
<iframe src=cid:EA4DMGBP9p height=0 width=0>

I find over in the SFWA lounge a warning about a virus that seems to work from opening this mail. To the best of my knowledge I have not been infected by anything.

Here is another example:

Return-Path: <>
Received: (qmail 39768 invoked from network); 26 Nov 2001 18:00:16 -0000
Received: from (
by with SMTP; 26 Nov 2001 18:00:16 -0000
Received: from ( [])
by with SMTP
for <>; id fAQI12M24720
Mon, 26 Nov 2001 12:01:05 -0600 (CST)
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 12:01:05 -0600 (CST)
Message-Id: <>
From: "Charles Steckler" <>
Subject: Re:
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/related;
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Unsent: 1

Again it appears to be blank, but if you view the source you get:

<HTML><HEAD></HEAD><BODY bgColor=#ffffff>
<iframe src=cid:EA4DMGBP9p height=0 width=0>

Presumably this is all in aid of something. It doesn't appear to do any damage, but it is certainly odd. Please don't speculate: there will be readers out there who know what is going on. I'd appreciate an explanation, which I can then share with all. 

Incidentally, I believe that the virus in discussion on the SFWA forum is an Outlook Express virus, and is described here: 

On that score, we have from Robert Thompson:

Yeah, Aliz and BadTRANS are making a comeback, but they are both quite old, so anyone with virus sig files that are less than six months or so old should catch them.

For all the to-do about Windows/Outlook viruses/worms/trojans, I've been caught exactly once. That was back when Jerry got infected by Melissa. His system sent me an infected message, and I opened it. Cleaning up took maybe a couple hours, and I'd killed my mailer as soon as I saw what was happening, so I didn't infect anyone else. But Melissa was a wakeup call in two senses: (a) that an attachment received from someone I know is not necessarily safe, and (b) that I had to cut way down on what Outlook and IE were permitted to do.

Until a few months ago, I didn't routinely run antivirus software. I just did a manual scan periodically. Now my AV software catches all the incoming Sircam messages and so on, but I'm not at all sure that I didn't prefer doing it the old way. I'd also have caught all the Sircam messages just by looking at the headers in my inbox, and it takes a lot less time to click Delete than to go through the Norton AV dialog. I wonder why Norton AV doesn't have an option to delete infected attachments automatically. It's not like it couldn't be resent if it was a real attachment.

The big problem with Outlook is not that it's insecure, but that it's insecure with default settings. I haven't seen any virus/worm/trojan yet that bypasses Outlook security when that security is set to reasonable options. Sure there are things I wish Outlook would let me do (like providing checkboxs for "Don't display HTML" and "Don't retrieve images from the Web") but overall I don't think there's any huge problem with Outlook security.

If you turn off scripting, etc. there's not a whole lot an infected message can do to you. I have Outlook set to use the Restricted Zone in IE, and I have IE set to allow nothing whatsoever in the Restricted Zone. With my current IE and Outlook settings, I could open a Sircam attachment and nothing would happen.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

-----Original Message----- From: Roland Dobbins  Sent: Monday, November 26, 2001 1:03 AM To: Cc: Subject: New Microsoft email virus ()

Gee, I'm sure glad I don't run Windows:

I want to point out that the Melissa incident happened long ago before I took certain precautions...

Return to Chaos Manor View Click here

More  mail on the new Virus Click here (OK, so it isn't "new"; i's new to me. Or may it IS new. See below.)



On a more pleasant subject:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

We've been discussing _The Mote in God's Eye_ on SFConsim-L, the science fiction wargames mailing list. One of the participants made the following suggestion, which I think is a great idea.

On Sat, Nov 24, 2001 at 2:30:37 PM, Frederick Paul Kiesche III <> wrote: > I really wish that Niven and Pournelle would come out with a "restored > edition" along the lines of Stephen King with "The Stand" and put all > this stuff back in. As much as I respect RAH's opinion's, I think the > book is much the better for all the material that I've seen put back into > the overall narrative.

Best regards,


============================================ Christopher Weuve [] list administrator, SFCONSIM-L: The SF wargames mailing list

It would be a long way down our list, I think. First we would have to find the parts we cut and many of those are just gone. Second, I don't think a better book would result.... But it is kind of you to think so.

On to an only slightly related subject:

Philip S. Adkins Potter, Godalming, Surrey, United Kingdom.

Dear Jerry, I hope you will help since many more people will pay attention to you than me! I have recently been diagnosed as a stroke "victim" (I'm not touting for sympathy; there are many worse off than me) so I am keenly aware of the limitations this places on my memory. Robert A. Heinlein wrote a novel called "Double Star" in which he referred to a Tammany Hall politician called Tom Farley, also mentioned on one of your web pages. That story, and Farley, provoked a number of thoughts. Modern pocket computers (mine is a Psion 5mx which takes CF cards) can be peoples' memories, especially with diary programs and FarleyFiles (an ordinary flat-file database, surely).

My point is that there are many people, not just stroke victims, who can make good use of FarleyFiles and other ideas from books that maybe preceded the possibility of their ideas being implemented. Since this includes much Science Fiction and since your website is most accessible I thought that you might help start a movement to popularize such ideas!

Also there are many programs, freeware, shareware and commercial software, that are touted as "life-enhancing" for people who need their business lives integrated with their private lives; there are other similar programs integrating contacts with diaries, shopping lists with bank accounts, etc.. Many of these would be useful to "disabled" people. Unfortunately most software houses and authors don't want their products associated with sick or disabled people (unless there are enough to make up for the presumed loss from such an association).

Therefore it is up to us, the sickies, and anyone sympathetic, to sell this idea to other sickies!

We could all live far more productive (and enjoyable!) lives, and be less dependent on others if we used technology well and our input should be extremely useful. After all, if something is well designed for the disabled it is probably well designed for the able-bodied. The biggest trick is to convince able-bodied people that disability is not contagious, I am going to write a database to implement FarleyFiles on my Psion since that is my idea of fun (until I can go for long walks again!) but there are probably many programs and handheld computers suitable. There must be other people in this boat who could help and would want to. There is a good chance they will visit your site!

Thank you anyway for reading this,


I believe Farley was known as "Big Jim", James A. Farley. He was boss of Tammany Hall and I believe Postmaster General for Roosevelt. The file is well described in Heinlein's story.

It is in fact a good idea, but I don't know any  way I can help.

Best regards.





This week:



Tuesday,  November 27, 2001

I have more on the W32 Virus:


In case you've not already gotten a reply from someone, it appears that the emails you're getting are a version of W32/Badtrans@MM with the payload missing for whatever reason. (It's hard to tell for sure with your copies seeming to lack the bulk of the email, but based on subject line, timing, and behavior, that's what you're getting.) The virus spreads by replying to unanswered emails, which would explain why you get it returned when you email the sender. See here for more info: 

---- Robert Brown "Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

Thanks! And more:

You said (Current Mail, 26 Nov):

> The message appears to be blank, and if you reply to it inquiring what > this is about the reply is returned.

That's because the "From:" address has been disguised (by having an underscore prepended). Either delete the underscore, or use the "Return-Path:" address (which is undisguised) instead. From your first example: Return-Path: <> From: "JoAnn Gustin" <>

The sender, of course, doesn't know anything about it. And contrary to Robert Thompson's comment that > anyone with virus sig files that are less than six months or so old > should catch [it] this one is not the original BadTrans but a variant, apparently seen as new by several AV vendors, and someone I know who keeps her AV up- to-date has been hit by it.

.. FB

Aha. So if I fix the return address I can warn the sender that there's a virus lurking. Alas, I have deleted nearly all those, and there are enough that I haven't time anyway.


On Mice and such:


I currently use a Logitech optical mouse. By coincidence my old mouse happened to pack up just around the time that Microsoft introduced it's first optical mouse, so I bought one of those. It was fabulous for about 8 months, and then I started getting some very odd system crashes. These coincided with an upgrade to my graphics card, so naturally I suspected that as the cause, alas it was just a coincidence.

After much frustration and dozens of reboots I eventually became convinced that it wasn't the graphics card, I started to notice that my machine would boot ok, but as soon as I touched the mouse it would hang. Sure enough swapping out the mouse to an old ball-mouse solved the problem. I decided to try a Microsoft wireless mouse (with ball) and after about 6 months started to get strange system instability. I have a dual boot system and got the problem under both W2K and 98, so suspected hardware. Turned out to be the mouse again.

So now I'm using a Logitech optical mouse. :-> Though I must admit I that it doesn't fit my hand as well as the Microsoft one.

I put the first problem down to the fact that I bought one of the very early models of the Microsoft optical mice, and don't suppose that many people have had problems with them. The wireless mouse is a different story, I know loads of people who've had trouble with them, trouble enough to cause repeated blue- screen-of-death under NT and serious system instability under 9x. It sounded unlikely to me at the time, but now a dodgy mouse is one of the first things I look for when a stable system suddenly starts misbehaving.


Craig Arnold

Mine never did but sometimes the mouse will break. I guess. I never had one do it:


I don’t know how you do it, but you have a knack for being extremely timely. I was just reading today’s Byte article (Article 254), and you mention the “Red Light” optical mouse. Mine died on me this morning. One minute it was working, the next the pointer seemed to be locking up, and then finally it up and died completely. I tried plugging it into another computer, and the LED set about to flashing – long red, pause, short red, long pause… long red, pause, short red, long pause… It looked like an error code of some sort to me.

But, it simply wasn’t working, even on the other computer. USB was detecting something getting plugged in, but then nothing. Eventually, the mouse stopped “booting” at all, and it refused to be recognized by the USB bus or power up.

I purchased it on October 19, 2000, and it’s now November 26, 2001. I wasn’t sure how long the warranty was, and there’s nothing I could find on the MS site about how long the warranty is on these things. I took it back to the retailer I purchased it from and they replaced it with a minimum of hassle. Usually these things come with a 90-day, 1-year or “lifetime warranty.” (“Oh, it died? Well, that’s the end of its lifetime, I guess…”) The vendor (London Drugs here in Canada. Not always the most knowledgeable staff, but I’ve found them to be far more helpful than, say, the local Future Shop (recently purchased by Best Buy for our friends south of the border)) stated it had a 4- or 5-year warranty, which was nice!

Anyway, I’ve never heard of one of these things dying. I’m amazed that it did, actually. And, it’s amazing how helpless you can be when suddenly you find yourself without a mouse. Try, for instance, navigating the Microsoft knowledgebase without a mouse. It can’t be done.

-= Scott =-

Actually I used the earliest possible red-eye mouse from Microsoft, from before it was released: I was one of the test crew. That mouse (with updated drivers of course) is still in service, and I liked it so much I bought about 10 of them. I also bought some Logitech red-eye mice because there was a big sale on them. I don't really notice the difference, and I use the Logitech with Microsoft Windows native mouse drivers without problems I know of.

Alex hates the mouse with side buttons, so I have one that doesn't use them where he "works" when he is here (most Diablo). I don't pay much attention to the side buttons. All in all, Redeye mice have made the mouse problem a solved problem in my judgment.


I share your feelings on keyboards. I've always regretted that in the days when you were regularly expounding the virtues of Northgate keyboards, I didn't have the money to buy one (or more) of their chunkiest offering, those that had a full set of function keys in both the lefthandside 'PC' configuration and the top 'AT' fashion. But to most of your readers, applications that make full use of Fn, Ctrl-Fn, Shft-Fn and Alt-Fn and provided keyboard overlays to match are probably as alien a concept as the Wordstar diamond. Or computing before Windows, computing without Microsoft dominance of anything other than the OS market.

But I did get one thing right; around 1990, when my then employers were were doing a swathe of upgrades to 386-class machines, I acquired every 102 key genuine IBM AT keyboard I could lay my hands on. I kept one at work for the remaining decade I was there, throwing the increasing flimsy keyboards that came with each new PC back to the spares people. The rest were piled in a cupboard at home. A handful sit on my collection of home machines, a few have been given to especially deserving friends and the rest are still stacked away and should keep me in keyboards for life, or at least as long as the interface is supported.

Not entirely with you on pointing devices, though optical is certainly the way to go. My solution long ago to clutter and wheel-clogging mess at home was the (not inexpensive) Logitech Trackman Marble FX. A trackball the size of a golfball that can be moved with thumb or forefinger and a set of buttons that fall conveniently to my large hands.


Martin Smith

This communication is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument or as an official confirmation of any transaction. All market prices, data and other information are not warranted as to completeness or accuracy and are subject to change without notice. Any comments or statements made herein do not necessarily reflect those of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., its subsidiaries and affiliates.

Mouse vs. trackball is a matter of taste. For a long time I liked trackballs but the new optical mice are easier for me to use. One friend, injured in his tour of duty in the Israeli army, finds the huge Kensington trackball the most convenient device given that his hand doesn't work well. I agree that the Logitech Marble is a very good device.

Keyboards do need one modification: That darned CAPS LOCK key is in the way, and not much use. As far as I am concerned CAPS LOCK can be a key-activated locked switch, or on the back side of the keyboard. There are times when you need it, but not often enough to have it there in prime space where it is easy to hit accidentally

I also have trouble with the CAP LOCK key, but being an engineer, I need to use it more often than you do. There is a very helpful setting in the accessibility options in WIN2K, I assume it is similar in other versions. Under Keyboard select Toggle Keys. This gives you a tone when CAP LOCK, NUM LOCK, or SCROLL LOCK keys are pressed. It is actually pretty useful, with a high tone when the function is activated and a low tone when it is deactivated.

Easier to do than stuffing in foam rubber, especially if you are on another persons machine.

Clayton Wrobel



Your last Byte article mentioned using foam rubber to disable Caps Lock. I can recommend as an alternative this freeware utility that I have been using for over four years now without problems (it is difficult to put foam rubber inside some portables): 

Noel Leaver

I'm sure, but I do like my foam rubber...



And on another subject entirely:

Hello Dr. pournelle,

I thought you would enjoy this:

UCLA brain mapping researchers have created the first images to show how an individual1s genes influence their brain structure and intelligence.

The findings, published in the Nov. 5 issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience, offer exciting new insight about how parents pass on personality traits and cognitive abilities, and how brain diseases run in families.

The team found that the amount of gray matter in the frontal parts of the brain is determined by the genetic make-up of an individual1s parents, and strongly correlates with that individual1s cognitive ability, as measured by intelligence test scores.

More importantly, these are the first images to uncover how normal genetic differences influence brain structure and intelligence.

Brain regions controlling language and reading skills were virtually identical in identical twins, who share exactly the same genes, while siblings showed only 60 percent of the normal brain differences.

This tight structural similarity in the brains of family members helps explain why brain diseases, including schizophrenia and some types of dementia, run in families.

3We were stunned to see that the amount of gray matter in frontal brain regions was strongly inherited, and also predicted an individual1s IQ score,2 said Paul Thompson, the study1s chief investigator and an assistant professor of neurology at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.

Greg Dougherty

.... -- "He said, 'I know we're all going to die -- there's three of us who are going to do something about it,' " Colacicco said. "He then said, 'I love you, honey,' and that was the end of the conversation."

Thomas Burnett, 38, was a father of three and the chief operating officer for a company that deals in medical devices.

And here is the latest from Joel Rosenberg

On Mandrake, I've a failure to report -- my daughters, ages 7 and 11, strongly prefer the Windows environment because of the way IE lets them interact with a whole bunch of websites that really seem to need IE. Next step, I suppose, is to put VMware on their machine, and see if that does it, but....

Still works like a charm for my work, though. (Haven't quite figured out how to play an .mpeg -- the defaults don't seem to work -- but that's not exactly a key to my workday . . .)


So now, the Marines are on the ground in Afghanistan, and Colin Powell is busily getting together a coalition to decide how Afghanistan is going to be governed as a modern democracy. Me, I'd love to see Afghanistan as a modern democracy, and I guess holding a meeting or two doesn't hurt -- unless US foreign policy is configured so that an Afghan democracy is necessary, in which case we're SOL. Mrs. Bush argues that we're fighting terrorism because the terrorists oppress women -- which is a bit bizarre, given that the Taliban's attitude toward women is just a little more extreme than that of our Saudi allies, and nobody (including me) is suggesting that we invade Saudi Arabia to bring the benefits of the ERA (which didn't pass in the US, anyway) to them. But if the destruction of the Taliban brings a less unenlightened attitude toward Afghan women, that would be a good thing, even if it's not a reason to go to war, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

Still, there is some hope -- the Marines are hunting Al Qaeda and Taliban, at least so far, and not trying to pacify villages. (I hope they don't get involved in accepting surrenders -- we saw, yesterday, what that means, for at least some of the non-Afghan Taliban. Eminently predictable, given how politically successful human bombs have been elsewhere, and it certainly does give the Northern Alliance some political cover for doing what I think we should want them to do, anyway. What benefit is there to the US of, say, the Saudi Talibans returning home?)

In good news, there's at least some reason to think that Bin Laden is in Kandahar, and the noose is tightening. If he is captured, I think that US law does (or at least should) mean he gets a real trial -- under the UCMJ, of not in a civilian court -- with all the rights that are part thereof. (Maybe Johnnie Cochrane would defend him.)

Which means, of course, that I'd much prefer to see him killed without being able to surrender, and from my tea-leaf reading, that sounds like what's being planned. Rumsfeld and company seem to have a better grip on things than Powell and State, unsurprisingly.

My major concern is the obvious one: this isn't about one guy. There's a whole network of individuals and states that are the problem, and we're going to have to take the next step, and the one after that -- Republic or Empire.

Not just Iraq, although Pat Buchanan to the contrary (Buchanan's latest column --  -- argues that we oughtn't attack Iraq until and unless it can be proved to Congress that they were responsible for Black Tuesday, or are "preparing nuclear or bioweapons to attack us". I'm all for the administration providing proof to Congress, and strongly for a formal declaration of war, but wasn't the Iraqi sponsorship of the previous WTC attack enough of an act of war? Should they get a free pass if they covered their tracks a bit better this time -- or even if they weren't involved [vanishingly unlikely]? And what if the Iraqis say that they're only going to use their nuclear and bioweapons against local insurgents? Should we believe them?), although I think that Iraq is a necessary Stage II, but it hardly can end there -- the money flow from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and Dearborn (and Minneapolis; note the FBI raids a couple of weeks ago) has to stop, one way or the other.

Eventually, we're going to have to bite the bullet in re: Wahabbism, for about the same reasons that the Brits had to do it with the Thuggs, but moreso: the Thuggs were only a local nuisance; the Wahabbis threaten the West.

But that's probably about Stage X, and we're still not done with Stage I.

-- ------------------------------------- There's a widow in sleepy Chester Who weeps for her only son; There's a grave on the Pabeng River, A grave that the Burmans shun, And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri Who tells how the work was done. -------------------------------------

I confess I am all for changing the government of Iraq for the encouragement of the others. It hardly matters if they were involved in 9-11, they would have wanted to be, and certainly have provided ample proof of their hostility.

For me the right outcome is this: all over the world the rulers understand that they had best not allow their subject, citizens, slaves, or even outlaws in the hills, to plot against the United States: that if they do, they, the ruling class, will be replaced.

"But by who? We're the best for you there is."

"Pity. That's the way the old dice roll. You have 4 hours head start..."





This week:



Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Joel Rosenberg: [Regarding the above]

Well, me, too, although I'd quibble about the head start, if I were in a quibbling mood. I figure George W. gave them enough of a head start yesterday, and the cease-fire agreement that Saddam made with his father has been violated how many times?

But already our coalition allies are chiming in:


"Washington's European allies already have expressed unease about the prospect of expanding the war to Iraq. After meeting in Washington last week, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the Europeans had rejected such a step.

"Everybody in Washington knows that Europe would have very, very serious questions about engaging Iraq, to say it in a diplomatic way," Fischer told reporters."

Coalitions are convenient as long as they can be held together, but there is only one key player in the conquest of Iraq and that is Turkey. They have the troops and the bases.

Kuwait will cooperate from lack of choices. If we are to be imperial let us be imperial, and if ever there was a client kingdom it is Kuwait...

Eric Pobirs says "This explains so much..."

A Pennsylvania legislator has announced she will seek a second term next year even though she claims in a $7.5 million lawsuit that she "needs help with reading and understanding material and carrying on conversations" due to brain and other injuries she suffered in a car wreck.

Rep. Jane Baker, a 56-year-old Republican, says in her lawsuit that the injuries make her "virtually unemployable" outside the Legislature.

Indeed. And Eric also gives us something else to worry about: 

Cable modem service could shut down by next Friday, leaving 4.1 million broadband customers in the lurch.

We are a way from infinite bandwidth...

More on the virus:

Hi Dr. P.,

The new Badtrans virus that has struck this week I believe is the worse one yet to exploit the main flaw in Outlook: the preview window blindly executes code without asking. We are trying to get a handle as to what this new worm does. Here's Infoworld's take: 

When I highlight the virus message in Outlook, Windows Media player immediately launches and tries to play the attached file, named Fun.mp3.pif. I saved it to my desktop to observe its characteristics. When I right click, select properties, and then choose the Program tab, Internet explorer crashes and the desktop blinks as all my icons disappear momentarily.

This worm is covertly doing something with my system. I am angry that Microsoft Outlook does not have the option Robert Thompson suggested, "don't retrieve html". I get the feeling the P.R. plant at Microsoft is responsible, in a way, for a lot of the vulnerabilities in Outlook because of all the "rich text", "html", and "stationary" extraneous crap that's been crammed into the program. These features mainly confuse most users, camouflage the true intent of email, adding server clog and slowing down Internet performance for everyone. What on earth were they thinking when they designed this bloatware into Outlook?

I hope this new virus hasn't added an unknown keyboard logger to our pc's, or sent ip's or address book's off to who knows where. If I find that's the case, much of my ire will be directed towards Microsoft.

I really enjoy reading your computer columns and travails.

**** Please don't publish my email address as I get enough spam already****. Thanks --Dan

My filters strip all that out before I see it, so the payload is missing; but I get about 30 copies a day now. Including from academic friends who can't believe they have been infected...

This may help:

I think I am on my 30th W32.Badtrans over the last two days - thank heavens for Symantec AV, and how timely that it came free with my Dell PC!

Whilst I am on the subject of AV, you may like to go to the following site:

 Click on the link and follow the instructions and it will send your four e-mails all sporting different virus techniques. A couple of them are obvious, but a couple are TRULY scary, with no obvious way to spot the virus without an AV scanner in place. Well worth five minutes of your time.

Regards, Bob

Do be careful in trying this.


And an exchange from another conference may be interesting:

Venture Capitalist:

>> Of course the true Elephant in the Room that the Left and the Right are working equally hard to ignore is the question: "What if schooling really makes very little difference to life outcomes for the average citizen?" Or even *intellectual* outcomes for the average citizen? What does the Left do if we have to finally admit that if more money won't help and smaller class sizes won't help? What does the Right do if we finally have to admit that "higher standards" and "more rigorous curricula" don't make any real difference either?<<


Obviously I've been wondering about this, so am I beyond Left and Right? Anyhow, I simply don't know the answer: but the signs are ominous. Almost everything in education that is thought to make a lot of difference makes small difference or no difference on closer examination. I'd like to see a comparative study of incomes for people who were, say, accepted and went to Harvard versus a similar group that were accepted and then never went to college at all. Ideally, a group that sat around playing pool, or smoked dope and watched TV for four years. Is there any difference in retained knowledge?

Why, for example does home schooling appears to work pretty well - every flavor of it? Do we have any objective measures of the output of, say, 'unschooling'? If everything works, nothing probably works too.

The possibility that one of the largest and most expensive parts of society doesn't really do anything is a bit daring, but it has happened before. Up until the late 1930s, medicine, on average, did people harm. Doctors had been paid for doing net harm for thousands of years. Odd, when you think about it.

But the issue is still in doubt. I would say that the data I have seen is probably compatible with a scenario in which output is very insensitive to cost or apparent quality over a wide range, but only above a threshold.. So school is significantly better than no school, although large variations in schooling above that threshold have little effect. It could be true.

But I don't actually know of any evidence that contradicts the simpler ' it's all pretty useless' scenario. 

Add to this: we have known since the Chapman Report in 1966 that "school improvements" like class sizes and "teacher quality" seem to have very little effect on the output of the schools, and there is a good bit to think about.

And about  my current column at 

"three different machines have a 10-minute SAVE setting: This is clearly the default, and apparently the default is reset if you download and install Critical Upgrades. Ain't .NET wonderful?"

Microsoft has a nasty, annoying, and intermittent (which is even MORE annoying) habit of defining what your default will be and then not letting you change it. Or changing it back to Bill's preferred value on those occasions when you chose to change it and neglected to change it back. My most annoying example is the relentless determination of IE to place all my pictures in the "My Pictures" folder on the C: drive. I reserve C: for OS material only and prefer to place image files on the data drive, E:. There appears to be no way to change IE's default.

The thing that is really most annoying about all this is that it would take about a day of a programmer's time to fix ALL of these situations. Microsoft simply sees no point in making that particular investment. Ask yourself again why monopolies are bad.

"My solution to that is foam rubber. I take chunks of foam rubber and use a precision screwdriver to stuff them under the CAPS LOCK key until it is very hard to activate that key: A light press won't do it; you have to whack it as if you mean it. Now it doesn't turn on accidentally, but it's still there, and it interferes with nothing else. Problem solved..."

Jerry lives in a world of Issues.

Paul J. Camp College of Computing Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, Georgia 30332 404-385-0159

The beauty of the universe consists not only of unity in variety but also of variety in unity.

--Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

I am not sure what a world of issues is, but...

On the other hand, there are two issues here: how long would it take to "fix" most of the problems, and what are problems to begin with?  XP is supposed to address much of this, by explaining what the "features" in Office are all about.  I don't need the new features but I suppose I had better upgrade a critical system to XP so I can report to you...

And finally


Here's a forward from comp.arch. It has nothing to do with anything EXCEPT the writer's use of tripartite logic with the third alternative dominant.

and he even calls it "The Gripping Hand" 8-)

Legacyally Yours

Charles Krug

(headers snipped, but leaving the message so you can see better. The context is a discussion of the 8086 vs 8088, started by a student looking for an easy answer.)

Erik Magnuson wrote: > An even more obscure issue is the original 8088 stepping had a bug about > not inhibiting interrupts after a MOV to a segment register.

This brings back not so fond memories:

The standard fix for this bug was to surround a stack reload with CLI/STI:

CLI mov ss,ds:[StackSave+2] mov sp,ds:[StackSave] STI

However, on the other hand, if this code could run nested, then it might be very bad to simply enable interrupts, instead you had to restore the previous state:

PUSHF POP AX CLI mov ss,ds:[StackSave+2] mov sp,ds:[StackSave] PUSH AX POPF

On the gripping hand, POPF had another bug, where it would actually allow interrupts for one cycle, even if both the current and new state was interrupts disabled!

To fix this, the only possible way was to replace the POPF with an IRET opcode, which meant that you first had to push the (far) target address as well!

Something like (still from 20-year old memories):

PUSHF POP AX CLI mov ss,ds:[StackSave+2] mov sp,ds:[StackSave] PUSH AX ;; Old Interrupt flag PUSH CX mov ax, offset next_address PUSH AX IRET next_address: ...


And on the gripping hand...







This week:


read book now


Thursday, November 29, 2001

A computer related question from Turkey:

Dear Sir.

I live in turkey and regularly watch your writings in Chip Turkey magazine. There were many points in your wrtings that helped me to solve my little (!) problems. Today I run an XP machine on Cel 800 with 266 MB of ram with 40 GB 7200 hdd. What I would like to know is, “Do I have to use FAT32 or NTFS format”? Which one is faster on gaming? Is NTFS really slower than FAT32? Thanks for your helps.

Kind Regards

Leon Sevilla

Of course you have to defrag FAT32. My guess is that there are no games in which you would notice the difference but perhaps one of the readers knows more. For a more complete reply see below.

David Horowitz, who ought to know, comprehensively indicts his own actions and those of his compatriots in the 1960s. 

A few tidbits:

"The hindsight of history has shown that our efforts in the 1960s to end the war in Vietnam had two practical effects.

The first was to prolong the war. Since the war ended in 1975, North Vietnamese generals have said that they knew they could not defeat the U.S. on the battlefield, so they counted on the division of our people at home to win the war for them. The Viet Cong forces we were fighting in South Vietnam were destroyed in 1968. In other words, most of the war and most of the casualties in the war occurred because the dictatorship of North Vietnam counted on the fact that Americans would give up the battle rather than pay the price necessary to finish it. This is what happened. The blood of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of Americans is on the hands of the antiwar activists who prolonged the struggle and gave victory to the communists.

The second effect springs from the prolonging of the war, and that was to surrender South Vietnam to the forces of communism. This resulted in the imposition of a monstrous police state, the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent South Vietnamese, the incarceration in reeducation camps of hundreds of thousands more and a quarter of a century of abject poverty imposed by crackpot Marxist economic plans, which continue to this day. This, too, is the responsibility of the so-called antiwar movement of the 1960s.

I say "so-called" because while many Americans were sincerely troubled by the U.S. war effort, the organizers of this movement were Marxists and radicals who supported a communist victory."

Setzer Family

I knew David Horowitz, briefly, in the 60's as an opponent and a few years ago when he came out as a neoconservative. We used to share the same mail box company. I haven't seen him for years. Of course I pretty well believe what he says above, but then I told him that in about 1968.

From JoAnne Dow AKA Wizardess

It isn't just the Burqua....,2933,39596,00.html 

This is about General Suhaila Saddiq lashing out against the feminist so called champions of Afghani women's rights. The neat thing is that this general is a woman. She's closer to my kind of feminist than are the US feminazis. Education and opportunity are important not symbols.


Heh. But then you have never been afraid of anything...

And the following needs a longer answer than I have time to give:

Newsweek and Fareed Zakaria sarcastically write:

<<American military campaigns over the last decade are all optical illusions. What looks to the naked eye like victories produced by air power were really--with some creative interpretation--victories from the ground. >> 

In WWII, I understand, the Germans complained the Americans didn't fight fair. They charged that we would use (vastly superior) artillery against them in situations in which "everybody knew" called for infantry. If a sniper lurked in the treeline, we'd use a few shells to knock down the whole forest from a half mile off rather than send in a rifle squad. If some particular site was well dug in, we'd crater it rather than dig it out. Etc.

We cheated.

It still came down to a guy on the spot -- but our guy had a radio. A wonderful/awful cartoon by Bill Maldin portrays Willie and Joe in a concealed fox hole, directly under the treads of German tank. Joe whispers into the radio. "Now, I gotta target for ya; but ya gotta be _patient_."

I seem to recall a similar scene in one of your Sparta novels, in which the forward observer called in strikes upon positions mere yards from his own. This, in confidence the shells would land where directed, not on his own position or himself.

I begin to wonder if "bombing from three miles up" is 21st century artillery. *IF* the Air Force can destroy what Willie and Joe describe from eyeballs on, while leaving Willie and Joe hale and whole -- "close" air support needn't necessarily be as close as we have previously thought; and the Air Force might not be quite as useless as it sometimes has appeared.

And "bombing" might not be the best terminology for such activity.

We needn't delude ourselves that destroying an acre of forest to knock out one sniper is by any stretch of the imagination a "surgical operation"; nor that we can somehow afflict our foes with an anti-rapture that will leave the innocent blinking in wonder at the disappearance of neighboring evil-doers, consumed in some heaven-sent flash of hellfire. We should expect error and overkill and collateral damage.

And we can expect to be spoofed. Even the guy on the ground may mistake a phone pole lying across a tractor for an artillery piece, leading to the waste of some million dollar munitions.

But ...

Loathe as I am to disagree with you, I begin to think the Air Force guys _might_ be earning their pay.

As always, I'd enjoy your thoughts on the matter.

Your points are well made. Mine is that the Air Force has always neglected the tactical support of the field army, and only kept the mission because Powers didn't want to give up ANY mission: forcing the Army to go to helicopters, which was good for helicopter development. It is well known in USAF that flying Warthogs is a career ender.

USAF is beginning to discover they had better learn how to do something besides deliver H-bombs (SAC was well organized for that) and dogfights (there aren't likely to be many for some time).  Whether they will learn to do it right given that they still hate the close support and battlefield isolation missions I don't know.

Perhaps that leopard will change its spots. I can hope so.

subject: Khonduz al Qaueda airlift?

You have good links into, or at least good intuition about, US military tactical doctrine. The enclosed quote seems to refer to an impossible incident, but I've been seeing reports of it from too many different paths. The following quote is from  but I have seen similar reports from CNN and other TV reporting, including at least one (translated) interview with an obviously furious Northern Alliance fighter.

The first step in any US war is to obtain air supremacy. Once you have air supremacy, how on earth do the opposition use air transport to extricate their troops?

Quote: A. Correspondents who entered Konduz with the Northern Alliance quoted local inhabitants as reporting that two nights before the town fell - and immediately after the Pakistani planes flew in - heavy Russian Antonov air transports touched down at Konduz airport and gathered up the al Qaeda "Arabs" - with their weapons. DEBKAfile's military sources, after checking on this lead with army intelligence sources in the Indian subcontinent, present this explanation of the mystery as the most plausible. Those Antonovs were chartered by the Pakistani ISI to lift the al Qaida contingents together with a few Taliban units out of Konduz in north Afghanistan into north Pakistan.

I can imagine everyone getting their agents out. I cannot imagine Pakistan or Russia wanting many of the enemy.  As to debka, I have found enough thin air there that I have to distrust the rest. But that's my view.

Have you seen this?

"HAMBURG (AFX) - Environmentalist organization Greenpeace said that a high-ranking microbiologist in the US government' s biological warfare program was likely behind the current wave of anthrax infections. Greenpeace cited as sources members of the US government delegation at a UN conference on biological warfare which opened Nov 19 in Geneva, adding the sender of the letters containing anthrax spores aimed to force an increase in the US government budget for biological weapons. "

I make no comment on the veracity or otherwise, and do tend towards the "well they would say that wouldn't they?" feeling, but...

Steve Whiting

If it's a lone person not connected with the 9-11 attacks he would have had to have his stuff ready and just be waiting for an opportunity. This is not impossible, but it seems less likely than some small cell loosely attached to the Black September war planning group. Remember that the al quaeda outfit is made up of loose cells for security purposes.

And as you said, they would say that.

Me, I don't know, but I would bet reasonable sums that when we find the anthrax source all or most will have come from an organization associated with the same people as brought us the Twin Tower disaster.


In reference to Mr. Sevilla's question, NTFS is indeed slower than FAT32, and _may_ be noticibly slower. Specifically, a partition that has been converted from FAT to NTFS is going to have a fragmented MFT (Master File Table) and performance will suffer. Whether it will suffer to a noticible extent is another matter, and depends on too many variables to predict. I've seen benchmarks that range from showing NTFS being a few percentage points faster, all the way down to being 30-40% slower. Typically, as an estimate, I would expect NTFS to be maybe 5-10% slower in most file operations than a FAT32 partition. The effect on overall system perfomance will be slightly less, depending on the applications.

NTFS has its advantages, of course (security, better file space efficiency, less susceptible to corruption), that make it a better choice in most circumstances, but if performance is the main concern then FAT32 has the edge. I especially wouldn't convert a FAT32 partition to NTFS if I were concerned about speed.

---- Robert Brown "Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin










This week:



Friday, November 30, 2001

And from Roland on that virus and secret email:



From message <E9BBE0941932D511934C0002A52CDB4E0127F6B2

> >Greetings all 

> >I know this might have been brought up before so please disregard if 

> so. Thought it might be of interest to some. 

> > While looking for ways to indicate that nimda/codered ect was >pushed to a client within my network, I tripped across something >completely unrelated, but interesting. > >It seems these email clients that utilize html formating also >send out information unknowingly. I know nothing new, but heres >the senario. A spam email arrives, client opens/previews the email >and its pretty gifs/jpgs ect, while at the bottom a link is retrieving >what looks like a logo. 

Example: > ><a href=""><img >src=" >.com&msgid=281101000" width="109" height="16" border="0" >alt=""></a> 

> >What it does in fact is send information to a host >(from the firewall's view): >> 12:54:01: %PIX-5-304001: Accessed URL 

>> >> =281101000 >> >(from the host's view): >

GET /counter.php?client=newhorizons&

 >HTTP/1.1 > >which in turn (I suppose) places my email address into a database thats used > >for spaming. i.e. verifying that my email address is valid. While watching >for this behavior, I saw about 10 other nodes/users do this, none of which >knew the information had been sent out. Kind of sneaky if you ask me. <<

Yup -- that's why I turn off images on those rare occasions that I bother to read html email.

Sorry for the messy formatting: this was a series of messages forwarded and I have taken the identifications off. The point is that you see what is happening.

The solution is to turn imaging off when you read email messages, even in the preview window, unless you have a good virus stripper.

Note that this poses a dilemma: how do you send images to someone? Particularly to ME.

The only reliable way I know is (1) be someone I know, (2) send a message saying that another message with attachment follows, (3) be prepared to reply to an answer to that first message, (4) send the message with attached image from same place and with same return address as first message.

Eric has said for years that until some spammers go to prison or otherwise experience public physical pain nothing will be done about spam. It's getting worse and they're getting more sophisticated.


Dan said:

"I hope this new virus hasn't added an unknown keyboard logger to our pc's, or sent ip's or address book's off to who knows where. If I find that's the case, much of my ire will be directed towards Microsoft."

But of course, wouldn't you know, there is a keyboard logger in the payload for this version of badtrans: from  The virus drops a keystroke logging trojan (KDLL.DLL) in the WINDOWS SYSTEM directory, F-Secure states that keystrokes are logged to a file in the same directory called "CP_25389.NLS". F-Secure also mentions that the trojan file has a user-configurable filename and registry key."

You probably already knew this, sorry for the spam.

Todd Zervas

More things to worry about. Thanks


From Joel Rosenberg:

You write:

The big problem with the war is what do we do with the non-Afghan Taliban fighters when they surrender? 

I think this is an easy one, m'self: "Naturally, the official US position is that the foreign nationals who have fought on behalf of the Taliban regime will be dealt with by local authorities according to local law. Questions about what that local law is should probably be directed to the Northern Alliance's spokesman."

Unofficially, but implicitly: let the NA folks shoot them.

Personally, I don't see any moral difference between, say, slaughtering and butchering one's own meat and having somebody else do it for you. (In fact, many years ago, I let my college roommate talk me into helping him slaughter a cow -- he was an aggie of a philosophical bent, and suggested that there was some hypocrisy involved in eating meat and never having actually dealt with the whole process. . . )

But there is an administrative difference, and a political one.

On Mandrake

-------------------------- No more new stuff on Mandrake and StarOffice, at the moment, which is all to the good: it's just working, and so am I. The next issue will probably come when IBM delivers my copy of ViaVoice for Linux. I've heard good things about it, and I very much like to be able to dictate by voice as a break from / alternative to keyboarding, so we'll see . . .

On keyboards . . . I do have carpal tunnel syndrome, mostly under control these days, and the Microsoft Natural Keyboard, with the front edge raised, works fine for me, although I hate the mushiness of the keys. If you know of any similarly shaped keyboard with anything resembling the nice, crisp feel of the Northgate, I'd love to hear about it.

-- ------------------------------------- There's a widow in sleepy Chester Who weeps for her only son; There's a grave on the Pabeng River, A grave that the Burmans shun, And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri Who tells how the work was done. -------------------------------------

I am about to try the Mandrake (or other Linux) with Star Office system. I suspect that given the myriad things I do it won't be good enough yet, and I'll have to stay with Windows 2000/Office 2000 but we will see.  If you can get all your work done with it, that's a fair number of readers. I note that your family still wants Windows...

On what to do with the Taliban:


Definitely bad form to execute them on the spot. But as Taliban, should they be treated any differently as Afghan Taliban ? And what (pardon my ignorance of this, please) is happening to Afghan Taliban who are not killed in cross-fire as part of the fighting which has gone on ? If they surrender, I thought I heard we were just letting them go ??? And if we are, what's to stop them from re-forming the Taliban as soon as we leave, and starting the whole mess over again ? Are we to forever occupy their territory to 'make them play nice with others' ? Talk about being an EMPIRE !!! Sheesh, I hope that is not our goal - "USA - BABY-SITTERS TO THE WORLD". I thought we had things to take care of in OUR country - like achieving energy-independence, so we don't have to care about politics in the Middle East, for our own oil-interests (not to say THIS war is directly about oil, though indirectly it is...).

Larry O'Neal Rochester, MN

The reason you treat the overseas Taliban differently from the Afghan is (1) the Afghans will; they will forgive their cousins but not invaders, and (2) the precedent was the Cuban mercenaries in Africa (and for that matter a few American mercenaries involved in African civil wars): in all cases foreign fighters were treated differently from resident/citizens in those civil wars.

Dr. Pournelle,

Aren't non-military combatants considered spies and as such given only marginal protection under internationally recognized "laws of war"? It seems like any third-party participants without formal organization do not fall under the normal conventions, and either the laws of the people they're shooting at, or the laws of the country they're invading should apply, depending on who captures them. They're either illegal combatants or criminals and neither status is protected by the conventions.

I suggest tossing the lot of them into an Afghan jail and let them await trial by the new government. Maybe they can be put to work rebuilding Afghanistan's national infrastructure. We can divert those new ration packets to the jail since we can now distribute real food in quantity to people who didn't try to shoot at us. The lot of them wanted a fight and NOT A SINGLE ONE of them can be considered innocent, so let them reap what they've sown.

Sean Long



From JoAnne Dow

The B-52 is 50 years old today.,2933,39681,00.html

"It was 50 years ago - Nov. 29, 1951 - that the first prototype of the B-52 bomber emerged from Boeing's south Seattle plant, under cover of night and a huge tarp."

That is one grand old lady the Air Force has. Her nickname includes the word "ugly". IMHO seeing her from here she is beautiful. Enemies may have different mileage there.


Happy birthday indeed, to the BUFF

Now a serious warning from Paul Walker. He sent previous messages and I asked for clarification:


Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) is a common ingredient in many cold medicines. The FDA has issued a warning that:. " This study reports that taking PPA increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain or into tissue surrounding the brain) in women. Men may also be at risk. Although the risk of hemorrhagic stroke is very low, FDA recommends that consumers not use any products that contain PPA. " The short of it is, that the PPA increases (slightly) the chance of having a stroke which would generally ruin one's day.

I have attached the report (copied from the web site, word document) that gives the summary for this with interest in the statistics.

No reason to panic, just be concerned. The FDA warning was a year ago in November 2000. I had not heard about it until today.

More information on PPA can be found at 

Its primary use is as a nasal decongestant. It is a drug that appears to belong to the amphetamine family (commonly called "speed") and is also used as a diet suppressant. (  )

Based on this, I would recommend that people pay attention to the ingredients in their over-the-counter cold medicines.

Hopefully this is a little shorter and with the more relevant information pointed out.

- Paul -----Original Message----- From: Jerry Pournelle [] Sent: Friday, November 30, 2001 01:21 To: Subject: RE: FW: Fw: FW: WARNING - DRUG RECALL

Can you translate? This seems very long and while probably important I seem not able to understand [[to skip the rest click here.]]

-----Original Message----- From: Paul D. Walker [] Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2001 8:51 AM To: Jerry Pournelle (E-mail) Subject:FW: Fw: FW: WARNING - DRUG RECALL

Hi Jerry,

The site mentioned and url appears to be legitimate.

- Paul

-----Original Message----- From: Liam P. Walker [] Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2001 22:41 To: Subject: Fw: Fw: FW: WARNING - DRUG RECALL

I don't normally forward email stuff around but considering the source (the links within the forwarded email to the US FDA) I thought it important in this case.

----- Original Message ----- From: Richard Mischook To: Stefan Mischook Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2001 9:20 AM Subject: Fwd: Fw: FW: WARNING - DRUG RECALL

Thought I would reach out as this seemed legit and perhaps even non-trivial. I'll leave it to each of you to evaluate its importance. I'm not really a cough-syrup junky so my qualité-de-vie should not suffer. But perhaps those of you living in microbe-rich environments (i.e. famillies with small children) may wish to take heed.




Looks like most of the common cold remedies are on this list. I guess it gets back to the cure is worse than what ails you.


-----Original Message----- From: Perez, Dale SFC Sent: Monday, November 19, 2001 6:54 AM To: Anthony Archer; Robert Guest; Ronald Bryan; Tedson Campagna; AR Papillo; Bennie Wells; Bernard Westover; Charles Willis; Christino Nunez; Christopher Raines; Daniel Neal; Dann Ridgeway; Dennis McLean; Donald Bruck; James Anderson; Jeffrey Crowe; Jose Salas; Kenneth Fisher; Louis Smith; Lyle Watkins; Marion White; Michael Brazell; Randall Williams; Raymond Thompson; Ronald Hile; Tonya Griffin Subject: WARNING - DRUG RECALL


-----Original Message----- From: Minney, Patrick MSG []

This is not a chain e-mail, it has been verified. This is of interest to our soldiers.


This is not a hoax. We have this stuff in our house and are removing it.Check the list carefully. Repeat, this is not a hoax.

The below list contains drugs that have been taken off the market until further notice. Please read the e-mail forwarded by the U.S.Army. V/r HMC

Robert Sutton, AAA9A Chief, Army MARS

All drugs containing Phenylpropanolamine are being recalled. You may want to try calling the 800 number listed on most drug boxes and inquire about a REFUND. Please read this CAREFULLY, as I know that some of you may USE some of these drugs (Alka Seltzer Plus for one).

Also, please pass this on to everyone you know. STOP TAKING anything containing this ingredient. It has been linked to increased hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in brain) among women ages 18-49 in the three days after starting use of medication. Problems were not found in men, but the FDA recommended that everyone (even children) seek alternative medicine.

The following medications contain Phenylpropanolamine: Acutrim Diet Gum Appetite Suppressant Plus Dietary Supplements Acutrim Maximum Strength Appetite Control Alka-Seltzer Plus Children's Cold Medicine Effervescent Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold medicine (cherry or orange) Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine Original Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Medicine Effervescent Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Flu Medicine Effervescent Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Sinus Effervescent Alka Seltzer Plus Night-Ti! me Cold Medicine Effervescent BC Allergy Sinus Cold Powder BC Sinus Cold Powder Comtrex Deep Chest Cold & Congestion Relief Comtrex Flu Therapy & Fever Relief Day & Night Contac 12-Hour Cold Capsules Contac 12 Hour Caplets Coricidin D Cold, Flu & Sinus Dexatrim Caffeine Free Dexatrim Extended Duration Dexatrim Gelcaps Dexatrim Vitamin C/Caffeine Free Dimetapp Cold & Allergy Chewable Tablets Dimetapp Cold & Cough Liqui-Gels Dimetapp DM Cold & Cough Elixir Dimetapp Elixir Dimetapp 4 Hour Liquid Gels Dimetapp 4 Hour Tablets Dimetapp 12 Hour Extentabs Tablets Naldecon DX Pediatric Drops Permathene Mega-16 Robitussin CF Tavist-D 12 Hour Relief of Sinus & Nasal Congestion Triaminic DM Cough Relief Triaminic Expectorant Chest & Head Congestion Triaminic Syrup Cold & Allergy Triaminic Triaminicol Cold & Cough

I just found out and called the 800# on the container for Triaminic and they informed me that they are voluntarily recalling the following medicines because of a certain ingredient that is causing strokes and seizures in children: Orange 3D Cold & Allergy Cherry (Pink) 3D Cold & Cough Berry 3D Cough Relief Yellow 3D Expectorant

They are asking you to call them at 800-548-3708 with the lot number on the box so they can send you postage for you to send it back to them, and they will also issue you a refund. If you know of anyone else with small children, PLEASE PASS THIS ON. THIS IS SERIOUS STUFF. DO PASS ALONG TO ALL ON YOUR MAILING LIST so people are informed. They can then pass it along to their families. To confirm these findings please take time to check the following URL:

This Email distributed by: Army Telecommunications Directorate Fort Huachuca, Arizona

SFC Dale J. Perez Equal Opportunity Advisor 82d Airborne Division Fort Bragg, NC Civ: (910) 432-0663/8250 DSN: 239

On the other hand:


This is all smoke and no fire as far as I can tell. Guess it depends on your sources, but fear-mongering and alarmism costs consumers in both money and effective products. The old Alka-Seltzer Plus worked for me a heck of a lot better and was less expensive to boot! Is government regulating really all its cracked up to be?

Quote from:

It’s difficult to believe that PPA is causing stroke considering the flimsy evidence gleaned from billions and billions of uses of PPA-containing products over the last 50 years.

Even accepting the study’s results at face value, the FDA’s alarmism still falls short of justifiable. The researchers estimate one woman may have a stroke due to PPA for every 107,000 to 3,268,000 women who use PPA-containing appetite suppressants. This level of risk is so small that it’s essentially immeasurable in the real world. If this slight risk concerned a toxic waste dump, no clean-up action would be required under Environmental Protection Agency policy, which tends to be far more proactive on minute risks than FDA policy.

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

And I sure took a lot of Alka-Seltzer Plus without problems. Thanks/


Back to Computers:

One of your readers wrote:

"My most annoying example is the relentless determination of IE to place all my pictures in the "My Pictures" folder on the C: drive. I reserve C: for OS material only and prefer to place image files on the data drive, E:. There appears to be no way to change IE's default."

Under Win2k at least, right-click My Documents folder, choose Properties and click the Move button or type a new target location in the Address box. I don't have the time to check other MS OSs right now. Typing in the location of the data partition is the first thing I do after a fresh install, using the Move button is what I do on clients' machines because whoever installed the OS accepted MS defaults. Yes, MS defaults suck, but there's no reason to accept them and they nearly always provide alternatives.

Jonathan Sturm


Dr. Pournelle,

Paul J. Camp writes; "My most annoying example is the relentless determination of IE to place all my pictures in the "My Pictures" folder on the C: drive. I reserve C: for OS material only and prefer to place image files on the data drive, E:. There appears to be no way to change IE's default."

There is a program called X-Setup, produced by Xteq Systems, that will let you change this, and many other settings in Windows/IE. It is available here, and is, I believe, free for personal home use.

Robert Cooper


Jerry, Today at our local post office I was chatting with one of the clerks, who happens to be a fan. He mentioned in passing that the USPS has "until April" to operate. I looked at him funny. "No, it's true," he said. "We're losing money like you wouldn't believe." I didn't believe it, and said so. He explained that one of the reasons mail is so late it that the post office is no longer allowed to fly any mail on commercial airlines. So the post office is paying thru the nose to transport mail via any land route they can. Also, the postal workers have been burdened with so many security measures that frequently during sorting everything has to stop while the building is evacuated as a hazmat team is called in. "Just last night we had to evacuate three times while the sheriff came over to examine suspicious packages," he explained.

While caution is good, this strikes me as EXCESSIVE. Winning the war against terrorism overseas is useless if we put up with this kind of timidity at home. Aleta

Indeed. I haven't time to make the comments I should here, but in fact it is obvious. We are destroying the airlines, the travel industry, the mail, and nearly everything we hold dear in response to less than a month's traffic deaths -- probably by means no longer repeatable even under the security provisions we had in place September 10 -- and an hour's worth of traffic deaths by anthrax.

A good return on investment.

A republic has citizens who accept some personal responsibility and with it some risks. An empire has subjects who expect "the government" to take care of them.

The conclusion is obvious.

"Poor man, he would not be a wolf but that the Romans are but sheep."






This week:



Saturday, December 1, 2001


You had this quote in your Thursday mail section this week:

Newsweek and Fareed Zakaria sarcastically write: <<American military campaigns over the last decade are all optical illusions. What looks to the naked eye like victories produced by air power were really--with some creative interpretation--victories from the ground. >>

The argument in the article is exactly the opposite. It is a reply to the criticism of bombing as ineffective in US strategy. Mr. Zakaria suggests that as bombing has gotten smarter (i.e. we actually hit what we aim at), it has become much more effective as a strategy. He discusses why this view is not widely held, and some of the reasons for the unpopularity of bombing as strategy among many in the military, politicos, and even left wing pundits (strange bedfellows, no? <G>).

I would hope that this is the beginning of a paradigm shift in military strategy. Maybe we'll be able to move beyond the "lessons" of Vietnam and WWII. Maybe the military the Robert Heinlein wrote about in Starship Troopers, short on numbers, very long on technology, will actually come to pass.

Enjoy your site greatly. Between you and Don Imus, I feel as if I have understood what was really going on in Afghanistan.

Jack Jacobson

It is possible that USAF will finally see the value of winning wars as opposed to flying airplanes and zooming about in dogfights. We'll see. It is possible that being an interdiction or close support pilot won't be a career dead end. We'll see. It is possible that we'll get some more heavy bombers in the US force inventory. We'll see.

The original argument for an Independent Air Force was that the Army didn't know how to select targets for winning air supremacy and without air supremacy you were doomed. 

In those days, SAC and the bomber force tended to be dominant. But as soon as USAF won its independence, the fighter jocks began to take it over. Eventually we had the shameful situation of the Air Force preventing the Army from having fixed wing close support aircraft at the same time that the Air Force didn't want the close support mission and only reluctantly performed it, usually with National Guard and Reserve units.

History has shown that a combined arms army, fire and shock and mobility combined, has always been more effective than any single dominant arm. I see no reason to believe that won't continue.

High tech is usually decisive, but you need people on the ground, and you need to have the ground troops trust your weapons delivery people.

Now from one of my former Scouts of Troop 139:

Concerning your comment that the deaths of September 11 were "by means no longer repeatable even under the security provisions we had in place September 10"

This annoys me as well, since the ultimate "security measure" that allowed them to happen was the general admonition that could be paraphrased as "In case of hijacking, give the hijackers what they want, be calm and quiet, and wait for rescue." Fortunately, this has now been repealed by unanimous acclamation, but everyone is still acting as if the real culprit was a security policy that allowed common household items to be allowed aboard planes.

My wife plays the oboe, and has woodworking tools to shape her double reeds. They include several razor-sharp knives that she used to carry aboard airplanes and use during flights. Airport security would ask her about them, she'd explain why she had them, and she'd be free to go. Are we safer now that she has to leave them in her checked baggage? Well...yes, since everyone is packed so closely together and she didn't let a bit of turbulance prevent her from finishing the reed she was working on....but the real reason for improved safety is that "wait for rescue" is no longer an acceptable option.

It reminds me of something I read -- probably on your site -- that the law enforcement policy of "Don't shoot at a gunman with a hostage" has been replaced with "If you have a shot, take it," since it turned out that playing it safe was actually more dangerous. One of the few hopes I have for a continued Republic is that these examples are showing people that the government can't really protect you, personally. (It *can* protect We the People, but success there is more of an aggregate measure -- a 0.001% casualty rate isn't safe enough for me if I'm one of the casualties.) If people recognize that you *can't* get above a certain level of personal security, in exchange for freedom or anything else, they might just decide to hold onto their freedom -- long enough to get into space, at least, where we can put our minds to a new set of problems.

Speaking of which: What advice could you give a recent MBA who is interested in That Buck Rogers Stuff, who wants to use his expertise (finance, mostly) to help get rockets off the ground in a steady and profitable way? It seems like the rocket startups of a few years ago have all been brought back to earth, but there must be some more waiting in the wings. The question is, how can they be found?

Thanks, Patrick A. Bowman

Agreed. We have bought ourselves more bureaucracy but we have gained no safety. 

Thus be it ever when free men shall stand.  If they stand and don't sit and cooperate.

As to space, start with 


On another subject

You CAN reply to the "RE:" messages; the BADTRANS.B virus that generated them appears to put an underscore at the beginning of the sender's address, in a half-hearted attempt to foil you warning the sender that he's infected. If you remove the underscore, your message will go through.

(In Outlook, you can edit the address by right-clicking and choosing "Properties". )

I've gotten about a dozen of them this week, though I didn't recognize any of the senders. They do contain a link to an infected document on the web that tries to exploit an old security hole in Windows Media Player, which lets it "play" non-media files without permission. But MicroSquish plugged that hole with one of the "critical security upgrades" back in the spring, so you're probably OK. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Ken Mitchell  ------- Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. ~ Frederic Bastiat -------------------------------------------------------------------

No one reads Bastiat any longer. Which is a pity. I used to assign his thin little book when I taught political philosophy. I suspect I am the last person ever to have done so on a university level, although I hope I am wrong.

I'm glad I found your site.

"I don't wonder that so many men are wicked. I do wonder that so many are unashamed"

Paul F Austin paustin

Found it and instantly subscribed. I rather like that...  Thanks!


And Joel Rosenberg continues to find happiness with Mandrake...

More on the conversion to Mandrake Linux project ...

IBM ViaVoice for Linux arrived today, took a few minutes to install, and another few minutes to configure. Nothing terribly complicated -- if it was, I couldn't do it -- and it's now up and working. From my point of view, it's another victory for the conversion/changeover. ViaVoice under Linux works faster and more accurately than the last version of ViaVoice for Windows that I used. (My suspicion is that it's the combination between me using the latest version -- the Windows version I used was one generation back -- and the lower overhead of Linux giving the processor more cycles to come up with the correct word. ) But there's no question that it is faster, and quite accurate enough for real work, as opposed to simply as a toy. What I don't have -- yet -- is the ability to do voice dictation into anything else except the ViaVoice editor, but that's not at all critical to me using this to enter text, and while I do expect that I will, eventually, get xvoice installed and working, that's not a high priority.

Short form: after just a few weeks, my new, Mandrake-only environment is faster, more stable, and in all important-to-me ways, superior to the previous Windows environment.

Which means I have to get off my duff and set up one of these machines as a Linux box. I am still not all that happy with Star Office; but mostly I am waiting to get my internet connections stable. Then I'll shift the subscriber list over to Linux and operate my own mail system for that. Meaning it will be a LOT easier to send mail to the subscribers...







This week:


read book now



I took the day off.






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