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Mail 187 January 7 - 13, 2002

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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name you want posted.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

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This week:



Monday  January 7, 2002

Deadline day. Very short shrift.

Dr. Ed Hume suggests:

This is amazing. Go to site . Take the test to find out if you are male or female.

Actually, the test gets smarter as it goes. They claim to have had 3.5 million responses so far, and the more people who take it, the more accurate the results will be. Cool site.


Sounds interesting. I'll try to get to it when I get this stuff on the wire.

Dr. Hume also sends this:

Sorry, but I cannot take credit for this information [if it is information] …


75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.

In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.

Even MILD dehydration will slow down one's metabolism as much as 3%.

One glass of water shuts down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100%of the dieters studied in a U-Washington study.

Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.

Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.

A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.

Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.

Are you drinking the amount of water you should every day?

Of course, too much water may have strange side effects: so watch out!!!

Anyone in physiology know? Of course geeks including me drink so much coffee that dehydration is probably not an option...

And then there is this:

Interesting how "Aunt Minnie" is being used (by you, at least) in connection with computing: as a computer novice, neophite, etc. We used to say: "make it so your mother, grandmother, etc. can use it".

I find the "Aunt Minnie" reference rather interesting: I work at ( ) which is a web-site aimed at radiologists and all things pertaining to radiology as a profession.

In radiology, the "exact origins of the term 'AuntMinnie' are a bit hazy, but it's believed to have been coined in the 1940s by Dr. Ben Felson, a radiologist at the University of Cincinnati. He used it to describe 'a case with radiologic findings so specific and compelling that no realistic differential diagnosis exists.' In other words, if it looks like your Aunt Minnie, then it's your Aunt Minnie."

Regards, Owen Mortensen Lead Web Developer

I had no idea...

But I did know about the next one:

The Manner of the King

Your quote from Kipling's "The Old Issue" on Friday remined me of The Book:

1 Samuel, Chapter 8

4: Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 
5: And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 
11: And he [Samuel speaking God's words] said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
 12: And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 
13: And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 
14: And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 
15: And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 
16: And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 
17: He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. 
18: And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

Duncan Frissell

Samuel may have been the founder of the profession of political scientist...


After the piece on dehydration, you wrote, "Of course geeks including me drink so much coffee that dehydration is probably not an option..."

Actually, I believe it might be a problem. Coffee is a diuretic. I believe decaf coffee is also a diuretic. If I am remembering my physiology correctly, drinking coffee will give you a net loss in fluids. I drink lots of the stuff myself.

I noted years ago that I got headaches in the afternoon. Other people, also coffee drinkers, get headaches that do not respond to aspirin, Tylenol of ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.). My thought was that coffee, being a diuretic, might be dehydrating me, so I started drinking water about lunch time, and increased as the day went on. No more headaches.

Now, I drink about a half gallon of range juice a day, morning and night. I drink a lot of water. I still drink lots of coffee. When I feel a headache coming on, or any discomfort, my first resort is to water. It helps.

Maybe my hypothesis is wrong, but I suspect that many people could make do with a lot fewer analgesics if they drank a lot more water.

Of course, the ghastly stuff I grew up with in Southern California put me off water for a long time, but good water can be had anywhere.

Ed Hume

I expect that's right. But range juice? Do you filter it or take it just as it comes from the cow? I suppose that after our local water range juice might be pretty good...









This week:



Tuesday,  January 8, 2002


Regarding SPAM: This is one fine read! 

Rick Fried

Indeed. Thanks!

Jerry, don't think I've emailed you since the days of the early 90's, but just thought I'd throw in my 2 cents on the Empire vs. Republic question, especially since you are one of the few aside from myself I've seen phrase the whole security vs. liberty debate in those terms.

I've wondered since the 80's what would end up tipping the US over the line into being an Emmpire, and my first reaction to the events of 9/11 was "the Republic is now irrevocably dead, here comes the Empire".

I'm still wondering whether we'll end up with President for Life Bush or not (if he managed to get us TRULY into space, would I really care? Now THAT's a tough one).

Also, I noted with interest that the conflict in Afghanistan saw the greatest direct military co-operation between the US and Russia since WWII. The US provided funds to Russia to tranport war materiel to the Northern Alliance, let to US and Russian choppers flying into combat together...weird, shades of the Co-Dominion in THAT!!

Also, where does China fall in all this, and the Pakistani/Indian tensions (which look like they are waning, a bit). The only way I can see for the US to get into an actual war (the kill ratio's in Iraq and Afghanistan make me consider those shooting fish in barrels), would be if we got caught up in a Sino-Indian conflict, or some related nastiness in the Mid-East.

Anyway, just some thoughts, thanks.


David Mercer Boulder, CO (VERY formerly

Well, it's long and complex, and the real question is do we want Republic or Empire? Whose business do we mind? That goes very much to the heart of China policy...

I just had the most exasperating experience ever.

My daughter is moving and going to a new high school. I tried to enroll her yesterday so she wouldn't miss any school. But they wouldn't do registration before 7 am this morning. We did get the enrollment packet and had it all filled out this morning. Things went swiftly until we got to the registrar's office. We didn't have end of semester grades. The problem with this is that the teachers at her old school didn't turn in grades until yesterday; they are unavailable today. She didn't care and dismissed us. My daughter is a straight A student taking honors classes. We had everything else we needed. And this bureaucrat didn't care; paperwork that doesn't exist is more important than her education.

We were able to return to the old school and get grades from all of her teachers and faxed it to the school. I am now waiting to hear from them on whether or not this is good enough. I am hopeful but I don't see anything on there that I could not have gone into the parking lot and written myself. You would think that transferring to a new school was an extraordinary event!

Gregory  B

Bureaucrats soon forget the purpose of their job, and only remember the rules. It's almost inevitable.

From Trent Telenko:

This is a Canadian pundit pointing out the anti-American spin of the 'non-government organizations' via their Doomie predictions versus the reality of the Post-Taliban Afghanistan.

This is more evidence for something I have thought for some time. That 'NGOs' are where anti-American, Leftie, Westerners hang out when socialist governments in Europe, and Democratic ones in the USA, are out of power.

They rotate between the two worlds as opportunity presents.

 ------------------- January 7, 2002

Bombarded by brutal rhetoric

Mark Steyn National Post

Whatever happened to the "brutal Afghan winter"? It was "fast approaching" back in late September, and apparently it's still "fast approaching" today. "Winter is fast, fast approaching," reported ABC's Nightline on September 26th.

Two weeks on, New York's Daily News announced that, "realistically, U.S. forces have a window of two or three weeks before the brutal Afghan winter begins to foreclose options."

Two or three weeks passed and the brutal Afghan winter's relentless approach showed no sign of letting up. "A clock is ticking," declared The Oregonian on October 24th. "The harsh Afghan winter is approaching."

The clock ticked on, and on, and on. On November 8th NBC's Tom Brokaw alerted viewers to the perils posed by "a rapidly approaching winter." "They expect the conditions to deteriorate rapidly as the brutal winter soon sets in," wrote Newsday's Deborah Barfield on November 11th updating her earlier sighting of "the typically brutal winter approaching" a month earlier on October 9th.

 < snip >

So where did this "brutal Afghan winter" business come from? It came, pre-eminently, from spokespersons from the relief agencies. There are some special-interest groups -- the National Rifle Association, Right To Life -- whose press releases get dismissed by the media as propaganda, and others -- environmental groups, for example -- whose every claim is taken at face value. Into this last happy category fall the "humanitarian lobby." Throughout the rhetorically brutal autumn, they bombarded us: "Predicting even more desperate times for millions of Afghans, international relief groups and federal humanitarian aid officials are scrambling to get food and medical supplies into a country they say is on the verge of famine ... They expect the conditions to deteriorate rapidly as the brutal winter sets in."

 < snip >

Instead, they seem a little touchy about the fact that among the first food supplies to get through was a fresh supply of egg on their faces. When Axworthy and other self-proclaimed "humanitarians" start droning on next month about starving children in Iraq, always remember the lesson of Afghanistan: A bombing pause is not as "humanitarian" as a bomb. The quickest way to end a "humanitarian" crisis is to remove the idiot government responsible for it. Conversely, the best way to keep people starving is to cook up new wheezes to maintain the thugs in power, as Christian Aid, Oxfam, Conscience International and all the rest did in their petitions through the gullible Western media. I would urge readers to be highly selective about supporting aid agencies who operate under tyrannies. Better yet, go see for yourself: After all, for Canadians, there's no better time than now to spend a sultry two weeks in Kabul enjoying the charms of the brutal Afghan winter.

I am not sure a comment is needed... 

Hi Mr. Pournelle, I'm an oldtimer of sorts, and happen to have eaten dinner at Blacker House at Caltech on the same night as you in '81 or so :-) You might be interested to hear that the fellow (Jon Leech) who invited you to eat there that night is now in charge of the OpenGL 3d graphics standard.

I'm writing a white paper about the proposed settlement in the Microsoft antitrust case (the federal one, not the class action one) from the point of view of an open-source developer/user. I've about finished the analysis part, and am busy synthesizing proposed amendments. It's at in case you're interested in such stuff.

The settlement will be adopted by the judge after considering public comments, which are due by Jan 25th. It's getting down to the wire for people to make their voices heard; any chance you could whip up some publicity on the topic to motivate people to exercise their right to express their feelings on the matter? (And link to the URL I mentioned above as a way for them to learn about the issues?)

Thanks, Dan Kegel

Well, I am not sure how much attention they pay to public comments. I do not believe much can come from the suit: if Microsoft doesn't like it, they have the resources to delay any decision. After all, they have an income equal to the GDP of small countries like Turkey. At this point I suspect that the important thing is to get it over with.



This week:



Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Let this stand for about a hundred that say the same thing:

Dear Jerry,

A very interesting and even-handed look at Microsoft alternatives. I almost never respond to articles I read. Mostly, I nod my head and quietly mutter, "Uh-huh", etc.

On to Aunt Minnie and her lack of computer sophistication. I differ on one point. (By-the-way, I provide IT systems support to companies and individuals too small to justify an IT department.) Aunt Minnie is either going to buy a computer with the OS and applications installed or nephew Jerry is going to do it. In that context, Linux is a neither a better or worse choice, than Windows.

That brings me to my point, if I (the customer) were to have a PC delivered with all (or most) of the applications I need installed and configured, I doubt I would be looking at the OS. Kind of like a gasoline or diesel engine. One may be noisier, etc. but, if my vehicle goes, I don't care as much as I might let on.

Anyway, thanks for an interesting an thought provoking article.

Best regards,

Paul Konyk Calgary, Alberta

P.S. I've enjoyed reading most (I believe) of your books.

The point is that no one seems to want to sell Linux boxes with applications set up on them, all ready to run and set up for Aunt Minnie. Or, rather, some tried it and vanished.

It is very easy to say that there ought to be such. It's easy enough to say that companies ought to be required to make them available, although if IBM couldn't be induced to sell PC's with OS/2 on them it seems a cruel trick to play on Dell and Gateway.

And of course there are plenty of people floating about out there who could set up and maintain such systems from parts obtained from Fry's and sell boxes with Linux and applications cheaper than you could buy a Windows XP with Office XP box of comparable hardware.

It doesn't seem to happen, but perhaps that is coming. 

Thanks for the kind words.

We are riding on a target in a shooting gallery. We are going to get hit; the only question is when. A rock called "2001 YB5" was the latest near miss. 

"An asteroid big enough to wipe out a major country gave the Earth a close shave yesterday, passing less than twice the distance of the Moon from our planet, astronomers reported."

Cheers, Clyde Wisham

------------------------------------------ "The meek shall inherit the earth, a six foot plot above them." -- RAH (Lazarus Long) -------------------------------------------

I prefer "The meek shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us are going to the stars." We're overdue for a Dinosaur Killer now...

Stevens' _Sources of the Constitution_ now online 

The classic legal treatise, Sources of the Constitution of the United States, by C. Ellis Stevens (MacMillan, London: 1894), traces each of the key provisions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to their historical sources, showing how each idea and the language to express it evolved over time. The result is a fascinating tour of the struggle for civil liberties and for effective but just government over the course of two millenia.

This historical analysis of the provisions of the Constitution provides insight into the thinking of the Founders and a deeper understanding of their original intent in the way they worded the supreme law of the United States. We find the origins of terms we use in law and government that can help us use them correctly, and gain a deeper appreciation for the courage of the people who fought and died so that we might be free.

 Our efforts depend on donations from people like you. To help see  Constitution Society, 7301 RR 620 N #155,276, Austin, TX 78726 512/257-2606 Date: 01/07/02 Time: 17:15:52  

I know nothing of the organization but Stevens is a standard and valuable work.

Dear Dr. Pournelle;

Microsoft products are attacked by hackers for the same reason the United States was attacked by terrorists: if you wish to cause maximum grief, create an attack that will affect the largest number. Since the PC world is mostly Microsoft, that's what hackers attack. In your most recent Byte column you state that *nix OSs have fewer security holes than Microsoft apps. I'll agree with that, but *nix apps present a much-less-preferred target.

If you're a hacker, why go to the trouble of creating a virus, worm, trojan, etc., that will attack 5,000 computers when you can do the same thing on the MS platform and affect 50,000,000?

I'm not apologizing for the holes in Windows and its apps, but when terrorists want to make a global statement, they don't attack Belize; so it is with hackers.

Which makes another point: Don't live in the bullseye and complain about arrows. By the nature of their smaller market-shares, Apple and *nix PCs are further outside of hackers' sights and thus are more secure just for that.

I've used Wintel machines since 8088 processors, but I'm seriously considering a Mac as my next PC to avoid what seem like hourly attacks. I used a PowerMac for several years while I was magazine editor and found it suitable platform that did everything I needed when it came to word processing and publishing without the need to reboot every day. If only Apple would move away from the "toy" designs they seem foist onto their clientele. They also need to be more price-competitive as you intimate in your column.

BTW, is it some West Coast thing that causes most PCs in movies to be shown as Macs? For a 10% [or less?] market share, most people in films are shown using Apple portables. Superior product placement work, I suppose.

-- Pete Nofel

Well, most of the attacks are defeated by not opening attachments to mail, others by proper updates to the OS and Applications mostly Outlook, and the rest by keeping Norton or McAfee running and updating. 

For that matter, WinProxy catches them as they come in off the satellite and kills them. If I am connected with the modem through NetWinder, the NetWinder doesn't pass most of the OS attacks through at all, and those which are mail attachments are dealt with by Norton and in any event I don't open unexpected mail attachments.

Did you see the perfectly twee new iMac?


Just to pitch a little more Linux info your way... I lost a harddrive Monday night and was forced to reinstall RedHat 7.2 (hardware failures will still take out a linux box as quickly as software GPF errors will take out a Windows box). Just for a change I chose to install the KDE desktop instead of the Gnome desktop that I had been using (with Ximian's additions --

KDE is really, really nice! KMail does everything I want in a mail program (filtering, multiple identity support for all my email addresses, PGP support, etc.). The GUI runs great, even with all the bells and whistles turned on (menus that fade in and out when opened and closed, etc.). This is on an AMD K6/3d 500MHz machine that with Gnome running usually acted like a sleepy dog on a sunny day.

So when you give Linux a try as a desktop machine you should keep RH 7.2 and KDE in mind. Yeah, its still not for Aunt Minnie, but my Aunt Jan uses it!


----------------------------------------------------- Brian C. Lane (KC7TYU) Programmer RF, DSP & Microcontroller Design


Yup. It might be different if people were selling machines that came preconfigured with Linux. Most of the . . . interesting moments I had in moving from Windows to Linux were configuration issues, and those could be obviated pretty easily by a figure-it-out once, deploy-it-many-times strategy, although there are some decisions that the manufacturer couldn't make for the user. (Give me a decent machine that's neither bleeding edge nor ancient hardware, and instructions to make it possible for Aunt Minnie to use it for web browsing, email, and such, and I'd still have to know if she's got dialup, cable, or DSL access; what kind of printer she's got and how it's going to be connected; and probably half a dozen other things that even a low-level power user can be expected to figure out, but Aunt Minnie can't be counted on to.)

Dell could, just for example, offer dual-boot in Linux for a small (or no) additional fee, or even offer a Linux-only machine, with the cost that Dell pays for the Microsoft license deducted. (Gateway, whose debts have just been downgraded to junk bond status, might be another choice.) I can see the problems for them of doing that as being fairly serious, though:

1. They'd either have to support it, or explain why they can't. Given the less than stellar abilities of most first-level tech support people, supporting Linux would mean a fairly serious commitment on Dell's part, and the margins aren't exactly huge as they are. Saying, "Hey, we put it on your machine but we don't know anything about it," isn't likely to make a lot of friends. (Yes, you and I know that there's ample support for Linux out there, on newsgroups and such, but you've got to be able to get online to access it, and know how and where to ask the right questions. Writing good user documentation isn't an easy thing, and the evidence, so far, is that volunteer documentation efforts don't scale up well the way that software does. While there's lots of good information in the Linux How-Tos and other docs, there's also a lot of outdate and badly written stuff, too. Take a look at the Linux Documentation project at So far, Eric Raymond's Magic Cauldron does not, apparently, come with terribly useful, step-by-step spell books.)

2. Microsoft Wouldn't Like It. What would Microsoft *do* about not liking it? Microsoft might take the position that this was equivalent to selling a computer without an operating system, and that Dell was conspiring to sell computers that would soon be running on pirated copies of Windows. I'm not sure how that would play in court, but I can see how Dell wouldn't want to find out. There's also less formal ways that Microsoft might choose to punish an upstart, and some reason to believe that those weren't an utter impossibility, perhaps?

So: I dunno. But I'd love to see it. Linux penetration into the server market has been made possible by the techies running the servers, who, even if they're not Unix-heads (and a lot of them are), can be expected to make sense out of a man page, and/or get help from their fellow wizards when they're puzzled, and some of the reports I've read make it pretty clear that, in some office environments, the presence of somebody like that -- or, even, the availability of the equivalent of the geek squad ( to set things up and handle problems -- does make it a reasonable possibility for many corporate environments, but Aunt Minnie still needs a nephew to set things up and fix stuff for her.

Well, most of my machines were assembled here and certainly had no operating system until I put one on...

Dear Dr. Pournelle, In yesterday's mail Rick Fried sent you a link to a site that was about someone who spammed people with his resume. Slashdot now has the story: 

Upon getting home from work today I checked my spam folder and, sure enough, he had sent it to me as well, last month.

This guy is fast becoming a case study in "How to Achieve Unemployability Using the Internet".

Kit Case

p.s. Did you know that the current mail page is reporting today's date as January 90?

Well I can fix the date...





This week:


read book now


Thursday, January 10, 2002

Hello Mr. Pournelle.

In reference to the seemingly inevitable slide of our Republic to an Empire, I thought that a column written today by John Ringo published in the New York Post might be of interest to you. 

Upon seeing the term Praetorians in reference to the Secret Service, I immediately thought it would be an article that you might like someone to bring to your attention. I can't imagine that I'm anything but the nth person to do so, or that you might have read the column syndicated elsewhere already, but I thought that I would send the link in any event.


Paul Weimer

Indeed. He expresses my sentiments exactly. Yes, the pilot got out on a limb and should have climbed off much sooner. But the Detail Agent? We all have to jump through hoops. Why should the Praetorians be different? But then Kipling knew...

Roland tells us "12 Steps to a Microsoft Free Life:" 

vmware version 3

Hi Jerry,

I realize that this is a late entry....

vmware is a program that allows you to run virtual machines on your existing computer. Using vmware, you can run multiple instances of windows and linux on the same machine as if they were separate computers.

I recommend it for an Orchid because: - it works, it really works well. - it is incredibly useful if you want to try something, such as installing software, without changing your computer., software development and testing under different environments, etc... - runs at a very acceptable speed, considering what it does. - has many, many useful features.

I'm now going to install office XP and Windows XP, just to see what it looks like with no worry about harming my perfectly working instance of windows 2000 - on my laptop.

- Paul Walker






This week:



Friday, January 11, 2001

Begin with, alas, bad news:

Subject: Bad news for Blackberry 

Gregory W. Brewer Flow-Cal, Inc. Energy Software Solutions

Indeed. I find the RIM Blackberry one of the most useful tools there is for conferences and trips. I don't usually go out much when I'm not on a trip, so it's less so for me during "normal" times, but if I went to an office or did the kind of work that required me to move around a lot, I'd use it all the time.

Dear Mr Pournelle,

I have just stumbled on your web page of December 10th - 16th. Your comment in relation to spam struck a chord with me. You said:

The real question is, do we have a right to send anonymous email as some kind of right of privacy, or do the rest of us have a right to know who is spamming us and sending DDoS attacks? I think the two are mutually exclusive.

I agree with you, and have held this point of view for a long number of years. When faced with the frustration of trying to track down spammers who are abusing your email address to steal your bandwidth, time and diskspace, it can be seem very tempting to DDOS them, send them an anonymous flame or otherwise lash out. But to do so is to stoop to their level and add to the already huge volume of rubbish on the internet. This rubbish hogs resources which might otherwise be used for better pruposes.

Attack is not always the best form of defence.

Anyone sending any email, should have the decency to identify themselves and include a valid "reply to" address.

That is why, despite a number of requests, we do not and will not allow subscribers to send email from their accounts. We will only facilitate the anonymous receipt of email, not anonymous sending.

Thanks for your time, and for many hours spent reading your work,

Jack Healy Combustion Productions Ltd.

I don't mind some anonymous email. What would be ideal would be a way to limit it: say to 500 recipients per day. I confess I have no idea how to do that. This would preserve the anonymous "pamphleteer" kind of publication that is important to a Republic without making life all that easy for spammers.

I suspect that The Godfather Corporation is the only solution, and it won't happen. As Eric Pobirs observed long ago, the only way spam will cease is when something violent, physical, and extremely unpleasant publicly happens to some spammers so the the others are afraid.

Following was two letters, not one broken into pieces:

Incidentally, I'm told that it wasn't just my satellite this time: Others got that same spam, and because it calls for messages from a server that was being overwhelmed because the gentlefolk had sent out millions of copies of this, Outlook was waiting for responses from a server that couldn't respond. Lockups in the preview window from one to five minutes weren't uncommon. Do I hear more votes for the Fool Killer Corporation? 

While I am unamused by spam, I just don't see any way to deal with it which is not dangerous to free speech, one way or another. Your real problem, unfortunately, is that you are forced to deal with an M$ product, which is not overly well devised. It does a few things you want real well, but lacks, for example, something that Netscape has always had: a "Stop" button that works, no matter what is being loaded. If I had gotten the same e-mail, I could have hit "stop" and gotten control back. The notion that you, the user, might, actually, want to do such a thing was lost on some idiot M$ programmer.

I'm not arguing for you to switch away from Outlook, but unless you're someone who has a major use for its specific strengths (like the rule-based sorting), such as you, it is to be avoided like the plague.

I get various crap from virus victims at home all the time (Since I use Netscape, I can actually run without a virus checker. I have to pay attention to what an attachment is before I open it, but that's about it), from OE users who have gotten The Virus Of The Day, and often momentarily turn on "full headers" to see what mail client they are using -- it's always Outlook and/or Outlook Express. In about 7 years sending and recieving e-mail, using Netscape, I've never caught a virus (Note: I do check from time to time to be certain I don't have a virus I'm unaware of). I realize you, personally, are a specific target, unlike me (and hence could never get away with that), and people write viruses for OE rather than NS -- but that's also partly because they (M$) make it sooooooo easy.

-- Nicholas Bretagna II Flad & Associates of Florida, Inc. 352-377-6884

"Those who will give up essential liberty to secure a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin -

Actually, if you put a couple of buttons on the toolbar (see next month's column) Outlook can switch previews on and off well enough: and if you don't open unexpected attachments it's extremely unlikely you will be affected by a virus. It's even less likely if you have Norton or McAfee running. You are more courageous than I to run bare: viruses can get at you in ways other than through Outlook even if Outlook has got lots of attention lately.

Finally: I keep hearing about the virus that bites you through the Preview Pane in Outlook, but I have yet to see an actual case of it happening. Does anyone know of one?


> The safest rule is not to open mail attachments except by invoking > Notepad (or NoteTab Pro, a neat shareware program I've mentioned > before). Open Notepad, and use it to open the mail attachment. If > Notepad can't open it, check with the sender.

FWIW, I think highly of TextPad (I haven't used NoteTab, so I can't compare -- I just find it hard to believe NoteTab is better) 

It allows multiple file opens, reads a number of formats, allows full customization (and appears to offer some sort of IBM Personal Editor emulation, which I vaguely recall you liking in the dim and distant past) and can handle different types of files differently (like C vs. VB vs Text, indentation rules, etc.)

Lots of nifty features....

-- Nicholas Bretagna II Flad & Associates of Florida, Inc. 

"Those who will give up essential liberty to secure a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin -

I haven't tried that one. There are many such utilities, of course. Thanks.

I noted this one in VIEW:

Dear Jerry,

Yet another reason why I've never regretted abandoning Outlook:

"Gigger, a new JavaScript-based virus, has escaped into the wild. It attempts to delete files from a computer and format user's disk drive on restart and antivirus vendors are characterising it as high-risk..."

< >

Cheers, Rod Schaffter


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

DO NOT OPEN unexpected mail attachments. Do NOT open unexpected mail attachments. Do not OPEN unexpected mail attachments.

Wonderful, the first .NET app that's released is a virus. 

Kit Case

Roland also references this on the same subject:,4586,5101515,00.html?chkpt=zdnnp1tp01 



Hello Dr. Pournelle,

I read about this on FOX News and went to the FAA website to make my comments favoring this. It took me a while to find the correct comment page so I thought I would pass it along in case you or any of your many readers would also like to make comments. The answer deadline is 14 Feb. 

This is an invitation to comment on pilots carrying firearms, and other flight crew carrying non-lethal weapons, on commercial flights.

Note that it doesn't say anything about the imbecile procedures now in place which don't enhance security but sure do make it uncomfortable to painful to fly anywhere. Do something, even if it's wrong.

It sure would be less expensive to make cockpit doors more secure, put some surveillance cameras looking at the cabin door area and piping that into the cockpit, and that sort of thing, than to close down airports because someone with a nail file managed to get past a high school dropout screener. Or am I being unduly cynical? I know we are supposed to pleased that we are "safe" in flying. IN fact I doubt we are much safer now than before, but we're sure a lot more uncomfortable.

You correctly identify the real barrier to Linux desktop adoption: the infuriating inability of most non-MSFT software to display .doc documents.

I'll leave it to the lawyers and zealots to argue about the monopolistic aspects of proprietary document formatting, and its moving target properties.

The solution, however, is simple.

Create documents in the portable .rtf format, and ask others to do the same.

gz ----------------------------------------- George R. Zachar 

 Busts can be prevented only by moderating the booms tht precede them. -George Soros -----------------------------------------

It would be even better if the process were automated. 

And now a defense of Apple


I'm sure you've gotten many unreasonable responses to this week's column--after all, you had the temerity to suggest that both Apple and Linux were less-than-perfect, thus bringing on yourself the wrath of the idiots.

This is not one of those letters :-) though it is a bit longish :-(

I have been buying computers for twelve years. I have been administering networks of PCs, Macs, UNIX and NetWare for ten years. Over the three-to-five year life span of a computer, a general-purpose Mac is always more cost-effective than a general-purpose Windows PC. In my opinion, of course, but that opinion is backed by hard-earned real world experience, generally in shops that are more than 50% PC.

We send the Macs in for repairs less often than the PCs. We reinstall the OS far less often on Macs than on Windows (regardless of whether it's 95, 98, NT, or 2000). We keep the Macs in useful service longer. Except for a really bad run during the mid-1990s, the Apple hardware has been of comparable sturdiness to IBM and Compaq, and exceeds the typical "white box" vendor (or Dell). I think Apple isn't gouging me--I'm practically stealing from them.

That said, Apple will never make much headway in the desktop market. Most buyers buy on upfront price and number of megahertz, ignoring considerations like reliability, support costs, and usable lifespan. I'm not rich enough to do that, so I buy Macs.

Steve S.

Well, I have been looking for the Mac to buy. The new one may be it when it is available next month or whenever. It's time we looked at one here. I am guessing that it won't be hard to network it into the Windows 2000 domain.

You wrote:

>I don't mind some anonymous email. What would be ideal would be a way to limit it: say to 500 recipients per day.

I had a thought that might be feasible. Current email transfer agents (which means the open-source sendmail, mostly) will accept mail from anyone for a local user; in fact, it used to be normal that they'd forward mail for third parties, but that's the non-default configuration nowadays, as spammers were abusing this bit of politeness to hide their whereabouts.

One could extend the SMTP protocol for mail delivery so that (non-favored?) senders were forced to jump through some computationally expensive hoop before mail to local users will be accepted.

Currently SMTP looks like this:

220 ESMTP Sendmail 8.9.9/8.9.9; Fri, 11 Jan 2002 16:05:32 -0500 (EST) 

>>> HELO 250 Hello [], pleased to meet you >>> MAIL From:<> 250 <>... Sender ok >>> RCPT To:<> 250 <>... Recipient ok >>> DATA 354 Enter mail, end with "." on a line by itself <message body> 250 QAA00187 Message accepted for delivery >>> QUIT 221 closing connection

We could add something like (not real numbers):

220 ESMTP Sendmail 8.9.9/8.9.9; Fri, 11 Jan 2002 16:05:32 -0500 (EST) >>> HELO 250 Hello [], pleased to meet you >>> MAIL From:<> 250 <>... Sender untrusted, please give prime factor of 34576184516935692342934759132 to continue >>> FCTR 345837444 250 Ok, you bothered... >>> RCPT To:<> 250 <>... Recipient ok >>> DATA 354 Enter mail, end with "." on a line by itself <message body> 250 QAA00187 Message accepted for delivery >>> QUIT 221 closing connection

The beauty of this is, putting support in sendmail would mostly be sufficient, and it lets you effectively add a cost per message without any sort of micropayments scheme, or giving up anonymity. I'd be curious what your reader groupmind thinks about this, or if the idea has been tossed around before?

- Mike Earl

I certainly like the idea...

I was going to bed the other night when my wife told me that I had left the light on in the garage, she could see from the bedroom window.

As I looked for myself, I saw that there were people in the garage taking things.

I phoned the police, but they told me that no one was in this area to help at this time, but they would send someone over as soon as they become available. I said OK, hung up, and waited one minute, then phoned the police back.

"Hello. I just called you a minute ago because there were people in my garage. Well, you don't have to worry about them now cause I've shot them all."

Within three minutes there were half a dozen police cars in the area, an Armed Response unit, the works. Of course, they caught the burglars red-handed.

One of the officers said: "I thought you said that you'd shot them!"

I replied with "I thought you said there was nobody available!"

[Ed here. This may be real; this may be a "story". But I recall something: In the bad old days when NYC was a crime capitol, police hardly responded to muggings in the subway. But when one man shot three muggers, something like 1200 officers went down into the tunnels after him. One gets the impression that they don't like us protecting ourselves . . .]







This week:



Saturday, January 12, 2002


Since you were not familiar with lindows, perhaps you have not seen this:

Microsoft sues Linux start-up Allison Linn in Seattle DECEMBER 21, 2001

SOFTWARE giant Microsoft has sued computer operating system maker, claiming's name is too close to that of its own dominant Windows operating system.

In a lawsuit filed in the US District Court, Microsoft alleges that the name Lindows could confuse the public and infringe on the trademark of its dominant Windows system, which runs on about 90 per cent of personal computers.

The company is asking the court to force Lindows to change its name, but does not ask that anything in the product be changed, Microsoft spokesman Jon Murchinson said.

Michael Robertson,'s founder and chief executive, said the company had no intention of changing its name. He said he doubted people would confused a 20-employee upstart with a major software empire.

The Associated Press

Looks like a great way to get some publicity at low cost: they can drop the name once things get to the point where it costs real money...

Whether Lindows is too close to Windows is problematic; the main comments I have had from readers up to now is "Where's the beef?" : that is, Lindows so far seems to be more promise than substance. That of course could change quickly.







This week:


read book now


Sunday, January 13, 2002

From Trent Telenko

If the environmental movement has sunk to such stalinist tactics to suppress any reasoned debate. They have just reduced themselves to a nasty interest group on the scale of the Religious Right.

Now every environmental issue is going to be reduced to one of political power stripped of any moral component.

They will not like the results.

This link requires registration:,,9004-2002020681,00.html 

This link will take you where the article has been cut and pasted to the Free Republic Web Site: 

Text below: --------------- Eco-heretic beset by hate campaign Sunday Times (UK) | 1/13/02 | JONATHAN LEAKE, SCIENCE EDITOR

THE scientist who dared to challenge the establishment view on climate change has been subjected to a campaign of personal abuse, professional vilification and threats to his safety.

Last year Bjorn Lomborg claimed in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist that many of mankind’s worst fears — such as mass extinction of species, climate change and population growth — were largely unfounded.

The book has provoked scientists and environmental groups into producing articles, websites and pamphlets rubbishing its author and his work.

One of the most hostile, in Nature magazine, likens him to apologists for the Nazis. He has been physically attacked and has had to employ bodyguards.

This weekend Lomborg repeated his claims. “My book seems to have hit a raw nerve. For years we have been hearing how the world is deteriorating. I thought that too and then I looked for the evidence and it just isn’t there. In fact, the history of the world is that things are getting better,” he said.


I don't know how I missed getting that book, and my attempts to buy it through Amazon this morning weren't much fun, but I'll have it shortly. I had heard about it, of course, but I didn't get ordering it into my system...

I continue to repeat: they used to do wine in England, and there were viable farms in Greenland. The Earth survived that warm period. An earlier warm and wet period is recalled as the Garden of Eden. 

The biggest threat to humanity is Lucifer's Hammer, but I don't notice the environmental enthusiasts agitating about getting to space where we might have a chance to stop it.

You write:

"It seems to be generally assumed that that anthrax mailings were from some 'right wing' individual. That tells us not much about the first cases, which were in Florida. See ... They happened awfully fast, too fast I think to be a reaction to 911 but at about the right time to have been a part of that attack. As to why that news headquarters, I have no idea, but it's as bewildering assuming one culprit as another."

A couple of weeks ago, the headlines seemed to be pointing toward a US Army researcher gone postal in protest of his funding being cut; before that, before ANY evidence had come up, the blame was on the "right-wing fanatics" who are the "usual suspects" whenever somebody doesn't like the government.

I wonder if this isn't all misdirection? The gummint isn't ready to take on Iraq; what if we're pretty sure it was them, as seems likely? It might be politic to cast the blame elsewhere until we're ready to take out the Saddam and the Baathists at a swoop, and THEN produce proof that they were behind the bio-war attacks.

Because I no longer believe much of anything out of Washington; I haven't for years. And Bush fils isn't making me feel any "warm fuzzies" about the bureaucrats.

--- Ken Mitchell Citrus Heights, CA --------------------- Scott Adams' Holiday Message "This holiday season, as we laugh and eat and shop and enjoy friends and family, our soldiers are in Afghanistan risking everything for us. Some of them won't come back. The rest will never be the same. Every one of them volunteered. They think we're worth it.

Let's prove them right."

Scott Adams Dilbert Newsletter 39 -------------------------------------------------------------------

And now this:

Dr. Pournelle,

Since you mentioned the hated pop-up ads I thought you might be interested in Adsubtract a program that gets rid of annoying pop-ups and banner ads. Their standard edition is Free! I have the “cookie edition” which includes a cookie manager, I got this for free when I bought Zone Alarm Pro. So far it works pretty good, the pop up windows still open but they do not download the advertisement. You can get it here:

It helps me since I am on a dialup and it even tracks the number of advertisements that it kills. Speaking of dial-up does anybody use the new V92/V44 modems or know of any isp that supports them? They are supposed to be able to get 300Kbps on a regular phone line.

Michael G. Scoggins

I have a popup killer that seems to work: it will be in next column if it continues to work for a while. But I know nothing of that kind of modem, nor of what supports it, nor anything else: I guess I don't get information as quickly as I used to. Anyone else know?

There is also this recommendation, which I suppose I ought to try. The one I am testing is PopUp Stopper Pro and it seems to do the job although it frustrates heck out of some web sites.

Dr. Pournelle,

You might follow this link and click on all the opt-out links to reduce the amount of pop-up ads you get while visiting commercial websites. Each link sets a cookie on your computer that provides some relief. I'm unaware of any downside to doing this. Forgive the unfortunately named URL. It has nothing to do with erotica: 


Don McArthur can be reached at or at his website at

Another I should try if I get some time. Thanks.

And now this:

You're just experiencing the "January Jam".

Its well know that every moron in Christendom gets a computer for Christmas and AOL for New Year's. So everything on the net is clogged for a couple months or so.

I've experienced the lag in Jan-Feb the last five years.

Have faith and wait a bit. They get distracted and drop off when the weather turns nice again.

Cordially, John

-- "The sooner the revolution, the fewer the casualties."

Could be...


Hi Dr. Pournelle;

I have about a dozen emails in my box tonite from customers who have noted frustrating delays in web service this weekend. I have been away from the computer most of the weekend so I didn't experience such myself. These were emails from local cable and dialup customers; with your experiences I'd say it was probably backbone overload or a national problem of some kind.

Perhaps Bernie Shifman is sending out another round of spam. ;-)

Andy G 

It seems to be better now. Perhaps so...






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