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Mail 189 January 21 - 27, 2002

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Monday  January 21, 2002






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Tuesday,  January 22, 2002

Roland observes that fifty years on

Germany has realized nearly all her war aims without firing a shot:

See also,,3-2002033335,00.html 

And  a competent empire wouldn't have allowed the Gitmo photos...

gitmo1.jpg (27589 bytes)

But while we can't be a competent empire, we aren't a Republic either. A Marine General retired is hassled about carrying his MEDAL OF HONOR onto an airplane. It might be a dangerous weapon. And

Dr. Pournelle:

Having seen a lot of the commentary on your website regarding the recent hell that has become air travel, let me burst yet another bubble for you, in case you haven't heard about it yet.

Remember how last Friday was the deadline for that "all bags check must now be x-rayed" rule? Remember how, for weeks coming up to it, the media promised chaos and hysteria, and come the day, the media was stunned by how "smoothly" everything was running?

I'm here to tell you that, for coming out of San Jose airport on Friday, it was a tedious exercise in frustration.

There were two lines: one to go through the check in lines, the other to go through security to the gates. Thankfully, I only had to wait in one, as I'm an e-ticket passenger.

Now, ordinarily, San Jose can be mindbending on Fridays, so I usually give Fridays two hours. Leave client by four for six-o-clock flight. But on this occasion, I got there at 3pm, hoping to get on a 3:55 flight.

Nothing doing. The "straight to the gate" line was several HUNDRED people long, and stretched out into the parking lot for at least two hundred yards. As the evening approached, I'm sure people at that end of the line were at risk of some exposure problems, as it was COLD in San Jose (and I was in the abominable Hyatt Rickey, which used to be a motel cabin collection, and only bears the Hyatt name now because they intended to raze it and put up a big hotel, but the ninnies behind it pitched a fit, so I ended up paying $160 for a cabin which was so drafty I had to wait for the wind to die to down in order for my tv remote to work, but I digress)...

So: check-in lines several hundred folks long. At least two hours. And then the gate lines? Same deal--panic pushed everyone to show up at the exact same time: EARLY. So, from the people running the gate's perspective, nothing's changed, as they process the same number of people, but those people no longer show up in discontinuous fits over a period of two hours. Now they all show up two hours early and stand around in line. And it's not even like you can go get a beer to make the time pass a little less slowly: NO. Taking your beer for a walk is frowned upon, as you might intoxicate a minor. (As if I'd give some kid my damn beer. Let him get his own.)

Did I mention that this entire experienced is chaperoned by San Jose Police, who all stand around, spaced every ten yards, in riot gear, weapons out and loaded, looking surly and unfriendly? Do you know how I do in that much proximity of so much authority, armed and hostile? Not well, my friend. I tend to think with my mouth, and I think all the damn time. Must've almost gotten myself arrested more than once, so that resonates with me.

All in all, I spent 4.5 hours standing in line for a flight that was then an hour late and full. Given that driving on either end of those trips adds another 1.5 hours to the net, it would now be simpler for me to drive between San Diego and San Jose: 476.2 miles from one end to the next. This has me in fits, as I make that trip A LOT.

And if I had the joy (or sheer stupidity, as it were) to be travelling to Salt Lake, I'd get to do it again GOING IN. They're a bit testy about the olympics, apparently.

And one thought occurs to me: who has this stopped? What has this actually prevented? Have we stopped some still-waiting wave of terrorists? Richard Reed got onto a plane with his firework sneakers, and a fifteen-year-old apparently can steal a small plane and at least blemish a large building. But it certainly has taken dozens of useful hours from anyone who has to travel as a part of their work--that probably translates into man years lost already, plus the damage to the airline industry.

But we weren't going to let the terrorists win.

-k == Keith C. Langill, Manager of Quality Systems, Stellcom

When I go up to Santa Clara for CONTACT next month I will drive. I am invited to the Air War College at Maxwell Field in Alabama next month, and I would normally go, but the thought of enduring the idiots in airport security deters me.



Here's a cut and paste of a post from a Marine officer on a board I frequent. I've removed any references to specific people. This takes the cake for security stupidity.

"Your comment about "fast food rejects" is well placed. For years I have had the impression when traveling that the employees at the metal detectors and other security points at airports represent the "lowest common denominator" of ignorance in the American workforce. The latest example I observed was when I traveled back from Okinawa, Japan with a planeload of United States Marines, in uniform, on a flight chartered by the U.S. government. There were no civilians on board, only Marines. We stopped to refuel at Anchorage, Alaska, and the security idiots there put our Marines through the same security rigamarole they would have used on Osama Bin Laden. First, they forced us against our wishes to exit the plane during the stop. Then, they required every Marine to go through a metal detector and be frisked if it "beeped". With over three hundred Marines to check, this took about two hours. Marines at the back of the line never had a chance even to buy a cup of coffee or sit down during the stop; they were standing in line waiting for the metal detector the entire time. I have no problem with stringent security, but I would honestly like to see a bit of common sense applied at the same time. Anyone who thinks it necessary to confiscate fingernail clippers from a chartered planeload of U.S. Marine infantrymen (any one of whom could more easily kill a stewardess with a blood choke or a blow to the throat than with a pair of fingernail clippers), returning to the United States after a six month deployment overseas, fails the common sense test and counts as a complete retard in my book. "

In a later post he wonders what the security folks would have done if the Marines had hand carried their weapons. What is this country coming to?


Ross McMicken

But now the McDonald's Rejects are Federal Employees entitled to be arrogant to all. I hope they continue to be so to the Armed Forces, because at some point they will learn the proper mode of address to Imperial Troopers. 

21 For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:

22 For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;

23 For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.

We have reigning servants. Enjoy.


While thinking recently about the prospect of a national ID card, I recalled a 1953 Poul Anderson story "Sam Hall", set in a national ID-type future. Rereading the story, I find that I had forgotten that the America he described was not only increasingly regimented domestically, but an imperial power in the world. Worth revisiting.

Back in 1993 I encountered a copy of "Take Back Your Government" completely by chance in an Oregon bookstore, on my way to SF section. It was shelved with the cover out, so I spotted "Robert A. Heinlein" in large print where I wasn't expecting it, in the current events/politics section. Reading it again, it is hard not to be hopeful that we can get back something close to the republic Mr. Heinlein described. Indeed, one must hope, or why try at all.

Ralph Moss

I read Sam Hall when it came out in Astounding. Great then and now.

Dear Jerry

Just found your page on the dean drive and was wondering if you were aware of Alex (Sandy) Kidds Gyroscope device. This device breaks the known laws of physics. Alex hails from Scotland and has published a book called beyond 2000 telling how he discovered his device. Basically imagine a small flywheel pivoted horizontaly on the bottom of a vertical hinged arm, itself hinged to a another vertical bar. Now make a mirror image of this (2 flywheels) and drive the flywheels with a small model piston engines. When run at speed the flywheels are allowed to precess on the hinged arms. As of the date of the book around 8 pounds or 3.7 kg of vertical thrust had been obtained! He had to seek funding in Australia as British academia were not interested. When you mentioned spinning weights in the Dean device I thought this may use the same effect. Now about the same time as I discovered Mr Kidds work I discovered T.T. Browns Electrokinetic apparatus. I wonder if you are also aware of Mr Browns work? I am currently considering building a spin off off his work but to my own design. It will be called an ion rocket and differs from conventional ion drives in needing no propellant gases to run just a simple high voltage D.C. supply.

Alf Beharie

London, England.

I will be pleased to look at a working model. 

I wonder how much they would have saved buying your wife's program instead....

===== Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA Polymath and Curmudgeon ----------------------------------- "Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired." -- Jonathan Swift

A lot, actually. Thanks.

And Eric points out about Station Wagons:

People can't get station wagons? Then what is my 2000 Saturn SW2? If you need something larger they also offer the LW models. Looking at the Saturn site it appears they've discontinued the smaller wagon. 

Ford still offers wagons in the Focus and Taurus lines. 

The upcoming Chrysler Pacifica is touted as a 'segment buster' but it sure looks like a wagon to me. The Pontiac Vibe appears to be the same thing under a different marketing effort. 

Let us not forget VW and their Passat Wagon, which Ernest Lilley can speak of in great detail. 

Volvo, of course. 

And lest we overlook Emil Jellinek's little girl, Mercedes: 

I'm quite happy with my Saturn, which is at the low end of the market. The amenities available in the higher end offerings include enough comforts for even the most discriminating creature. If these machine suffer from some CAFE induced defect I'm not aware of I'll need further explanation.

Are stations wagons less common than they were in the years between 1950 and 1980? Certainly but it was another vehicle, the mini-van, that brought about that change long before the SUV craze began.

Well, I think they meant those big town and country cars we used to get.

I'll take this opportunity to say I know a lot of Saturn owners including two of my sons, and I have never met anyone who bought a Saturn who didn't like it.

And after looking at the Mercedes SUV I bought an Explorer. Which I like a lot.



I think I would disagree with you about expectations of copyright revenue. To my way of thinking, the object of the exercise is to "dine out" on one's book, to use Henry James's phrase. The extreme case is academic tenure, where a publication can be worth at least $100,000 in promotion prospects (more pay, fewer classes, less freshman teaching). In your line of work, Marion Zimmer Bradley was a kind of alternative model, in the sense that she had what amounted to her own writing school, plus assorted magazines, anthologies etc. Of course, she was pre-internet, and never did adapt to electronic communications in any substantial way. Her strategies would have to be rethought. When you proceed from a dining-out model, concern with copyright rapidly becomes counterproductive. A case can be made that a considerable part of MZB's success was based on letting other people write "Darkover" stories, which she then published. Your fiction anthologies, on the other hand, seem to be full of the work of other established writers: Ben Bova, Poul Anderson, etc. I'm not sure that remaindering is a bad thing for authors in the long run. It gets books into the hands of potential followers. I don't mean uncritical fans, but the sort of people who can extend and develop the author's work. For myself, I've come to the conclusion that the thing to do is to rapidly decide whether a given piece can be referee-published, or the equivalent, and if it can't be for one reason or another, to stick the piece up on the website instead.

Andrew D. Todd 1249 Pineview Dr., Apt 4 Morgantown, WV 26505


I don't think I quite understand you but it sounds to me as if you think I don't work hard enough, and you ought to have the right to publish my books and take the money from them. I paid the other writers royalties on my anthologies, in case you didn't know. And I don't want to be in academia.

As to extend and develop, don't you think that's for me to decide?

Your Mistake

. . . . is in assuming that copyright laws are intended to protect artists. They aren't. Or at least they no longer are. They are now intended to protect the revenue streams of large distribution businesses. This is why the Bono law, extending copyright protection to 150 years, was sponsored by Disney explicitly to prevent Mickey Mouse from entering public domain. It is also why most recording artists make no money whatsoever off of their recorded music. They live, if you can call it that, from touring and t-shirt sales. It is why CDs, which cost less to make in real dollars than LPs ever did, never came down in price despite the promises of the recording industry. And it is why fair use and exercise of the first amendment have become criminal acts.

You might find this book interesting: The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World by Lawrence Lessig, law professor at Stanford. It is a rational analysis of the situation and has no hope of ever becoming law. Might end up being you book of the month.

Speaking of which, thanks for the pointers to iuniverse and Wildside Press. I am glad you and others are putting your back catalog back in print through these avenues. I regularly cruise used book stores looking for these things -- pretty hit and miss -- so you can expect me to be a customer.

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

Well thank you for pointing out the error of my ways. I thought I had already said most of that. And I am probably being needlessly snippy. My apologies. I have to go work, and I am impatient to do it. And naturally the Net isn't working and I can't connect to me site to post this.

I hate this.













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Hiking and fiction today.






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Thursday, January 24, 2002

Joel Rosenberg on Microsoft:

You write:

"We come to a new phase now. We will see what happens. But the lawsuit is effectively dead and will stay that way. The main outcome is that those who started it now face a new level of tribute they must pay to the government. Microsoft went from nothing to an enormous lobby effort. Their rivals must match that. They can't really afford it, but it is they who opened that front and it is they who must now pay."

I agree with all that, but it's not only the folks who opened that front who are going to suffer (and, to be accurate, also benefit) from Microsoft's increased political leverage. To the extent that politicians are for sale (which, I maintain, is in some ways more and in many ways less than is generally believed -- I don't think that, to pick two very different polticians, either Newt Gingrich or Paul Wellstone are for sale, although Bob Dole and Bill Clinton pretty clearly were, within limits) Microsoft can afford to buy the best. Ditto for the courts. To the extent that a lawsuit is just combat fought by legions of $500/hour privates in expensive suits, Microsoft can stomp on some kinds of competitors, but is going to have real trouble with the Open Source guerillas, who don't have to retreat into the Sierra Maestra and wait for outside aid from the Soviets in order to be able to fight another day.

(How's that for a screwed up metaphor, eh?)

That said, there are other players who can -- and apparently will -- sit down and play some no-limit with Microsoft. See  . Am I hearing the sound of somebody shelling Fort Sumpter? I honestly don't know, but . . .

I'm not sure how much the benefit to AOL would be, but my back-of-the-envelope calculation is that AOL *could* create Aunt Minnie's AOL Linux Install CD set, including documentation (necessary for AOL support people to support it), for less than $10,000,000 , in six months from a cold start. That first CD is expensive, granted -- but the incremental cost of the 2nd is trivial...

Will they? I dunno, but if they do buy Red Hat, they've positioned themselves to do that, if they want to, and while I'm not at all sure that they want to, they just might . . .

The prospects are intriguing, and AOL will almost certainly be some real competition to Microsoft, but I note that they are playing the politics and courts game rather than investing in market competition. This bodes ill for all of us.

And as you point out, if politicians are for sale, Microsoft can afford the best. It wasn't all that long ago that Gates was horrified at the idea of putting money into the political system. Well, now it's Balmer who decides.

AOL likes proprietary stuff. Proprietary Red Hat?

I just read your comments in the "Current View" regarding the Microsoft Antitrust Trial dragging on. Were you aware at the time that AOL had just filed an antitrust suit in the DC Circuit Court against Microsoft regarding the bundling of Internet Exploder with Windows and its effects on Netscape?

I have strong mixed feelings about Microsoft. OK, maybe I should say I don't like Microsoft, but I find your argument that the opposition to a large extent committed suicide to be persuasive. Of course, there's the question of where M$ would be today if IBM had been more careless about following the antitrust decree against them.

That still doesn't mean we don't need competition in the marketplace.

Given a battle between M$ and AOL/T-W/CNN, I find myself longing for a way both companies could lose.

I guess that's it for now.

Phil Fraering

I'd like it even better if we all won.

Mr. Pournelle:

Interesting article this week. One thing though: I'm not sure that it's accurate to say that Gates "bet the company" on .net. Probably a bit dramatic.....Back when MS started pushing windows and DOS was the cash cow (and Office was still in a back room somewhere) it might have been fair to say that Gates bet the company on Windows. Now that MS has $36 b-b-b-billion in cash, .net could easily become a bug on the wind shield with the main result being some egg on their collective face. Yes, it would throw a wrench into their strategic plans but a company with that much cash can afford a misstep or two.


Andy Harrover

As Netscape proved, a couple of years head start isn't decisive any more. Between .NET and the activation stuff, Microsoft is making some very significant bets.

Hi Jerry,

Having read your current column, I can't let your comments on the Microsoft Antitrust trial pass without comment.

First, I'd like to point out that it isn't over. Nine of the State Attorneys General are still holding out for meaningful remedies.

Second, Microsoft isn't being punished for being successful, they are being prosecuted for illegal activity. They didn't just give away the Internet Explorer, they commingled the code with the operating system and insisted on making explicit calls to it in the HTML help system to make it practically impossible to remove. (This delayed the release of Windows 98, lead to longer start up times and increased system instability.) They also used the strength of their monopoly to keep OEMs and ISPs from dealing with Netscape.

Finally, you continue to dismiss the suit as being entirely for the benefit of Microsoft's competitors but not in the best interest of consumers. Restoring competition IS in the best interest of consumers. Look what competition has done for consumers in the hardware arena. There are lots of brands to choose from, performance improves steadily while prices fall. What do we see in operating systems and office suites? Few choices and gradually rising prices. That's not even considering Microsoft's new licensing terms which border on extortion. It seems that they went a bit too far and had to back off a bit. But the resistance owes less to any potential competition than to the possibility of standing pat. Even Microsoft admits that their strongest competition comes from previous versions of their own products.

I should know by now that you aren't about to change your opinion on this matter, but I just couldn't let it go unchallenged.


Rick Fane

1. It's over. It may drag along for a while as the lawyers hope to manage a lot of money, but the trial lawyers bet on Gore, not Bush. It's over.

2. Government doesn't restore competition it picks winners. If there were a genuine chance of government action restoring real competition I'd be cheering them on. In fact playing with lawsuits merely subsidizes lawyers. The best that would come of this is a $6 rebate to 100 million people, which would be accompanied by hundreds of millions to lawyers for bringing the suit.

3. The only real competition will come from engineers and technologies not from lawyers.

4. I presume you want a Federal Operating Systems Commission which will allocate market share, tell consumers what they want, and fix prices. That will really fix things.

If IBM had in fact fought the war they started back in OS/2 Charting The Course for the Future days, and shipped IBM computers with OS/2, and either developed an office suite or worked hard to get one based on Word Perfect working with OS/2 we would not have this situation. If Netscape had DONE something with THEIR monopoly on web browsers we might not be in this mess.  But here we are, and government isn't going to make it better, nor will enriching law firms.

And now Microsoft is buying politicians.

We had better HOPE it's over.

You may well be right. Microsoft can afford the best justice. We shall see what happens in the coming months. The new judge is too recent a factor for an accurate prediction of the future. But you know that if she makes any ruling Microsoft doesn't like, it will end up before the Supreme Court.

What is really on Microsoft's side is their staying power!

Greg Brewer



And an orchid nomination:

The revival of the OS/2 client, renamed eCS by Serenity Systems is this readers Orchid of 2001. Talk about bang for the buck, wow! There is life without m$. As solid as Linux but better because its object oriented. The Workplace Shell is still without an equal IMHO. eCS has made it possible to fully boot from a CDROM and load Staroffice without any sign of the OS. I could go on for hours but I just want to send you my two cents.

Regards, Paul Treciokas


I have not seen this yet. Thanks.

Now several from Roland Dobbins:


Robert Hanbury Brown, RIP,,60-2002038476,00.html

Perpetual Motion:

 Recovering a stolen mac:

The Outlook Worm of the day: 

The Simputer:

And of course Science in the news:

Read it and weep: 

Quote "Perpetual motion is impossible. This is a self-sustaining unit which at the same time provides surplus electrical energy" As one wag at put it, that sentence parses to "Perpetual motion is impossible. This is a perpetual motion unit."

Ah, today's schools...

David A. Paterson

--- A random thought for the day:

Thought for the day: Bagpipes (n): an octopus wearing a kilt.

And you are surprised? I love the image of an octopus with kilts though.

I am not sure how to classify this one:

Yes, we really do put up with the crazies in Nor. Cal. To wit:

Wireless-Free Mendocino Mendocino, CA is becoming a haven for people who claim to be "electrically sensitive," meaning they can detect, and are harmed by, electromagnetic fields. A local ISP, the Mendocino Community Network, gave up on plans to extend high-speed wireless service to the area because a local group (Wireless Free Mendocino) convinced the Historical Review Board to deny a height variance necessary to construct a cellular tower. The Cellular Phone Task Force is trying to have portions of the Telecom Deregulation Act of 1996 declared unconstitutional for similar "safety" reasons. Wired News has the story.,1382,49841,00.html

_____________________ Chuck Ruthroff Assistant to the Bishop Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA Synod Website:

Heh. Given the courts in Northern California the suit might have legs.

And then:

>From time to time, I am petulantly driven to complain about the minor annoyances of a Caltech scientist's life.

And then I read a news article that puts my troubles in perspective: 

"Making matters worse, such encounters have had little to no scientific value. 'It's always, "I will drink your soul" or "I will chew the flesh from your bones" with these hellish apparitions,' Whitson said. 'When I ask them if that means the ancient Etruscans did, in fact, add copper to their mixing clay to make their urns more sturdy, they don't even seem to hear me.'"

--Erich Schwarz, counting his blessings


And Clark Myers observes:

Be nice to imagine all the Guardsmen in BDU saluting the medal. Some times and places everybody else honors the award.

"And when we disarmed they sold us, 

and delivered us bound to our foes,

and the gods of the copybook headings...

I can hardly believe it. Look what M$ did with W2k SP2.

----- from  -

I was helping a friend figure out why his W2K Pro machine, on which he'd installed Apache/win32, wouldn't support more than a handful of connections. A bit of googling turned up the following HP support note: 

In summary, MS used W2K SP2 to slip the old 10-concurrent-connection limitation public outcry forced them to remove in the days of NT4 workstation back in!

-Martin Dempsey

You're surprised? Astonished? Really?

Hi Jerry,

Nice to see you're still writing for Byte. In your January 21 column, you say, "It was pretty hard to explain why giving a free web browser with every copy of Windows did the public (as opposed to Netscape) any harm..."

Well, I'm part of the public and I used to use Netscape exclusively. I loved it so much that I bought a copy to support the company that makes it. But Microsoft's policy of giving IE away for free kept Netscape from generating any real revenue. Eventually they had to sell out to AOL. Even then, Microsoft's free IE policy so starved Netscape for development funds that they fell way behind in features. Eventually I had to stop using it and now my employer has had to remove it from our company's computers because so much software "breaks" when it's used.

I'd say the public was severely damaged by the effective removal of Netscape from the market.

Dave Mullenix

Netscape had a year or more head start, during which time they loudly announced that they would make an operating system of their browser and drive Microsoft out of business.

If startups which had no revenue could raise money why couldn't Netscape, which in fact did right well for its founders? You have an interesting view of history, but it doesn't look like what really happened.

It pretty well proved the dictum that 90% of winning is showing up. Microsoft showed up and ran scared. Netscape and IBM, having declared wars, forgot to fight them, and never showed up. The result was pretty inevitable.

Are you telling me that Netscape's present owners haven't the capital to invest in making it work?

Competing with Microsoft will require a package: browser, some kind of applications suite to compete with Office, and an operating system. Of those at least two have to be good enough, and the third has to be better than what Microsoft offers. During the dot com era there were plenty of opportunities to develop those but that didn't happen. There was lots of capital floating about. 

Corel tried. Corel tried hard. Perhaps a bit more capital and they would have made it. Star Office has tried, and is almost there. But none of those can stand still. The parts are just about out there, some kind of Linux based OS, an applications suite, and a browser. It hasn't come together yet. It may never, or it may.


The alternative to market based competition is a National Computing Commission that will set prices and allocate shares. That ought to be fun.

From Rod McFadden

ENRON EXPLAINED: In case you were wondering how Enron came into so much trouble, here is an explanation reputedly given by a Colorado Aggie professor to explain it in terms his students could understand.

Capitalism -- You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

Enron Venture Capitalism -- You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Now do you see why a company with $62 billion in assets is declaring bankruptcy?





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Friday, January 25, 2002

The following is from people I know and trust. Names withheld on request for obvious reasons.

Mr. O'Keefe, the new NASA Administrator, has recently been quoted about possible NASA-DoD SLI collaboration, saying that Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Pete Aldridge "...knows what NASA is capable of doing." Aldridge -- until recently head of The Aerospace Corporation, a 90% DoD funded entity -- epitomizes the old school, Apollo/military style, no commercial understanding, space establishment.

In this context the estimated costs for completing and flying (only a few times) the X-37, NASA's only excuse for an X-vehicle under the present SLI, has climbed to $500 million in an Aerospace Corporation estimate -- Boeing estimates it as being $400 million. (This leaves out as "X" vehicles any NASA-proposed hypersonic magic-bullet technology.) This cost estimate includes a flight on a new EELV, due to the X-37 being booted from being able to fly from the Shuttle, plus the increased cost of the vehicle itself.

But here's the interesting part: The Aerospace Corporation is out to torpedo even any remaining approximation of an X-vehicle -- such as X-37 -- that might mar the purity of present plans for SLI being dedicated to only lab work. That's because the Aerospace Corporation sees no point to X-vehicles; they feel they are a waste of time and money when we should instead be going directly to a prototype.

Of course the product of such a process would be a hugely expensive, technologically risky vehicle lacking the cost-slashing systems reliability available through inexpensive X-vehicle testing. Such a "Batmobile vs. Model-T" approach can be perhaps tolerated when one assumes that the only customer will be the government, whether that be DoD or NASA. Indeed, reports are that DoD's considerations of a reusable vehicle system have cost estimates presently of $20 billion (at least).

It shouldn't be surprising to anyone that the "usual suspects" are moving to make SLI "X-vehicle free." The present SLI is based on the inane premise inherited from Apollo that NASA is the perpetual "space tsar" -- as nutty as if IBM had been mandated such a role for computer systems in 1970. Under SLI, the venture capital community's exaggerated aversion to innovative ideas for space will be perpetuated. At best the Government should work to build down the NASA “space tsar” sham; at the least it should not continue to perpetuate it through its current SLI program.

X Projects are the ONLY way we government can help us get to space without mucking things up and destroying the private sectors. We have not had a really good space project since DC-X. We need a DC-X follow on and nearly everyone knows it. Except the people running things.

Dear Jerry:

I have been a faithful reader of your commentaries, and I'll continue to be one. However, I have a comment for you this time. I just read your column and it reminded me why, even if I can install a CD burner as a slave to a hard drive, I do not write papers or commentaries on software and hardware. Perhaps it could be better if, likewise, you did not write commentaries on financial and legal issues, even if you know what a P/E is. For example, was Yahoo really less intelligent when it chose not to diversify into a sector (television) in which Yahoo's management has no knowledge or expertise? Was AOL intelligent in buying Time Warner and helping transform CNN form the most respected news network in the world to something parroting the Fox News Channel? Do consumers benefit from the fact that Microsoft changes formats every other year for MS Word and Excel and it does not publish the formats, so that exchanging files with other programs is difficult and people have to upgrade to the latest version of Office, which as you point out in your columns has little or no new useful features?

Thanks, Michele _________ Michele Gambera, Ph.D. Senior Quantitative Analyst Morningstar, Inc. 

Maybe you can tell me how one becomes an analyst and why they were recommending Enron all the way down? Perhaps it comes from the kind of close reading of others views that analysts are famous for?

My point regarding Yahoo vs. AOL was that AOL took inflated stock and bought a real company with it. Whether the result was good or not, or whether or not I approve of what they did with it, is outside the scope of what I said, as you would know if you thought about it.

Moreover, you clearly have NOT been reading much of what I say about Office and the rest of it. Why do you pretend to? You think it wise to comment on things I have not said, and to impute to me views I do not hold. Is this what Senior Analysts do routinely? Do your anti-Microsoft views cause you to recommend Microsoft as a buy or a sell?

Where in the world do you get the idea that I think the lack standards in data formats is a good thing? Why would you suppose anyone to be nuts enough to hold that view? Is this what analysts do?

On the Browser Wars:


I maintain that losing the "browser war" did not seal Netscape's fate, and in fact had little to do with it.

Eric Raymond advised Netscape when they decided to open-source their browser as a way of fighting back against Microsoft. Consider the following, from his book "The Magic Cauldron"

"Netscape Communications, Inc. was pursuing [the Loss-Leader/Market Positioner] strategy when it open-sourced the Mozilla browser in early 1998. The browser side of their business was at 13% of revenues and dropping when Microsoft first shipped Internet Explorer." [Raymond goes on to explain that Netscape open-sourced their browser to help protect their server market.]

13% of revenues. When Microsoft FIRST shipped IE, Netscape was getting 87% of its revenues from server software.

So how could the tying of IE to Windows possibly have led to Netscape's downfall? Netscape was not dependent on browsers for its income! Oh sure, 13% is nothing to sneeze at, but come on! IE for free did not kill Netscape (the company). IE was free while Netscape was (a) easily downloaded and (b) often bundled (every copy of WordPerfect, and every copy of NetWare, came with licenses for Netscape). Very few people had to pay for Netscape.

The zero cost of IE was, and is, nearly a non-issue. Netscape lost through shipping bad code, failing to support emerging Web standards quickly, and focusing too much on hokey "partnerships" where the partner did all the work.

Steve Setzer --



Several from Roland

Sony Users Beware

A company transitions to Linux

IBM sells Linux mainframes:


From Robert Racansky:

In the past six months, energy companies have suffered cyber-attacks at twice the rate of other industries, and many of those attacks appear to be originating in the Middle East.

Vulnerability Assessment Triggers Alarms


(January 21, 2002) Data collected on cyberattacks during the past six months by a security firm that monitors corporate networks throughout the world shows that companies in the energy industry suffer attacks at twice the rate of other industries. And many of those attacks appear to be sponsored by governments or organizations in the Middle East. <snip>


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

let me recommend a software package that I found to be quite good: Norton Internet Security 2002.

It contains: - Norton Personal Firewall - Norton Antivirus - Advertisement banner filter - A Watchdog to detect when personal data (like credit card number) is transferred - Parental control

Since I started using it (version 2001), it detects about 2 - 7 intrusion attempts a week, sometimes 3 a day, whenever I'm online. A quite popular event is caused by BackDoor/SubSeven. Also, several port scans happen each day - no: they TRY to happen since I installed it.

Norton Antivirus immediately pops up a warning whenever I get a message infected / created by an e-mail worm/virus. It even found an old version of a Trojan on a system where several other Anti-Virus products didn't find anything at all.

The LiveUpdate feature works quite well in the meantime, supplying new virus signature data and also software updates automatically (if you want). Only the LiveUpdate SERVER was down / busy several times, but the past few months it seems to work fine now.

The Norton Internet Security 2002 package is highly configurable, but also easy to use for somebody who doesn't have much clue about his system.

I only didn't use the parental control part since I don't need this, so I can't comment on that.

My conclusion after 8 months of experience with it - as YOU would say: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Different topic:

On your past few mail/view web pages I notice that characters at the END of certain blocks seem to be "cut off". Seems to be a formatting problem, didn't analyze it as of now.

Stay healthy and keep up the good work!

Best regards, Peter Heberer Germany

Agreed. I recommend Norton and I will continue to use it.

I continue to use Paypal, but then there is this:


I have not had any trouble in very light use but you may want to view this site. 


I can only say I have never had a problem.





This week:



Saturday, January 26, 2001

A reader sends this.

From The Atlantic: 

Christina Hoff Sommers, a trenchant critic of liberal feminism, was speaking as an invited panelist at a November 1 conference on preventing substance abuse, organized by the Health and Human Services Department, when some officials, academics, and others took offense at her doubts about a program called "Girl Power." A department official named Linda Bass interrupted and angrily ordered Sommers to stop talking about Girl Power. Later, Sommers said, Fordham University psychology professor (and paid department consultant) Jay Wade told Sommers, "Shut the f- up, bitch," amid mocking laughter from the crowd. Sommers, effectively silenced, left. "As Stanley Kurtz pointed out in National Review," Sommers notes, "if Catharine MacKinnon or Carol Gilligan had been treated that way in a government meeting, it would have been reported." Very widely.

And indeed it is so. Campuses are not longer havens of free speech; one wonders how the founders of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley react to all this?

The same reader points to Salon:

"The winner dies"

A Web-based pro-anorexia movement provides a bizarre support network for starving girls.

IN, 23 vii 2001

By Janelle Brown

Michelle, a 19-year-old girl from Texas, has been battling anorexia and bulimia for eight years, her weight swinging from 87 pounds to 183. She's been in and out of hospitals, suffered from bipolar disorder, drug abuse, and self mutilation. After her last stint in the hospital and a miscarriage, she returned to anorexia about three months ago. She got online and typed the words "anorexia and bulimia" into a search engine, hoping to find a Web site that might help her in her battle to be thin.

Boy, did she hit the jackpot. Michelle (not her real name) is now a proud member of the pro-anorexia movement: a growing, not-so-secret online community of anorexics who have taken the "I'm OK, you're OK" ideals of group therapy to a twisted new level. Not only do the pro-anorexics offer each other unconditional love and understanding, they also swap starvation diet tips, participate in group fasts, offer advice on how to hide your "ana" from nosy family members, and share inspirational pictures of emaciated models like Kate Moss.

We do live in interesting times.

I was sent this. It's a review of a new book. The review appears on the web site of the Federation of American Scientists, and after the nuclear winter business in which Sagan explicitly said that political reality was more important than scientific truth I have paid that organization little heed.

Still, perhaps it is time I did. Has anyone time to read the actual book? The review is at: 

Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons

The Physical Principles Of Thermonuclear Explosives, Inertial Confinement Fusion, And The Quest For Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons

by Andre Gsponer and Jean-Pierre Hurni

Fifth Edition: March 1999

Review Comments:

Andre Gsponer and Jean-Pierre Hurni provide an extremely valuable service by issuing this report. The report consists of two principal components

a very informative overview of first and second generation nuclear weapon technology (that is, pure fission devices, boosted fission devices, and staged thermonuclear designs); and an excellent summary of current research directions in weapons-applicable physics, such as the U.S. Science-Based Stockpile Program, and the prospects of developing a new generation of fourth generation nuclear weapons.

[It should be noted in passing that third generation nuclear weapons include such devices as hot X-ray and enhanced neutron emission ("neutron bomb") thermonuclear weapons, specialized devices that were never procured in large numbers, and have been largely abandoned as of little military interest.]


The first chapter is a primer on thermonuclear weapons based on a scientific understanding of the physical principles of existing nuclear weapons and on the results of ISRINEX, a simple thermonuclear explosion simulation program specially developed for independent disarmament experts. Using this insight, it is shown that the construction of hydrogen bombs is in fact much less difficult than is generally assumed. Using present-day nuclear and computer technology, almost any modern industrial country could, in principle, build such a weapon. Similarly, it is shown that "boosting," i.e., the technique of using a small amount of tritium to enhance the performance of a fission bomb, is also much easier than generally assumed. In particular, using this technique, building highly efficient and reliable atomic weapons using reactor-grade plutonium is straightforward. Moreover, independently of the type of fissile material used, the construction of "simple" and "deliverable" tritium-boosted nuclear weapons can be easier than the construction of primitive Hiroshima or Nagasaki type atomic bombs.

I wrote the following not long ago before I heard about this book. I now wonder if my knowledge is out of date. I would appreciate enlightenment: once again, please, I don't need opinions, but if you know something I'd be grateful if you told me.

Possony always thought that inertial confinement and laser-triggered thermonuclear weapons were immanent and their advent would change the world, but we first wrote about that in 1970, and it hasn't happened yet. Laser triggers of thermonuclear explosions would allow Orion-like space ships. It would also make it a lot easier to build the garage thermonuke.

So far, though, the only way I know to trigger a thermonuclear explosion is with a fission primary. Interestingly, you can use thermonuclear reactions and the right geometry to make a nuclear explosion of LESS than the 20 KT or so that is "natural" for a good fission bomb. And fission primaries have got down to rather small and efficient levels although it still takes a kilo or so of weapons grade Uranium or Plutonium to make a primary. PU is easier to obtain if you have a nuclear reactor since it can be separated out by chemical means. Lasers can be used in isotope separation of Uranium now, so the really expensive (and electricity intensive) gaseous diffusion methods may not be required. I haven't read up on weapons production technologies in 20 years, so I could be a long way off.

Given about 4 kg of fissionables nearly anyone could make a fission bomb if it didn't have to be transported and efficiency were not a problem. The yield would be in the order of 20 KT, and it would probably be pretty dirty - but then any weapon detonated on the ground is going to be dirty, If the fireball touches the ground you are going to get a good bit of nasty fallout since random particles are sucked and neutron activated.

Building a thermonuclear device in the garage without a fission primary would be quite difficult, since Sandia hasn't managed any such thing to the best of my knowledge and they spent a lot of money trying.




This week:


read book now


Sunday, January 27, 2002

On Wednesday in Current View you wrote:

Which is fun, but in fact the DOS version of Roberta's Program was written in CBASIC, from Digital Research although the first version was from Stuctured Systems Group, which was Commander Gordon Eubanks who later was Symantec, and it was done a very long time ago. I started on that with a working model of the program done in regular old BASIC; the Mac Version was done in Supercard; and the Windows version was done, not by me, in Delphi, not Visual Basic at all. I wrote them to that effect, but I have had no reply or even acknowledgment that I wrote them, which reduces my respect for The Register.

I'd just like to point out that what was written there was not written by anyone at The Register; it was a satirical piece originally written by Verity Stobb at Dr. Dobbs Journal. (See the Register article link to  which was at the bottom of the article, which apparently you did not read all the way thru.)

What language was Roberta's program originally written in?

Note: I do read The Register every day; and while they are not always accurate, but usually will lead one to interesting research. The only comment I have on them not responding to your email is that they undoubtedly receive thousands of emails a day and it could very well have been overlooked.



I thought I made it clear, the original program was in Commercial BASIC, a DOS program that compiled to a P-code.


I have fallen behind on posting Roland's finds.


Tracking Down Ebay Fraud

More Bureaucracy

School Daze: 

Oley Valley School District Superintendent Jeffrey Zackon said today that Pennsylvania law prohibits the company he contracts to operate buses from asking about an applicant's mental health. Nuss had passed the criminal and child abuse checks allowed by state law, he said.

Similar restrictions are in place in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

There is a price to be paid for political correctness.

From Joel Rosenberg on Microsoft:

Microsoft's brilliance -- the lawsuit aside -- is in shutting down competitors without, in any legal sense, doing harm to competitors.

It doesn't always work, but the Halloween Paper gives a pretty clear roadmap to part of the strategy: make every protocol and format as proprietary as possible, whether or not it really adds functionality from the user POV -- and, to be fair, they do want to add value to the user whenever they make something proprietary, if they can; sacrifice immediate profit and/or cash flow for market share; spread FUD as much as possible, being as truthful as possible while you do so.

And, when you're beaten -- when somebody's got a product or functionality that you can't beat either with features or with FUD -- buy 'em out.

Except in cases of utterly outrageous FUD, none of that is illegal, in my entirely amateur opinion. (The sorts of illegalities that Microsoft may have committed -- I'm agnostic on the subject -- were marginal, at least in terms of the main strategy for desktop dominance.)

Now, honest, I'm not claiming that none of that redounds to the benefit of the consumer. While I don't like Outlook's vulnerabilities, I do miss some of its features, and that's just one example. I wish that they would use some sort of standard for things like tasks and task requests -- XML is perfectly capable of that, pretty much by definition -- but I do understand why Microsoft wouldn't want to make it easy for somebody to use some non-MS program to exchange tasks and task requests, and until somebody either cracks Microsoft's format (which I suspect is fairly easy), and figures out how to deal with Microsoft changing the format for Outlook 2003 (less so, although with the large installed base, it gets more and more difficult for them to ), I'm just going to have to live with that. I've got some objections to Microsoft Word, but it is a pretty slick wordprocessor, all in all, and only recently has there been anything that, from my point of view, is as good for things like writing books, and Ghu knows, if you buy it as part of new system package, it's reasonably priced.

But it does lead to some problems that are a function of Microsoft's dominance, and which don't easily resolve by competition. Security, as Bruce Schneier points out (do you read Bruce's stuff?) is a process, and the process doesn't flourish when the software is kept as private as possible, and when security holes are treated as a PR problem, rather than a technical one. The dominance of Windows also makes targetting easy for thieves and vandals -- it's more profitable (in terms of money, if you're stealing, or damage if you're vandalizing) to spend your time trying to attack Windows than it is to go for Linux or BSD vulnerabilities, and never mind, for the moment, that the design of Windows is more friendly to intrusion.

So, here I am, belaboring the obvious, and trying to, in my copious free time, at least figure out the outlines of a roadmap to the Open Source solution . . . and, to be honest, getting nowhere.

Well, there's smarter and more technical people out there than me; maybe somebody will figure out something.

I think I said something like the "security is a process" thing in more than one column.

Going for market share rather than immediate profit has always been Microsoft's hallmark: BYTE editorials noted this when Apple brought out the Mac and pointed out that despite the Mac's technical features the pricing, lisensing, and dealership system Apple used was going to limit its market share severely. That never did change. Which is unfortunate.

I believe Microsoft's competition in general committed suicide, or was run by people who jumped out as soon as they got rich enough; it took Gates and his monomaniacal pursuit of the "a computer on every desk and in every classroom and in every home" vision to build Microsoft. But punishing Microsoft by a government agency deciding that someone else ought to have won isn't the right way to make things happen. (As Joel well knows; the remark isn't directed to him.)

The situation we have is, in my judgment, a lot better than it would have been had there been government management of computer resource allocation from the beginning. And technology will force Microsoft to catch up or go away. We have seen many predictions of how Microsoft will become irrelevant Real Soon Now.

And the fact is we are a lot further along than any of us -- any of us -- forsaw in the 80's. I said in 1979 that by the year 2000 anyone in Western Civilization would be able to get the answer to any question that had a known or computable answer. I wasn't far off, and that was about as far out as any prediction I know: but I didn't say the answer would be available without leaving your house and you'd be unhappy if you couldn't get the answer in ten minutes.







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