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Mail 198 March 25 - 31, 2002 






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Highlights this week:


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 and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them 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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Monday  March 25, 2002

Dear Jerry:

Love your work. While I am not a writer, I look to your advice for everything else. The books, the hardware etc.

I don't understand why you are using and plugging XP these days. I refuse to buy it due to it's dependence upon MS for permission to use it. At least lambaste them every week.

The brevity is in respect for your time.

Greg Ostrom

I hadn't realized I was plugging XP. I use Windows 2000 for nearly everything. Gamers, though, will need XP. If you don't do games, you will find W 2000 Good Enough.

I have written a lot about trusting Microsoft. Not sure how much more I can do.


Dear Dr. Pournelle;

I have read, with a certain amount of envy, your references to your NEC MobilePro, and finally, purchased a MobilePro 790. I thought you'd like to know that I am more than pleased with it. It fills the gap between my Palm V and my notebook PC. It is small enough to carry easily and rugged enough [no moving parts, like spinning metal disks] to carry in my bag without excessive fear of bumps.

It's main use is as a word processor. While a 100%-sized keyboard would be great, the scaled-down version is very workable. The display is, of coarse, abbreviated to half-size vertically, but that's the price I was willing to pay for enhanced portability. I find that the display looks fine in ambient office light without the backlight. The battery life is rated at 4 hours, but I haven't tested it to failure yet. I mostly use it during lunch or at meetings, so it gets back to the recharger quickly enough.

The 640 x 240 display is no drawback when composing text. NEC now has a model 880 that has a larger display, but that puts the product in the size of my laptop.

With the price of Type I Compact Flash Cards dropping, I find I can put a 256Mb "hard drive" into the 790 for less than $100 - I can still remember the days when a Compaq 286 with an 80Mb hard drive was a monster machine.

The MobilePro lived up to your endorsement.

As far as the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act goes: The entertainment industry got manufactures to hard-wire anti-copy hardware into all Digital Audio Tape machines. Notice how large a market segment those command. The same goes for DIVX - that limited-play, non-copyable DVD scheme that came out several years ago. They can pass laws and make equipment that assumes we're all criminals, but we don't have to buy their products.

-- Pete Nofel

Yes isn't the MobilePro wonderful!

When I interviewed at Sandia, the head of the visualization group was using multiple projectors instead of monitors. His office had about a 16' ceiling. Top portion of one wall was devoted to video conferencing. Below the video conferencing area at table height, was projections of a multiple screen monitor display. I mean like when you have multiple monitors connected to a computer.

I am eagerly awaiting Malemukes and the next Sparta novels!

John Wilson

It's certainly possible now. Thanks.




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Tuesday,  March 26, 2002

First on projectors

Subj: Display projectors for immersion From:

For years, the thing I have found most seriously annoying about in-home flight-simulator software is the tunnel-vision: I want to _look_around_.

But with five display projectors, and the proper-size room, one could do much better.

Of course, one would probably need a computer (or at least a CPU) to drive each display. Hmm.. Is it getting time to revise Pournelle's Law? "At least one CPU per user" --> "At least one CPU per axis of view per user"?

Rod Montgomery



> The moral of this story is that it's possible to have a badly seated AGP video board even though you can't see anything wrong at all.

That problem has been around since AGP cards arrived. The original ATI AGP cards were some of the worst offenders.

Decent motherboards havea catch on the socket and the AGP cards come with cutout on the base of the card.

If a machine fails after being moved the first thing I check is the AGP card, then RAM & CPU.

We once had a batch of 10 machines delivered that either didn't start or crashed frequently until we reseated the AGP cards on each machine and had no further trouble with them (other than user stupidity).

-- Ben Baylis (

Do you think I am a megalomaniac ? Just give me a ZX81, and I'll control the world !


From Frank 

The evidence mounts that HUMANS are not totally responsible for GLOBAL WARMING.


Gosh. But see below.




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Wednesday, March 27, 2002

From Roland, on Office under Linux: 


And a press release of some interest:

Hi Jerry , I wanted to let you know about two announcements from this week that may be of interest to you and your readers.

- WordPerfect has been selected as the standard office suite for all Sony VAIO desktop and select models of Sony VAIO laptops throughout North America. - WordPerfect has also been selected for HP bundles with HP home and office PCs.

The complete press releases are both below for your review. If you would like any additional information, please let me know and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Best, Becky

Sony VAIO? Customers To Experience the Power of WordPerfect? Office 2002

Ottawa, Canada ? March 27, 2002 ? Corel Corporation (NASDAQ: CORL, TSE: COR) today announced a strategic agreement with Sony Electronics Inc. which will enable it to include WordPerfect? Office 2002 on all Sony VAIO? desktop and select models of VAIO laptop personal computers sold in North America. Sony VAIO customers will receive an office suite which includes WordPerfect 10, Quattro? Pro 10, Corel? Presentations? 10 and more.

In addition, these customers will have the opportunity to upgrade to WordPerfect Office 2002 Professional at a preferred rate.

"We are extremely pleased to be working with Sony Electronics to ensure that VAIO customers experience the power and precision of WordPerfect," said Steve Houck, executive vice-president of strategic relations at Corel Corporation. "The Sony brand is recognized as a leading name in electronics, standing for quality and innovation. These same characteristics are the driving force behind WordPerfect Office 2002. VAIO PCs and our exceptional office suite will provide customers with a very compelling offering."

WordPerfect 10 offers customers unprecedented precision and control over their document creation. Complete with Reveal Codes, Publish to PDF, support for Microsoft? Windows? XP and Microsoft Word documents, including Word 2002 (Microsoft Office XP), WordPerfect 10 provides a number of powerful new features to improve productivity. For more information about the other applications provided in this special offer, please visit

VAIO customers who wish to upgrade to WordPerfect Office 2002 Professional may contact Corel customer service at 1-800-772-6735. The Professional edition includes WordPerfect 10, Quattro Pro 10, Corel Presentations 10, CorelCENTRAL? 10, Paradox? 10, Dragon NaturallySpeaking?, Microsoft? Visual Basic? for Applications, Net2Phone?, 1000 fonts, 11,000 clipart images and 200 photos.

Corel Brings WordPerfect? to HP PCs

Ottawa, Canada ? Corel Corporation (NASDAQ: CORL, TSE: COR) today announced that its WordPerfect? suite of software will be bundled across Hewlett-Packard Company?s (HP) home and business PCs.

A trial version of WordPerfect? Office 2002 is included on HP Pavilion desktop PCs for the North American market. The trial version gives consumers a chance to use and evaluate Corel?s globally recognized office suite for a 30-day period. Following the trial period, users can quickly and easily purchase a full version of the product by utilizing an innovative "unlocking" technology accessible on their desktops or by visiting Corel?s e-store.

WordPerfect 9, the award-winning word-processing program, is included with HP Pavilion ze1000 series notebook PCs sold in North America. Additionally, HP Pavilion ze1000 and HP Pavilion zt1000 series notebook PC owners have the opportunity to upgrade to WordPerfect Office 2002 through a special in-box promotional offer.

Brazilian-Portuguese and Spanish editions of WordPerfect 9 are also bundled on HP Vectra business desktop PCs for the Latin American market. Recent industry data shows that HP led the worldwide home PC market in 2001 for the second straight year.

"We are pleased to introduce these new initiatives ? the latest in a series of successful endeavors we?ve enjoyed with HP over the years," said Steve Houck, executive vice-president of strategic relations at Corel Corporation. "We are providing PC users with options that expand the range of software solutions available to them. We?re particularly satisfied by the strong response we?ve received through our e-store from users who have opted to purchase the full version of WordPerfect Office 2002 after evaluating the trial version of the software."

"HP is committed to offering our customers the latest in hardware-software solutions," said Tom Anderson, worldwide marketing manager, HP home products division. "Offering Microsoft XP compatible WordPerfect Office 2002 on HP PCs is just another way HP and Corel deliver customers greater choice in adopting the solution that meets their individual computing needs."

About Corel Corporation

Founded in 1985, Corel Corporation ( is a leading technology company that offers three major brands of software tailored to distinct customer profiles ? Corel, procreate? and DEEPWHITE?. With its headquarters in Ottawa, Canada, Corel?s common stock trades on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol CORL and on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol COR.

? 2002 Corel Corporation. All rights reserved. Corel, WordPerfect, procreate, DEEPWHITE and the Corel logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Corel Corporation or Corel Corporation Limited in Canada, the United States and/or other countries. All other product, font and company names and logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Press Contact:

Becky Porter Maverick Public Relations 


And something a bit different


The item below is totally fictional but contains the daily minimum requirement of buzzwords.....

Mac OS Y by Steve Klingsporn

March 26, 2002

I have some "inside information" about the next release of the Macintosh operating system. It will be called "Mac OS Y," and will reach an unprecedented level of irrelevance. In true Apple style-over-substance, you will be able to choose between fifteen different "essences," nee "flavors," and the system will require 1GB of RAM for baseline performance, and 10GB of disk space (not including the moderate extra space required to install the optional developer tools). It will be distributed on 4 DVD-ROMs and will require that you reformat your hard disk prior to installation, before dumping a heretofore unheard of sixty-nine million files, randomly fragmented about your disk. Icons will be a whopping 1024x1024 pixels in detail, and are rendered in stunning 128-bit color. A 23" display will be recommended to view a single page of text. "Small screens are a thing of the past," company CEO Steve Jobs claims.

In another revolutionary move, Apple will unveil "Nitrous," its ultra-super-modern development framework for advanced graphical application development. Nitrous is built with the non-standard, but immensely powerful Objective-Cobol language, which offers intuitive extensions to the popular and time-tested Cobol language to enable rapid object-oriented development. "Once developers get a whiff of Nitrous," a company spokesperson is quoted as whispering, "they won't know what hit them. Select Super Top-Secret non-disclosed developers who have tried Nitrous say they haven't tasted anything quite like it. It's revolutionary. They cannot get enough of this stuff." Apple hopes that its pioneering efforts in the operating system space will continue its technological lead in the industry it ignited a short but sweet 30 years ago.

The system boots in five minutes and thirteen seconds, an industry first. "It ships with really neato desktop billboards," the company spokesperson claims. Apple hasn't stopped with its impressive resource requirements -- it intends to take the familiar and unchanged Macintosh user experience one step further with "Acid," its new "psychedelic" look and feel. Not only are the elements which comprise the user interface "lickable," but "they glow, throb, gyrate and leak," Jobs raves. "Since our core operating system is not re-entrant, we figured it would be in good taste to dedicate the otherwise useless second processor to rendering objects in the user experience." The result, one developer agrees, "is totally wicked. Apple has gone the extra mile to put to bed any doubts that perception isn't more powerful than reality."

The single most incredible aspect of the new system is its underpinnings. Rather than invent something new, adding to the panic of developers who are scrambling to assure that their applications are "Mac OS Y savvy," it has encapsulated the MACH/BSD base from Mac OS X in its own compatibility environment and ingeniously slipped the CMS operating system underneath it. On top of that, in a move that will shock and astound open-source developers, it has opened up the entire source base to the operating system. "It's a matter of public disclosure," a developer close to the project exclaims. "The Freedom of Information Act mandates that the full extent of our doings be publicly viewable, so we are in total compliance with this new and unprecedented strategy."

Company executives claim that these moves, while brave, are "about as safe as you can get. Capitalism dictates that we need to keep a careful eye on the bottom line. Since we don't make much money on our software, we need our loyal installed base of 1 million customers to upgrade their hardware every few years." Also noted was the internal excitement that the sheer size and media required to deliver the new system would help combat piracy. "It would take far too long to download four DVD images over the Internet," they hope.

Meanwhile, a 120 MHz Pentium-based HP computer with 16MB of RAM and a 1GB hard disk boots the aging Be operating system in 15 seconds, and is quite responsive. "I heard it can't even print," Apple zealots still claim. "I mean, look what happened to them. How could so few developers create something so incomplete -- I mean, there aren't even any applications for it." Thanks to the groundbreaking Carbon 2.0 environment in Mac OS Y, this won't be a problem, Apple insiders note.


Its only slightly less believeable than today's spam in which the country and deal have changed slightly from those you have posted....

From, Ahmed Garba Abidjan Cote d'Ivoire TEL: 00225)077-78119

Business Relationship


Dear Sir, I know my message will come to you as a surprise. I wish to write you this letter of assistance believing that you will not betray the trust I'm to impose on you.

By brief introduction, I am AHMED GARBA the only son of DAVID GARBA former chief of defence-staff of (Republic of Guinea Bissau). I got your contact from a business magnet who told me to feel free to do any business with you that you are truthful and trustworthy and also your capability of handling this business.

He made me to surmise totally that you must be such an erudite businessman full of ingenuity and human resources management. My late father was killed just last year December following his role as a rebel leader against the past government of guinea Bissau. Following this political crisis, I and my mother were forced to live our country to Abidjan the capital city of Cote d Ivoire for our dear life.

It is here in Abidjan he deposited ONE METALLIC TRUNK BOX in a Security Company. Here registered it as an African Artworks as belonging to his foreign business partner who will come with the keys for the claim of the consignment. He did not disclose to the Security Company the real content of the box. The box contain US$ 12,000.000.00 (Twelve Million United States Dollars ). To be honest with you, this is the only legacy left for me by my father which I am with the certificate of deposit and other necessary documents regarding this deposit.

I want to front you as the bonafide beneficiary of the consignment and claim the consignment for onward transfer of the Fund to your Bank Account abroad for onward investment in your Country. We have decided to offer you 5% of the total sum and 2% for other miscellaneous expenses you may incur on the cause of this transaction. On the notice of your willingness to assist me, I will tell you the modalities we shall follow to ensure a smooth hitch-free transaction.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards


NB: Please do write me as soon as you receive this message for more briefing and also I want to invest in your country.

WHich ought to be interesting enough...

Then we have:

Dr. Pournelle,

I assume you have heard this many times, however on the off chance that you have not, Computer World is reporting that, "Nigeria launches Web site to target e-mail scams". The link may be found here:,4125,NAV47_STO69562,00.html  - Warren D. Fleming

but of course the question is, is that one a scam too?  Ah well.


And An announcement:

Space Access Society's Space Access '02 Conference

April 25-27, 2002, in Phoenix Arizona

Well, we're doing things more "just in time" than ever this year - it's a tough year to get people to commit to travel, for obvious reasons. But we have two-thirds of our conference schedule confirmed now, and the rest should fill out nicely if, as we expect, about half the "maybes" end up able to make it. It looks like being another good one, and it's just over four weeks away.

So, make your arrangements ASAP to attend our tenth annual conference on the business, politics, and technology of radically cheaper space transportation, Space Access '02, Thursday evening April 25th through Saturday night April 27th 2002, at the Quality Inn South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona, a ten-minute cab ride from the Phoenix airport. There are lots of cheap airfares and we've got a great hotel rate - book your trip now!

Our conference will once again be a cross-section of the emerging low- cost launch industry, presenting an informal snapshot of just how interesting times are this spring of 2002. (Be there or miss out - part of our relaxed atmosphere and up-to-the-second inside information is that we don't ask for formal papers and we don't do proceedings.)

Confirmed Speakers

- Armadillo Aerospace - John Carmack - Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society - Randall Clague, Dave Masten, Michael Wallis - FAA AST - Joe Hawkins - JP Aerospace - John Powell - Jordin Kare, on Recent Advances In Solid-State Lasers, Mockingbird, and an extremely high-energy laser-kinetic propulsion concept - Pioneer Rocketplane - Mitchell Burnside Clapp - Richard Pournelle, XCOR, on potential fast-developing markets - Dave Salt, on Assessing Reusable Launcher Concepts, and on European Space Developments - Dr Gerald A Smith, Synergistic Technologies, on near-term antimatter propulsion progress - Henry Spencer, on various subjects - TGV Rockets - Pat Bahn - XCOR Aerospace - Dan DeLong, Aleta Jackson - Panel, Low-Cost Reusable Launch Regulatory Issues - Panel, Potential New Markets - Panel, The Investment Environment - Panel, The Political Environment

Invited, Still Maybe

- Andrews Space & Technology - HMX - Interorbital Systems - Kelly Space & Technology - Nielsen Engineering & Research - Northrop-Grumman - Scaled Composites - Space Access LLC - Space Frontier Foundation - Space Transportation Association - SpaceDev - Spectrum Astro - Vela Technology

(Watch for updates and additions.)

Our hotel is the Quality Inn South Mountain, ten minutes from the Phoenix airport by cab or call the hotel for their shuttle van, 5121 E LaPuente Ave, (take I-10 east from the airport, exit at Elliot Rd, turn right on Elliot, take your first right at 51st st, take your first right at LaPuente, you're there) right next to a quiet suburban restaurant and shopping district. Our conference hotel room rate is $65.00 per night, single or double, plus tax, mention "space access" for the rate when you reserve your room. For reservations call (800) 562-3332 or (480) 893-3900.

Space Access '02 hospitality and registration will open around 6 pm Thursday, April 25th, 2002. Thursday evening sessions will begin around 7:30 pm in the main ballroom. Main sessions will run 9 am to 10 pm Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th, with breaks midmorning and midafternoon plus longer breaks for (on your own) lunch and dinner. (We don't do rubber-chicken meal functions; we pick our conference hotel for a variety of nearby restaurants and run our snacks-and-refreshments hospitality suite till late to encourage people getting together, trading information, and making deals.)

Registration (opposite the main ballroom) and our reknowned Space Access Hospitality suite (room 234, across the pool courtyard) will be open by 8 am Friday and Saturday.

Space Access '02 registration is $100 in advance, $120 at the door, $10 off for SAS members. Day rates and $30 Student rate at the door only. One year's SAS membership is $30 (please include your email address for Updates). Mail checks to:

Space Access Society, 4855 E Warner Rd #24-150, Phoenix AZ 85044.





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Thursday, March 28, 2002

From Roland

What's next - the Ark of the Covenant?

The article is about finding previously unsuspected smallpox vaccines in storage...

In another conference we were discussing the world's best short story. A number of candidates emerged including "The Overcoat" after which Vera Nazarian recommended Googol's Christmas Eve story. I asked about it, and where you might find a US translation (since she reads Russian, which I certainly don't):


"Vera Nazarian" <>

Ok, Jerry, here are two collections of some of Gogol's stories in translation: 

and here is another: 

But I have no idea which translation is better, unfortunately.

The story I was talking about, "Christmas Eve," is part of his Ukranian tales collection called "Vechera na hutore bliz Dikan'ki" Which means "Evenings in the country, near Dikanka." I belive it is included in the Amazon-listed collections above, but not sure...

The gist of the story is that on Christmas Eve, the devil has free reign over the earth (kinda like Halloween in the West), and so he is out for mischief. The devil steals the crescent moon from the sky, and suddenly it is all dark....

She goes on to describe the story, which is clearly hilarious. I haven't read it yet but from her description I have to.

Subject: Multi-site "global warming" a thousand years ago 

>From Greg Goss 

The new study may be more important than your "gosh" implies.

One of the positions taken by some environmentalists is that the "Medieval Warm Period" was something local to America, Greenland and Iceland. Under this hypothesis, they concede the "Vinland & Greenland" point that you have made many times (as well as the deforestation of the western Canadian Prairies) but say that it had a local cause (perhaps the deforestation was a cause, rather than an effect). Under this hypothesis, there was no matching hot period in Europe or China. An analysis of tree rings from non-north-America sites is important to refute this claim.

It looks like the study quoted on CNN was designed to refute that hypothesis, and its success (once reviewed) will knock another strut out from under the pro-Kyoto forces. Sigh. I still support Kyoto, but the evidence is getting shakier.

Actually my "gosh" was largely because I anticipated the last sentence of your letter would be the reaction of most greens.

I would be tempted to support Kyoto if I thought the green would then go all out for nuclear power (which would be the only way the US could comply). Mr. Goss answered that with:

Your conclusion is almost enough reason to support it. I am a strong proponent of nuclear.

In Canada, Kyoto would cripple "tar sands" operations. Sparsely populated Alberta is Canada's biggest CO2 producer -- far more than Ontario or Quebec. Almost all of it is from oil burned to create steam to separate other oil from the sand. Nuclear plants are really really good at creating steam. So I would like to see nuke used even in petroleum production.

Which makes him a very unusual green...

Another from Roland


It's a dangerous world, and we keep buying oil because we have no choices, and also from Roland Dobbins

Outpost of Empire


Which is disturbing but hardly surprising. My original response to 911 was to build monuments in the capitals of regimes that supported or rejoiced in the attack on the US. I am not at all sure that wasn't the right plan, but it clearly wouldn't be adopted. 

Empire has a logic. We are learning that. But it has domestic consequences, too. Fly safely...

And then there is DMCA

Logic continues.

And finally for the day, from Ed Hume

A Brief History Of Medicine

I have an earache.

2000 B.C. - Here, eat this root.

1000 A.D. - That root is heathen, say this prayer.

1850 A.D. - That prayer is superstition, drink this potion.

1940 A.D. - That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill.

1985 A.D. - That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic.

2000 A.D. - That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.

And in a similar vein from Kit Case

Dr. Pournelle, >From The Register  on Jack Valenti, Fritz Hollings, and the American Techniban.

On the lighter side, ever read the Police Report from the Arcata Eye? 

"4:54 a.m. An alleged nut job howled his human head off outside the police department, which isn't recommended

9:02 a.m. A man reported a female houseguest refusing to leave his car. Diagnosed as drunk, she was tanked"

Kit Case









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Friday, March 29, 2002

Roland sends this with the subject "Morons Inside"

 It's not usual that he is so kind.

And I have this question:

Hello jerryp,

I am a long time fan of your writing, both fiction and Byte stuff ! Keep up the good work, and good luck with Sasha.

Maybe you can clear up an issue I've been thinking about a lot lately? (please correct any incorrect assumptions I have made, I am not an American):

1 - Senators (also known as Congressmen?) are elected by the American people; 2 - A Senator proposes a bill in Congress - in this particular case, Hollings and the CBDTPA

Now here's my question - how do Senators decide how to vote on a bill like this? Do they 1 - Vote like they personally feel; 2 - Vote like whom ever pays them the most money wants them to vote (lobby groups?); 3 - Vote like the majority of their constituents want them to vote (and if so, how is this determined); 4 - Vote according to the testimony given in front of them (and if so, how is it determined who can testify before them) 5 - Some other way.

Please excuse my ignorance, but reading about this whole DMCA/CBDTPA proposal and others (the 'DISNEY' bill springs to mind) I started thinking about the whole process that allows laws so patently stupid to get enacted.

Let me be clear: I see no problem passing a law that benefits/protects a minority/specialized sector, as long as it is not opposed by/detrimental to any other group. Barring that, I think a democratic process is appropriate, though it does seem that he who has the most money/loudest voice/most influence gets his way.... Is this then the true modern definition of democracy?

Any enlightenment would be appreciated!

Best regards,

Willie van Rensburg

There is no short answer here. I am minded to write a short essay on political realities for the column. The fact is that lobbyists have great influence, because they are THERE and they understand the system. And the recording companies have the money to send lobbyists. Induhviduals don't have those resources.

And now this:

An interesting insight on how colleges and universities are trying to combat plagiarism: 

-Dan S.






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Saturday, March 30, 2002

Dr. Pournelle:

Found on the net:

Number of physicians in the US: 700,000.

Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year: 120,000 (AMA).

Accidental deaths per physician: 0.171 (U.S. Dept. of Health Human Services)

Number of gun owners in the US: 80,000,000.

Number of accidental gun deaths per year (all age groups): 1,500.

Accidental deaths per gun owner: 0.0000188

Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.

"FACT: Not everyone has a gun, but everyone has at least one Doctor." Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets out of hand.

[As a Public Health Measure, I have withheld the statistic on Lawyers for fear that the shock could cause people to seek medical aid.]

Mark Thompson

Liars, damned liars, and statistics... 

Friday, 29 March, 2002, 10:52 GMT Virtual kingdom richer than Bulgaria

By Ania Lichtarowicz BBC Science reporter

A virtual country has entered into the world economy.

Norrath, the setting for the online game Everquest, has been found to be the 77th richest country in the world, sandwiched between Russia and Bulgaria.

Online gaming has attracted millions of players and their rise in popularity in recent years is mainly down to improved graphics and more players to interact with.

Research carried out in the United States shows that virtual internal markets, combined with illegal online trading on auction websites, mean that Norrath has a gross national product per capita of $2,266, bigger than China and India.

Many computer games designers predict that as computer processing powers improve virtual economies will play a bigger part in the real world stakes.

Millions of players

Virtual worlds exist in which people play games like Everquest, Ultima Online and Lineage.

It is estimated that about 2.5 million people play Lineage in Korea alone and millions subscribe to other games worldwide.

Each player pays a subscription fee, usually about $10-15 per month, to be able to take part in the game.

Online games differ from traditional computer games as life in the virtual world continues all the time, even when a player switches off the computer or console.

And if you want your character to do well players need to invest time and effort into literally improving themselves.

Some people spend so much time online that they end up with too many skills and so can trade them in the real world.

Hundreds of dollars

Professor Edward Castronova from California State University at Fullerton calculated the statistics.

He said that people are putting hundreds of hours a year into these characters and you can tell how valuable that is in terms of money by looking at how much these characters sell on open markets such as auction sites like ebay where they can fetch hundreds of US Dollars.

"In terms of the monetary input and the hours input the things that people are creating are very valuable," he said.

"And that's how I got to this figure that the production of value per capita in these economies is somewhere between Bulgaria's and Russia's."

Trading of characters, or avatars is against the rules of the games, and if the games developers see this happening they will delete the character.

But with so many players it is difficult to keep track of smaller transactions.

For instance it is possible to trade swords or helmets and even skills like sewing for real money - all of which can be useful to players in the virtual world.

Robin Dews from Games Workshop, an international fantasy game supplier, is designing a new game called Warhammer Online. He said the whole transaction process is very strange.

"You go onto one of the websites, basically give credit card details over the internet and then arrange to meet them in game," he said.

"You'll log onto the game world and meet them in a tavern or in a town so the virtual you will meet the virtual other player who will hand over the gold to you or they'll hand over the sword to you and the whole transaction actually occurs in virtual space."

The next more advanced set of major online games is coming out soon. It is estimated that Star Wars Galaxies will have at least a million subscribers when it is launched later this year.

Many games designers predict that as games have better graphics and become more exciting they will become an even bigger money-spinner for both players and designers in the future.

Another interesting point: during the Seventy Years War I said that the USSR was "Bulgaria with missiles", and that without those missiles they wouldn't be of much more account than Bulgaria...

Ebay Everquest auctions were shut down. Are there others I don't know about?

And this could be serious, or not: I have done no checking:

THis is out there But I have a suspician that the American and european Internets have been under attack for the last week and maybe the last MONTH. 

If you don't believe me, I got these from THE INTERNET TRAFFIC REPORT 

here is the traffic index for the last 7 days: 

Responce times: 

Packet loss: 

I could maybe believe that this is normal trafic but the profiles are much too close a match for that.

If you go to the site and check the Monthly Graphs it gets worse.

You don't have to believe me, check here: 

or check your other sources.

What is interesting is that most people have never even noticed. Perhaps it is the open mix of Hardware, Software and operating systems that has kept America up and running as well as it has.


Frank Gasperik

Sometimes known as Harry Redd.

Here is Roland on the subject:

There've been various network outages, depeering- and repeering-type architectural changes, etc., which have produced some of the perceived symptoms to which he alludes. A lot of it is normal, and he's just not noticed, before.

The SNMP vulnerabilities are serious - you've alerted your readership. There've been no major network outages attributed to them, to date (and believe me, I'm in a position to know). Cisco have released fixed images for just about everything, as have most of the other affected vendors (Cisco and Juniper are the only ones who really matter, in terms of the overall Internet infrastructure). The incidence of banging on the SNMP front door has of course increased due to these vulnerabilities, but anyone who matters had already taken a lot of steps to mitigate any possible SNMP-related risks, and/or have been busily upgrading.

Some of the outages, in fact, have been major providers doing planned maintenance so as to upgrade their infrastructure to =prevent- SNMP-based attacks.

So, the Internet isn't any more 'under attack' today than it was a week ago, or a month ago, or a year ago, except for the general rise in script-kiddie-type activities, with this class of SNMP-related exploits added to their toolkits.

It's not a big deal.

I do get these periodic inabilities to connect to the Earthlink Mail Server. They do not last long, and fix themselves without my intervention, but they always happen just as I want to DO something, and that drives me nuts. I suppose I should be happy that they do not require me to pay extra for the lessons in patience.

(As for instance just now when I am trying to send this. Sigh.)

Then we have:

Hello, Dr. Pournelle:

I recall that some time ago you asked for examples of instances where Microsoft changed their operating system "on the fly", although I couldn't seem to find it on your site today. In any event, here is something interesting that happened to me yesterday, when I ran Windows Update on my XP Pro installation at home.

There were two new critical updates dated March 28, one of which claimed to be patching or fixing something in Windows Messenger. The text accompanying the Messenger update carried instructions that it was important to install it, even if you don't use Messenger on your system.

I had previously (and through some effort) managed to successfully uninstall Messenger from my computer via a tweak to a file called "sysoc" located in the hidden c:\windows\inf folder. The settings in this file control whether or not a particular program is displayed in the Add/Remove area of the control panel. After the appropriate change is made, you can use add/remove to completely uninstall Messenger, an option NOT available in Windows by default.

Anyway, trusting that Microsoft would not make something a "critical" update without good reason, I went ahead and let both updates download and install, then rebooted my computer. To my great surprise, not only had Messenger been re-instated to my system, it no longer appeared in Add/Remove, even though the tweak I had made to the "sysoc" file was still in place and untouched! It appeared as if Microsoft decided, either intentionally or not, to remove my ability to choose whether or not Windows Messenger was installed on my machine.

Needless to say, I went straight to System Restore and put my computer back to the time just prior to installing the most recent updates and have no intention of installing that particular "critical" update again.

Just thought you might like to add it to the list and maybe see if this has happened to any other readers.

Best Regards, Randy Warner Woodland Hills, CA

I don't use Messenger. I note that I keep getting messages to update my Messenger, but since I don't bother with it I can't say what happens. to those.

And in a similar vein,

I've been reading your column for years and have always appreciated it. I don't know why, but for some reason, the following struck me as something you might appreciate.

Microsoft and Unisys are starting up a new ad campaign to bash Unix and Linux by talking about how unpractical *nix is. They put up a web site ( ) for you to go to for more info about their advertising claims....

But a quick look on Netcraft reveals that the ad's web site is running:

"Rapidsite/Apa-1.3.14 (Unix) FrontPage/ mod_ssl/2.7.1 OpenSSL/0.9.5a on FreeBSD"

Unix/FreeBSD and Apache...interesting choices.

You can see this for yourself here:

Did they think we wouldn't check?

Tom Caudron Senior Consultant Keane, Inc.

I don't know how marketers think. I'm not entirely sorry about that.










This week:


read book now




I took the day off.






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