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Mail 204 May 6 - 12, 2002






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

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name 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  May 6, 2002

Roland Dobbins points us to another Hollings monstrosity: 

Apparently there is no end to this...

And on that subject, Roland found this and sent the pointer with the subject "Worlds without end... 

We may be back to Sir Fred Hoyle's "continuous creation." The more we think we have learned, the less we can be certain of. Per omnia secula seculorum...


You mention in this week’s mail that you are evaluating new flat screen monitors. You should try multiple LDC displays at the same time. We build day-trading desktop systems with 2 or 4 flat panel displays. The increase in productivity with a LARGE desktop is truly amazing. For 2 monitor systems, we use the ATI Raedon VE video adapter; great ATRI performance and fast displays. For the trader that “gotta have it all” and requests a 4x display, we use the Matrox G4 and 4 15” or 17” EZO LCD monitors. We include an Ergotron quad stand, which lets you do a 2 up, 2 down or all 4 across arrangement. With multiple monitors, it helps to have displays with narrow bezels, which do not impede the visual “flow” across the screens. Add a TV tuner card and you can have a small TV window always visible. Traders love it, since you can watch financial news and still have your live stock market feed.


Like I said, it is great to have display area which approaches the size of your desk.

Robert Grenader

Microsoft at WinHEC had some lectures and demonstrations of productivity increases using an inverted-T shaped array of LCD monitors. I can't wait to try it...





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Tuesday,  May 7, 2002

This is it: the column has to be done tonight.

Begin with this:

Dr. Pournelle Although I found these through Slashdot I still thought that you and your readers might enjoy this. Mr: Edgar Villanueva Nuñez Congressman of the Republic of Peru is proposing a bill that would make *free* software the choice for the government of Peru. Microsoft sent him a letter to try and persuade him (termed by the Slashdot audience as FUD) not to implement this measure.

The Microsoft letter is at 

His response is very informative and reasoned about what *free* software is and isn't. 

P.S. While I'm not an supporter of Richard Stallman, I wish that our Congress Critters were more like Mr. Nuñez and less like Senator Hollings.

Sincerely John Weidman

I will comment on this another time. Meanwhile, on USB:


My ears are still ringing from David S..'s - uh - frank expression of his views about USB2.0 last Saturday. I followed his link to the 3-year-old Apple Royalist page of the same topic and tone (or even more strident). Perhaps I can add some data into the conversation.

Your USB1 controller has 12Mbps of bandwidth, coming out of (usually) 2 ports of your root hub. To share that among more devices, you add external hubs. I don't know exactly what a "simple hub" is supposed to be; the activity of a USB1 hub is quite complex, but it's robust because it's been beat up real good in design and in the field; and it's cheap because they make so many of them. Once the hub has been instructed (like a router?) to include one its ports in the bus, that device shares the 12MBps. If it's a WebCam, that can hog up most of it.

If you want more bandwidth, you can add another host controller and the port(s) of its root hub. There's another bus of 12Mbps. If a low-speed device [mouse] is sharing the bus, it's taking 8 times as much of that time for each bit as a full-speed device [printer] does. The article to which David linked says, and illustrates, that this waste balloons to 320x with the 480Mbps bandwidth available from USB2.

"Unfortunately, that turns out not to be the case." Here is how it actually works:

A USB2 controller provides USB2 bandwidth among 1 or more ports on its root hub. However, if a USB1 device (including a simple USB1 hub) is plugged into one of those ports, it is connected to a full-speed Open Host Controller Interface (USB1) controller, built right into the Enhanced Host Controller Interface (USB2) controller by spec. In fact, an EHC can have one OHC for each port - and some of them do.

If a (stupid router-like) USB2 hub is connected to a USB2 port, it shares the USB2 bandwidth. Data always moves at that speed over USB2 connections. If it is destined for a USB1 device, it's packaged in envelopes called "split messages" until it hits the last port of the USB2 tree, and is decompressed into USB1 speed. (Somehow that 40x improvement becomes a liability, because it doesn't make the old equipment run any faster. Is that the Revolution of Rising Expectations?)

So to recap: USB2 devices get 40x speed improvement. A USB2 hub has a full USB1 tree growing out of each port, so your 15 WebCams can all run full-bore (ahem) if your processor, drivers, and apps can support them. (Incidentally, EHCI offloads much more schedule/buffer/list work from the host processor onto the controller HW, compared with the OHCI of 1394 and some USB1 host controllers.)

The original mission of USB was to support a hot-plug tree for peripherals both medium-fast and slow. (A scanner is SLOW???) I'm probably too dumb to understand all the problems David sees in speeding it up to handle more data. The inner workings are another matter, of course; but what's under the hood of modern automobiles looks hopeless to most people who can select, drive, and reasonably maintain them. Users don't need to mess with USB firmware and drivers.

If you're curious about USB, in addition to the valuable insights offered by Apple enthusiasts, you can go to and look at their overviews (and look up prices of hubs). The innards are behind the "developers" tab. Then you'll know enough to feel fear, uncertainty, and doubt about USB2.0.

Or not.

-- Bill Kilner

P.S.: Jerry, you said USB on laptops is a problem due to power requirements. Is the USB absorbing that power, or is it the habit of making peripherals bus-powered, where they would have needed wallbugs before? If so, while they are frustrating with laptops now, before USB they would have been simply unavailable.


As usual, the whole FireWire vs USB 2.0 thing boils down to money, plain and simple:

In short: Apple and others were wanting to charge $1/port for FireWire. Intel and other PC makers balked and came up with USB 2.0. Apple and company saw the light and came up with $0.25/system, which most everyone can live with. USB 2.0 is still in the pipeline though, and it'll still cost less than FireWire, which means it'll have traction regardless of how technically superior FireWire is.

Pete Flugstad

The latest high speed motherboards from Intel have USB2 on the motherboard. As to technical superiority, at what point are things Good Enough?


You have been sent this message from a user as a courtesy of the Washington Post (

To view the entire article, go to 

U.S. Pulls Out of International Court Treaty

By Peter Slevin

The United States has renounced formal involvement in a treaty creating the first permanent war crimes tribunal, Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper said Monday.

Hurrah! I'll have more to say on this another time.


Saw the posting about the President pulling us out of the International Criminal Court, and thought I'd send along a couple of reasons (okay, several reasons) why the ICC is A Bad Thing. These are not the reasons usually cited by the administration, but are good reasons to stay away from the ICC even if the administration's public concerns were addressed.

1) Victim-supported prosecutions. A cornerstone of modern civilization is state justice over personal justice. A detached, professional prosecutor screens complaints and brings into court only those cases where there is legitimate evidence of wrongdoing. This is the thrust of every modern, fair legal system I am aware of.

The ICC permits victims and victim-advocacy organizations to underwrite the costs of prosecution. Victims and their advocates may pay for additional prosecuting attorneys, may sit at the prosecutor's table in court, and may work closely with the ICC's permanent prosecutorial staff in prosecuting cases.

In a U.S. court, that is not supposed to happen. For example, the U.S. Attorney's office did not send Adobe Systems a bill for filing charges against Dmitry Skylarov. It's a question of fundamental fairness, and the ICC is a "stacked deck" against the accused from day one.

2) Broad definitions of crimes. The ICC statutory definition of genocide is broad enough to cover speech, as well as action, aimed at any identifiable group. By the statute, genocide includes "causing serious bodily or mental harm" with "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such."

In other words, proselytizers could be liable for genocide. Why? Well, clearly, a proselytizer targets an identifiable religious group--those not of his religion. He wishes them all to join his religion--thus "destroying" their old religious body.

Stretching it? Maybe. But considering the heavy European influence on the Court, and Europe's continued persecution of the Church of Scientology and the Unification Church, not so unbelievable, eh? (Full disclosure--I'm a Mormon, so of course I have an interest here . . .)

3) No free speech protection. Consider that much speech "causes serious mental harm." In the United States, you can plead the First Amendment to get out of prosecution unless you were directly inciting people to violence. There is no First Amendment in the Rome statute. You can be convicted of genocide for nothing more than words, even if you did not incite others to action.

Not only is my hypothetical proselytizer at risk; so too are rabble rousers, race-baiters, and all kinds of people who are, frankly, jerks, but in the US would have free speech rights. In the ICC, they will not.

4) Supremacy of the court. The claim is made that the court only steps in when local courts refuse to prosecute. This supposedly protects national sovereignty. In fact, who decides whether local courts are refusing? That's right, the ICC itself. The ICC by treaty and statute is legally empowered to override the decisions of local tribunals. So if our intrepid proselytizer is an American, and the American prosecutors refuse to prosecute because proselytizing is protected by the First Amendment, the ICC can take custody and try the prisoner.

5) Purported universal jurisdiction. The ICC statute purports to have jurisdiction over an accused if (a) the accused is a national of a ratifying state, or (b) the crime affected somebody in a ratifying state. So, suppose that our intrepid proselytizer puts up a web page, in the USA, hosted on a US-based ISP, preaching his personal gospel. And suppose somebody in a signatory state reads that page and is offended by it--"seriously mentally harmed" even. Boom, the ICC now claims to have jurisdiction despite the President's repudiation. (Note: the only crime for which nations have historically exercised universal jurisdiction was piracy. There is no justification in international law for this treaty's sweep.)

I'm glad the President repudiated it. However, we may eventually find that more serious action is required to convince the Court not to prosecute our citizens. Force often works.

Steve Setzer

And that is just for openers.


And it's clear I don't known EVERYTHING...

I take it from that comment [in the current column] that you knew TECO on the PDP/8. Too bad. Apparently it was a well kept secret that TECO was a magnificent full screen, GUI based editor when run on it's native platform, the PDP/12. The '12 was a hybrid machine with a PDP-8i and a Link-8 spliced together with mode-shift instructions that let you switch from one instruction set to the other. The LINK had a 15 inch graphics scope (X/Y D-A driven) and A/D channels built in. TECO threw text on the screen and would do cursor position from the A/D lines. Sometime about 1974, I replaced the teletype with a Keytronics keyboard, adding a couple of high quality wire-wound pots on the top. The thing worked at least as well as most of the mush-pads we suffer with on today's notebooks.

The TECO version that DEC shipped with OS/8 had all the LINK instructions still active. It just ran slow as the PDP/8 just NOP'd the Link instructions. Someone once commented to me that half of the PDP/12 production was used internally at Maynard. The people doing system development on the PDP/8 new a good thing when they saw it. It was always amusing to see the look on the face of a PDP/8 TECO user when they saw it running on the '12.

Whoever it was at OMSI ( that wrote TECO deserves credit toward putting us where we are today with graphical editors.

Dan Walker

That's really all I did see TECO on. Bob Forward told me once that TECO was wonderful, and he wrote his first novel on it, but then he was at Hughes where they had serious iron, and I only had old Zeke the Z-80...








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Wednesday, May 8, 2002

A warning from Joel Rosenberg


Just got this. Pretty obviously, what was attached was a virus. (I've deleted the attachments.)

Somebody will, no doubt, fall for it.

Sheesh. ---------- Forwarded Message ----------

Subject: Worm Klez.E immunity Date: Wed, 08 May 2002 11:17:49 -0700 From: hq_nic_family <> To: joelr


<FONT>Klez.E is the most common world-wide spreading worm.It's very dangerous by corrupting your files.<br> Because of its very smart stealth and anti-anti-virus technic,most common AV software can't detect or clean it.<br> We developed this free immunity tool to defeat the malicious virus.<br> You only need to run this tool once,and then Klez will never come into your PC.<br> NOTE: Because this tool acts as a fake Klez to fool the real worm,some AV monitor maybe cry when you run it.<br> If so,Ignore the warning,and select 'continue'.<br> If you have any question,please <a>mail to me</a>.</FONT></BODY></HTML>


Heh. I got it and deleted it as spam without looking at the attachment which was probably dumped by my filters anyway. Thanks!

Joel is also very happy with the new Open Source applications:

FYI, the, the open source version of Star Office, was released while you were out of the country, and is available for download at  .

I'm using it; it works, and while I'm not sure how much farther they've gotten with the Word docs import/export issue, I did redo Felicia's resume -- written in Word -- and it looks just the same on her machine as it does on mine.

The only change that I've noticed, other than a few bug fixes is that it seems to do large file saves more quickly in native mode than it used to The native mode is XML, saved in a zip file -- with an .SXW extension for text documents. One of the minor annoyances is that there's no obvious provision to trade off compression for speed. It now takes me about ten seconds to do a save of the just-finished novel -- it's just about 100,000 words -- in .SXW format -- down from about fifteen seconds -- but just some fraction of a second in .DOC or .RTF.

Hope all is well.



Which is good news.

And a serious note on copyright:

Hi Jerry,

I agree completely with your observations about the recent trend in the copyright laws. I'm a writer myself, and I'm very concerned that copyright laws are becoming too restrictive (it says something about the laws when they are alarming to those they are supposedly designed to protect -- but, of course, they are designed to protect the interests of big business, not writers).

My own concern is with the use in my books of text from works under copyright. I quote from many older works in my area of interest (ceremonial magic, Kabbalah, Tarot, and so on), and it seems silly to me that I should have to worry about using a quotation from a work by, say, H. P. Lovecraft, who died in 1937, or Robert E. Howard, or Aleister Crowley. The copyrights on works by these and many other writers are, in my view, dubious, but are claimed by various people, who are happy to make a living from a writer who did not know them, and who has been dead for half a century.

It seems to me that the copyright laws should be rolled back, and the major emphasis should be placed on protecting the rights of living writers and artists. As a writer, you know that a writer holds copyright in his own work only in a nominal sense -- when a contract is signed, it is really given over to the publisher for as long as the publisher wants it, and the publisher then doles out as small a compensation as possible for this sweeping power. Writers who try to keep their rights, unless they are as prominent as you, are apt not to be published.

Anyway, I hope there are changes that loosen copyright a little, to make use of older materials permissable. It would make my own life easier.

All the best, Donald Tyson

Well, I was happy enough with 26 plus renewal for 26 more years. And I was happy enough with life plus 50 although even that is a bit long, life plus 30 would be OK by me. But what they are doing now is silly.

In a letter recently sent to you from Steve Setzer one of the problems he mentioned regarding the ICC is its chilling effect on free speach. I have not myself followed any of the news regarding the ICC. From what I read of the Mr. Setzer's e-mail it seems like agreeing to take part in the ICC would effectively be the equivalent of signing any other international treaty agreement. Now *if* this is the case it is my understanding that any treaty signed by the United States is still subject to the limitations of the U.S. Constitution. In the U.S. treatise and federal laws are considered equivalent and if one contradicts the other than the newer one trumps the older. Since the U.S. constitution trumps all federal laws and federal laws are the legal equivalent of treatise then the U.S. Constitution trumps treatise. I myself am not a lawyer but I saw this particular issue discussed in another discussion group with lawyers and they referenced prior court cases where this precedent was made. It would probably be a good idea to ask a few lawyers for a more detailed account of the issues involved.


Arondell Hoch

Actually, the Bricker Amendment that would explicitly state that the Constitution can't be amended by treaty didn't pass the Democratic controlled Congress; it's not entirely clear whether a treaty can make constitutional that which previously was not. See also below.

We seem to have a spate of comments about Sir Stafford Cripps...

Dear Dr Pournelle, My favourite Churchillism on Cripps:

"There but for the grace of God, goes God".

Poor man. But he has his defenders, including Orwell.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator Dept. of Maths and Stats, Otago University PO. Box 56, Dunedin tel:64-3-4797739 NEW ZEALAND fax:64-3-4798427



I had to read about Sir (Richard) Stafford Cripps. While doing so, I stumbled across another Churchill quote about Cripps.


"He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." ..Sir Winston Churchill speaking of Sir Stafford Cripps

But as noted, Orwell thought well of him. So did C Northcote Parkinson

Jerry :

On the subject of Sir Richard Stafford Cripps, Churchill seemed to take particular relish in quashing the "Red Squire" referring to him as "Sir Stifford Crapps", and, indeed in line with that unkind nickname, on seeing Cripps's eating a vegetarian meal, Churchill is alleged to have quipped "Have you just finished that meal or are you just starting?"

For all of Cripps' supporters and people who looked on him as a great man, it is important to note that the Labour government after WWII was unable to effectively manage the country, dropping the ball on the essentials of the economy, and prolonging food rationing until 1954, whilst creating a welfare state of unprecedented proportion until that time. The legacy of Cripps and his associates would linger until the latter part of the 'seventies when Margaret Thatcher would return the country to its first real post-WWII period of economic success.


Yep. Sir Winston could be fairly cruel, as in "But tomorrow I will be sober, sober, sober..."






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Thursday, May 9, 2002

Hello Jerry

I have been cleaning out the storeroom preparatory to a move and uncover a long forgotten NEC 8201 laptop in it's original box! A bit dog-eared, but it seems to be complete. If I recall, it has upgrade ROMs and a external floppy drive along with manual, mags and clippings. Is there any market left for that type of computer? As I recall, they were popular in Africa and other underdeveloped countries because of their low power consumption.

Thomas Williams

I have a couple of those also. I loved that machine. Alas, I think of no use for them now, although if I didn't have the MobilePro I might think differently.

Look at this article:


What I don't understand is how in the world they expect to collect these taxes. If someone in France downloads some music from a computer in California and pays with a credit card, I don't see how the EU can force the company in California, which has no economic presence in the EU, to collect VAT. Even if they did collect it, I don't see how they could be forced to turn the money over to the EU.

Am I missing something or is this another variation of the Internet sales tax hoax that goes around the web every once in a while? This appears to be an AP wire story and was reported as such in the NY Times.

Joel Upchurch

I think the EU would do it if they could, and they have tried strange things before. Belgian bureaucrats with French support can come up with very odd schemes. They don't seem always too well attached to reality.

JoAnne Dow on the Middle East:

At least one prominent analysis of the Arab/Islamic culture suggests they are a culture based on shame. When someone is shamed, as by defeat, they must rectify this increment of shame on their souls, This is seen as leading to bombings as a way to expunge the shame by inflicting a greater hurt on the source of the shame than the shamed person experienced. The discussion surrounding this analysis extended it to the concept of "our society is shamed". It makes some sense. So I started wondering about some of the consequences.

On NLZero we've been discussing "who are the bad guys?" We have the people exposed to European news media generally on one side and the people exposed to American media generally on the other, Finally I asked a question whose answer everyone in the discussion took for granted, "Is freedom really what these people want? Is it always a good thing?" Certainly most people in the US think the answers are obvious. It had hit me, though, that the Palestinian reaction to freedom is completely at odds with any perception that it is a good thing. They appear to support a very rigid doctrinaire existence with very circumscribed decision making privileges. And they seem to like it and to be frightened of having too many or even any free decisions to make.

Imagine your own fear of a bad decision's consequences fear magnified by a culture that attaches "shame" to any such bad decision. The person in that culture not only must cope with the bad decision but also clear this accrued "shame", which is very difficult. So they want to be in a society with others making the decisions and enforcing them such that there is no alternative. Then they cannot make a bad decision. But, this also means they accrue shame when their rule givers accrue shame, as with a defeat.

Also contemplate the haggle process. This is a safe decision making process for something as small as the price for goods or services. It shows the hagglers got all they could for what they sold or purchased. But if you or I were to go into a shop over there and simply pay the asking price as is normal in the US then the reaction is shame! "I could have gotten so much more since the person who purchased it clearly feels no shame as would come from paying too much." Simple purchase brings shame. Haggling, fighting on a small scale, brings "equity", the other side of shame.

The diplomatic processes is the haggle process carried to potentially very high stakes. A price was already set at Camp David. It is now impossible, without shame, for them to accept a lower price. Even if the Israelis complain of damaged goods to explain the reduced price they are willing to pay there is no lessening of the shame increment for getting a poorer bargain. The complaint of damaged goods increases the shame.

Peace in the Middle East looks very far away indeed.

The situation in the Middle East will never be changed until the Arab/Islamic culture in the area changes. Can "shame" be turned around to our favor via some means or are we stuck forever fighting people who cannot bear to be free to make the occasional mistake and live with it?


You ask good questions. I have no real answers.

On Treaties and the Constitution:

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

The current Constitutional case law on this issue is _Missouri v. Holland_ (1920), in which the Court ruled that the Migratory Bird Treaty, to which the U.S. had become a signatory, allowed Congress to enact laws for the protection of migratory birds, even though such a power was not stipulated in the Article I, Section 8 enumerated powers, and would appear to be a reserved power under Amendment X.

However, the reasoning used was such as to imply that migratory birds, by their nature, were a fitter subject for Federal legislation than state legislation in any event. Also, there was no specific statement as to whether a treaty could overcome a Federal law, or derogate a Constitutional guarantee: I am inclined to think that a treaty might be found to supercede a Federal law, but not a Constitutional right.

I have provided a link to one of the (many) sites that has the opinion, written by your pal and mine, Justice Holmes: 

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht

The Bricker Amendment back in Eisenhower days was designed to correct this ambiguity.  It was blocked in Congress as I recall despite a great deal of popular sentiment for it.

Joanne Dow on DangerSpam:

Come Mother's day I received a large chain of duplicated related mother's day spam. I got about 5 copies each of four different mailings. I figured something broke at Amazon, seriously broke. It appeared that Earthlink broke about the same time. It restored about the same time as the Amazon emails stopped. That may have been coincidental. I performed the Fujitsu DSL MODEM Bitrot Fix, powered it down and back up, about the time the problem ended after some time on the phone with a VERY concerned Earthlink technician. (They may have some punk technicians. However, they do have some rather bright first line support people who recognize "unusual" when it slaps them in the face. This was a NICE young man willing to take the time needed.)

And the other thing comes from . They mention a ComputerWorld article that claims the fears of cyberattacks from terrorists are probably overrated because terrorists want to see blood when they attack. I do believe the experts they quoted are a little off their mental feed. Terrorist based cyberattacks will happen. They will hit us where it hurts. Some of it will hit the financial community, although Enron did a good job on that already. Most of it will be practice attacks against all and sundry. Once they get something that works nicely they'll go after our national safety infrastructure. I cite particularly the recent attack on the FAA which nabbed the profiling database. This does not directly hurt anybody. However, it enables issuing a world of hurt.

Now, suppose they learn the communications protocols on the FAA control center communications links and learn to break the links and fake the messages. Might they then be able to engineer a spectacular mid-air over say the Grand Canyon? Or if they crack into the railroad control systems they could create more nifty little problems like we had in Placentia recently. (Fortunately the railroad "technology" is HORRIDLY backwards in many ways, which is the real reason Placentia happened.)

I wonder what kind of chaos they could create if the terrorists hacked the New York traffic control system. Surely the terrorists want blood. However, I rather suspect that these days cyberattacks can lead to massive bloodshed and economic disruption, especially as the nation more or less involuntarily moves to WindowsXP and "always online" computer insecurity. Imagine GM's production lines getting hacked - hundreds of workers killed in the ensuing mayhem that puts the factories out of commission for months.

It seems the experts ComputerWorld cited simply lacked imagination.


Frightening. Thanks, I guess...








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Friday, May 10, 2002

Some comments on my Rome reports...

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

1. I believe the handedness of the banks of a river are determined by facing downstream. I won't swear to this, but that's how I remember it from my stays in Paris.

2. "Lusitania" is the traditional name for Portugal, dating back to some tribe that lived in the general vicinity in Roman times.

3. I believe if you were wounded in battle, you get one horse's hoof up, and if you died in battle you get two hooves up. I won't swear to this either. Note: the urban legends web page ( disparages this as legendary.

4. Scanderbeg is--as you may know--a corruption of "Iskander Bey", which, in turn, is the Turkish way of saying "Alexander the Great." They weren't shy in those days.

5. My mother (an art historian) used to refer to the Vittorio Emmanuele II monument as "that hideous piece of wedding-cake architecture."

Hope this helps!

Cheers, dh


The web makes finding things a lot easier. I didn't have it available in Italy. I have since got a lot about Scanderbeg (i.e. Lord Iskander, or Lord Alexander), as for instance

In your recent trip report about Rome, you write "I've found nothing else about the Albanian Prince Giorgio Castriota, Terror of the Turks: unlike the Serbs and Croats, the Albanians converted to Islam and became tax collectors for the Turks. Scanderbeg was clearly not among those." Scanderbeg was an Albanian (Epirean?) prince who was bound over to servitude to the Turks by the submission of his father. He was brought up a Muslim at the Ottoman court and made Sanjak by Murad II. At the age of 40 he revolted, returned to his father's principality, and raised an army. He resisted repeated Turkish efforts at reconquest until his luck ran out against Mahomet II. 

Gibbon (Vol. 6, ch. LXVII) has this to say about Scanderbeg (from the Gutenberg etext - the ^nn sequences are footnote markers, see infra):

In the list of heroes, John Huniades and Scanderbeg are commonly associated; ^35 and they are both entitled to our notice, since their occupation of the Ottoman arms delayed the ruin of the Greek empire


Wade Scholine

So in fact he had been one of the tax collectors, but decided against it. I must have read all that when I read Gibbon years ago. I suppose at my age it's remarkable that I remember anything at all.

Doctor Pournelle,

It would seem that Saddam Hussein, not satisfied with mere world domination, is horning in on your territory.

In the recent Reason Online, , Charles Paul Freund discusses Hussein's _second_ novel "The Impregnable Fortress", just released.

Interestingly enough "Iraq had ... declared the work to be the best-selling novel in Iraqi history even before the book was released."

Nice work if you can get it... Heh.

Oh, and if you click here (sorry about the length)

you can read about Hussein's first novel has been turned into a musical!


As you say, nice work if you can get it...


Arondell Hoch raises a very interesting question. The reason the ICC treaty is different from all other treaties is this: all other treaties ratified by the United States are enforced by U.S. courts. The ICC treaty sets up a non-U.S. court to enforce its terms. So Mr. Hoch's comment is correct for all other treaties, but not for the ICC treaty.

The International Criminal Court is not subject to the United States Constitution. It is subject only to the "Rome Statute of the ICC", and such other human rights treaties as the ICC cares to apply in a specific case. An American defendant at the ICC has fewer rights than he would in America.

Now, there is a "free expression" guarantee in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR Article 19, see ). But the ICC has wide discretion in deciding how other treaties apply (ICC Rome Statute Article 21, see ). I have no faith that "free expression" will be a useful defense before the ICC.

Now, I'm not the world's most experienced lawyer; I just write software licenses. But I have studied international law, and in law school I volunteered for a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that is active in many UN processes relating to human rights and "civil society" as the UN terms it (  / ).

Clearly I'm taking the worst case view; perhaps I'm overreacting. I'd rather overreact than end up subject to a modern Star Chamber.

Steve Setzer, J.D., attorney-at-law

Me too.


Yes, that's what the EU would like to do. The VAT rate here is 17.5%, and people do try to avoid it. The problem for the EU is that forcing the collection of VAT by American companies is likely to bounce, given the American attitude towards sales tax. There's a similar issue involving EU privacy law being in opposition to US case law about the freedom of commercial speech. -- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>

Maybe the ICC will decide this for us? Perhaps we can ask a Brussells civil servant what rights US citizens should have?

When I was in Triesti, I heard some Carabinieri jokes. Their brains are not highly regarded---There was this peasant who lived up in the mountains on a narrow track. One day, he saw a carload of Carabinieri driving backwards up the mountain.

Peasant: "Why are you driving backwards up the mountain?"

Driver: "Because we're not sure we can turn around up ahead."

Peasant: "OK, I guess that makes sense."

Later, the car is seen driving backwards down the mountain.

Peasant: "Why are you driving backwards down the mountain?"

Driver: "We found a place to turn around." -- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>

No comment...






This week:


read book now


Saturday, May 11, 2002

The primary point of my previous letter is that inside the U.S. I believe that the constitution trumps all treatise. One of the points brought up by Mr. Setzer about the ICC is that the ICC not a U.S. court enforces its pronouncements. I feel its more appropriate to say people, usually with guns, enforce laws and treatise. What I think it comes down to is that inside the U.S. the ICC would be unable to come down on anyone for issues which the U.S. Constitution says is allowable. If the U.S. governments primary duty is to the constitution then it dosen't matter what a treatise says, if it contradicts what the constitution says the government would be committing an unconstitutional act in enforcing it. It is my hope that under such a situation the U.S. government at the time would recognize this point. Of course its probably better just to not sign the ICC treaty and never have to worry about the whole can of worms.


Arondell Hoch

I don't really disagree, but sometimes you get princes who want to be loved rather than feared, and they will sacrifice Americans Citizens to "World Opinion" if it will get them the adulation of the media.  One wants to make it difficult.


subject: spammer from hell, AKA  

Dear Jerry:

Open your mail program, and put this address on your blocked list. DO IT NOW. Don't say I didn't warn you if you don't ...

Best, Stephen

Stephen M. St. Onge 

I will pass this on but what happens?

According to what I've read, TECO wasn't originally done at OMSI but by a DEC employee, Dan Murphy, for the PDP-1. The PDP-8 version at OMSI came later.

A non-graphical but otherwise full implementation of TECO for Microsoft Windows, DOS, and OS/2 is still available (free!), and I have it on my web site, complete with a partially tongue-in-cheek FAQ. 

I still get E-mail from people who have found this and thanked me for making it available. I still occasionally use it for its powerful macro editing facility, although I gave up on it for everyday editing for EMACS in the mid 80's.

Tom Almy


I downloaded the Windows version of, not having a Linux machine to hand right now. I must agree with Joel that they have made a tremendous advance with this version, if the Linux version performs in the same manner.

The fonts are very good, and the word processor handles basic Word files very well. It handled some files that choked StarOffice earlier. Alas, it (the Windows version at least) still can't handle more sophisticated Word documents.

For example, it had major problems with an instructions booklet I had done for a technical writing class that used tables for formatting. It included headers & footers, as well as accompanying images, but no text.

>From what I've seen, it should work well for (say) the work you & Larry Niven do, in terms of compatibility. The spreadsheet handled the Excel files I threw at it pretty well, also, including formulas like =SUMIF($B22:BN22,">3",$B22:BN22)/COUNTIF($B22:BN22,">3").

Speaking (as you did in your recent Byte column) of memory speeds, did you look at the review that Andy Patrizio wrote Feb 18, 2002 for Byte, about the new Nvidia chipset called nForce? The link is 

>From what he says, the nForce chipset is based on the motherboard chipset that nVidia developed for the Xbox. The interesting thing about this chipset : .. [the integrated graphics processor] 'has what's called the "Twinbank Memory Architecture," a 128-bit Double Data Rate (DDR) memory controller with 4.2 GB per second of memory throughput. ', compared to the 3.2 GB per second dual-channel pipeline of the Intel 850 chipset.

>From the benchmarks in the article the MIPS & disk thruput scores of the nForce chipset were pretty darn impressive.


Moore's Law always works. That is, memory speeds will get better. The problem we have now is what do we DO with all the new hardware? I vote for making things smarter and easier to use even if that means "inefficiencies" compared to command lines and having users simulate the computer in their heads so they can make it work...

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

There's some discussion (quite a bit of it good) on Slashdot about how the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility should be marked so that future generations (or civilizations) will recoginze the danger. The discussion was sparked by a Salon article, to which they provide links. They also provide a link to the DOE-commissioned report (yes, FedGov spent money on this). 

Perhaps Niven's "Yet Another Modest Proposal", including a simple, direct scheme of your devising, should be submitted to DOE... :-)


Gordon Runkle

-- "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Another reason I pay little attention to either Salon or Slashdot





This week:


read book now


Sunday, May 12, 2002  MOTHER'S DAY

I got this today. I include the header.

Return-Path: <>
Delivered-To:  (me)
Received: (qmail 61152 invoked from network); 12 May 2002 16:59:47 -0000
Received: from (HELO tsmtp3.ldap.isp) (
by with SMTP; 12 May 2002 16:59:47 -0000
Received: from Ieqxmwm ([]) by tsmtp3.ldap.isp
(Netscape Messaging Server 4.15 tsmtp3 Mar 14 2002 21:29:48)
with SMTP id GW0CG900.WCG for <>; Sun,
12 May 2002 18:57:45 +0200 
From: pckomputer < >
Subject: Worm Klez.E immunity
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;


<FONT>Klez.E is the most common world-wide spreading worm.It's very dangerous by corrupting your files.<br> Because of its very smart stealth and anti-anti-virus technic,most common AV software can't detect or clean it.<br> We developed this free immunity tool to defeat the malicious virus.<br> You only need to run this tool once,and then Klez will never come into your PC.<br> NOTE: Because this tool acts as a fake Klez to fool the real worm,some AV monitor maybe cry when you run it.<br> If so,Ignore the warning,and select 'continue'.<br> If you have any question,please <a>mail to me</a>.</FONT></BODY></HTML>

The attachment was of course the KLEZ virus. It was stripped off the mail long before I saw it, but I run this in case you know someone inexperienced enough to be fooled by this.

Roland, who reads everything, has found a new Dipylos

And Harry Erwin tells us what to do with superfluous cycles:

It turns out that we need really fast hardware if we want to emulate what the brain does. We need really really fast hardware if we want intelligent software that can learn from examples. (I'm deeply involved in a research project that's a bit beyond the leading edge and is headed in that direction.) I already use my PowerBook to expand my intelligence--it keeps track of the trivia, and I think about the important things--I wouldn't mind if it would be just a bit more proactive.

That's what we'll do with the hardware--eventually. -- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>

I tend to agree. Back at WinHEC Alex and I were discussing what you do with the new hardware we have now and decided that making things smarter, and thus easier to use, was the major need.

I havc a very long letter from Lord Isildur, resident in Greece and clearly a Bronze Age scholar of considerable ability, on the First Dark Age. It is both long and of great but specialized interest, so I have added it to the report on that subject. If you have any interest in the First Dark Age and the fall of Crete and Mycenae you will find this fascinating, and he has my thanks.

Dear Jerry:

I was going to write & recommend Dungeon Siege to you; I'm glad you found it on your own. You may remember that I'm almost solely a first-person shooter fan - Dungeon Siege is the very first game of its kind to get my full attention. Like start playing after dinner and not look up until 2 AM!!! What a great way to waste time (as if I needed any more).

Great crossover game, and you do NOT need to know a thing about D & D to enjoy it and prosper in it. I hope other developers take note.

My subscription is paid up for what, 3 or 4 more years? Others should be so thoughtful... hint hint!


Tim Loeb

PS: Any movement on getting a Mac in house? The Mail program has big problems which Jobs intends to fix in the next iteration - "Jaquar" at the end of the summer. For right now it's almost impossible to get lengthy content-rich e-mail without waiting for what seems like hours watching the little spinning disk - will Apple EVER get it right? I just don't know...

I intend to buy a G4 but it's always "not just yet" or Real Soon Now. There's always so much ELSE to do. Just now I need a good source of steel shelving of various sizes and those Teflon skid things to go under them to substitute for wheels. I need to make what amount to racks to stack some towers on to make room for the Mac...

Dungeon Siege is sort of more like Baldur's Gate than Diablo but it does have some of the Diablo Shooter aspects. It's really an interesting time consumer...

And hear this:

FYI, The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments against the latest Copyright Term Extension Act (aka, the Disney Mickey Mouse copyright extension): 

Should make for some very interesting arguments.

Pete Flugstad


And JoAnne Dow says

I more or less agree with Arondel Hoch regarding the Constitution trumping all. However, I'd suggest taking a look at the practicalities that have appeared in this realm with the NAFTA treaty. It contains provisions that effectively preempt Constitutional guarantees and subjects the US to foreign laws AND court determinations. If a local (US) court decides that a foreign (say Canadian funeral service company) company was indulging in improper trade practices when it buys a US company (say private funeral parlors) and abrogates the contractual agreements with other US companies (say a crematorium) the foreign company can sue for damages in NAFTA court for "unreasonable" judgements.

This was reported on a recent TV show, alas I cannot remember which station although I watched rather raptly at the time.

In PRACTICE there seem to be ways to sneak around the Constitution and there is no follow-up to the Supreme Court to declare "This is nonsense."


Bob Thompson on the Salon article

Perhaps my understanding of half-life is simplistic, but it seems to me that:

(a) if gamma radioactivity is intense enough to be very dangerous, it won't last long


(b) if gamma radioactivity lasts a long time, it's not intense enough to be very dangerous.

Or perhaps rather than gamma emitters, they're concerned about alpha and beta emitters. But those are really a threat only to someone who ingests them, and it seems that even huge quantities buried deep in inactive geological strata are unlikely to be ingested.

Or am I missing something here?

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

That is certainly the way I see it. And from Steve Stirling

Dear Jerry:

On two issues addressed in your mail column:

First, the ICC is such an obviously bad idea that it's amazing anyone here in the US is for it. The fate of organizations like the UN General Assembly is perfectly illustrative of why such a court would act in a manner harmful to American interests.

Second, on nuclear waste... why, oh why, does the myth of waste "deadly for hundreds of thousands of years" continue to propagate, like the some vile virus? It's simple physical fact that a few centuries reduces the output to approximately that of the ore the material was mined from in the first place.

Yours, Steve Stirling

Agreed, of course. Thanks.






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