CHAOS MANOR IN PERSPECTIVEjp.jpg (13389 bytes)


Mail 211 June 24 - 30, 2002






BOOK Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)



LAST WEEK                          Current Mail                           NEXT WEEK

  The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

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. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

read book now

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.

Search: type in string and press return.


line6.gif (917 bytes)

read book now If you contemplate sending me mail, see the INSTRUCTIONS here and here.



This week:


read book now


Monday  June 24, 2002 

If this doesn't make you pee your pants, nothing will! No rights to hearings, trials, counsel, or oversight, entirely based on the magic word 'terrorist'. As I recall, there was a lot of pounding of chests after WWII by those dismayed that Germans had "allowed" Hitler to come to power, and what Should Have Been Done to prevent it. They may get their chance yet...


I confess I didn't get a chance to read it, but not much surprises me now. The problem is that we swung way over in the direction of rather odd fresh new rights, and now we don't know how to defend ourselves and be consistent with the liberal policies the courts adopted. The result will be that they pay no attention to any of the old rights either. I hope I am wrong. It is late and I am tired, and that leaves me discouraged.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

How can we remain a [nominally] free society when our public servents forget that they are and become unaccountable?

The new Fath^H^H^H^HHomeland Security Department will be exempt from the Whistleblower Protection Act. 

The guy heading up the investigation of the FBI for a joint congressional intelligence panel is the same one who obstructed a Justice Department probe (the Danforth Commission) into the FBI's actions at Waco. 

And let us not forget that "Waco John" Magaw, who was head of BATF during some of its most abusive and corrupt years, is now head of the Transportation Security Administration. He's the charming fellow who would rather shoot down an airliner, killing all aboard, than "allow" the pilot to be armed and able to defend the cockpit.

Seems that if you're "made" in FedGov, there are no consequenses. For the little guy trying to do right, however, retaliation and retribution are the order of the day (and will be the law in the new State^H^H^H^H^H Homeland Security Department).

It's twilight in America, folks.

Oops, "Friends" is on, gotta run... :-|

Gordon Runkle

I may not be THAT discouraged. On the other hand, I may be.


In the matter of Padilla and whether he is a citizen or not, you write that "[m]uch of this idiocy results from the courts sticking their noses in and giving non-citizens both legal and illegal the same rights as citizens. That causes many problems."

What is one to make of the 14th Amendment: "Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"?

The phrase "any person" has no implicit restrictions, such as citizenship. When it is conjoined with "equal protection of the laws", the result is limitless judicial mischief. This has been the case since the end of the Second World War (see Raoul Berger, Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment (2d ed. 1997), originally published by Harvard University Press and available as a reprint from Liberty Fund Press []).

There is no way out of this, as Constitutional interpretation is a species of theology, and just as nonsensical.

The first paragraph of the 14th applies to citizens. The second part does not; but it also specifies only "Due Process of law" which in fact is generally ignored: we have quotas and affirmative action all the time.  But note that this applies only to the STATES, and grants Congress authority to enforce it. Those who adopted this wanted to make sure the states treated the Freedmen properly. It doesn't appear to apply to the Federal Government at all.



In his letter, posted Saturday June 22, Steve writes:

"I have a friend who is working on global warming modelling. He takes his science very seriously. When I ask him if global warming is happening, he says yes. If I ask him will it cause a global disaster, he doesn't believe it will. We have a conservative government in power, and it please them incredibly for him to tell them that global warming is a nonsense. His job depends on his being paid by them."

From the grammar and syntax, I suspect we have another graduate of our public schools here. Nevertheless, I think I can extract the sense of it. It appears that Steve's Friend has about the same take on global warming that the Greening Earth Society (  ) has: it's happening, it won't kill us, and in fact, it may be good for us.

Interestingly enough, neither Steve's friend, nor anyone from the Greening Earth Society was quoted in a recent article in the Boston Globe, which declared that global warming was already responsible for an increase in the incidence of nasty diseases.

I'd be curious to know his friend's answer to one more question: "How much of the global warming taking place is due to human activity?" This number will provide an upper limit to the amount of change we can expect from something like the Kyoto accord.

I'd also love to know how well any of the models he's aware of track climate change over the past century or so. The argument is often made that since we can't predict the weather two weeks from now, any predictions about the climate a century from now are worthless. This argument is bogus. I can't predict Wednesday's winning California Lottery numbers (darn it!) but I can predict the average value of a year's worth of winning numbers with a very high degree of accuracy.

A century's worth of "retro-diction" -- feeding in the parameters from decades ago, and seeing if the computer model matches what actually happened -- is, however, a fair test.

Oh, yes. Steve's point? I think it's in his last paragraph (slightly edited):

"What he does tell them is what he believes the science is saying -- nothing more, nothing less. The suggestions by many people that such a person is merely pandering to those who will pay him the most is an incredible slur on the integrity and professionalism of a dedicated scientist."

Still not the way I'd have written it, but I think this is clearer.

.........Karl Lembke

Agreed. And as I say repeatedly, we ought to be spending to reduce the uncertainties. That can be done. But there is now a large global warming industry and lobby.







This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  June 25, 2002

There is a lot of mail about Norton (see the current column at :


My experience with Norton and trying to renew was similar, but far worse. With some great difficulty I was finally able to pay via credit card for another year. Then the real hassle began. To make it short, 6 months have passed and I still haven't gotten the upgrade. I think I'll look into McAfee too. Keep up the good work.


-- *************************************** Donal M. Ragan Professor Emeritus Department of Geological Sciences Arizona State University Box 871404 Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, USA

"De Omnibus Dubitandum" (Doubt everything) Rene Decartes


Be assured that your experience with Norton is not unique. I had a very nearly identical brush with them. My credit card did end up getting charged but an emailed note to them did get things set right the next day. I purchase online with some regularity and if some garden-variety parts merchant performed as poorly I'd take my custom elsewhere 'Net-haste. Is it possible Symantec would rather sell upgrades than subscription renewals?



But perhaps switching to McAfee isn't the answer either:

Dr. Pournelle,

Not too long ago, you mentioned that, considering your problems with Symantec, McAfee VirusScan was looking better to you. Given this, I thought you might be interested in the information below (taken from a pretty interesting MIT Technology Review article entitled "Why Software is So Bad":

To purchase Network Associates’ popular McAfee VirusScan software, customers must promise not to publish reviews without prior consent from Network Associates—a condition so onerous that the State of New York sued the firm in February for creating an “illegal…restrictive covenant” that “chills free speech.” (At press time, no trial date had been set.)

from "Why Software is So Bad":

Michael Baranowski Assistant Professor of Political Science Northern Kentucky University

So what do we do now, coach?


I had similar problems with Norton Antivirus. For a time, I did use McAfee, but was not impressed with it either. It's too much of a memory and CPU hog.

Something that I came across that is free for personal use is AVG Antivirus from Grisoft ( I have most of my family using it now. It even tags the bottom of outgoing e-mail messages saying that they have been virus checked, so people like the system administrator who attempted to notify that your message was infected, will see that you are actively checking your outgoing mail.

All in all, it's excellent for being free!

-- Paul A. Howes Custom hardware and software solutions for the home and office.

That one I have not tried.




This is from a satisfied Norton customer...

Hello Jerry, I, too had a problem with a Norton Antivirus subscription a few months ago. But I was still three months away from my expiration date, and went through several cycles of being told my subscription was about to expire, and NO other option or way to update my virus definitions. (I point out I was using "Live update" at the time.) I finally was able to do a manual download of the VD (virus def's) using their "Intelligent Updater;" that's updated more often than "Live Update" anyway! Since I couldn't use Live Update to get program updates, I resorted to the 800 number the next day, and they very kindly gave me another activation code, which functioned properly. They were apologetic for the inconvenience, and when I later checked my expiration date, it appears they had given me an extra twelve months of subscription service for my trouble. THAT'S what I call good Customer Relations! I wish Symantec and others were always that good at Customer Service! Thanks for writing great columns!

Larry J. Rolewic

I have to say that Norton is the best of the lot of those I have tried; even if they do try to drive you mad when you want to renew your subscription. And do understand that if you do not open unexpected mail attachments, you will be unlikely to be infected anyway.

Hi Jerry,

You stated that email attachments may be the only way to spread viruses. Some other ways are on this (probably incomplete) list:

1. Java scripts and ActiveX controls embedded in web pages and HTML email. 2. Macros in Microsoft Office documents. 3. Any program you execute that is infected with a virus. This includes about 2 to 3 dozen file types. 4. Programs with security flaws that have an open port on the WWW. 5. Chat programs. 6. File sharing programs.

Despite your bad experience with the Symantec update site I recommend that you stick with Norton AntiVirus. I recently evaluated a number of antivirus products and Norton seems to be the best. It is a very impressive program. May I suggest that you also use ZoneAlarm Pro as a firewall. These two products appear to be best in class and work well together. I have no personal interest in either company.

Best Regards, Robert Rutter

1 and 2 are easily taken care of in your Internet browser security settings. Number 3 presupposes that you run infected programs: where did you get the program to run? If you are in the habit of downloading and running software from strange and odd sites, good luck.

As to the others, once again, if you play in those games it is probably best to know what you are doing. And it's a pretty rare sort of infection anyway. But as I have said before, yes, you are probably better off allowing Norton to do its thing.


On another topic entirely

Hi, Jerry.

The land which is Washington, D.C. came from Maryland; if we want DC residents to vote, the District can give the land back to Annapolis, keeping only the parts which have federal buildings on them. There's precedent; the District already returned to Virginia the area which is now Alexandria, VA. Just pare away all the residential areas and welfare slums, and give them back to Maryland.

On the Spam front: On the recommendation of PC World magazine, I purchased and installed McAfee SpamKiller. Based on VERY SHORT usage, I like it; it is effective in catching spam, and is relatively easy to configure. My biggest problem so far is that it wants to flag most of my mailing list messages as spam, and it takes about 30 seconds each to set up filters to mark them as keepers. The filter structure seems far easier that Outlook's.

------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ken Mitchell 



This may be quite late, but I just found your article of last October 15th about the problems in converting Q&A Write docs. I used to be a big Q&A fan and thought it was the best all-around word processor because it didn't try to do everything for everybody, it fit on two floppies, and did a hell of a lot of "word processing" for a program that small. I've since succumbed to Word which I will probably someday learn to use as well as Q&A, but I still have many Q&A docs on my hard disk and archives.

However, Q&A files are not necessarily lost. I discovered Quick View Plus opens them nicely, and, from there, they can be copied into another Windows word processor with ease. They will need some touch-up in formatting and word wrap, but that's a far cry from abandoning them altogether.

You might also remember another two-floppy relic from the days when memory and storage were measured in k's: Borland's Quattro, a spreadsheet for the 99% of Excel users that don't need all the bells and whistles.

We have come to live in strange times.


Robert Grand

Thanks. I can't imagine why I didn't try QuickView





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, June 26, 2002

This day was devoured by locusts.








This week:


read book now


Thursday, June 27, 2002

Another day, another Microsoft vulnerability.
  -- ------------------------------------------------------------ Roland Dobbins <>


Now your regularly scheduled mail, slightly delayed...


McLaughlin: Constitutional History of the United States 

_A Constitutional History of the United States_, by Andrew McLaughlin, was awarded the Pulitzer prize for history in 1936  the only history textbook ever to be so honored. However, it was written from a constitutionalist perspective, and therefore was unpopular in the statist academic and governmental circles that prevailed during the decades following its appearance. Now that constitutionalism is again on the rise, it is time to revive it. Constitutional historian Forrest McDonald cites it as perhaps the best constitutional history ever written. McLaughlin manages to bring to life a subject that many students find tedious, and it should be made available to high school and college students throughout the United States. It makes an excellent introduction to the study of constitutional law and government.

We find that this work makes an excellent guide to the materials we are collecting in our Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics, many of which are cited in it. McLaughlin takes the reader on a tour of the key ideas in the U.S. Constitution, tracing them from their origins among the political philosophers, follows them through the experiences in practical government of the American Founders, and then shows how those ideas have worked through several crises. His treatment lays the basis for the constitutional controversies that continue to this day.

An excellent review of McLaughlin's textbook was written by historian Herman Belz, later reprinted as Chapter 4 of a collection of Belz' writings titled _A Living Constitution or Fundamental Law?_, which makes an excellent companion to McLaughlin. We have it online at 

Constitution Society 


Dear Mr. President:

8 years ago, I pleaded with the then President to, in the deal with North Korea, build the reactor in South Korea and send only the electricity North over wires. I pointed out that this was the route of power South from the hydro plants in the North, and so the location would keep our promise to supply North Korea with power and yet not compromise our safety by handing Kid Kim tons of reactor fuel. We still have time. Stop that fuel shipment and build the reactor in the South. Please. Pretty please.

Walter E. Wallis, P.E. Palo Alto, CA 94306-2442

Sounds like good advice to me.

Dr. Pournelle,

You have on several occasions made the statement that we can’t decide whether our future interests lie in the pursuit of republic or empire. It seems to me, with the steady “mission creep” since Sept 11, that the choice is daily being made by this administration that our salvation lies in empire. Am I misreading this? If it were President Pournelle, which course would you take?

Chuck McIlree

I think it's pretty obvious. And the Weekly Standard editorial staff with their vision of "National Greatness" eagerly goes along in the name of "conservatives".  I don't know if the Republic can ever be brought back. What really galls me is that empires are usually incompetent, although some start well. Ours seems to be starting badly even as an empire. I can hope I am incorrect.

We have a whole bunch of suggested links from Roland:


A confederacy of dunces. 

The Left discover IQ. 

Indeed. The implications here may reach further than most think.

"evaluation process" 

CoDominium, indeed. 

Amateur radio satellite OSCAR 7 is apparently still alive, after all

these years: 

It all comes clear . . . 

Roland Dobbins




On another subject entirely:

Today is a day I have been awaiting for months. GNOME 2.0 released!

GNOME 2.0 is a major, major upgrade to GNOME.

* Sun paid for usability testing; and 2.0 includes the improvements that the testing suggested. For example, the "control panel" (Control Center) is much streamlined. There are many fewer options than before, so it is easier to find the ones you actually care about.

* 2.0 rolls out support for antialiased fonts across all applications. On LCD screens, you can also enable subpixel antialiasing (what Microsoft calls "ClearType").

* Everything is faster. Nautilus, which used to be a total slug, is now *much* faster. I still don't recommend a Pentium 90 with 32 MB of RAM for GNOME, but with decent machines 2.0 should be fast and smooth.

* Everything is prettier. Real graphic artists worked hard and made better icons, dialogs, etc.

* Sun and HP will be shipping 2.0 on their UNIX workstations; CDE can finally be retired. Until now, there hasn't been a clear winner in the race between GNOME and KDE... but while KDE will never go away (too many people really love it) I predict that GNOME will emerge as the most common desktop for *NIX. GNOME 1.x was never quite good enough for Sun and HP, but 2.0 has made it. So now people will be able to move easily from Linux to Solaris to HP-UX to whatever, without retraining, with all their applications still available.

There aren't very many applications yet that have released 2.0-compatible versions. (I expect it won't be long.) You can of course run your GNOME 1.x software under 2.0, just as you can run KDE software under GNOME. As long as the support libraries are installed, everything should work. (You might not have 2.0 features in your 1.x apps, of ourse.)

Over all, this is GNOME retooled for ordinary users, including business users, rather than UNIX gurus. I'm eagerly waiting for the packages to be released in Debian Unstable. 

Stay well. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


On Open Office


Interested to read your comments on OpenOffice/StarOffice. We've evaluated OpenOffice as a potential alternative to MS Office in light of Microsoft's licensing changes. I completely agree with your comments - but there is one fairly major omission. OpenOffice's inability to cope with VBA macros. We have a large installed base of custom VBA code and re-writing is not a viable option at the moment.

So, until some bright spark writes a VBA import module (or Sun licenses the VBA engine - somewhat unlikely!), we won't be adopting OpenOffice. I suspect this will be true for many other commercial organisations.


Kevin Morley Group Head of IT


LGC - Setting Standards in Analytical Science

And we have:

I think you suggested to the Byte readers to look at  for the Cross Office product of the Wine project. After about 8+ years, they finally have plugins and the ability to run many Windows programs natively (i.e., no VMWare) under X Windows in Linux (Office, Notes, IE, Flash, etc.).

This is also a Linux Band-Aid that is a pleasant substitution to rebooting to Windows XP/etc. The price is reasonable and it helps a group that might someday provide a good compromise between Windows and Linux.

Craig Douglas

I hope to have a lot about this shortly. I have seen Wine run Microsoft Office on a Linux laptop with no other Microsoft code on the box at all. Excel and Word ran fine. Outlook did not. PowerPoint worked as I recall. I am gathering more on this.

And on the Palestinian situation:

Subj: Israeli Settlements: Map

Your readers might be interested in this map:

It's associated with a May 2002 report by B'Tselem, an Israeli "Human Rights" group, titled "Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank".

Can't vouch personally for either the map or the organization. If one of your other readers knows where to find, for example, a comparable _official_ map, the comparison might be interesting.

Rod Montgomery ==

It looks similar to the Wall St. Journal map.


On Palladium:

First from Roland:

The Palladium FAQ: 

Roland goes on to say

Palladium is the Clipper Chip for your motherboard. Microsoft will build hooks to it from the OS so that they and their 'content partners' can control what media you can play through Palladium-aware media players, hardware devices, etc. It will control whether or not you are granted the ability to stream media from a Web site or not - so, if someone's playing, say, a .mpg stream of trout fishing from his Web site, and isn't signed up as a Microsoft digital content partner, Microsoft, via the Palladium chip, will be able to tell your PC not to allow you to stream the video.

I'm not making this stuff up. Read the articles I sent you - even this gush-piece from the apparently-lobotomized/bought-off Steven Levy 

make it abundantly clear that this gives Microsoft, should you choose to run a Microsoft OS, unprecedented control over your machine - and it relies upon secret circuitry, just like the Clipper Chip. They openly tout the ability to filter your email before you (or your email client) ever sees it.

Here are more links:,3973,282114,00.asp,3973,264904,00.asp 

And a link showing you how well Microsoft does with hardware-based security: 

Not only will this thing let Microsoft control my machine if I'm running a Microsoft OS, Microsoft will use their market muscle to intimidate other companies into offering content which is only playable/readable to Microsoft OSes/apps on Palladium-enabled boxes. Believe me, I see how Microsoft's tactics in this arena work up-front; I've been employed, as you know, by multibillion-dollar Microsoft development partners, and Microsoft have pressed our application groups and the relvant VPs -hard- so as to get them to code things with, for example, IE-specific HTML/ActiveX that it was hard for -us- to withstand them, even given our size and market share.

Finally, this thing will be a Godsend for black-hat hackers. It will be reverse-engineered, and spoofed, and because Microsoft will have caused it to be adopted everywhere as the be-all, end-all standard in hardware, it will create a -huge- set of security vulnerabilities the like of which we've never seen before in the computer industry.

This is bad, stupid, evil, and scary.

-- ------------------------------------------------------------ Roland Dobbins <>

Steve Levy was brought to Popular Computing by Pam Clarke back when I was the senior columnist for both Popular and BYTE, and Roland's remarks about him do not fit my recollections. Levy was sort of responsible for the first Hacker's Conference (which was paid for by Stewart Brand and the Point Foundation) all these many years ago.

One should always take Roland's projections seriously. I am still working on finding the other side of this story.

Roland points out that AMD is going along with Palladium:,3973,282114,00.asp 

Roland also says that my old friend and sometimes colleague Brett Glass gets it right this time:

He gets it right.:,3973,264904,00.asp 





Which leaves us -- where? I'm still collecting opinions and information. And see below.







This week:


read book now


Friday, June 28, 2002

I have yet to get anything resembling a reasoned defense of Palladium. Perhaps this is a clear and present danger. And perhaps it will be the greatest boon to Linux and Apple possible.

Bob Thompson recommends this analysis. Roland seconds Thompson's recommendation saying "Excellent analysis - clear, concise, to-the-point." 

I will continue to watch since I don't have to have anything to say for a few more days. 

But if Palladium is a threat to users, what should be done?

"But if Palladium is a threat to users, what should be done?"

Simple. Ignore it. Reject it. Refuse to buy anything that implements it, find another way to do your business. Eventually it will go away.

I remember when DIVX, the "watch once" disposable home movie format started to hit the market a few years back. I said "yeah, right" and put it on my mental list of things to ignore as foolish anti-products. Apparently a lot of other consumers did the same thing, because it vanished within a few months of hitting the shelves at Circuit City. Note that essentially the same thing happened with copy protected software, although it took much longer. Consumers even appear to be rejecting the broken ("copy protected") music CDs that began to be distributed in the last year, although the Sharpie felt tip pen "fix" may be making that a moot point.

Digital Rights Management is huge and getting huger by the day, but in all of its hydraheaded forms it has very little to offer the consumer. So don't buy anything that incorporates it, and it will eventually go away.

-- Daniel J. Boone

With regard to Palladium, Mr. Boone writes:

"Simple. Ignore it. Reject it. Refuse to buy anything that implements it, find another way to do your business. Eventually it will go away."

Would that that were true. Ordinarily, I would agree with Mr. Boone, but the problem is that the landscape has changed. When consumers rejected DIVX in droves, they had the option to do so by voting with their dollars. That may no longer be the case, and it particularly may not be the case if our freedoms continue to erode between now and the expected 2004/2005 deployment of Palladium at the rate they have been eroding since the 9/11 attacks.

The DMCA and proposed follow-on legislation bring the force of law to what had previously been voluntarily interactions between consumers and large companies like Microsoft and the media giants. If Fritz Hollings has his way, we won't be able to ignore, reject, or refuse Palladium and similar technologies. George Orwell's vision may have been more accurate than any of us would have believed only a few years ago. Indeed, what is not forbidden may be required.


-- Robert Bruce Thompson


My apologies, but I can't bloody well ignore DRM and its hardware/software components like Palladium, being that there are bills pending in the Congress of the United States (anyone remember the Hollings bill?) to make this stuff mandatory, under penalty of law.

Nobody tried to do that with DIVX - which, by the way, flourishes as a software-only alternative video encoding/playback format.

-- ------------------------------------------------------------ Roland Dobbins <>



I suspect that your correspondent who claimed that the DivX format had vanished was getting it confused with something else. As far as I know DivX is a MPEG layer 4 derivative that is extremely popular online due to its high levels of compression for low loss of information (I have seen a DVD compressed to DivX at good quality that fitted on a single CD).

Regarding Palladium in more detail, I doubt it will work for the same reasons that copy protected audio hasn't worked. As long as the technology exists to record audio or video, people will make copys. As it is, modern home computers are "good enough" for most peoples needs, even gamers, and have been for the last two years. I recently bought an Athlon XP 1800 system, not because I needed it but for the same reason people buy SUVs and then never go off-road. Home users don't need new computers anymore, and so any attempt to remove what are popularly believed to be rights will fail.

As an example of the failure of this kind of thinking, one of the Sunday newspapers here in the UK gave away a CD with tracks that "could only be played 4 times" last week. Unfortunately for them the music had to come out of an unencrypted analog port on the soundcard of any computer that played the music. Until the media companys produce photons/sound waves that can't be recorded there will be no true copy protection.

Stephen Gifford




Regarding Div X:

Circuit City and a few other corporate entities got together and created the DivX format for DVDs: you would "rent" the DVD without ever having to return it; you would keep the disk. Once you had played it your DivX player was supposed to refuse to play it until you would "rent" the DVD a second time, by paying some money with a credit card and receiving an unlock code. Consumers didn't go for it.

Later, some guys getting together to brew up an MP4-derived video codec used the name "DivX ;-)" (and yes the "smiley" is part of the name, although it is often left off). I don't understand why they chose to reuse "DivX", but they did.

There is no relationship between the failed DVD rental project and the video codec, other than a common name.

P.S. If you want something fun to watch in DivX format, may I suggest Robot Bastard? About 14 minutes long, has Robia LaMorte (who used to be on Buffy), very entertaining. 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Based on a couple of messages you just posted, it's obvious that there's a lot of confusion about DIVX versus DivX.

DIVX (note capitalization) was a special copy-protected DVD-Video format that was originally proposed by a law firm (of all things) and pushed hard by Circuit City for a couple of years. A DIVX disc could restrict the number of times it could be played, and could specify a calendar period after which the disc became unusable. There were options for consumers to pay more and "unlock" the disc for unlimited playing. Consumers rejected DIVX in droves, and Circuit City eventually discontinued selling the DIVX players and discs. I believe they offered a refund or coupon to owners of DIVX players.

DivX, on the other hand, is a lossy video compression format that allows compressing a typical movie to fit on a CD rather than a DVD. See

Other than their names, the two standards are completely unrelated. The folks who brought us DivX claim that they were not aware of the failed DIVX standard.


-- Robert Bruce Thompson



For anyone who has a cable modem, I ~highly~ recommend putting an APC Ethernet surge protector between the modem and router/PC. Often, lightning does not do anything to the cable modem, but does zap whatever is behind it.

Since my department started doing this for our commercial cable modem customers, not one router so protected has been fried by lightning. They are worth a lot more than the $20 - $25 asking price.

Just make sure the surge protector is properly grounded, of course.

-- Dave Markowitz 

Several sites were hit by lightning in the East today. Take heed.

On Raymond and moderate Islam:

Dear Dr Pournelle,

So the idea of "Moderate Islam" is a "Mirage". Eric Raymond's blog opinion was hard to argue with, but he's mistaken in his assertion that "Conspicuous by their absence are any clear denunciations of bin-Ladenite terror from the members of the ulama, the loose collective of elders and theologicians that articulates the Islamic faith."

If he would like to see an example, he could do worse than look at the website for the "Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society" (  ).

In particular, at one point that site carried a "Call to the Muslims of the World" from a person (Ibn Warraq) who turned away from his faith for precisely the reason that he could not stomach its violence. Sample: "Could Allah incite you to kill other peoples? Please understand that there is no terrorist gene - but there could be a terrorist mindset. That mindset finds its most fertile ground in the tenets of Islam. Denying it, and presenting Islam to the lay public as a religion of peace similar to Buddhism, is to suppress the truth."

The funny thing is that I'm pretty sure I was referred to that article by Chaos Manor. It has been taken from its original prominent position but something like it by the same author can now be found at : .

More generally, some Islamic nations are spawning grounds for fanaticism and others are not, notably the Turks and the Jordanians (thank you Kemal Ataturk and Glubb Pasha, among others). Both of them, interestingly enough, are close to the West in terms of military tradition. One is a real republic, and the other a proper monarchy. Does fanaticism need a dictatorship to flourish, or is it the other way around?

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole BA/BSc/BE/BA(hons) ( System Administrator, Dept. of Maths. & Stats., Otago Uni. PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ.

You ask a good question. Certainly the Caliphates were militant enough. As to whether "moderate Muslims" are a myth, certainly some, even many, exist. Beyond that I simply don't have enough data. I do know that the Koran gets pretty clear that there is no peace outside Islam, only truce. How seriously that is taken I don't know.

Am I missing something in the ISIS secularislam website? Or did I misread Terry Cole's letter? He points to this site as an example of denunciations of bin-Ladenite terror. However, the website is written by an ex-Muslim. Citing this link is like citing Whitaker Chambers in the late 1950's as an example of how Communists denounce Communist atrocities. This very citation actually demonstrates Eric Raymond's point about the conspicuous absence of Islamic clerical denunciation - if we read past the headlines asserting clerical moderation, we mostly find little, if any, denunciation.

James Reynolds

In any event I recommend Raymond's essay: it is thorough and much of his analysis of contemporary society is both true and important.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, June 29, 2002

In case you're wondering why this is being sent to you through yahoo, instead of my regular email service, it's because Microsoft recently decided to change the SMTP protocol so that you can no longer use any application other than Outlook to send mail through their portion of the internet. I just found out tonight that this is why none of the email I've tried to send since traveling to Tampa has made it out.

I've been paying about $25 a month for an msn dialup account to use when I'm traveling.

msn now blocks SMTP traffic that isn't directed to their own SMTP server, even if it's coming through an already authenticated dialup connection through msn.

They've changed the SMTP protocol so that only their email client is compatible.

SMTP is an internet standard.

Now read this article, and tell me why Microsoft is a good thing. 

Jamie Gregerson

I hadn't heard this. It does seem a bit drastic, as well as limiting. 

  Dr. Pournelle,

You might want to carefully read the new license accompanying the latest security patch. It seems to be an early attempt to enable DRM on your computer with or without your knowledge or actual consent BEFORE palladium or any other hardware implementation hits the street.

The license explicitly (but hidden in legalese) authorizes microsoft to install DRM software and disable ANY software it finds that bypasses their DRM measures. On my computers, this would theoretically allow them to disable Nero Burning ROM, my adaptec burning software, realplayer (an old version that doesn't check permissions very closely), and any number of other microsoft and non-microsoft products that allow me to make unlimited copies of any digital information I have.

This is unacceptable and far more disturbing than what an incompetent California court feels about god, yet it hasn't gotten beyond web news sites. I try not to be too excitable about this sort of thing, but I'll make an exception and say this - Beware, Microsoft is not your friend and does not have ANY of your interests in mind, let alone your best interests. Actively fighting back is the only way they will cease their attacks on fair-use. I hope that fighting back in this case is stronger than merely griping about it. I have already configured my firewall software to block all network traffic from the windows media player application... ET will NOT phone home from my computer.

Note that conspiracy theorists will claim that MS invented this security hole for the sole purpose of sneaking the new license past millions of users... Note also that microsoft is claiming the right to install DRM and disable software on the computers used by the military and other government functions. Hackers dream of being able to do what MS has done with a simple license change.

Sean Long

This looks to be unconscionable. I will have to ask Microsoft what they think this accomplishes. I doubt I will learn. Add Palladium and we are seeing changes in our world.

Mac and Linux look better all the time, simply in self defense.





This week:


read book now


Sunday, June 30, 2002

Dyslexia, Reading and Synthetic Phonics

Dear Dr Pournelle,

I thought you might be interested in this article in the Observer today,6903,746473,00.html  on dyslexia and the use of phonics in the teaching of reading in the UK.

Keep up the good work,

Alasdair Urquhart

Indeed. That is a well done and important article. Thanks!

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I read with interest the discussion on radical Islam in your mail of Friday June 28th. I also clicked on the link provided, , to read for myself what was professed there. Certainly an indictment of Islam for being so anti-all others and bellicose, as substantiated by the long list of citations from the Koran that were identified as warlike and exclusionary.

There's only one trouble: I took it a step further and checked the Koran. I have had one for about 20 years that I bought out of curiosity nurtured by a co-worker who was Muslim. It was a translation by a Saudi, A. Yusuf Ali. The verses cited do not contain what was described. I won't refute them individually; that exercise is left to the student. I will say that passionately-written demagoguery can be effective at the "big lie", particularly today when people are too pressed for time to verify sources. I almost bought it until I checked for myself.

As always, the best defense against poison is not to swallow it.


George Steele

The Koran is in theory untranslatable, but it's pretty hard not to see the injunction to convert the world to the peace of submission; in contrast to "Render unto Caesar those things which are Caesar's." And the practice of the Prophet and his immediate successors leaves little doubt that the command was to convert the world: and indeed it came close enough, with Spain and Persia falling, and Byzantium holding on by its fingernails.

Bahai is an Islamic heresy or splinter that became Universalist; it was and is ruthlessly persecuted, too. And I thought the discussion was about Eric Raymond. Of course if one is poisoned by reading things one doesn't agree with then there is little hope here.

Terry Cole did the exercises: results in next week's mail.


As Thomas Jefferson once said, "The proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. ME 2:301, Papers 2:546

An atheist who does not want to affirm the concept of a nation under God is being deprived of his freedom. It is worth noting that the original oath did not have a reference to God in it. The original coinage did not refer to God. Both these changes could be considered steps back for freedom.

The time in which the United States was designed as a secular state was one in which there had been ongoing wars between Christian countries and sects for many hundreds of years, supposedly in the name of God. I think theonion has this point summed up pretty well, .

As no one has actually ever scientifically proved there is a God, surely the reference to God should at least be optional.

In reference to my previous mail on the greenhouse affect, I had been partaking of my once weekly snifter of port, please forgive me. My objections to scientists being slandered for working on greenhouse research still stands. Greenhouse research might be worth billions, however, in the scope total of world spending, this is a drop in the ocean. Con artists and the unethical have much easier means of earning illicit income available to them than staging elaborate scientific hoaxes.


Uh -- sorry, but I hadn't heard that anyone has been jailed for not saying the dread words "Under God"; so I do not know who has been deprived of his freedom? You want to prevent others from saying what you don't choose to say. 

And the United States has NEVER been designated a "secular state." It was decided that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" which is not quite the same thing, given that 7 of the 13 original states had established churches when that was adopted. Jefferson caused Virginia to disestablish its church, but that isn't quite the same thing either. 

It is only recently that secular humanism became the privileged religion in the United States.

If what was happening regarding the Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming was good science as opposed to paying for junkets to conferences I'd cheer.

Dear Jerry,

Regarding Linux as a way to avoid Palladium:

If Palladium requires a chip on the motherboard, it is slightly possible that Linux won't even install on a computer with a Palladium equipped motherboard. As you say, more information is needed. But, to make it more hack proof, the Palladium chip would be between the PCI bus and the CPU bus. If it was logically parallel, it would be relatively easy to bypass.

All this could get very ugly. With Intel and AMD being pressured not to sell CPUs to motherboard manufacturers who make boards without Palladium. (Maybe even enforcement by bought law.(Oops, I mean expensive legal lobbying.))

Roland compares Palladium with the Clipper Chip. IMO this makes Clipper look like a good idea, relatively. (Side note - Clipper needed stopping, but was stopped for the wrong reasons. People were worried about the government having the keys. Without Clipper; anyone with a pair of aligator clips, including the government, can listen in. Which is worse?)

Name Withheld 
Retired USAF Secure Comm Maintainer 
Currently, a Telephone Switch Maint. Lead Tech.

Indeed. I am still looking for defenses of Palladium. So far none have been offered to me.


This is a free site but it is a copyrighted publication so if you think its worth passing along, a brief excerpt and link should be OK.


June 28 - July 4, 2002 A Very PhilDickian Existence Minority Report author Philip K. Dick found Orange County's truth stranger than science fiction

by Chris Ziegler

"The nature of things is in the habit of concealing itself"

-Heraclitus, as often quoted by Philip K. Dick

As a science-fiction writer, Philip K. Dick was-sometimes painfully-without peer. As a writer, period, Dick was as valuable and as uniquely American a part of the literary pantheon as Vonnegut or Chandler, an author whose genre machinations belied fierce technique and a brilliant, insatiable intellect. Even as a philosopher and latter-day theologian, Dick was a voice-sometimes an intensely disturbing voice.

But as a part of Orange County, a place he sometimes derided as "plastic-town, USA" but somehow never managed to escape, he was for all intents and purposes invisible. And 20 years after his death, he has yet to really reappear.

Certainly, Orange County is a long way from the Berkeley of the 1950s, where almost-native-son (he was born in Chicago in 1928 but moved to Berkeley in 1931) Dick brought home horse meat from the pet store for his second wife to cook while he struggled to sell short stories to the science-fiction pulp magazines. And the Bay Area was where he first fought and won his reputation.

But it was here in OC that he saw one of his masterpieces (Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said) published. It was here in OC that he wrote the landmark A Scanner Darkly, slated to be the next film; here in OC that he put together his capstone Valis trilogy (Valis, The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer). It was here in OC where Hollywood discovered him: 20 years before Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg turned one of his short stories into Minority Report, Dick was catching rides up the 5 freeway to watch his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? transform into the sci-fi classic Bladerunner.

And it was here in OC that Philip K. Dick had what he called his "2-3-74 experiences"-for February and March 1974, though they would crescendo and finally end in November 1980. That's when-as best as he could figure out-he talked with God. Yes, that God. Or maybe he just went crazy. Or maybe it was one of the infinite possibilities in between.

 < snip >

If you are at all interested in Phil Dick, this is the article to read. Tim Powers can tell Dick stories by the hour, and sometimes does. Many of them are in that article.

I met Dick about 3 times, when I was President of Science Fiction Writers of America.  I don't know any good stories I didn't hear from Powers.

From Harry Erwin

I just finished attending a one week course on computer security from the UK viewpoint. A couple of things that might be of interest to you: 1. They're worried (a lot) about .NET. It provides mechanisms for bypassing firewalls and directly accessing ports. 2. They like Apple's new MacOS X. It's BSD UNIX with most of the usual vulnerabilities, but that's not what attracts them. It's that MacOS X is locked down out of the box--people have to deliberately turn vulnerabilities on--and Apple is quick to release security fixes.

About the pledge controversy--many religious people aren't that comfortable with the 'under God' phrase. It suggests an established church or religion. In Western Europe, most of the established churches lack broad moral authority due to their status. They've been coopted. People here remember what happened during the first half of the twentieth century.

On the other hand in America, the churches are not established, have not been coopted, and can take positions on ethical, moral, or religious grounds in opposition to the secular authority. With this support, people will stand their ground to the point sometimes of becoming prisoners of conscience. I think that's part of what makes us Americans, and giving that up in return for a phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance looks like a very bad bargain.

 -- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. < >

You confuse issues. I wouldn't vote to put the "under God" phrase into the Pledge, and I can argue that Congress hasn't the power -- but if it isn't anything enforceable it's not a case or controversy and thus not for the courts to meddle with. I am far more afraid of the Courts than Congress just now. It hasn't always been that way. But the Courts have mucked up education, taken over school districts, rewritten state constitutions to ensure mass democracy rather than a balancing of geographical interests, imposed rules of evidence on the state without even a claim to constitutional authority to do that, and mucked other stuff up as if they were a super legislature.

Courts are not legislatures and putting a robe on a lawyer doesn't make him less a lawyer.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

How is it that someone can call themselves a "Middle Eastern analyst", yet now know/understand the basic mode of thinking of the people they are analyzing? Isn't "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" an old Arabian proverb, widely subscribed?

The part at the end it particularly disturbing, it points to an "intelligence establishment" utterly and deliberately out of touch with reality -- a most dangerous state of affairs.

But then our "allies" aren't much help either:

This from a government which has disarmed the population and virtually outlawed self-defense (actively prosecuting those who have the bad manners to do so), with the predictable consequence that violent crime is raging out of control.

Maybe Blair's ministers and staff can join the Kumbaya circle with Richard Gere.

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







Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)