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Mail 214 July 15 - 21, 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).

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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  July 15, 2002

There was a lot of mail over the weekend. See last week's mail...

From Sue Ferrara

From: dyn/articles/A6499-2002Jul15.html

"Never once did he say anything against the United States," said his father, Frank Lindh. "I think any father who knows John would be proud to claim him as a son. He's a really good kid."

Now- if a young man who goes and joins the ugliest religious group in the world still meets the definition of "a really good kid," what threshold must one cross to be a "really bad kid?"

Why can't adults like Frank Lindh and his ex-wife stand up and say: Wow, we really screwed up by not giving our kid limits. We never gave our kids a clear indication of right and wrong. We epitomize the hippie-generation parenting failures.

I can feel no pain for these people. They are all in heavy denial about consequences. In one story, Frank Lindh reportedly said:


. . . he told his son after he was brought back to the United States that South African leader "Nelson Mandela served 26 years and I told him to be prepared for something like that."


As if there is some comparison between Mandela and the Taliban?


Given some of the ANC's activities after the old government fell, including Winnie Mandela's actions, the comparison is not entirely wrong; but it's not flattering to Mandela. I suspect 20 years is a bit much for this goofy kid: either they should hang him or jail him for the duration of the war. Either he levied war against the US or -- what illegal activity did he commit? Does this mean that it is worth 20 year if you go join the French Foreign Legion and end up fighting in Chad? Or what? I need to read what he actually plead guilty to.

> -----Original Message----- > From: Jerry Pournelle []

<me> In addition, the smallpox vaccine fatality rate is apparently NOT zero, so we may actually be doing more harm than good by vaccinating people who have not been exposed!</me>

> > Case mortality rates are meaningless without data on the overall rate

This is, of course, absolutely true, so I did some more digging. The fatality rate is pretty low:

"...Fatal complications caused by vaccinia vaccination are rare, with approximately 1 death/million primary vaccinations and 0.25 deaths/million revaccinations (54). Death is most often the result of postvaccinial encephalitis or progressive vaccinia." (  )

Various complication rates from the 1968 study are listed here: 

Have a great day!


Precisely. If you do get complications the case mortality rates are disturbingly high -- but your chances of getting the complications are low. Something that whoever wrote the original article either didn't realize, or did know and mendaciously concealed.

Dr. Pournelle, In Michael Swaine's "Swaine's Flames" column from the latest Dr. Dobb's Journal you are described as follows: "He was dressed in khaki and had a square jaw and square glasses. He looked like Hemingway on safari." 

Kit Case


You've Made It!

Michael Swaine (editor-at-large of Dr Dobb's Journal, a programmer's magazine that has been around a long time - I am sure you're familiar with it), writes a "humorous" last page column in each issue, called Swaine's Flames, where he usually appears as a part-time bartender at "Foo Bar." Well known personalities sometimes make guest appearances there. This month's issue (August) has you occupying a dimly lit booth where you are preparing to communicate with Larry Niven via wireless laptop. Apparently Michael is a Byte reader, as he lists the contents of your briefcase, as quoted from a recent column. If you are interested, a link to the column is at

Bill Mackintosh

The editor in chief of Dobbs is also the editor of BYTE.COM... 

I wore bush jackets long before it was fashionable dress in journalism -- in fact I have been credited with starting that trend since I wore them to the JPL planetary encounters, military aerospace rollouts, Aerospace Writers Association meetings, etc. -- but I have never had square glasses. As to my chin, I prefer "strong" to "square"...

Hi Jerry,

I am sending these without further comment.

US planning to recruit one in 24 Americans as citizen spies 

USA Freedom Corps-Citizen Corps 

- Paul

Thanks. Not much comment needed

And LAX was evacuated over tubs of jam... 

. to which we can only say, why not? Also see below.






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This day was devoured by locusts. But I did get a new chapter of Burning Tower done, and get to the Hollywood Bowl in the evening.








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Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Today we are in Short Shrift Mode: 

"Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage responded to the recommendation by writing to the Justice Department that "[believing that] an applicant may pose a threat to national security... is insufficient [grounds] for a consular officer to deny a visa." No, this letter wasn't written before last year's tragedy; it was written on June 10, 2002, one day shy of the nine-month anniversary of 9/11. "

Which nation is this person working for? It apparently isn't the US.

Eric Pobirs


From: Stephen M. St. Onge

subject: news

Dear Jerry:

Ihave mixed feelings about this:

BBC News Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK Hackers could face life in jail:

Malicious computer hackers could soon face life in prison for some computer crimes. The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that inflicts harsh penalties for computer crimes that harm people or endanger America's critical infrastructure.

The same law rewrites the rules on surveillance and lets US police forces and law enforcers install wiretaps if there is an ongoing attack deemed to threaten national security.


It lets police forces and federal investigators install wiretaps without prior approval of a court if the attack is thought to be a threat to national security or is "ongoing".

The bill also obliges net service providers to tip off the police if they notice any suspicious activity on their network. 

But maybe not to worry:

Monday, 15 July, 2002, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK

Hackers target web censorship Well-intentioned hackers are creating tools to help people circumvent web browsing controls in countries where the net is censored. The group of technology experts have produced two programs that help people swap messages that would otherwise be banned or to set up their own networks that help them keep in touch.


The first program, which was unveiled at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference in New York at the weekend, is called Camera/Shy and allows people to hide messages inside images.

The program, which is used via a familiar web browser, allows people to insert encrypted messages into pictures created with the well-known gif format.


The second program prepared by the group could have potentially wider-reaching effects.

The Six/Four protocol works like the popular peer-to-peer systems that let members share music and movies with others using the software.

The software allows users to create their own virtual network on the internet that should be invisible to anyone but its own members.

The virtual network should also be invisible to the firewalls and filtering systems that many regimes use to block access to parts of the web they consider unsavoury.

The software is called Six/Four after the date of 4 June, 1989, when Chinese authorities cracked down on democracy protests being held in Tiananmen Square.

The company we love to hate is at it again:

New Windows XP focuses on play

Microsoft is moving closer towards turning the home computer into a jukebox for video, music and pictures with the release of a new version of its Windows XP operating system. Computers with Windows XP Media Center will come with a remote control, as well as the more traditional mouse and keyboard.

The software will not be available as a separate operating system. Instead, it will be packaged together with personal computers specially designed to deliver its key media features.


As well as playing CDs or DVDs, you will be able to watch TV and record shows on to the computer's hard drive. [No word on whether the DRM license from Hell will be included]

Apparently, some stupidities are contagious, and furriners are catching them from us:

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt--or in Los Angeles. As the FBI tries to puzzle out what might possibly have motivated an Egyptian man to go on an Independence Day shooting spree at L.A.'s El Al counter, cops all over the world are grappling with similar mysteries. "A car exploded about 200 yards from a synagogue in downtown Helsinki early on Tuesday, killing the driver, injuring a passerby and blowing out windows," Reuters reports. Detective Chief Inspector Olli Toyras tells the Associated Press: "We are treating this as an isolated incident. We don't believe there are any terrorism or political links."

In Canada, David Rosenzweig, a Hasidic Jew, was stabbed to death Sunday, the Toronto Star reports:

Witnesses heard one of the attackers yelling, "He's a rabbi," before he pulled out a 30-centimetre [12-inch] knife and thrust it into Rosenzweig's lower back. The bearded victim was wearing a traditional Jewish kippa [yarmulke] and a suit.

The Jerusalem Post quotes Staff Inspector Bob Clarke of the Toronto police: "The evidence and research that we've done does not support this as being a hate-related crime." , citing

Those who give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Thus said Franklin, and it is well to remember.



Jerry :

IIt seems Microsoft will have yet another mondo giganto download Service Pack for Windows 2000. An article today notes :

"The update, Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, contains vital security updates and hundreds of fixes to bugs plaguing the operating system that Microsoft released in February 2000. Service Pack 3 could be important for many businesses, as not all of the included security fixes are available as separate downloads.

But some businesses won't find this to be a light download, which weighs in for some installations at more than 150MB, according to the update's "Read Me" file. "

The date for release is not yet set.

One wonders how the poor slobs with dial-ups will fare in this "distribution". I don't even want to speculate as to to how long this would be even at a max of ~53 kbps, assuming the link is stable and the ISP doesn't have download bandwidth limitations. Sheesh. Even with DSL, this is a non-trivial download for most folks.

The article also notes :

"At the same time, many companies continue to move older Windows 95, 98 or NT systems to version 2000, even though Microsoft released successor XP in October. Gartner predicts that Windows 2000 PCs will easily outsell those with XP this year, respectively, 41 percent to 16 percent of new system sales.

For this reason, Gartner predicts Windows 2000 will be widely used much longer than Microsoft anticipates."

The article can be seen at : 

Like you, I've found that Win2K is "good enough", or to paraphrase another SF and computer writer, "It sucks less than the last version of Windows". I've had no incentive to move to XP so far, and have dutifully downloaded the updates and service packs (after a discrete interval following initial release to make sure they don't poison the computer). Even so, it's a bear to make sure that one has all the correct materials available if a computer crashes and has to be reloaded. I'm up to about an extra 15 - 20 CD-ROMs of downloaded drivers, software "updates", "patches", and "service packs" (all quotation marks intended very much for sarcasm) connected with the OS and software on any computer. And I've concatenated a fair part of the materials onto common disks (e.g., all of the MS Office materials have been combined).

The average Jane or Joe who isn't keeping their ear to the ground to hear the approaching stampede of downloads doesn't stand a chance, even if they do have broadband. What this implies for all of us with respect to security on small business and personal computers is very much worth thinking about. Essential materials to limit the spread of trojans, viruses, and worms are essentially out of reach for the largest vector for transmittal. Many individuals don't download virus checking updates at a megabyte or three regularly. What do we expect with service packs of 101MB (Win2K Service Pack 2) or the proposed 150MB for Win2k Service Pack 3?

Granted, if a person has been diligently downloading every security patch, update, and change with their OS for the last 14 months (Service Pack 2 hit the streets in May 2001), the overall download for Service Pack 3 will be smaller. But how many people are that diligent?

We need to start thinking about this issue, and developing some straightforward solutions that don't assume everyone has broadband. Some of the British computer magazines (e.g., PCPlus and PCPro) have attached CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs with these sorts of updates, but these lag by months, are not widely distributed, and have a significant cost ($10 - $15). Perhaps public libraries should have CD-ROMs available for load with the Service Packs available. Maybe we could persuade an outfit like Blockbuster to make them available at a nominal rental cost ($1 a shot would be pretty cheap all things considered). The same thing could be applied to almost any software patch or driver update. Since only service packs, patches, and drivers would be distributed, this would get around the problem(s) of illegal distribution of software.

We do need a better solution.

Best regards,

John P.

I have always predicted a long life for Windows 2000. Thanks. One does wonder what surprises may be in the SP-3? New Agreements? What?


Driving home last night I turned on the radio and heard a serious discussion of a dispute over copyright between Mike Batt and the owners of the copyright of works by John Cage. The work in question is Cage's "Four Minutes Thirty Two Seconds" which consists of 4:32 of silence. Mike Batt has created a track on his latest CD called "A One Minute Silence" and the copyright owners are claiming breach of copyright. It seems to be a serious discussions. However judge for yourself as you can find the original broadcast on:- 

and click on the "Listen to the discussion" link.

I'm not sure how long it will be up for (probably until at least 19:00 GMT).

It's either a prime example of "Arts" people taking themselves far too seriously or lawyering gone mad!

Either way keep up the good work.

Ian Crowe

Mad indeed!


I have been reading you for a long time, enjoying and learning from Chaos Manor. I remember years ago at Shell Research reading the paper-version BYTE Magazine from cover to cover each month, always starting, under the motto 'Life is short, eat dessert first,' with your articles, which not only taught me a lot but were also entertaining.

When I read your 'Short and Sweet' article online yesterday, I acted on and mentally thanked you for telling me about AdAware. This was a tip that I could use personally, as was the time you recommended InfoSelect for Windows and I bought it, I see in my notes, for 351 guilders in 1993!

So, although I have shifted careers from IT consultant to being a fulltime poet, this seemed like a good time to thank you more than just mentally for all the good articles. Thank you, and I continue to look forward to your new articles.

Best regards,

Alan Reynolds, Monnickendam, The Netherlands poems: "poems by alan reynolds" website at 

paintings: "cath's art" website at 



Regarding item in Monday's mail:

And LAX was evacuated over tubs of jam...  

After the fact, this seems ridiculous. But, consider it from the "it's happening right now" perspective: you are a security screener, and you see a suitcase xray with an image of several tubes of something, all packed up in neat rows (probably at least two rows of two tubes). And perhaps there are other images in there that look like small wiring.

Would you be concerned? Should you be concerned?

I heard once of a way to analyze an argument: look at it from both sides. In this case, look at it from the perspective of it someone looking for dangerous/explosive devices. Is the xray image I (as a screener) am seeing possibly a threat? How do I respond to that threat? Do I just open the suitcase and look, or do I take precautions? How paranoid should I (a screener) be?

While I agree that many actions of the screeners seem laughable, this one is only laughable after the actual inspection.

BTW, I do not work as a screener or any security-related occupation, other than being a 'network dweeb'.

Thanks......I continue to enjoy your columns and daily postings.

Rick Hellewell 

Well, perhaps; but there are far too many of these imbecilities. More next week.


He's right on some of it, way wrong and big on calling everyone a "leftist". A clip:

Your home is violated by a stranger late at night while youre sleeping. The stranger, in a particularly odd gesture of twisted humor, decides to glue your toilet seat down, dump all of your milk out onto the kitchen floor and leave a note taped to your TV about how you deserved it due to your lack of a deadbolt lock used in tandem with the doorknob lock on your back door. The strangers note contains a condescending post script that tells you that hed be more than happy to show you how to secure your house from future attacks like his for a modest fee and that hes been in your house several times before just looking around for the best places to leave this note.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center and a slew of other so-called privacy or cyber liberties tax-exempt, non-profit, professional protest organizations in America made up of Constitutional law experts, the stranger in your home is just patriotically exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech and you really should have bought a deadbolt lock for your back door. The police should have stopped the stranger? Do you want the police watching your house 24/7? Do you really that level of privacy invasion? Are you suggesting that you want Americans to live in a police state?


Is this really the EFF policy? I would not have thought so. In which case, why are these kinds of things circulating? And see below.

FYI -- News Item: "You can find real silverware on El Al" 

.... Perhaps El Al gives their passengers real knives and forks instead of the politically correct plastic version used on American carriers because the airline is confident it has not boarded any undesirables who would use the knives as weapons. What makes El Al managers so self-assured? El Al profiles its passengers.

El Al would not pat down Al Gore or demand to x-ray the shoes of former Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel as has occurred on our domestic airlines. El Al uses its limited security resources on individuals who profile as possible threats to the airline. El Al profiles by race, national origin, age, gender, religion and even politics. A young Arab man with a beard and the Koran in his hand is going to get far more attention from the airline's security services than is the 70-year-old wife of a rabbi. .... Americans need to face the cold hard fact that there are indeed those who not only want to destroy our way of life, but to take our lives as well. The only way to keep our airlines safe from terrorism is to identify those who share common traits with terrorists. Plastic knives are not the solution.

About those plastic knives: If a plastic knife can cut an airline steak, it can cut your throat.

--------- ..................Karl Lembke

It's also true that in future it won't be so easy to get control of an airplane and fly it into a building. "Let's roll."


 Dr. Pournelle:

This article refers to several Pittsburgh foundations withholding grants to the Pittsburgh public schools because the School Board refuses to act to correct serious financial problems.

The withholding of grants to the Pittsburgh schools, because of the School Board's refusal to act responsibly, is the charitable face of Capitalism at its finest. It is easy to give money away, but it takes guts to take a stand when you know it will make some people mad and you will be called names.

More foundations should take an active interest in the use of their money, and take appropriate action when it is being misused. This will often bring about loud and unfair accusations against the foundations, especially when the opposed party is designated "previously disadvantaged ;" but these actions are needed to prevent disasters like virtually every urban school system has become.

Jim Becknell Annapolis MD

Indeed. Thanks.





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Thursday, July 18, 2002

In response to an earlier e-mail that linked to a article criticizing the EFF, all I can say is that the author of the article is simply setting up a straw man. I have never seen the EFF argue such a thing in anything that I've read. 

The real problem with such diverse issues as gun control, cyber vandalism and “digital rights” enforcement isn’t so much that most people agree that there should be limits, but rather the fear that there are ulterior motives involved. For example, in gun control, most people would agree that a law restricting people from firing guns in crowd meets legitimate safety concerns; however, some fear that gun opponents would use any restriction to remove all guns. In the digital rights area, most would agree that pirating music should be unlawful, however you should be able to make copies of a song that you purchased in order to use it on your media of choice (cd, computer, walkman). Those who oppose government mandated security measures (I would point out that any company is currently free to implement any security measure on their own, such as Sony has with copy protection on some of their music cds), fear that the eventual goal of such measures is to force you to buy the same song for each device you want to play it on (cd, computer or walkman) or perhaps even force you to pay each time you play the song (an idea which has been floated about from time to time).

 If we were all reasonable people, acting in good faith, much of the debate would go away. But alas that doesn’t appear to be the case.



A long digression on the Microsoft story. This probably ought to end up in a report; it's long and of interest only to those who follow these matters. In particular the link leads to a web page of a long exchange I didn't think interesting enough to post here. To skip all this click here.

. It began with a long letter whose header I put here:

I recently discovered the "I Hate Microsoft" website and just finished reading the posted email dialog between the two of you, and it occurred to me that I might have some personal information which could shed additional light on the subject of the missing 3rd-party Windows applications. As follows:

I asked:

What exchange and why am I getting this? I mean I am willing to publish it with comments but was it meant for me? And got this response:

I apologize. This is the page to which I refer: 

I had just found that page this week, and the exchange presented there motivated me to contribute some personal history. I was responding to one of the issues discussed there between you and one Frank van Wensveen. According to the email header information as presented on that page, that dialog occurred during January of this year.

Eric Hainline Santa Ana, CA.

I went over and looked at that page. It's a very long exchange which was boring to me (probably why it never got printed here, or if it did I don't remember it) and while it got some details on the record, nothing came of it. My point there was the Microsoft merely exploited careless and even egregious mistakes made by its major competitors, particularly IBM and WordPerfect but also others.

 The bottom line is that until far too late, IBM saw PC's as "Entry Systems" and based their strategy on that assumption. Gates from the first saw desktops as the coming dominant product in the computer world, and that they were not merely "entry systems" for people who would move on to mini-computers and mainframes. That was rather prescient of Gates: most people didn't realize that (I did, he preened: I titled my column in Popular Computing "The Computer Revolution" and the thrust of my columns in OS/ Professional were an attempt to wake IBM up to make OS/2 a real competitor to Windows). 

Mr. Hainline adds a data point that might be significant. His  letter follows:

 A more storied phase of my technology career involved my employment with Wang Laboratories during the time when they still held out some hope of remaining a major player in the computer industry. Details of the following incident remain cloudy only because, at the time, it did not seem like it was going to be so epochal to the future of the industry.

It was either in the Fall/Winter of 1988 or 1989, when I found myself rising to the level of "Senior" Marketing Support Analyst. This was a rather dubious distinction because all of the more intelligent and qualified Support Analysts had, by definition, been smart enough to see the future of Wang Labs and jump ship. So, via attrition more than anything, I found myself near the top of the heap of technical marketing specialists in Southern California. This responsibility meant that I sat in during many high-level briefings with various Home Office Product Managers, etc.

One such visit involved a last-minute, unannounced, review of Wang's Personal Computer initiatives delivered by their senior-most manager of all desktop software/hardware programs. Again, I apologize that I cannot recall his name. I did not realize just how important his visit would turn out to reflect on the entire industry just a little while later, and I have long since tossed out all of the business cards of my contacts within what used to be Wang. I am sure that, with enough effort, some record of his attendance exists somewhere within the historical records of Microsoft or IBM and he could be identified. Anyway, he had been sent as Wang's emissary to a private, executive-level, conference that had been held in San Diego, CA. After this conference, his return route involved driving up to Los Angeles in order to board a more convenient direct flight back to Boston, MA. In the extra time he had available, he stopped by our Western Area offices which were located just north of the airport. Several of us were quickly assembled together in our Executive Briefing Center, which I then managed.

During this briefing this Product Manager gleefully recounted how Wang had finally caught a break and all of the PC-related products released or being developed were falling into the right marketplace. Wang had begun a lot of work to drive their industry-leading imaging systems onto personal computers. Scanners, storage systems, indexing and retrieval software, and networking were all being migrated to MS Windows 2.0. As a Microsoft Partner, Wang was aware of Windows 3.0 under development, and had ignored OS/2. This decision, to me at the time, was clearly the result of the central anti-IBM bias that permeated all of Wang culture. It made sense. I personally didn't know about any new Windows as most of my responsibilities had historically involved the mini-computer lines. I only knew that it was better to develop to that old, ugly, Windows interface than to the "green-screen" stuff within Wang or anything that IBM would be doing now or in the future. So this decision to develop for Windows was as much cultural as it may have been strategic. It had nothing to do with any particular brilliance within Wang and, considering where Wang ended up, clearly there was none of that brilliance to be had in Lowell at that time, anyway.

The major message that I took out of that briefing was a very specific description of an exchange between Bill Gates and the chief executives of Lotus, WordPerfect, IBM and several unnamed others. To wit, it was during this conference that Microsoft had discussed that they were committed to dropping their future development efforts for OS/2 and throwing their full weight behind the next version of Microsoft Windows. I don't know how many weeks or months these other companies had already known about the Microsoft Windows 3.0 project, but this meeting represented the first and only time that all the major players would gather together into one forum and discuss the decision by Microsoft, with Microsoft. The reason that this Product Manager was so cheerful (he actually was laughing) was that these other corporations, which were major enterprises with huge customer bases and large applications, had just spent their whole R&D wads on re-writing their applications so that the next generation of product was to be ready for OS/2 when OS/2 2.0 was launched. It was perfectly reasonable to line up the major application vendors so that customers would have a fairly broad selection of available applications when the OS was released, and IBM and Microsoft had accomplished that engagement with the lion's share of commercial application vendors. The result, however, was that by Microsoft switching target OS platforms at such a late date, these other vendors had been left already committing huge amounts of money, time and resources developing applications for the abandoned OS and those assets could not be recovered. Since software development was a major part of the lifeblood of Wang, we all understood just how fatal such a miscue could be.

Now it did not take a Rocket Scientist (even I could figure this one out) to realize that if anyone wanted to sell application software, IBM was no longer the gatekeeper. Microsoft was. You could run anybody's application software on anybody's clone hardware, as long as that clone hardware ran the standard MS-DOS OS. And this OS was coming bundled on nearly every clone manufacturer selling in the U.S. So, if you needed to make money selling application software for personal computers you actually followed Microsoft, not IBM. But appearances are everything. Before that point in time, it was generally believed that, despite natural disputes that occasionally arise between companies, Microsoft was in IBM's pocket. If you wanted to keep playing in the PC world, you followed IBM although following IBM meant following IBM/Microsoft. At that time, following IBM/Microsoft meant that you had better have your next-generation product ready for OS/2 2.0, else you might lose market share to whichever competitor was already prepared to launch product in your application space on the new OS/2 when it hit the streets. By long-standing tradition, it was thought, once IBM/Microsoft released OS/2 2.0 vast numbers of stodgy corporations would begin the stampede to the new environment, enriching PC makers and software vendors all over again. And so all the major vendors in all the important application spaces made important strategic commitments to developing stronger OS/2 versions of their apps. For many of them, it turns out, they were betting their companies.

For these vendors, once they realized that Microsoft was going to be first to market with something that was NOT IBM, and that the Microsoft licensing agreements meant that the Microsoft product was going to be arriving on every personal computer not stamped IBM, they became furious. Even if they were wealthy enough to fund two parallel development efforts to upgrade their DOS products, there was not enough time to do the Windows version. They had no product in the pipeline. Wang, through nothing more prescient than dumb luck, did have product in the pipeline (at least in the imaging market). Not being savvy enough to ramp up OS/2 initiatives, and not being healthy enough to create a whole new division specific to OS/2 development, they had stuck with what they could afford to do and knew how to do. That is, continue to develop for good ol' Windows. By the comments of this executive, I would gather that Wang was a decided minority in this executive conference. He left us with the general impression that the Lotus' and the WordPerfects of the computer industry were very vocal with their feelings of betrayal and the extremely disadvantageous position they had found themselves in. It was told to us that the consensus had been that Microsoft had abandoned their role as a non-partisan "enabler" and had exploited its position to become a competitor. They had changed not just the rules, but the game itself.

This whole episode came back to roost for me when, in May of 1990, Microsoft released Windows 3.0 and the only vendor with leading commercial application software in the front-office suite of products was, ta da, Microsoft. I had recently left Wang Labs to begin my career with my current employer, and we had embarked on a very aggressive program to deploy a large-scale PC-based network for our law firm (believe it or not, displacing a network of Wang mini-computers!) Our analysis of the marketplace and comparative testing of the various alternatives resulted in a package of applications that forced us to standardize on Microsoft products. Considered heresy among law firms, we were walking away from such names as Novell and WordPerfect (two companies which owned the legal vertical) and, essentially, placing all our bets on the strength of Microsoft's position in the industry. Yes, I must confess that we were a somewhat integral part of the initial impetus that became the momentum which resulted in the current Microsoft hegemony. However, I still stand by those decisions that we made in 1990. Our core team of only 3 I.T. specialists had built a nationwide PC-based network of approximately 2000 nodes running almost exclusively Microsoft products (and about 99% of everything Microsoft sold) and we had it fully deployed in only 18 months, start to finish, including the pilot user program. When complete, we were informed by Microsoft that we had (for a very brief time until PG&E soon overwhelmed us) the largest pure client-server network based on the Intel processor anywhere in the world. And we are still building on that original foundation 12 years later. Therefore, one can only conclude, our project was successful by every measure.

All of that bravado aside, the simple truth is that the technology alternatives were simply not ready for us in the summer of 1990. We went to the other companies. We spent time in Utah and Massachusetts and Silicon Valley and Washington State. We did a lot of work trying to figure out how to make things work with alternatives, some available and some not. But the majority of alternatives were not ready. By the time they would be ready, it would be too late. And that is when it all added up for me. The reason that Microsoft was ready and the competition was not had its earliest echos back in that San Diego conference. By the time the other companies would be ready, they would be irrelevant. I still remember a private briefing that was held for our firm by WordPerfect, anxious to claim one of the larger law firms before we signed purchase agreements with Microsoft. I think that it was at an early Windows Conference, held in Boston shortly after the release of 3.0. In that briefing, we were shown the DOS product and told how eager WordPerfect was to provide consulting support to make it work in our Windows world, if necessary. Then we were shown the OS/2 2.0 version and were regaled in all of the power of that product, promising us untold productivity riches if we might only change our minds away from Windows. Finally, we were introduced to the Windows 3.0 Version Product Management team. The fact that they even existed was subject to an Non-Disclosure Agreement. (Just kidding. Almost.) Anyway, they were a rather anti-septic duo of suits that had nothing to show us beyond the podium they leaned against, asking us why it was so imperative that we make our decision so soon. At that point, I understood exactly what WordPerfect had so desperately feared not too very long ago in San Diego, and why.

Eric Hainline Santa Ana, CA.

I have looked the original "dialogue" over on that other web site and it is interminably boring, which is why it never got printed here in the first place. 

 Your story is interesting. Thanks. 

(After some brief interchange, Mr. Hainline added:

Thank you. I find that the I Hate Microsoft crowd uses such incidents as evidence of anti-competitive behavior. Me, I see an important business lesson learned. If Microsoft ever came to me and asked me to port my software to their platform, I would simply ask that Microsoft sign an agreement promising that this platform would be the number one product that they would market and support for the next 5 years. That's what being a "partner" is all about. Failure to do that on my part does not constitute criminal behavior on the part of Microsoft.

Eric Hainline

Which makes the point nicely. Thank you again.


Note that Roland isn't having any of Palladium...

Subject: The EETimes article does indeed 

shed some light on the technical details of Palladium.

My response: So what?

I don't care -how- it works. The point is that -Microsoft- control it; that they've demonstrated over and over again with their EULAs, FUD concerning Open Source, etc. that they are control-freak liars who cannot be trusted; and that they will use their market-distorting power to make the average moronic IT manager feel that it's 'unwise' to run non-Palladium-enabled - i.e., Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, etc. - OSes.

I know you don't want to believe the worst of Microsoft, but the EULA for the Windows Media Player update stating that they reserve to right to delete things on your box without your permission ought to've given the game away. Whatever they once were, and whatever good they've accomplished in the past, they're now a completely domineering, power-obsessed monopoly with the sole and sheer intention of crushing any perceived competitors at any cost.

And turning out insecure, rootable, backdoored software whilst they're about it.

If Bill Gates told me it was daytime, I'd look out the window (pardon the pun) before I'd believe him.

-Roland Dobbins 

Well, if they're that bad they won't last. This is a very volatile business.

To: Jerry Pournelle, BYTE


A number of your correspondents have expressed concern about Microsoft's Palladium initiative. The way to cope with Palladium is to stabilize the PC architecture. Gwynne Dyer once observed that the principle of Russian weapons design was "make it simple, make it cheap-- and make a lot of it!" I think we should apply the same principle to the PC. Practically speaking, cluster computers, such as Beowulf are the most promising avenue for performance improvement. They have the further advantage that once you get into the cluster range, change consists merely in having more nodes. In the long run, it is not a good idea to have the CPU and the graphics adapter and the memory on separate chips, because memory accesses are constrained by the speed of light. All else failing, Intel and AMD are soon going to have to start buying bare (unpackaged) RAM chips, and soldering them more or less directly to the processor to get the interconnect time down. Likewise, specialized graphics chips, and the proliferation of new CPU instructions are not a good idea in the long run. The hardware designer can never foresee all the possible needs of software, and in the last analysis, it is better to provide the means of running massively multithreaded and recursive software. This is of course the approach which was adopted prematurely by the old Inmos Transputers. However, they were attempting it with only about 4K per chip, back in the 1980's The newest SDRAM modules are presently running at 512 Megs, and can be expected to reach 4 Gigs within a couple of years. The manufacturers of radical new graphics chips will always be giving Microsoft special information. That's unavoidable. What we should be trying to promote is the kind of manufacturer who shrinks a conventional CPU and a conventional graphics chip and a conventional chipset into a single chip, and surface-mounts this chip on a small motherboard with a minimum number of slots. In due course, the memory would be added to the chip. Intel and AMD are not going to do this-- they have their own agendas, mostly fixated around trying to regain a hardware monopoly. However, there are other manufacturers, and one of them will be hungry enough to act, as a series of separate markets will get folded into one market, with correspondingly brutal competition. Now here's the second part: so far, open source has mostly expanded upwards, from the kernel to the windowing environment to the applications and the internet software. However, open-source can also expand downwards. Some people are starting to promote "open hardware," meaning chips derived from open-source CAD/CAM files. By the standards of operating systems, processors are really not all that complicated. Most of their transistors are in vast rectangular memory grids of one kind or another. Suppose that a struggling "me-too" intel-clone chipmaker were to declare its processor open-source, publishing not only the programming manuals, but also the CAD/CAM files, etching masks, etc. Naturally, this chipmaker would be entitled to preferential support from the open-souce movement. Other manufacturers would use the design without payment or or accounting, as would be their right. This kind of program would make it very difficult for Microsoft to influence hardware design. At a certain point, multiple motherboards can go in a common case to make what some of my Linux-ling friends are starting to call "Beowulf-in-a-Box."

I should probably add a word about Intel's Simultaneous Multi-Threading (SMT). SMT is probably a limited strategy, because at a certain point, you get into bus contention. With clever cache design, it might be possible to get SMT up to 16 processors on a chip, but this is still not a long-term solution. However, SMT is multi-threading, and is therefore not in very violent conflict with Beowulf. Most of the kinds of software rewrites that do for one also do for the other.

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

The above had paragraphs as sent but it was in a format that didn't preserve them. Sometimes I can by hand go in and insert paragraphs, but I don't have time this morning. General advice: ALWAYS DOUBLE SPACE BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS.

But it is an interesting letter demonstrating the volatile nature of this industry.

As Monty points out:

Subj: Andy Grove on Stigmatizing Business 

Don't know how volatile that link is.

I like the parallel Grove draws, between the 1980s manufacturing-quality troubles and the current accounting-quality troubles. There was no quick fix for the one; why should we expect there to be a quick fix for the other?

Eventually, however, we and other manufacturers realized that if the products were of inherently poor quality, no amount of inspection would turn them into high-quality goods. After much struggle -- hand-wringing, finger-pointing, rationalizing and attempts at damage control -- we finally concluded that the entire system of designing and manufacturing goods, as well as monitoring the production process, had to be changed. Quality could only be fixed by addressing the entire cycle, from design to shipment to the customer. This rebuilding from top to bottom led to the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing.

Not so sure about Grove's proposed "checks and balances" remedy, though. John Adams and his colleagues built separation of powers into the FedGov to make it _inefficient_ -- to keep the power-seekers busy fighting each other, rather than oppressing _us_. Is that the proper design pattern for a _business_?

Rod Montgomery ==

Indeed. The Federal Government was supposed to be one of limited powers, with most of the actual work of government being left to the states. Alas.

This with its predecessor on the Sects of Islam probably ought to go into a special report. It began when I suggested to an expert that I didn't understand the Shia/Sunni matter, and wondered at its analogies to Christian history, asking for a succinct summary. I got this reply which I print with permission:

Hmm. Succinct? When it comes to theology and theo-history???

1) The analogy between Protestant/Catholic and Shia/Sunni is misleading-that's the short answer....

The Shia sect started from the germ of the dispute over who could become a Caliph-was it elective (the Sunni position) or did it go through the descendents of Ali (the Son-in-Law of Muhammed). Ali is the central figure in this. He was a bad politico and was basically outmanouvered by Muhammed's old enemies from the Quayrish tribe, who eventually put up the military genius Muwayyiah. Muwayyiah is the founder of the Umayyad dynasty.

In early Christianity-it seems that theological differences later crystallize into politic factions (the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies that started with the Nature of Christ ended up reflecting political opposition to the Chalcedonian establishment in Constantinople and found their adherents in Egypt, Syria, Armenia and Persia). In Islam, it was somewhat the reverse.

The Shia existed as a substrate in the Islamic world for a century, and helped overthrow the Umayyad Caliphate and placed the Abbassids in their place. But the Abbassids also turned on the Shia and from that point on-our view of Islamic history starts to be viewed in sects. There were several groups. The Shia were always out of political power in the early ears.

By about the end of the 9th century the old order was collapsing. Though the Abbassids would continue as figure-heads, they became local monarchs (somewhat like the early Capetians in France). The monopoly of Sunni Islam over the political world was gone rather soon too. Turks were filtering into what was Persia, and began to throw up their own dynasties, who were stricly speaking Sultanates who owed a symbolic fealty to the Caliph. Some of these groups were Shia. The Buywayids for one-a semi-Turkish group of ex-slave solders who took power in western Persia and Iraq and became protectors of the Sunni Caliphs. But the Shia had splintered, and their original political raison detre had metastized into theological differences between the Sunni and each other.

In the early 9th century a theological dispute in the Sunni world between believers in the un-Created Koran (later the orthodox position) and the Created Koran (Mutazillites, generally of a neo- Hellenic rationalistic bent) ended with the "Closing of the Tradition" and an end to excessive philosophical speculation. Sunni thought was basically sketched out in close to its modern form, and the main legal schools also began to define themselves (there are four major ones in the Sunni tradition). The Shia were outside this loop so to speak-and preserved some rationalistic theological tendencies from the Mutazillites. Their Sharia law is also generally considered more liberal than most of the Sunni Schools. Their emphasis on reason also gives their ulema-their clerical class-more power to reinterpret their religion.

The Shia themselves were fracturing-more on a political than a theological level. Some believe that the twelfth Immam (leader of their community and successor to Ali) was the last (Twelvers or Ithna Asharis). The Ismailites had a dispute about the 7th Caliph. The Zaydis are another sect-who I hear are rather close to Sunnis in theology (mostly in Yemen today).

Around 1000 there were two major Shia powers. The Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt-who were rivals to the powerless Abassids spiritually and preeminent temporally, and the Assasins in northern Iraq. This popping up of Shia power periodically indicates that Shia always formed a sizable fraction of the population in many areas of the Islamic world, often coexisting with Sunni populations. This shows that the lines between the two can be rather blurry-and Shiism might have been a political protest rather than a theological statement.

The major political event in the later Shia history was the conversion of Persia. In the early 16th century an order of Turkish Shia (Ithna Ashari/Twelver) dervishes militarized and managed to conquer Persia. They were religious fanatics-and promptly forced the conversion of their Sunni subjects to Shiism. This is why southern Iraq (which was under their rule), Azeribaijan and Iran are Shia.

I believe this is the point where the true spite and animus develops. In India at the time, there were Shia and Sunni Sultanates (before Aurangzeb conquered them late in the 17th century) that coexisted relatively peacefully. But the constant wars between the Ottomans and Persia embittered both groups. The Anatolian Turks also had a group in their midst termed the Alevis-who are probably around 20% of the population, and have a distant affiliation to those original Shia that conquered Persia. The Alevis are vilified in traditional orthodox Sunni circles in Turkey (they say they practice orgies).

But-of the Sunni law schools-I believe only the Hanbali (who are restricted to Arabia and are the spiritual precedessors of Wahabbism/Salafism) would consider the Shia non-Muslim-and since Saudi Arabia does not allow the open practice of non-Islamic faiths, the presence of Shiism in eastern Saudi Arabia indicates their religious status even in Wahabbi eyes (compare this to some extremist evangelical Christians that deny that Catholicism is Christianity at all). In the United States, when a Muslim population is small enough, Shia and Sunni pray together without much difficulty. In Yemen, the difference is rather minor, and as John Walker Lindh found out to his dismay, the Shia and Sunni pray together there as well.

There is violence in Pakistan between the Shia and Sunni, but this is generally instigated by Sunni extremists (thank you Saudi Arabia!). In the 1980s and early 90s, with the spread of Sharia law, many wealthy Sunni families were apparently converting to Shiism so that they could avoid some of the more onerous parts of that legal code. This indicates that the moderate Sunni aversion to Shiism is rather mild-and again, affiliation is more tradition and political.

I would say that in general, the differences of substance between Sunni and Shia can not be compared to Protestant Catholic divisions. Perhaps a High Anglicanism and pre-infallibality Roman Catholicism comparison is more apt-to show the similarities and originally political differences that motivated the sectarianism

Razib K

And my thanks.






This week:


read book now


Friday, July 19, 2002

Hi Jerry,

I suspect that I'm a little late with this:

If you right click on the name of any of your pages in "Folder View" and choose "properties" you will be presented with a form that has three tabs: General Summary Workgroup

select the Workgroup tab and you'll find an option (at the bottom) to exclude this page when publishing the web. Now this might seem simple, but for a large web, there will be an awful lot of pages that you have to exclude, and you would have to remember to un-exclude them when you did want to publish them having made a change and then re-exclude them to prevent it happening again *yawn*.

You *can*, however, select a lot of pages and set this property for all of them, so saving a little time. I would recommend that you do this for whole directories as it's probably easier to manage then (certainly easier to undo).

If you use the navigation bars and then add a page to the structure through the navigation view, (which then changes the navigation bar on a page you've excluded,) the navigation bar on the excluded page does get updated live (whether it's in a shared border or in the body of the page), but the text changes that I'd made in the body don't.

Hope this helps and doesn't confuse/frustrate too much


That would be just what I need: If I could "publish" in increments rather than one 12 hour session. But alas, when I right click and do properties I see only "General", not the other two choices. Sigh.

On the Life and Death of Microsoft:

Dear Dr. Pournelle;

People vote with their pocketbooks and their feet. Microsoft is a success because it provides people with what they want. The dominance of Word is a case in point.

I began using WordPerfect when the 8088 processor was the hot new CPU and hard drives had all of 20 Mb. It ran under DOS and you could run it from a 5.25" disk. It made apps like WordStar and Samna look like the kludges they were. The company kept improving it and offering updates that provided real utility instead of bells and whistles.

Along came Windows and other companies saw the effectiveness of a GUI interface. WYSIWYG was on the horizon. WP, however, didn't jump on the Windows bandwagon for whatever reason. I suspect it had to do with the original company being acquired by Novell. Instead, WP came out with their own GUI version. It kind of acted like Windows, it kind of looked like Windows, and it was as buggy as Windows.

In the meantime Microsoft had Word. By then Microsoft was in the same class as IBM was in the minds of the people who authorized purchases: No one got fired for buying Microsoft stuff.

By the time WP was able to port its word processor over to Windows, they'd lost their momentum to Word. At that point, Word pretty much sucked, but it was fast becoming the only game in town. Freshouts that were joining my company knew Word, not WP because the colleges were buying PCs with what would become Microsoft Office Suite. MS got them young - as Apple had hoped to do - and the kids brought their preferences with them.

WP complained about Microsoft not sharing all of the "secrets" of Windows so that Micorsoft's own apps worked better than other developers', but that complaint, even if true, had the taste of sour grapes.

Corel bought WP at bargain basement prices as it declined and tried to compete in the "office suite" market, but it was too late. MS was the preferred supplier and WP joined Lotus and VisiCalc on the scrapheap.

I've still got the last good version of WP for windows on my PC at home because I have some older WP files I don't want to lose access to. It's still more elegant than Word and the "reveal codes" function still fixes problems in seconds that takes tens of minutes to remedy in Word. But I've picked up Word because it's the one people "voted" for.

When Microsoft stops providing people with what they want, it then will expire. It looks like Palladium may be that impetus.

-- Pete Nofel

Well put. 

The discussion continues:


I greatly admire MS technical teams, they do write good software - with lots of really good features. However the dodgy licence agreements and shenanigans of their legal and marketing people have put me off.

It was time to buy a new laptop, and as a Unix user I decided to give a Mac a try. I've never had a Mac before, but I'm now the proud new owner of an 800Mhz G4 Powerbook.

Wow - it's stylish, fast, beautiful and OsX is fabulous.

Early days, but my first impression is overwhelmingly positive.

I expect there are a lot of other people considering switching to a Mac now that it's Unix underneath.


Craig Arnold

I am looking into two new Macs with Microsoft Office; it will probably take a couple of weeks, but we will see. (It depends in part on subscriptions: I'll have to buy the darned things, Apple long ago gave up on me.) I have never thought UNIX could be made user friendly but perhaps they have achieved it. The question is what other applications exist or don't exist for Mac vs. Wintel.


With discussion in mail on Thursday about Microsoft history, it was an amusing coincidence I received the offer below the same day. The good folks at ZD and their partner ask for your credit card for a 2-week free trial and will bill you ONLY $399 for a year subscription unless you contact them during the 2 weeks to cancel.

Maybe the guy at IhateMicrosoft would like to subscribe....


I believe you mentioned Excel and other Office applications were written originally for Macintosh. Here is a tidbit of history I recall because I used it heavily at the time.

In 1983, I bought a Kaypro II after looking at a number of systems (remember Valdocs? [sp?] ) including original IBM PC which was too pricy, Apple II and Lisa. Back then, I recall a number of products on pretty equal footing. OOPS. Not only did I guess wrong platform, I thought about but didn't buy Microsoft stock. If I had bought and held back then, I would be a lot richer today. Instead, I had some shares of IBM which I bailed out of when it fell nearly 50% in one day back in the 80s. OOPS, again.

I used Microsoft Multiplan under cp/m. Label on package said it was for Apple II cp/m but it worked fine. I quickly discovered that the Kaypro and cp/m's 64K provided only enough ram for a 16K spreadsheet which was not enough for my purposes.

I ended up buying a card with an 8086 (If I recall correctly) which went into the z-80 CPU slot and the z-80 plugged into it. I thus had a dual boot machine that allowed the option to run MS-DOS 1.x in 256K ram and a DOS version of Multiplan which give me enough room to do what I needed. And faster since it had a zippy 4.77Mhz cpu compared to the 2.5Mhz z-80. With a pair of 180K floppies and no HD, I couldn't really create anything too big anyway.

The first Mac version of Excel I used in 1988 functioned just like Multiplan except for the GUI instead of simple ascii interface so I presume it was an evolution of Multiplan.

When Kaypro saw which way the wind was blowing and started selling PC clones instead of z-80 and its successors, one of the OS options I remember reading about was cp/m-86. As I recall, soon after that, the 80286 machines came out with MS-DOS and cp/m faded away.

Besides the OS/2 fiasco, seems to me IBM also lost the war by selling PS/2 machines while everybody else refused to pay the fee to IBM and stayed with bus introduced in the early IBM 80286 machines which was good enough. I think PS/2 was an early plug and play hardware bus configuration that was ahead of its time.


You know, I had forgotten about PS/2, although when it came out I LIKED it as an architecture; but the IBM policy of not only wanting a license fee (which they might have got) but insisting that anyone who had ever used the older PC bus architecture would have to pay an as yet uncalculated retroactive fee in addition to the PS/2 fee made certain that PS/2 was doomed. But IBM continued to believe that these were "entry level" systems. And recall the PC Junior.

Everyone seems to forget that Microsoft was a little guy in a world with IBM and AT&T and those guys played very hard ball indeed. They also shot themselves in every conceivable portion of their anatomies.

And for a darker view:

What do you see to truly "threaten" Microsoft?

Linux has at least another 2-3 years of maturation in order to be a threat to the desktop, if ever. The Aunt Tillies of the world just are not targets for the Linux developers and while I like to give my fellow human beings credit, most of them use and understand computers at about that level. Which, to be honest, is fine. But Linux is NOT for them.

MacOS X won't compete in the comodity Intel market, so it's a moot point, despite Apple's latest TV ads.

StarOffice/OpenOffice might cause them some minor pain in the office suite market, but it's Word filters aren't good enough - it can't even properly import a Word doc with tables in it. I *tried* to use OpenOffice, but the rest of my company just didn't get it and didn't care. And I expect the Word .doc to continue to be a moving target, so don't expect StarOffice's filters to get any better. I receive Word docs in email on a *regular* basis. It is the de facto document exchange format at this point.

Their licensing policies (License 6.0?) are really pissing a LOT of companies off, but well, that's irrelevant as they are a monopoly and most companies are towing the line because they really don't have any choice in the matter - see my line above about Word being the a document exchange format. And when License 6.0 is all said and done, MS will have a more steady license stream, will have choked off casual copying and will have forced most of their corporate users onto their endless upgrade cycle again (which was finally becoming moot as hardware outstripped even MS' ability to generate bloatware) which MS controls rather than the corporation.

And don't forget that $36 BILLION dollars in CASH they have.

The anti-trust case is a joke - it'll never go anywhere as long as MS keeps feeding Washington money.

I just don't see any credible threats out there.

Pete Flugstad

Do you mean for everyone or the rest of us?



After seeing yet again the trouble you have with FrontPage for your site, at some point you really should stop fighting with it and move on. I'm using the Radio product from , and with that you wouldn't even have to host the web server, they will, for $40 / yr for 40 megs storage. It really is a nice product to use, and works well. As a well known writer, they would probably love to help you migrate. You could also look at CityDesk from FogCreek, I've heard only very nice things about it too. I guess the point is to try a tool well-suited for your task, instead of trying to force FP to your bidding. I learned as a kid not to use pliers when you want a wrench :-)

Migrating the older site would be a bit of a pain I assume, unless you leave it static and point to it from a new site, or incorporate it into the new site as a legacy.

- Jerry Albro

To begin, I would hate to have to cut this web site back to 40 MB although in fact it might be better for it, some of the stuff, particularly images, being rather long out of date. But I don't host the web server. That's done by others. And Front Page usually works quite well for me; if I had DSL I would not have the current problems, which are largely caused by my low-speed connections (even with the satellite).  Also, I have some needlessly large images. 

What I need is incremental publishing, or DSL. FP 2002 has the incremental publishing and I may try that one of these days... 

I'm no military expert/historian, and I have family in Israel so I can't be objective, but you may find something interesting or useful at this link, which breaks out intifada casualties several different ways.

George R. Zachar 

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. -- Thomas Henry Huxley --


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Just read Bruce Riedel's article. Unfortunately it raises more questions than it answers:

First, was Arafat aware that the US was considering putting $35bn into the deal, with the Palestinians being the main beneficiaries? If so, what possessed him to walk away from it? If he didn't know, why not?

I'm not particularly pleased with the way the Palestinians have been treated since 1948, but surely this offer from Barak and the US was too good to refuse? OK, it would have cost the US a fortune (but the US could rightly have expected Europe and Japan to fork up some of the cost) but it would possibly have left America freer to prosecute her campaign against Bin Laden and his friends.

Maybe I'm being hopelessly naive but both Israel and the Palestinians deserve more visionary leadership than Sharon and Arafat.

Best wishes, Simon Woodworth.

My guess is that Arafat thought he could get even more. He wasn't going to get "right of return" (which is essentially the end of Israel), and he may have thought he would be assassinated if he agreed to anything less. I am not sure that visionary leadership is the problem: today I read that some of the Jewish Settlements, which are protected by the Israeli army, are supplementing their income by selling army reserve ammunition supplies to the Palestinians. I am not entirely certain that leadership can do much about that sort of thing. And while that in itself may be unlikely, there are other counter productive activities on both sides that would have to be suppressed by force: and any "visionary" leader who attempted that would be denounced as a dictator. Of course sometimes dictatorship is what is needed: the Roman Republic understood that.



Rod McFadden

Hmm indeed... I fear I have little confidence in Scientific American, which has always had an agenda and selective publication policies. I ceased reading it years ago after the ABM debacle just as I have up on the MIT tech publications for almost the same reason. I can't trust them to even TRY to glean the truth and publish it.

And then there is: 

EFF founder and general civil rights activist John Gillmore has started a lawsuit demanding the right to fly without showing ID. Named defendants are John Ashcroft, Robert Mueller, Norm Mineta, Jane F. Garvey, John W. Magaw & Tom Ridge, all lately of Washington DC. United Airlines and Southwest Airlines are in there too, for refusing to let him board flights last July 4.

Gillmore is somewhat unusual for an activist -- he has money. While EFF and ACLU may (or may not) by sympathetic to this case, Gillmore appears to be funding it with his own nickel.

In the lawsuit FAQ he makes a back-of-the-envelope calculation showing current airport security measures use up as many lives annually as 9/11. That's if you count time spent waiting to be searched as the functional equivalent of being dead. I know I do.

Good luck, John. I hope you win (but I don't give your case a snowball's chance...)

Requiring me to show a picture ID to a porter who couldn't care less in order to check my bags has always seemed to be part of the greater hassle less security system devised by idiots for implementation by normal presumably grown people. Not only is fake ID easy to obtain, but what difference does it make to me if you know who I am when I am about to crash the plane? You'll know soon enough.

As you say, good luck, but the Empire is unlikely to think this funny. And I have mildly mixed emotions about anonymity. Requiring identity papers -- you're papers, please -- is one of those measures whose necessity one can debate endlessly. I recall I used to debate it with Mr. Heinlein. It's an emotional issue, like conscription: another of those debatable issues.

I couldn't find this bit of Alistair Cooke's most recent Letter from America with even the most thorough Googling for Mark Twain quotes, so it needs to be memorized by one's computer:

It was many years before I read Mark Twain's response when on his first visit to England he encountered a toast rack. "In the heyday of the industrial revolution it took the mechanical genius of the English to devise a receptacle which guaranteed to deliver in the shortest possible time toast that was both cold and hard."

James Guest


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

It's VERY hot here in Cleveland, my airconditioner is broken, and I just got one Nigerian spam too many. See my reply below....


Dear Dumbass:

In case you haven't heard, damned near EVERYBODY in the United States with email has gotten a copy of this scam by now. Most of us have gotten it ten times or more.

No, I'm not going to give you my bank account information. I will give you some advice. Get a JOB. Yes, a JOB, gainful employment, an honest day's labor. Unlike you, Black people in the United States have to work for a living. We have to have JOBS. We don't have time to troll for simpletons to exploit. Instead, we have to try to survive three hundred years of abuse and oppression. You on the other hand have your own country. And what do you do with that? You piss it away, sending out the same inane tripe as every other mental defective in Nigeria (and elsewhere), utterly secure in your ignorance of the fact that even STUPID people were wise to you, fifteen of these spams ago.

You don't deserve your own country. You deserve the South Bronx. You deserve Pig's Knuckle, Mississippi. We who actually have to produce something to survive deserve our own country. You and every brain damanged cousin of yours don't deserve Nigeria. You deserve deepest, darkest Arkansas in perpetuity.

In closing let me advise you to pet crocodiles at every opportunity. Don't believe what those Australians on the Discovery Channel tell you; they're just big scaly kitties who love to have their tummies scratched.

Strong letter to follow....

-- Gun control, the theory that 110lb. women should have to fistfight with 210lb. rapists.

Christopher Morton

One wonders if the sender read it? Ah well, it is fun to imagine so.

And Eric reacts to the stories that AOL may have done some creative accounting:

No surprises there. AOL has been dodging close scrutiny of their accounting since before the Internet Bubble began to inflate. By their own admission, before they 'clean up' they were in the dubious habit of charging current expenses to future quarters. Sometimes these quarters would be fiscal years into the future. This gave the illusion that they weren't losing money hand over fist throughout most of the early 90's.

(The Feds are notorious for this little stunt. The Bush Elder Administration trimmed one budget by putting off the entire DOD payroll for a week to let it fall into the following year's budget. Similar examples could probably be found going back to the country's founding.)

Part of the problem here and elsewhere is whether it can be called fraud when the bullshit was out in the open? As the saying goes, you cannot cheat an honest man. None of these scams would have been possible if huge numbers of investors hadn't lined up for the slaughter while believing in the utter fantasy called 'the new economy.'

AOL's stock, with nothing to suggest massive profits pending, became so inflated that they could absorb a viable company many times their size with real profits. After a $55 BILLION loss and over a $100 BILLION (I'm tempted to use HTML just so I can make 'BILLION' shout with emphasis.) in lost valuation, only then are chastened investors beginning to ask why this was ever a good idea.

Funny. During the height of the tech stock mania I can recall one company whose CFO told anyone who'd listen that his employer's stock was grossly overvalued. But they're evil so that could only have been a plot to harsh everybody else's IPO buzz.

Eric Pobirs


Dear Mr. Pournelle: 

Thanks for the tip on the Georgia typeface, which I saw on your site a while ago. I think it has helped make my site more readable, especially for those running at different resolutions. (If you want to check, the site is: Best, Jim Miller

And you can find PrintScreen here:

A few issues ago you said that you had a copy of Print Screen, an excellent program, but the link to JE Software was old. Print Screen is sold by American Systems. They can be found at  . They have version 3.0, a lite version, and a pro version 5.0.

Dave Caldwell


And from Joanne:

Subject: I am impressed - re 911

Flight attendants on flight 11 held telephone conversations with the ground as the plane was hijacked. The last words of the one on the phone right at the end was a slow measured, "Oh my God!" If was followed by loud static.


More than impressed. And she asked that we pray for them all. 

Requiescat in pace, et lux aeterna dona eis, Domine.








This week:


read book now


Saturday, July 20, 2002


Being a nosy sort of individual I typed your name into the searchbox at this site. When the details came back I was stunned: you seem to have let yourself go a bit; are you getting enough rest?


Regards, etc. Jonathan Quirk Ascot, Berkshire, UK This page intentionally left vague.








This week:


read book now


Sunday, July 21, 2002

I took the day off.





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