jp.jpg (13389 bytes)


Mail 216 July 29 - August 4, 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  July 29, 2002

There was considerable mail over the weekend, and if you didn't see it, some was interesting.

This IEEE article (7/1/02) starts with the idea of "What the military learned from Wal-Mart" which is a great teaser, but the article is more of an introductory piece about the use of command and control systems right now.

Network-Centric Warfare–The Key to the Revolution in Military Affairs   

"[Former F-14 aviator, Vice Admiral Arthur] Cebrowski knew he was on to something when he saw how retail giant Wal- Mart overran its competitors by using networked operations in a synchronized top-down demand and supply chain. The store’s strategy exploited real-time awareness and information superiority to speed up transactions and increase profits."


And they did it without .NET or Hailstorm...

On the Hammer (I collect this material on its own page, so you can begin there if you like)

I read with interest the cost/benefit analysis you presented in the Hammer page. The trouble is, I don't think it's a 1/250,000 problem - it's a binary problem.

If it hits *at all*, even in the most uninhabited and uninhabitable wasteland on Earth, it will very likely kill far more than 16,000. If it doesn't hit, it won't kill anyone.

None of which should change the basic conclusion, that it can't hurt and will almost certainly help tremendously to have low-cost access to space, even if we do determine it's not going to hit. If not NT7, there will always be something Out There that might need to be investigated or deflected. Imagine trying to execute a "Rendevous with Rama"-like mission today with the resources we have available - it just wouldn't happen.

The last odds I saw were 1 in 100,000, in one of the links to the New Scientist - but the scariest statement I saw in that article was that this was pretty close to the average odds of an asteroid hitting us anyway in that timeframe anyway.

William Harris 

Actually, if it hits the casualties will CERTAINLY be far greater than any paltry 16,000, which has been known to happen with earthquakes and tsunamis. The conditional probability given that it hits of 1 million or more casualties is essentially 1.0 (.9 with at many 9999 as you like). 

Expected value models are a rough cut. They aren't intended to be exact and they often reflect impossible outcomes (ONLY 16,000 given that it hits is very nearly impossible). On the other hand, an expected value model is easy to compute (as opposed to a weighted average of all possible outcomes) and in fact is pretty good for decision purposes.

Your average probability of  being killed by a meteoric event is about the same as your lifetime probability of being killed in an aircraft accident. It's also an expected value model calculation.

The other point is precisely the case: something will happen, and we don't have the means to do much about it. It's about time we did.

In case you haven't seen this one, the lead-in says it all.

........Karl Lembke

* Asteroid will miss Earth in 2019 * New observations confirm that asteroid 2002 NT7 will not strike the Earth in 2019 - but the possibility cannot yet be ruled out for 2060. Full story:

The chances of one of these hitting us is small for any given century. The chance over a longer time is much larger.  We can if we like DO something. 






This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  July 30, 2002

The Hammer won't fall this time but there is still some interest:


Eric notes:

The Russkis might get it first! Now it's a matter of national pride! Somebody get Karl Rove to look at this!

And here are some interesting links:

Here are some asteroid impact calculators for the Hammer Page

quick and dirty 

very detailed 

Finally, a Neat Java Applet with a display of the orbit can be seen here. You can Zoom in, spin the solar system around, and animate the display. The data they are using does not currently jive with projected impact date. 

NOTE: as seen here 

the possible impact in 2019 has been ruled out.

and of course all the basic information on asteroids can be found here, for those who are interested.

Michael Zawistowski 

Please visit 

Thank You

And my thanks.

Joanne Dow notes:,2933,59018,00.html 

  Plot to Kill Afghan Leaders With Bomb-Laden Car Thwarted by Accident

Afghanistan is and was a primary source for the raw ingredients for heroin. The attacks on leaders is not necessarily Al Qaida's style. It is more the style of the Guatemalan drug lords. I have a feeling that drug money is coming to haunt us for our interminable and stupid War on Drugs which accomplishes nothing other than raising the ante in any anti drug effort. Huge risks have led to huge amounts of "risk money" in the hands of the drug lords. For example, they can afford submarines, even custom made submarines. I am sure they can afford to make attempts to insert themselves as an Nth party in the Afghanistani mess.

Isn't life fun? {^_^}

Private war, anyone?

And Eric Schwartz says

2014 AD


The future doesn't have to be like this: 

But I worry that it could be, if people like myself who know better don't find our voices.

--Erich Schwarz (suddenly very motivated)



Thomas Friedman makes a good point about why capitalism here tends to work better than capitalism elsewhere: 

--Erich Schwarz

Bureaucracy does some things well. Dog catching for example. But it works best if it's local.

If you don't read Dobbs you may have missed this:

Dr Dobb's Journal has a wonderful piece on a scale to rate the cruft that has accumulated on your Windows systems. 

I'm running about a 5.5 on the scale, Win98SE, 15 months since install and counting...

David Paterson

--- A random thought for the day:

The future is unwritten. - William Gibson

A Beaufort scale for PC's?  

Roland sends this with the subject:

Ziff-Davis planning Bankruptcy

-- - Roland Dobbins 

I know Computer World laid off most if not all their editors. It gets lonesome out here sometimes.  Keep subscribing here and keep visiting and maybe we'll survive..

And Michael Flynn notes:

On Beowulf:

It takes an Irishman to translate Anglo-Saxon well.

George McGovern on airport security. 


Fallen Angels by Niven, Pournelle, and Flynn will be out again shortly...

Eric notes the Cisco Follies:

Apparently Cisco doesn't need any pressure from Microsoft to do wildly odd and expensive things. 

Note that I know nothing beyond what you see in the Register. But then everything I know comes from the newspapers anyway...

And on Steve Setzer's take a Mac User to Lunch

The LinuxWorld article Steve Setzer points to is extremely flawed. The author of the piece is either wildly ignorant or purposely misleading his, or lying as they say in the trade.

First of all, yes inflation does matter and cannot be easily left out of a discussion that purports to track value and cost over a twenty year period.

Likewise, Microsoft had little to do with the IBM choice of price for PC-DOS 1.0. All the versions of MS-DOS I ever saw listed separately were somewhat higher in cost. I don't recall seeing a standalone retail package earlier than version 3.3 but that might have more to do with its long duration. My recollection is that MS-DOS ran $65 and the pre Win95 versions of Windows in retail packaging were about $50 or greater. (There were often promotional discounts or rebates when the DOS and Windows were purchased together.) Thus the retail price of DOS and Windows 3.x was always closer to $100, which incidentally has consistently been the price of the upgrade package for Windows since the Win95 era. A few sources indicate that Windows 1.0 was priced at approximately $100, DOS not included. Like most people I didn't encounter Windows much before 3.0 so I cannot supply any memory of my own as to the price of version 1.0 but it had so little influence on the mainstream that it's price doesn't really amount to more than trivia for this discussion.

Gee, factor for inflation and you'll find the Windows XP Home Upgrade package is a fair bit less costly than the Windows 95 Upgrade box.

(One web site claims that IBM's price for PC-DOS had shot up to $120 for the 3.3 version but that seems pretty high and I've not seen any corroboration elsewhere.)

Lets go back to that original PC-DOS 1.0 for $40. Using the numerous inflation calculators to be found on the web I found that you'd need double the number of 2002 Washingtons to match that buying power. Just ten more of those 1981 bucks buys XP Home Upgrade today. Gosh but the price of an Microsoft OS has shot through the roof, hasn't it?

1981 dollars $40 2002 equivalent $79.37

To be realistic, it's silly to compare PC-DOS 1.0, which was barely more than a command line with some commands for simple file manipulation to what today's consumer thinks of as an operating system. Huge amounts of what would once have been third party utilities and even full blown applications have found their way into the basic package. Although this has been claimed as a means of unfair competition used by Microsoft the same thing can be observed in any desktop OS that has seen new releases for reasons other than correcting bugs. Lately, Apple has taken to bundling what are by their own claim commercial quality applications in a manner that makes the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows look like exceedingly minor by comparison.

Lets move things ahead to the point where Windows 3.0 had become the dominant desktop environment. Assuming you paid $100 for the set of DOS and Windows boxes, how much more is that then what it cost to get the entry level XP Home Upgrade today? (I'm assuming that by this late date the purchaser owns one of the versions of Windows needed for the upgrade install or can easily obtain the same for free as a CD-R to get past that portion of the install.Those building their first computer with no prior Windows ownership have the OEM option I'll discuss later.)

1992 dollars $100 2002 equivalent $128.53

Almost 30%, quite a shift and yet Microsoft hasn't seen fit to raise the retail price to keep up with inflation. In fact, they've left enough margin that most large retailers like Fry's Electronics usually discount the package by $10.

Now we'll move Ground Zero to Windows 95.

1995 dollars $100 2002 equivalent $118.34

The inflation curve is down to less than 20% now but still most people I know would cross the street to save $20 on a branded product that is the same regardless of which store sells it.

Can someone show me where in this process the cost of Windows to consumers has increased?

For the comparison above I used the article under question's own term based on retail packaging. This is flagrantly misleading since nobody in the volume PC business acquires their Windows licenses and materials through the retail channel. such companies enjoy discounts that are often so low that Microsoft and the vendors decline to make the exact terms public. (This, of course, is another point of contention against MS that may have valid points but doesn't bear on this issue.) It is impossible for an outsider to say for sure but it appears that Dell pays less than $100 for every XP Pro license it ships and thus considerably less for the consumer Home version.

At the lower end the discount to system builders is more easily derived. The number of systems required starts at 1, conveniently enough. Most retailers of motherboards and the other major parts for DIY PC construction offer the OEM versions of XP Pro and XP Home. These are the full standalone editions, no previous version of Windows needed for installation. The difference is primarily that no support is furnished by Microsoft, much like a Windows license purchased with a new computer.

Fry's Electronics and PC Club stores sell the OEM XP Pro for $169 with a motherboard purchase. This is a greater than 40% discount on a single unit purchase through a third party. Imagine what the price is like for a company shipping tens of thousands of licenses monthly directly from Microsoft. This is a primary reason so many vendors accept what has been called the Microsoft Tax. If by shipping a Windows license with every machine regardless of whether the customer intends to use it because the discount becomes so dramatic that it is worthwhile to give the occasional whiner a 'refund' on a license that has an extremely minor effect on the systems cost.

Saying that the price of an entry level PC has come down by a huge amount and thus Windows represent a larger portion of the purchase cost is meaningless trivia. With Windows the PC is a product that can be sold to a wide audience. Without it it's just a box that doesn't do anything useful for the bulk of the consumer market The massive library of software for Windows is what makes that box, when Windows is installed, a useful product. Most of the software developers think of themselves as developing for Windows rather than the X-86 processor platform. The primary target for developers of consumer software is that portion of the worlds x-86 processors running Windows. The rest don't figure into the equation.

In this respect it can be said that the PC hardware is the price you pay to run Windows and gain access to all of that software. The cost of Windows to consumers has remained the same, even decreased in cost if inflation is considered, while gaining tremendously in value both in terms of what it includes and the range of products designed to run on it. The decreasing price of the minimum hardware needed to run Windows is beneficial in reducing the total price of admission but it doesn't obligate Microsoft to lower their price. Whether you spend $100 or $2000 on the hardware, if your intent is to run Windows applications the value that Windows represents remains constant.

The server side is a rather different story, although using the price of the ancient and not a direct ancestor of any current Microsoft product Xenix as a basis for pricing an Eighties server is more than a little silly. Likewise, trying to appeal to the average Mac user because they are now 'brothers under the skin' is really beggaring belief. If the average Windows user finds Unix and its offspring unpleasant, how much worse the reaction of a dedicated Mac user?

Once again, a would-be OS evangelist forgets that he's advocating on the basis of things the vast majority of users don't understand and cannot be made to care about.

Eric Pobirs

You will certainly pay a premium for using a Mac or other non-Wintel system, no matter the price of the operating system. Incidentally, Gates once famously said that he made more money on each Mac sold than Apple did, because all Macs needed at least some Microsoft software...

As usual, good common sense analysis; we now await the storm.


But then what do you GET with new Microsoft Software...

Dr. Pournelle,

Does Microsoft Front Page 2002 come with any user documentation or tutorial? There is a small booklet that contains a few terse chapters from someone's third party book, but without a single illustration or screen shot.

A call to Microsoft "support" informs me that my warranty has expired and that I can't talk to anyone who knows whether there is a manual file unless I am willing to spend $35. This on the day that I purchased the software.

Microsoft used to print wonderful manuals. Their software still comes in boxes that LOOK like they have manuals.

Any help from your or your readers would be appreciated.

Spencer K. Whetstone 

I haven't done much with Front Page 2002 yet; I intend to when I install a new main communications Pentium 4 system. See column...but I don't know about documentation.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Eric did a pretty good job, but there are a few things I'd like to address.

The calculation of the cost of Windows doesn't take into account the high cost (~50%) of upgrades and the trend toward binding the copy of Windows to a particular computer.

So, if you bought your computer a couple of years ago with Windows 98 on it, then bought the Windows98 SE upgrade/bug fix, then sensibly skipped WindowsME, then bought the WindowsXP Home upgrade, then the poor old computer couldn't take it anymore and you had to buy a new one (and a new copy of WindowsXP!), how much has Windows cost? *Much* more than Eric calculates.

I also don't think it's reasonable to call people who don't want to pay for Windows when they buy a PC or laptop (either having already paid for Windows several times or using some other OS) "whiners". There's nothing wrong with not wanting to shell out one's hard-earned cash in exchange for no value at all.

The LinuxWorld article was rally aimed more at the server space, with the advent of Apple's new rackmount server. Server guys are a different breed than end-user guys, so Eric's dismissal of the "brothers under the skin" approach misses the mark. Under the pretty end-user GUI of OS X lies the full power and flexibility of UNIX. That means that Apache, to take one example, runs on OS X substantially the same as it does under Linux or Solaris or AIX.

I'm not convinced that running non-Wintel boxes carries a premium. My experience overwhelmingly indicates that Lintel beats Wintel all hollow in the server space.


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

Come now: I have an older system doing what it was designed to do, which is run Word well enough for me to write on it, and I haven't upgraded or changed anything on it in years. It was good enough then and is good enough now. Upgrades are a necessity only if they are necessary: if you want to expand capabilities why should that be free? I agree that some features in Microsoft upgrades ought to have been in service packs, but surely Microsoft is no worse on this than anyone else?

And another view:

Nice analysis from Eric Pobirs. His quote "In this respect it can be said that the PC hardware is the price you pay to run Windows and gain access to all of that software" is dead on, and may in fact go farther than he thinks. A computer is a dongle for running the software programs you want or need. You don't buy a computer, you buy its ability to run software.

This is why, in the desktop space, there is really only room for one also-ran (Apple). Linux has low costs, but it doesn't do what most of us need well enough to break out of its server-room niche.

I have no faith in the "open source" community's ability to create anything nearly as useful and elegant as OS X, or Microsoft's latest Mac version of Office. Too many part-time developers, with no central vision or interface discipline. Eric Raymond may be right that open source programmers find more bugs, but only if you don't consider ugliness a bug. I do.

Steve Setzer

Eric replies below.

Regarding RIAA and legislation allowing them to make war on the Internet: 


Hmmm, so the RIAA wants legislation to hack P2P networks and copyright violators with immunity.

Response: Underground community does a DoS on the RIAA website

Curiously enough someone predicted this scenario: 

-Dan S.










This week:


read book now


Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Thought you might appreciate this:

Its a review of a study of deaths in the Intifada, turns out that (Oh my!) the Palestinians are killing more Israeli non-combatants than vice versa.


Raul Gonzalez Tucson, AZ

I never doubted it. 

Joanne found this: 

on using DMCA to suppress security. First Thompson


HP is using the DMCA to muzzle folks who announced a serious security flaw in their Tru64 Unix. This has nothing to do with copyright, which the DMCA putatively addresses, but I expect this is just the first example of what will become a general practice. I imagine there are lots of folks at Microsoft who will want to jump on this and start threatening DMCA actions against anyone who announces a security hole in Windows or MS applications. Of course, saner heads may prevail, because such announcements drive paid upgrades.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Eric comments:

Regardless of any good intentions by legislators this is the inherent result of bad laws.

I dislike seeing an exploit released to the public , especially by someone going by a silly nickname but c'mon, a buffer overflow?! While the most common of root exploits it's also one of the easiest things to fix. (It's also a really good reason to stop using programming system that leave it up to the developer to avoid allowing code and data to intermingle.)

To leave such a thing without a fix to apply is ridiculous even you're in the process of phasing out the product. If you didn't want the responsibility you shouldn't have done the silly merger. Or mergers, plural. Compaq eats DEC. HP eats Compaq. Just about anything from DEC is now an utter loss. Great business, lads.

I would have taken it as a ominous warning of ill will when HP tried to get them to sign an NDA. Sun tried to pull the same bullshit on purchasers of servers with serious memory defects. Blaming the customer is not a good incentive to repeat business. In such a situation I'd forego the egoboo and release the code anonymously if that's is what it takes to get the vendor to act. Don't put yourself in the crosshairs of someone who can afford to ruin your life. It's highly unlikely that any later legal victory will be worth more than the damage and time lost.

Eric Pobirs

Eric als0 continues a discussion:

In reply to Gordon Runkle I have to disagree on a few points.

I know very few people who buy every new release of Windows that comes along anymore than they would every generation of PC hardware. Or a Linux user buy every single retail release of his favorite distribution. Unless the user in question has no budgetary issues it is the rare point release that has truly compelling improvements for the majority of users. Bug fixes and often feature addition are quite often available as downloads or on media delivered by mail that is very inexpensive, has only a token shipping fee, or in the case of some really pricey stuff just shows up unbidden.

The first and second were the case for Windows 98. The list of features in 98SE that couldn't had as a free download was very short indeed. The most notable in my mind is Internet Connection Sharing. Considering the wealth of superior commercial products that exist for the same purpose ICS alone is not a compelling reason to upgrade. It's just a nice bonus if you have 98SE or later versions of Windows.

Now, Windows ME might have been more compelling if it weren't for trying to make too many things that required NT happen on the Win98 infrastructure. Even Microsoft didn't want ME. It was put on the schedule only after it became apparent that Windows 2000 has fallen too far behinds its ship date to qualify as the basis of the first consumer NT. Meanwhile PC vendors were demand a version something with an updated driver set and bug patches, not to mention some of the features like rapid booting Microsoft had been using in demos for some time. The feature creep reared it's ugly and turned what should have been just a rev of Win98 into a minor disaster.

Considering the continuing availability of drivers and things like newer releases of Internet Explorer and other freebies why should the majority of users who started with Windows 98 dig in their pockets for either of its successors? Keeping up with the Joneses? Contrary to the image of Microsoft attempting to dig into your wallet on a yearly basis I don't think they live under any such illusion. Certainly it was hoped that many Win95 users would buy Win98 (the USB support was very compelling to some of us but much of the market still didn't know about it) but despite the big launch hype for Win95 there was still a huge base of Win3.x users out there shopping for their first Pentium. The early Pentiums and Win95 together or separately didn't drive them to go shopping but now the newer machines were that much more powerful and affordable while the version of Windows that would come with the new machine had still more of the things that made Win95 interesting but not quite enough to buy the upgrade for the old machine. On top of all this there was plenty of attractive new software that demand both the newer hardware and OS.

It applies on the NT side, too. Many businesses stuck with 9x desktops over NT 4 due to the lack of certain features like Plug 'n' Play and USB. Win2K was the first NT to bridge the gap for them and qualified a lot of new system purchases. NT 4 reached a lot of places but it wasn't a universal upgrade. For many of those places that bought into NT 4 desktops big-time Win2K wasn't enough. The same kinds of examples can be trotted out for the generations of Office.

The fact is very few people other than moneyed enthusiasts are at the cash register every time the number on the box increments up.

As for buying XP for an inadequate machine, you are not out of luck. Microsoft fully supports changing the license to a different machine if you call the hotline. This is same number you would call if you modified the machine so much that it failed to match the hash generated during installation. If the machine was old enough that it couldn't run XP adequately than it's highly likely that the motherboard couldn't be easily replaced with the same model. It may be on eBay but we'll leave that aside and call MS to say there was a power catastrophe that took out the system and may I please install the XP on my newly built replacement system. Every account I've found of folks interact with WPA operators report that they'll approve almost anything. You would probably get approval by just being honest and saying the old machine came up short and you'd prefer to use your XP on a newly built one. Some prefer to go with the sob story just for emphasis.

I have a client with two HP systems that run Celerons on an Intel 810-based motherboard. They shipped with XP and do OK in most respects although the video is a constraint for people who know the difference. The HR manager on one system doesn't and the boss on the other doesn't care. These are $500 and $600 systems. Frankly, if someone buys XP for systems much weaker than those and expects good results they have only themselves to blame.

On the subject of so-called Microsoft Tax I hear no good argument to refrain from describing those people who complain as whiners. They usually have a fantasy-based idea of how the business works. The PC price has come down immensely not just from Moore's Law but also due to commodification around a particular OS, Windows. The PC vendors in many ways are like fast food franchises. They have low prices because they buy a large volume of part to create a limited menu. Small custom builders who provide exactly the parts you want are akin to finer restaurants who charge more for their products as a condition of their added qualities.

But what if the only thing separating Pizza Hut from Wolfgang Puck's was a bit of extra when you got pie home? The PC world is very much like that. If the only thing dividing a Dell from your vision of PC perfection is the required inclusion of Windows and no option for pre-installed Linux you should count yourself lucky. That Windows license is a tiny part of that system's price and the overall price of the system is so most lower than in a noncommodified market that any complaint is no more than whining. If you restrict yourself to companies that provide a full install CD rather than a 'factory rebuild' set then you have a salable item. Simply wipe the hard drive before allowing the system to boot from it and you'll have avoided the accidental site of any Medusa-like EULA. (Did Medusa have an 'I agree' checkbox on her somewhere?) The proceeds from that sale should salve your ego and spare you from any need to mutter, "But it's the principle..." while nursing a free-as-in-beer.

As for the cost of that license to you, I think I covered that already. If your dealing with a big brand they enjoy very low prices on the massive volume of Windows they ship. Since the business in general is so vicious on pricing it's doubtful they're extracting more than an inoffensive margin on the license. Despite plying the extreme bargain basement of PC sales e-Machines remains convinced that Windows is a vital part of every system they produce.

I fully realized that there are very different conditions for selling servers. I said as much before although without the extreme verbosity of the rest of my piece so it was likely easy to miss. I considered going into detail on that side but I frankly wanted to finish in time to get enough sleep to make it to work the next day. I thought I made my point on the Mac world clear but I suppose I must go into greater detail.

The title of the article was, "Why you should take a Mac User to lunch." When I hear the phrase Mac user what comes to mind is someone who is extremely attached to the GUI environment and certain other aspects that have characterized the Mac since 1984. When that person thinks of the UNIX and DOS command lines it is in the context of "reasons I would never have bought a computer before the Mac."

This isn't a universal description of the Mac community but it certainly covers a very core group. For them the most interesting thing about the Xserve is what it's chipset presages for future Mac desktops and portables. Some might even consider using an Xserve with a good video card as a desktop system if they're tired of waiting for Apple's next generation.

This is a far cry from "Take a sysadmin who likes Macs to lunch." Regardless of what is under the GUI the typical Mac adherent is not going to think of themselves as Unix folk. The Mac itself is an intensely dominant personality trait for those people. Some of them might respond to an ABM approach but those accustomed to dealing with server side issues have had non-Windows options since long before MS was a significant presence in servers. In large scale publishing systems, for instance. Like most end-users the bulk of them are perfectly happy not to deal with that side of the equation. It isn't why they bought a computer, especially when that machine is a Mac.

Xserve may be hugely successful. Note that it's really being treated as other than a Mac although it's fully capable of running Mac OS X. Rather than extending the Mac market it is well considered use of the parts Apple already buys in volume to reach into a new market in a more universal fashion than previous Apple servers. It certainly cannot be a bad idea for Apple to give it a shot. But you can bet when Steve Jobs addresses a room full of graphic artists and video wonks the Xserve is going to get low billing after the latest new display or rev of Final Cut. It isn't on the radar for that segment of the community.

The article author speaks about increased social acceptability for the Mac since OS X, although the primary source is more than a little slanted and inclined to be oversensitive to some types of ignorant statements. What he doesn't mention is the number of OS X users, as I've encountered, who say things like, "You'd never know it was Unix under there," as if they were describing someone who'd overcome some horrific congenital defect. For that person I suspect TANSTAAFL will hold true.

Eric Pobirs

I think you are talking past each other, but the discussion is illuminating.









This week:


read book now


Thursday, August 1, 2002

Hi Jerry,

I have just seen a note in the Danish newspaper "Ekstrabladet". They write that on 21 July, a 31-year old Norwegian woman managed to carry six guns and 255 rounds of ammo in her hand baggage aboard a domestic flight. At least one of the guns was loaded with live ammo.

According to the newspaper, she stole the weapons from her dads locked weapons locker. Her sister and mother tried to prevent the theft, but she tied them up, and locked them in a sauna (hopefully not on).

It took a while for the mother and sister to get out and sound the alarm. But at that time, the 31-year old had been airborne for more than an hour, headed for Oslo from Alta in northern Norway.

The captain on the flight was informed, but decided to keep flying, fearing that any premature stop would cause a firefight on the plane.

The woman was apprehended by police immediately after landing in Oslo.

She had without any problems passed security in Alta with the six guns, and the ammo in her hand baggage.


Ole Lennert

And what harm was done? You will never prevent the possibility of someone doing harm or being harmed. We can prevent hijacking of airplanes, and certainly prevent their being used as cruise missiles. 

Regarding Service Pack 3 and updates:

Jerry (If I may address you so informally!):

You might want to look at something that is new in Win2k as of SP3 - a new control panel widget that allows you to establish the degree to which you wish to allow automatic windows updates to be noticed and/or installed. This is standard stuff on XP but might be a bit of a surprise to your readers who have not investigated XP. Of course, the default is to let Windows "heal thyself" (sure). Many readers might prefer to turn it off (that seems to be the only way to get rid of the annoying system tray icon that provides an unsatisfactory method of monitoring the progress of any "updates"...


 Kerry Liles - Network Security Analyst > Software Spectrum Inc.

I've left it at "download but tell me before installing".



I have about a million mails on this subject:

Hello Jerry,

I noticed a couple of things in the Service Pack 3 EULA..

The OS Product or OS Components contain components that enable and facilitate the use of certain Internet-based services. You acknowledge and agree that Microsoft may automatically check the version of the OS Product and/or its components that you are utilizing and may provide upgrades or fixes to the OS Product that will be automatically downloaded to your computer.

This apparently gives them permission to add anything they want to your machine. Even the copy protection stuff they added in the latest Media Player.

Which certainly looks sinister, but in fact, since SP3 has automatic update software built in, they'd have to be fools not to get you to agree to that. You don't have to turn on the automatic updates.

Microsoft is getting desperate to keep a revenue stream going, but I don't think they are THAT desperate.

On the other hand:

-----Forwarded Message-----

From: Douglas R. 


Subject: windows update reporting info back to MS? (and .NET fw SP1) Date: 01 Aug 2002 09:28:23 -0400

I put the .NET framework on workstation for test purposes yesterday before leaving work, and didn't put SP1 (for .NET) on it. This morning, the automatic update had already downloaded the patch, and prompted to apply it. (I have my windows update client set to download, but not to install unless I approve).

I went ahead, and ran the install. A few seconds in, I noticed sudden network activity, and the install sat there for a moment. Not enough data transfer seemed to be going on for it to be a download (and, in theory, the patch should have already been downloaded), but I pulled up the following with netstat:


Being paranoid, doesn't this look like windows update is reporting back to microsoft? ( is owned by MS and redirects to if you go the plain domain). In theory, I forget the official WU blurb, but isn't "no information returned to microsoft about your computer"?

Does anyone else know anything about this? (pardon me if this is something blatantly obvious and/or discussed -- I have had my head in projects for a bit).



 Forwarded by 

I know no more than the above. But Eric comments:

The EULA is no big surprise since it's probably the same one for the recent Media Player patch which is probably in SP3. It doesn't change the concern but it is consistent.

This is just a guess but I'd think that wustat is probably gathering statistics on Windows Update usage. Is it doing it things correctly, are the auto-downloads being approved for installation in a timely manner, etc. None of this requires that the individual computer be identified. Which would be true to the word of the disclaimer if not the spirit in the opinion of some.

Eric Pobirs


And the sender of this wants to remain anonymous. I don't blame him/her/it/them.

Men and Women

On a chain of beautiful islands in the middle of nowhere, the following people are stranded:

Two Italian men and one Italian woman.
Two French men and one French woman. 
Two German men and one German woman. 
Two Greek men and one Greek woman. 
Two English men and one English woman. 
Two Bulgarian men and one Bulgarian woman. 
Two Japanese men and one Japanese woman. 
Two Chinese men and one Chinese woman. 
Two Irish men and one Irish woman. 
Two American men and one American woman.

One month later, on these absolutely stunning islands in the middle of nowhere, the following things have occurred:

€ One of the Italian men killed the other for the Italian woman. 
€ The two French men and the French woman are living happily in a menage a trois.
€ The two German men have a strict weekly schedule of alternating visits with the German woman. 
€ The two Greek men are sleeping with each other while the Greek woman cooks and cleans for them. 
€ The two English men are waiting for someone to introduce them to the woman. 
€ The two Bulgarian men took one look at the Bulgarian woman and decided to swim to another island. 
€ The two Japanese faxed Tokyo and are awaiting instructions. 
€ The two Chinese have set up a pharmacy/liquor store/restaurant and laundry and gotten the woman pregnant in order to supply employees for the store.
 € The Irish men divided the island into north and south and set up a distillery. They don't remember if sex gets into the picture because it gets somewhat foggy after a few litres of coconut whiskey. However, they're happy because the English aren't having any fun. 
€ The two American men are contemplating suicide because the American woman won't shut up and complains relentlessly about her body, the true nature of feminism, what the sun is doing to her skin, how she can do anything they can do, the necessity of fulfillment, the equal division of household chores, how sand and palm trees make her feet look fat, how her last boyfriend respected her more than they do, how her relationship with her mother is the root cause of all problems and why didn't they bring a goddam cell phone so they could call 911 and get them all rescued off this deserted island in the middle of nowhere so she can go shopping.

And that's the way it is...

Now for something more serious, from another website discussion. (You'd know of most of the people in that group.)

To say make my point as clearly as possible, a company, or a state, or an entire nation with a "Defined Benefit" pension plan that is "large" compared to its overall cashflows (e.g., General Motors, Social Security) has no real idea where it stands financially. (My own opinion is that GM's and also Social Security's only hope for solvency is a repeat of the 1918 Spanish Flu.)

"Defined Benefit" should be outlawed.


Which is something to worry about indeed. Can growth be sustained? How long and at what rate? It all ties in to P/E ratios. I'm working on an essay now.

Also over in that other discussion group I posted this:

When I was at Pepperdine, my retirement fund for 4 years went into TIAA/CREF. I never again put any money into that.

When I reached 65, my 40 years of paying into Social Security and my 4 years of TIAA/CREF produced just about identical annuities.

The bubble inflated a lot of values; but the fact is that if my social security had been put into dollar average investments in the Dow Jones index over 40 years, or if any part of it had been, I'd be a lot better off now that I am, boom, bust, and all.

On average the market has done considerably better than Social Security...

Jerry Pournelle

To which I received one comment:

Very interesting data! I'd like to have somebody work up some typical numbers on just that comparison.

I hope you've seen Cato's calculator at 

A Zogby poll in July showed that --even with the market plummeting -- 68 percent of likely voters said they liked the idea of private accounts. Now if we could only find some political leaders to give them what they want.


Which in turn generated this comment:

Actually, I think these remarks reflect considerable confusion.

First, I'd be the first to admit that over the long run, it's extremely likely that equities outperform bonds or other possible investments, let alone government debt, which is essentially the current "investment" of our non-funded social security fund. I'm not aware that anyone has ever seriously disputed this.

The question is how to try to take advantage of this fact. One way is for the government to simply start playing the market, which has exactly the huge negative consequences that Friedman points out below, including politically-targeted investments that would make current port-barrel pale in comparison. Only a few leftists have ever seriously suggested this, which would be a terrible idea.

Another way is (I think) the main proposal of conservatives, which would be to essentially turn SS into a sort of super 401(k), where the money is given to the control of individual investors, who can choose how to manage it. This has dreadful consequences of its own, as I pointed out in my original note.

As I also mentioned, there might possibly be some sort of hybrid approach that would work, perhaps allowing investors to choose among a number of different overall market mutual funds, with some true social security pension as an insurance back-stop against exceptionally bad luck/choices. However, how to politically design such an approach to guard against the dangers of it gradually shifting into one of the other negative possibilities above isn't obvious to me.

The point I was making is that as far as I can tell SS privatizers just ignore these dangers and complexities, and discuss the subject in cartoonish, non-substantive terms, more like propaganda sound-bites than legitimate policy analysis. Given the current collapse in the market, the shrinking of 401(k)s, and the higher percentage of oldsters who vote in off-year elections, I think there's a good chance the Democrats will kill them in November for "trying to bet your social security money on the stock market."

Live by the cartoonish sound-bite, die by the cartoonish sound-bite...


I won't comment on the coming election just now.  The important thing is to find ways for all to benefit from economic growth, and not have too much siphoned off by executive golden parachute bail outs... And a final comment from yet another:

Most of the discussions of privatized or partially privatized social security plans discuss the Chilean system, which of course has built-in restrictions that make it pretty unlikely that anyoine will come up completely empty. The only time that people are hot for the whole idea is when stocks are on a roll ( tremendously overvalued), so we will never enact such a plan except when it is a mistake.

It could never compensate for a really big swing in the consumer/producer ratio anyhow.

The only way to avoid this problem, and to help the long-term economic and social prospects of countries like the US, is for the top half or quarter of the population ( measured in terms of IQ or some other suitable moxie proxy) to have more children.


And one final point:


Its not like the position of the privatization opponents makes a lot of sense. The federal government currently takes S.S. taxes and spends the money on current expenses. The Trust Fund is an illusion. Against this we are supposed to compare invested in corps run by the rapacious captain pirates of industry.

The current system is not sustainable for the simple reason that having two workers for one retiree whose medical and social security is paid by taxes is just not going to work. But while moving the money into private investments will help some it still doesn't solve the problem of the ratio of workers to elderly retirees.

But the problem is even worse than it looks. The current actuarial assumptions are incredibly optimistic (in the sense that they project people dying in their 70s and 80s). Biology and medicine are not advancing at the same rate as they were 30 years ago. I have a hard time believing that replacement organ technology won't be perfected in the next 20 years (probably sooner rather than later). I have a hard time believing that cancer will not be entirely conquered in 20 years. So if you can get a new heart and lungs and kidneys and you don't die of cancer then how do you stop collecting from Social Security?

We ought to start adjusting for this. Tax law and government pension programs ought to be changed now to encourage people to work more years. Its going to be necessary. The sooner we admit this the less difficult the shift will have to be. Instead we have this stalemate fight over Social Security that I've been hearing about long enough to become thoroughly bored or disgusted (depending on my mood) with it.

Yep. Thinking ahead is never the long suit of the government, or apparently anyone else: particularly not thinking more than a decade ahead. No one can read trends today.



On the Open BSD mess:

I sent a mailing to subscribers warning them of this, but the warning wasn't serious enough; so I had to send another. 

I got a bunch of mail:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The version of OpenSSH to which they are referring is the portable version, which runs on most Unix (including Linux) systems.

This is much worse than just BSD systems.

The confusion comes because OpenSSH is part of the FreeBSD group and the produce OpenSSH for both BSD and non-BSD systems.

I repeat, this is the portable version, which runs on most Unix (including Linux) systems.


Gordon Runkle



Just a quick update: this affects *any* system running the OpenSSH 3.4 server where the admin for that machine downloaded the source code and built it himself. I.e. the trojan is part of the OpenSSH BUILD process, not the binary itself.

This could affect any system that can build OpenSSH natively, including, but not limited to:

- Linux (all distro) - FreeBSD/NetBSD/OpenBSD - Solaris - AIX - Digital Unix - and probably VMS as well

Linux users who upgraded their OpenSSH recently using their normal distribution upgrade mechanisms are *probably* ok, as they receive the binary and do not normally build the source code themselves.

We'll probably see an advisory from CERT before too long.

Pete Flugstad


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

A bit more, it appears this only affects the source tarball, not binary distributions, and almost certainly not vendor-supplied (e.g RedHad, Sun, etc) binary distributions.

Still, anyone who builds their own had better watch out...


Gordon Runkle


Hi Jerry. I'm actually one of the OpenBSD people who's trying to clean up after this compromise right now. Just a clarification:

> If you aren't using BSD you can ignore this, but it looks pretty serious.

Actually, the affected versions were OpenSSH version 3.2.2p1, 3.4p1 and 3.4. Though the latter is BSD-only, the first two are the "portable" versions of OpenSSH, which are use by pretty much every Unix flavor out there, including most Linux distributions.

The good news is, the trojan only bit when you tried to compile from the infected package (it was in the Makefile, not SSH itself). Still, the fact that a trojan was placed at all is quite disturbing, and we are dealing with the matter approprately.

It may be coincidence that DefCon, the annual hacker convention held annually in Vegas starts tomorrow. Since the infection was so ridiculously obvious, it's entirely possible someone out there just wanted OpenBSD to look bad.

But at this point, many things are possible.


Kjell Wooding


It is reportedly a backdoor which was accidentally left in the makefile for compiling Openssd. Not in BSD, not even in Open secure shell, but in the makefile for compiling it.



On Thursday 01 August 2002 02:40 pm, you wrote:

> It appears to be more serious than I had thought.

Aiee! You're right -- it's very serious, and I'm uninstalling openssh


Many thanks.



>It appears to be more serious than I had thought. >

The trojan naturally changed the MD5 checksum, and the install picked up on that, so it took real stupidity to override the warning and actually get burnt. The site the trojan was attempting to connect to was owned by someone else, who was _very_ interested and immediately blocked the port. They're currently looking for the hacker, possibly with the intention of giving him a barbed wire enema. Two lessons learned--the openbsd site (which runs Solaris!) needs better security, and they need to validate how they hardened their install validation process.

These issues are not new, and most programs with serious security needs have thought them through. -- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <>


That message [URL given in mail message] is no longer available, but I did confirm this by digging thru my backlog of bugtraq messages and on securityfocus 

Luckily I was not vulnerable, having upgraded before the trojan was placed, but this is a strong reminder that authentication of packages being installed is of extreme importance. I would have assumed (wrongly, we both know what assumptions make us) that was one of the most secure places in the world.

But this also brings up the point -- who do you trust? If they can trojan the source distribution then they can easily fake the MD5 checksums that everyone is using, and even insert false PGP signatures into the website. Web-of-trust as all of us old cypherpunks used to harp about is the only way to improve this. There has to be distributed sources for keys and signatures, not single point of exploit as currently exists.

Thanks for the update, it sure as heck woke me up (I just installed a cable modem last night and I've been making sure things are secure around here).


-- Linux Consulting and Software Development




Anyway, so much for the BSD Trojan flap. Thanks to all. Subscribers were warned by email.






i use yahoo mail to retrieve mail from 3 email addresses, figuring they have the latest virus prevention stuff, but have run into a problem a couple of times that others might need to be aware of: someone sent mail with a larger attachment than yahoo could retrieve, but yahoo doesn't advise of that, just says ' no mail found' or something to that effect. when i finally used outlook express to check if anything was really there, i had 41 messages, of which the HUGH attachment was the first to download, so evidently it was hanging up the yahoo retrieve.






This week:


read book now


Friday, August 2, 2002

There is more on the Open BSD affair; see above.

Open with mild malice:

There's a stite, web pages that suck, at Right at the top is a message telling you that the page won't look right because you're not using IE instead of Netscape 4.x. It tells you that it doesn't support the latest CSS standards, written after the program came out. Considering the Campaign for Any Browser, isn't this just a tad self-referential?


I fear I have paid little attention to that site since, a few years ago, it featured this place as one of the more prominent sites that suck. I forget just why but he really hated this place. I haven't heard from or about him since, but I am sure he's still convinced that this is a horrible site. Ah well.

I am told this place looks about the same with any browser. At one time is used to use this comment on the browser wars

 This is a joke.

a lot, but I haven't for a while, although it remains on the "View Home Page". But this place is mostly for content. Every now and then I get exhortations to clean it up and make it "better" but I don't have time for a redesign...


An interesting question:


This kind of thing just makes me sick. Why do we tolerate it?

I think we'd be a better and happier nation if we were free again.

"There are just two rules of governance in a free society: 1. Mind your own business. 2. Keep your hands to yourself." -- P.J. O'Rourke

Seems to about cover it, doesn't it? Anything beyond that is just one mob lording it over everybody else.


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

Actually, that sort of thing is rather silly, but is my idea of what freedom is really about: the ability of local groups to control their local environment, even if what they get is not to my preference. It's when big government entities get in the act that I get worried. And particularly when we get both interference and incompetence: one correspondent sent me a story of how the Minister of Trade for an African "recovering dictatorship" was in the US with full approval of the US government, but was essentially strip searched by airport security people in a Denver airport. And people with steel shank orthotic shoes find themselves in trouble...

As to O'Rourke's rules, they're a good starting point, but enforcement is harder than you might think; and tastes differ. I expect loud drunks to shout at me in bars. I don't expect them to stand up and shout in the opera, or to insult me in the parking lot on the way to my car. "Mind your own business," (MYOB as it was put in the classical anarchic science fiction story "And Then There Were None", Erik Frank Russell) is also subject to interpretation, and local implementation at that. If your business is displaying hideous pictures where I have no way to avoid seeing them, I may well want my local neighborhood to stop you; but I wouldn't want the state to do it (although it may have the constitutional right) and I would fight like hell to keep the Feds from stopping you because the Federal Government certainly does NOT have the constitutional right.

Consent of the governed is a pretty good formula for "just powers" of government. If you keep most of the powers of government local enough, then most people will be living under laws they consent to. As I have said before, I would argue strongly against my local village banning my books, but I'd defend its right to do it.

Incidentally, Russell's story -- which for reasons I no longer remember was not in my now out of print collection called "Survival of Freedom" (and maybe I ought to get that back in print) is available on the web, but I doubt very seriously if those who posted it have paid the Russell estate anything for doing that.

On Anti-Gravity research:

So I get it: I can't use my Palm Pilot onboard an aircraft (Takeoff, Landing and Taxi) due to EMF concerns, but they can put a HUGE rotating magnetic field onboard an airplane with a hundreds of miles of wiring? Interference? What interference?

Plus: why an airplane? Couldn't this concept be proven on the ground? in a nice, safe lab? This sounds like a job for the amazing Randi, not British Airways...

Best, Joe Conyers


On acquiring a Mac:

Dr. Pournelle,

I noticed your intention to acquire an Apple computer in the near future. I would like to make two recommendations based on my recent purchase of an iMac.

1. Add a Microsoft USB optical or some other optical two-button-with-wheel mouse. The single button mouse on the Mac drove me nuts. The funny thing was that the MS mouse was instantly recognized by the Mac OS X. I was immediately able to pull down context menus with a right mouse-click, and was scrolling up and down with the wheel in any scrollable window. Boy, Mac users with a single button mouse are sure missing out on ease of use features. It also made moving around in Diablo II exactly like on a PC. I do not want to describe the horror I felt while trying to hold the propeller key and click the mouse to activate spells, while being killed by some monster. To my relief, these functions all worked correctly with the wheel mouse.

2. Wait a couple of weeks (until the end of August) to get an Apple with OS X 10.2. I have had very little luck connecting to SAMBA on the iMac using OS X 10.1, even though it can be activated under OS X-BSD. Also, I had to load third party software (Sharity) to see the PCs on my network of WinXP machines (which of course all see one another without third party software). I can at least access files on my WinXP machines with this tool. I anticipate this will be much improved using built-in OS X 10.2-to-Windows network compatibility. Hopefully this compatibility lives up to the descriptions in the advertising on the Apple website.

I have no problem switching between the iMac and WinXP machines, and thanks to Sharity I have no problem moving stuff around. I am impressed by the ease of use of the iMac otherwise (as long as you have a wheel mouse), and have found that WinXP compares very favorably to OS X. These OSs have become more alike than they were in the past. One of my kids prefers the iMac and the other prefers the PC.

I have found the MS Office version X demo for the Mac to be very confusing when compared to the MS OfficeXP. It opens many new windows when starting up and opening new documents. Maybe it will just take some more getting used to. I was able to translate a simple document from AppleWorks to MS Word on the PC but lost some formatting in the process (headings and footers disappeared, page numbering disappeared, bullets disappeared but left indented text, fonts remained the same or similar.)

I hope this helps to get you started on the iMac a little better than otherwise.

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Oliver Richter

Thanks! Real Soon Now... And see Michael Flynn on Mac below

On Windows:

Regarding the Microsoft Tax, Eric Pobirs suggests you can simply sell the copy of windows that came with your computer if you never use it. Microsoft doesn't seem to agree and Ebay *will* cancel your auction:

From Ebays policy page:

"In such cases, you generally cannot sell the software to someone else unless you are also selling them the machine it came on. Anyone selling OEM software without the machine is potentially infringing upon the software company's copyright."

Here is a link to ebays vero (verfiy rights owner program) page: 

Remember, when you get windows with a computer, you didn't *purchase* a copy of Windows that you could legally sell under the "first sale" doctrine. You merely got a *license* to use Windows on *one* specific computer with any other limitations they mention on the click through EULA page. Nothing requires that license to be transferrable. You can, however, use the windows cdrom as a coaster to prevent water stains on your coffee table.


Yes. My mad friend MacLean and I lost that fight way back in CP/M days. I always wanted software to be "like a book": you own it, you can copy it, but you can't sell the copies you make, only the original, and legally (although it's pretty hard to enforce unless you're egregious about it) you can't have more than one copy in use at any one time.  But we lost that battle in the early 80's.

And Roland brings up two important points:

Costs of Empire. 


Dilemma of Empire. 

Sooner or later, someone will point out that the reason increasing military headcount is so damned expensive is because that, as citizens, the troops are entitled to considerations and niceties and (dare I say it?) luxuries which mercenaries, or Janissaries, may either provide for themselves or simply do without.

And then we will see what stuff America is truly made of, I think.

 Roland Dobbins <> 

Empires need standing armies, and large ones at that. Republics are defended by their citizens in arms. They may have small standing armies and Marines and a good Navy, but the real might of a Republic is in its citizens, and since the citizens will be called to arms they don't do that lightly.

No wealthy Republic with a paid standing army has ever long endured as a Republic. Machiavelli wrote a lot about that: either your paid soldiers will ruin you by losing your battles, or they will eventually become the state. Before that latter happens you will have become an Empire.  See also Claudius, and Cicero, and...

We now have the distinction of having endured as a Republic for a couple of centuries. When the Framers debated our future they hoped we might last as long as the Venetian Republic had. It fell to Napoleon not twenty years later.


Eric Pobirs said "Contrary to the image of Microsoft attempting to dig into your wallet on a yearly basis I don't think they live under any such illusion."

Say What? Did he just miss last years headlines about Microsoft Licensing 6.0? Starting yesterday, enterprise customers are going to have to pay roughly 30% of the purchase price of software annually if they want the ability to upgrade.

Seems exactly like Microsoft attempting to dig into your wallet on a yearly basis to me.

Although there is one argument Eric can make. The purpose of passport, hailstorm, .net my services was to try and find a way to dig into customers wallets on a *monthly* basis. So maybe you can claim they aren't trying to dig into wallets on a *yearly* basis.


Well, I certainly do not believe the current Microsoft management will pass up any opportunities to assure a steady income stream. Whether that will be good enough to sustain their price/earnings ratio is another story. You can't "grow" your worth if there's no more business to grab...

I am going to let this discussion cool off for a while.


Here is a very strange message:

dear jerry, not sure if you're the person to help but we are only beginners with computers and have been having some difficulty installing a pirate of windows 98. where do i start? your website came up on a search engine! jo and david

Why in the world would they assume I would want to help anyone install a pirate edition of anything? What is there about this site that would encourage people to think that?






This week:


read book now


Saturday, August 3, 2002

I spent the day cleaning up and doing some writing.






This week:


read book now


Sunday, August 4, 2002

Not the most important question in the world, but not the least either:

Good Morning Sir,

I just finished reading your article from December the 3rd 2001, telling about your problems expirienced playing Conquest Of The New World. I know, not very typical for a reader of your column, but I'm very interested in how you solved these problems. Myself beeing a big fan of CNW, I was very frustrated watching my XP Machine crash and crash over and over again. I was so eager to play the game on a fast and new computer, and now that. I was really angry to see it not work at all. If only it wouldn't work properly, I could try to find the errors, but it keeps hanging up in the boot sequence. I can imagine that you don't have much time, and probably you are getting a lot of mails with much more important content, so I understand if you don't have time to respond, still I thank you in advance for your time,


Great column;

-- GMX - Die Kommunikationsplattform im Internet.

There was a good article in one of the computer gaming magazines on tweaking XP to play DOS games, and I will try to locate it: I had intended to try some of its suggestions, but didn't get to it. But CNW Deluxe used to be one of my favorite games, and I wish I could get it running again; has anyone here done so? Suggestions?

Mike Flynn on Macs:

I have an iMac laptop at home and an HP PC at work and have no trouble moving files back and forth. I did with Appleworks -- lost some formatting, headers, page numbers, etc. -- but I installed MS Word for Mac and now no problem, so the issues may have more to do with the apps than the ops. I can, for example, burn a CD on my iMac, take it to work and print the files on the high speed/high resolution printer.

I also learned that some Very Old Mac floppies (our office used to be Mac) that are unreadable on both my PC and my iMac can be read by an old PowerMac I keep in the basement, saved onto a DOS-formatted floppy, and then resurrected by either the iMac or the PC. Serial compatibility. ;-)


Well, next month I think I'll get my own and we will see what results. Thanks.

A Warning on Microwave use. It  seems quite frightening, but read all and then read the response before you go throw out your microwave!!

As a seventh grade student, Claire Nelson learned that di(ethylhexyl)adepate (DEHA), considered a carcinogen, is found in plastic wrap. She also learned that the FDA had never studied the effect of microwave cooking on plastic-wrapped food. Claire began to wonder: "Can cancer-causing particles seep into food covered with household plastic wrap while it is being micro waved?"

Three years later, with encouragement from her high school science teacher, Claire set out to test what the FDA had not. Although she had an idea for studying the effect of microwave radiation on plastic wrapped food, she did not have the equipment. Eventually, Jon Wilkes at the National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson, Arkansas, agreed to help her.

The research center, which is affiliated with the FDA, let her use its facilities to perform her experiments, which involved microwaving plastic wrap in virgin olive oil. Claire tested four different plastic wraps and "found not just the carcinogens but also xenoestrogen was migrating [into the oil]...." Xenoestrogens are linked to low sperm counts in men and to breast cancer in women.

Throughout her junior and senior years, Claire made a couple of trips each week to the research center, which was 25 miles from her home, to work on her experiment. An article in Options reported that "her analysis found that DEHA was migrating into the oil at between 200 parts and 500 parts per million. The FDA standard is 0.05 parts per billion."

Her summarized results have been published in science journals. Claire Nelson received the American Chemical Society's top science prize for students during her junior year and fourth place at the International Science and Engineering Fair (Fort Worth, Texas) as a senior.


"Carcinogens -- At 10,000,000 Times FDA Limits" Options May 2000. Published by People Against Cancer, 515-972-4444

On Channel 2 (Huntsville, AL) this morning they had a Dr. Edward Fujimoto from Castle Hospital on the program. He is the manager of the Wellness Program at the hospital. He was talking about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers.

This applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat and plastics releases dioxins into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Dioxins are carcinogens and highly toxic to the cells of our bodies. Instead, he recommends using glass, Corning Ware, or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results without the dioxins.

So such things as TV dinners, instant saimin and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper isn't bad but you don't know what is in the paper. It is just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He said we might remember when some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons.

Pass this on to your friends....

To add to this: Saran wrap placed over foods as they are nuked, with the high heat, actually drips poisonous toxins into the food -- use paper towels instead.

Allan Kline, Manager Rosen Alternative Pest Control Center 219 AFLS University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR 72701 501-575-8737 Fax 501-575-2410

Forwarded by Jim Warren

[Originally I said}: Again, I know no more than you read here. I know we use paper towels, but we have been known to use plastic containers. What I really liked are the hard plastic "microware" things, but those seem to have vanished from the market.

However, shortly after I put that up I got:

Here is a link which offers another viewpoint.

which is a much more common sense view of the situation. I still don't intend to use soft plastics and Saran Wrap in the microwave, but then I never did: they're messy.

But note that my major concern was never dioxins to begin with. Dioxin became a dangerous substance when a Missouri town in a flood basin was flooded and couldn't get Federal aid because the Congress exempted flood basins from flood relief. It's very dangerous stuff if you are a Guinea Pig. It can cause acne in humans, although it takes a lot more than you are likely to find from a microwaved container (if you find any at all).

Some of the other stuff may be more serious. I tend to use glass microwave containers anyway: we have a set of Corning dishes of a good convenient size which work well. And the hard plastic Microware stuff I like, but it's harder and harder to find.

Anyway, note that most of us aren't dead and we've been using microwaves for a long time...

And one ought to be a bit wary of announcements that originate with "People Against Cancer": I mean, who isn't?





Another satisfied Microsoft Cust0mer:

Microsoft. Pistol. Foot.

My stock tracking service runs a really nice web site. One of their features is a Java-based "Tracker" app that is real-time if you pay the surcharge, or 20 minutes off real time for those of us on minimal budgets.

Java based.

I have a Dell laptop. With 90ME, it was crashing daily, to great frustration. I ordered XP Pro Upgrade, and used my night-school student card to get the Academic price at my college's small bookstore. I installed XP over ME and everything worked. It still falls over once a week or so, which beats the more than daily I had been seeing. Both failure modes may have been due to impending hardware failure.

My hard drive sorta failed. XP got far enough into its boot to throw up a logo and chug for a while, then complain about "unable to mount boot partition" or some such. Dell sent me a new hard drive.

This time around, I installed XP cold, rather than over ME. It used the Dell CD to authorize my rights, but otherwise went in as a cold install.

When I went to my investment tracker site, their app tried to fire up Java. This in turn pointed me at a page at Microsoft which presumably once contained the Java install package. So far as I can tell Java is unavailable anywhere in microsoft's public downloads. I tried installing Sun's Java package, but it was incompatible with my investment tracker site. Their help line told me that I definitely needed the Microsoft version. They told me to uninstall Sun and call them back. Like many help line strategies, this managed to get me past a shift change. Once I got rid of the Sun Java, I called Globefund back, and the new help guy wasn't nearly as helpful. He pointed me at the same MS useless site that their software had originally sent me to.

While on hold waiting for him, I found a microsoft Java install package in one of my drivers stash directories. Installing this over XP solved my problems.

I have no idea where I obtained this Java install package. Presumably the MS useless page wasn't always such, and perhaps my first encounter with the investment tracker sent me to get Java when it still existed.

How many web sites out there still use Java. If XP doesn't support Java, isn't this forcing those websites into using the Sun Product? If I didn't have the MS one on hand, I would have been livid at my investments website. Isn't abandoning Java forcing those websites to look for a non-Microsoft solution? The website wrote a MS-only product. Microsoft didn't shoot themselves in the foot. They shot GlobeInvestorGold in the foot. And probably a ton of other web sites out there. After being burned by Microsoft once, are these dotcoms going to be enthusiastic about migrating their users to dotnet or whatever is supposed to replace Java? Or are they going to fix whatever made it incompatible with Sun's version of Java, and swear off ever writing another microsoft-specific web application ever again?

Greg Goss

And see Ed Hume on remedies.

Good news?

Thursday's NPR Talk of the Nation featured Anthony Everitt, the author of the new Cicero biography (6/4/02). The theme of the show was: why the renewed interest in the classics?

More than one person made the connection to the issue of Republic and Empire today. The host took calls, some from teachers of Latin and English.

Also invited was the editor of Variety to talk about movies, recent and in development.

The archive of the show is at 

Cicero is in the first 0:15. The movie talk was near 0:35.

-Erik Olson 

I choose to think so. We can learn from history. Mostly we don't, but it's possible.

An odd coincidence: 

Seems that "Jihad Cindy" McKinney received around $13,000 in apparently entirely legal contributions from people with Arabic-sounding names . . .

. . . on September 11th.

Al Quaida support? Unlikely. Coincidence? Maybe.

Joel Rosenberg

The web site has a lot of interesting information on where money goes in politics. I am not familiar with McKinney but it is likely that she is a distant relative (or has married one). My great grandfather McKinney was an old pirate (actually associated with the last of the Lafitte group).

And this could prove important:

As I am sure you are aware, the Supreme Court granted cert. in Eldred v Ashcrof where the plaintiff, who runs a website devoted in part to making electronic versions of PD works available. The lawsuit challenges the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act in particular by calling into question Congress's authority to continue to extend the copyright period -- what, exactly, does the term "for limited times" in the patent/copyright clause mean?

You may find the summary at  of interest to your readers.


It could be important indeed. I am sure the Senator from Disney (Mr. Hollings) will be incensed...

And I have no idea of the authenticity of the following, or even the original source, but it makes a heck of a good story:

You might find this amusing ... -- Andrew Wells "Truth is high; higher still is truthful living"

 George Farthing, an expatriate British man living in America, was  recently diagnosed as clinically depressed, tanked up on anti-  depressants and scheduled for controversial Shock Therapy, when  doctors realised he wasn't depressed at all - only British.

   Not depressed, just British. Mr Farthing, a British man whose  characteristic pessimism and gloomy perspective were interpreted as  serious clinical depression, was led on a nightmare journey through the  American psychiatric system. Doctors described Farthing as suffering  with Pervasive Negative Anticipation - a belief that everything will turn  out for the worst, whether it's trains arriving late, England's chances at  winning any international sports event or even his own prospects to get  ahead in life and achieve his dreams 

  "The satisfaction Mr Farthing seemed to get from his pessimism  seemed particularly pathological," reported the doctors.

   "They put me on everything - Lithium, Prozac, St John's Wort," said Mr  Farthing. "They even told me to sit in front of a big light for an hour a  day or I'd become suicidal. I kept telling them this was all pointless and  they said that it was exactly that sort of attitude that got me here in the  first place." 

  Running out of ideas, his doctors finally resorted to a course of  "weapons-grade MDMA", the only noticeable effect of which was six  hours of speedy repetitions of the phrases "mustn't grumble" and "not  too bad, really". 

  It was then that Mr Farthing was referred to a psychotherapist.  Suicidal? 

  Dr Isaac Horney explored Mr Farthing's family history and couldn't  believe his ears. 

  Quote "His story of a childhood growing up in a grey little town where it  rained every day, treeless streets of identical houses and passionately  backing a football team who never won, seemed to be typical  depressive ideation or false memory. Mr Farthing had six months of  therapy but seemed to mainly want to talk about the weather - how  miserable and cold it was in winter and later how difficult and hot it was  in summer. I felt he wasn't responding to therapy at all and so I  recommended drastic action - namely ECT or shock treatment". 

  "I was all strapped down on the table and they were about to put the  rubber bit in my mouth when the psychiatric nurse picked up on my  accent," said Mr Farthing. "I remember her saying 'Oh my God, I think  we're making a terrible mistake'." 

  Nurse Alice Sheen was a big fan of British comedy giving her an  understanding of the British psyche. "Classic comedy characters like  Tony Hancock, Albert Steptoe and Frank Spencer are all hopeless  cases with no chance of ever doing well or escaping their  circumstances," she explained to the baffled US medics. "That's funny  in Britain and is not seen as pathological at all."

  Identifying Mr Farthing as British changed his diagnosis from 'clinical  depression' to 'rather quaint and charming' and he was immediately  discharged from hospital, with a selection of brightly coloured leaflets  and an "I love New York" T-shirt.

I find that:

It's satire from "The Brains Trust," which is a British "The Onion." 

--Mike J.

which is a relief.


And I know not what to make of this from an anonymous correspondent:

> I see Bill Clinton told his audience in Toronto this week > that, if Saddam's boys ever crossed the Israeli border, > "I would personally get in a ditch, grab a rifle, and fight and die."

Just a minute! If this quote is true, the only difference between Bill Clinton's position and that of my fellow right-wing Sharonist-Crazies is two word:

WJC: ...fight and die

VRWC: ...fight and make them die

Or is this a total spoof, below?

And today is a critical day for Africa:

New York Times, 2.8.4 By RACHEL L. SWARNS

BANKET, Zimbabwe - This is the season for winter wheat, the time when lush, green seedlings usually blanket the earth. But these days, the roaring tractors have been silenced and many fertile farms are idle.

Here in this hungry land, where the United Nations says six million people - half the population - are threatened by famine, the government of President Robert Mugabe has ordered thousands of the country's most productive farmers to stop farming.

The white commercial farmers, who are among the largest producers of wheat and cornmeal, help feed the nation and fuel the economy. But they have been condemned as racists and enemies of the state because they have refused to turn over their land to the government - land that was seized from blacks during the days of British colonial rule.

And now, officials say, the day of reckoning is finally at hand.

By Aug. 8, the government has announced, most of the nation's white farmers must leave their farms for good. As the deadline approaches, many farmers are packing their bags.


Six million threatened by famine in what was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa. The mind boggles.

I know not what to make of this, either:

It's Never Too Late to Be a Virgin New York Times, 2.8.4 By ELIZABETH HAYT

WITH three months to go before her wedding, Nicole Ratliff, 24, is deep into her prenuptial regime. She exercises with a personal trainer so her arms will look buffed in a strapless gown. She works on her tan to get rid of the swimsuit lines across her shoulders. She exfoliates her face and guzzles 124 ounces of water daily to hydrate her skin. And since July 26, three months to the day before she will say, "I do," she has been abstaining from sex with her live-in fiancé, David Crawford, and plans to continue until after they are married.

"No more showers together," said Ms. Ratliff, a pharmaceuticals sales representative in Charlotte, N.C. "No sleeping in the nude. We'll kiss, and that's it."

Ms. Ratliff said she hopes that a period of abstinence will ensure that sparks fly during her honeymoon in the Fiji Islands, and help clear her conscience about having strayed from the expectations that her church and family hold about premarital sex. "The closer you get to the wedding, and you're looking for a preacher and a church, you start to feel guilty," she said of no longer being a virgin.

These days, a period of "secondary virginity," as it is sometimes called, is increasingly the norm for many brides-to-be across the South, an accommodation to the modern reality of premarital sex and the traditional disapproval of it in the Bible Belt.

Whether fresh out of college or older, Southern women say the decision of when and how long to stop having sex - as little as a month or as much as a year - has become standard girl talk at sorority houses and bridal showers.


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You write:

"Incidentally, Russell's story -- which for reasons I no longer remember was not in my now out of print collection called 'Survival of Freedom"'...

The reason that you gave in the book (of which my copy came through the L-5 Society) was that it was too long, at 25,000 words, for inclusion. Whether you'd still think this in a new edition of _Survival of Freedom_ is, of course, your judgment to make.

----------------------------- John W. Braue, III <>

"Live briefly but gloriously. One's evanescent life is but a preparation for death. The fall of the blossom is as moving as its beauty on the limb and the final moment, as ceremonialized in the ritual of seppuku, is indeed the moment of truth"

Which shows my failing memory. Thanks.


Does anyone remember the "Magnum" walking tree cutters from the Dean Ing short story "Malf"* (short for "malfunction")?

If so, check out Plustech's walking machines at 

and the video's on the web site at  (3.7 MB .mpeg)  (3.2 MB .mpeg)

(Windows users: to save the videos for off-line viewing, right-click, and select "Save target as...").

* "Malf" is currently in print in the Dean Ing anthology "Firefight Y2K"  , but is also available in "Firefight 2000" and "High Tension" (which features a picture of a Magnum on the cover) if you can find them in used bookstores.

Robert Racansky











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

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)