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Mail 222 September 9 - 15, 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  September 9, 2002

There was a lot of good mail last week, particularly toward the end. 

I used to run Starband at home (sort of competitor to DirecPC), and to be honest while they tried to push their version of WinProxy, I found that the ICS (Internet Connection Sharing) in WinXP was more than good enough to do what I needed on a network of 4 machines (running either XP or Win ME).

If you feel better with a third-party solution, then you might want to check out WinGate (

FWIW, Ewan Grantham

Actually, Ositis sent me automated email over the weekend saying they'd have something about my problems Real Soon Now, but in fact they haven't made any other contact at all: promises not kept are as bad as being ignored. So I am going to upgrade Terminus to Windows XP Professional and see if I can then use THAT to do ICS here. Ositis is apparently too big and important to pay attention to me.

From time to time I follow the progress of Ron Unz, the software entrepreneur who started a campaign for English in the US schools. Here is his latest:

Dear Friends,

Late Wednesday night, I returned to the Bay Area on a midnight flight from two exhausting days in Denver.

Much of the time spent there was rather run-of-the- mill and typical, with an hour-long televised debate on our "English" initiative on the local PBS affiliate and additional live debates before an organization of Colorado business CEOs, the Denver School Board, the Editorial Board of the Denver Rocky Mountain News, and at the private home of a former Colorado governor.

At the public forum, the hundred or more bilingual activists yelled, I smiled, and all was as it should be.

The following morning, I participated in yet another debate, this one held at Stanford University before an audience of education journalists and sponsored by the National Association of Education Writers, headquartered in Washington.

As this hectic schedule so indicated, Labor Day has passed, and we have now fully arrived in "campaign season."

Having encountered virtually identical arguments by our opponents during some two hundred and fifty previous debates in California, Arizona, and elsewhere, the greatest surprise in these half- dozen debates was the lack of even any slight surprise. I could have probably recited the attacks on our initiative---which can easily be conjugated as ranging from the weak to the weaker to the weakest---before they were even made, and perhaps far more cogently, having personally had much more experience in this arena than the local bilingual advocates, or even their national counterparts.

At times, this amusing situation has led me to consider offering my services as a paid political advisor to these various statewide No campaigns, sincerely assisting their campaign staff in better framing their arguments and critiques in return for a fat consulting fee that I might either donate to charity, or perhaps more cruelly use to fund further "English" campaigns elsewhere.

In fact, far more interesting than these endless debates was a short visit I also took to a local Denver elementary school at the repeated urging of Eric Hubler, the education writer for the local Denver Post, who has occasionally expressed considerable skepticisms toward the arguments we make in our campaigns.

I had several times pointed out to him that spending just an hour or two with a handful of immigrant students was hardly likely to produce much scientifically valid information on the effectiveness of Colorado's existing programs for some 70,000 English learners, and would provide neither objective data nor sufficient sample size. But since such a visit would obviously do harm either, I readily consented, allowing him to pick the school and the classes to visit.

The results---despite the tiny sample size---were absolutely fascinating, and actually quite enlightening.

The first visit was to an English Language Acquisition class, supposedly intended for fourth grade students who had already made considerable progress in learning English. Although the students said that a little instruction was in Spanish, most was in English. I was glad to hear this since a solid one-quarter of the supposed "English learners" in the class seemed likely native English speakers, being children who were either black or blue-eyed blonds.

Seating myself at one of the tables with five Latino-looking girls, I spend twenty minutes or so chatting with them, gaining their confidence and learning some very interesting facts.

First, although I have endlessly repeated the official national statistics that over half of America's limited-English students were born right here, and most of the rest arrived before first grade, empirical confirmation of such dry data is often heartening. Just as one might expect, three of the five girls were born in Denver, one came from Texas, and just one was Mexican-born, although all were of Mexican ancestry.

Second, although their parents generally spoke Spanish at home, most of them had at least one parent who spoke "pretty good" English.

The girl from Mexico and her friend from Texas seemed to speak flawless, even unaccented English, so I asked them when and how they had learned the language. To my considerable surprise, the former said she had learned English before starting school from her cousin, and the latter from her "auntie." Still, both had been placed in "bilingual" programs once they enrolled in Denver schools.

By contrast, the girl sitting next to them had learned English in Denver's public schools, starting in her Kindergarten class, which according to her had been all in Spanish. Sadly, schools seemed a little less educationally effective than cousins or aunties, and this Denver-born fourth- grader seemed struggling in English, frequently asking her Mexican-born friend to translate words and phrases for her and clearly much more comfortable in Spanish. Although she seemed quite smart and alert, she mentioned that her English- reading level had barely reached the first grade. Perhaps Denver administrators should urge their young immigrant students to stay home to be taught by their cousins and aunties rather than waste their time playing "hooky" by attending school.

Unfortunately, the next class I met---of "beginning" limited-English students---provided me a clear picture of why a Denver-born fourth grader would require her Mexican-born classmate to serve as an English translator.

Although we had been told that these fourth-graders had only just arrived in America, the Spanish- language questions asked by Rita Montero, sitting next to me, provided a somewhat different picture. Nearly all the five or six Latino children sitting together at our table had been in Denver for almost all of 2002, having arrived in January or February. Obviously, five or six months of presumed Denver schooling would not have been enough to make them completely fluent in English, but to my shock most of these perfectly normal students seemed to speak not a single word of our language. They reacted with absolutely blank stares to very simple questions like "What is your name?," "How old are you?," and "Do you like school?" When Rita asked them (in Spanish) to say any English words they knew, the silence was deafening. By contrast, they eager chattered away to themselves and to Rita in Spanish.

The sole exception to this utter lack of English was a little boy who did know quite a few words of our language despite having arrived from El Salvador just nine days earlier. Perhaps this means that Salvadoran schools teach considerably more English than those in Denver.

Certainly, these Latino fourth-graders who have failed to learn a single word of English after eight or nine months in Denver will obviously do so over the next year or two, perhaps from their cousins or aunties or parents or television shows if not by American public school teachers. By fifth grade, they may know a few words, by junior high they may be able to actually make themselves understood in spoken English, and probably by the ninth or tenth grade, they will proudly but slowly be reading "The Cat in the Hat" in the language of their new country. Most importantly, by the time they graduate from the Denver Unified School District, they will have reached the important pinnacle of comprehending complex multi-syllabic phrases such as "double whopper with cheese to go," and be ready to embark on a long and illustrious professional career in our growing service sector industries.

Given this impressive track-record of educational achievement for the immigrant students under their authority, the seven elected members of the Denver School Board were obviously justified in yesterday voting unanimously to oppose our "English for the Children" initiative. Perhaps they should all celebrate by visiting the workplaces of some of their former students for lunch and proudly placing their orders in English.but speaking very slowly.


Ron Unz, Chairman English for the Children 

P.S. On a far happier note, my partner in yesterday's Stanford University debate was Ken Noonan, the Mexican-American founder of the California Association of Bilingual Educators, whose willingness to follow the law after the passage of Proposition 227 rapidly doubled his immigrant student test scores, leading to his sudden public conversation to support for "English" and his endless subsequent vilification by bilingual advocates from coast to coast.

Just last month Noonan was named California Superintendent of the Year by his thousand-odd California colleagues, less a reflection of their sudden discernment than of their remarkable newfound political courage.

So. Needless to say I endorse this campaign fully. Not speaking good English is a terrible handicap, and most if not the only people who think the "bi-lingual" educaton approach we have used is worth anything are the people who are paid extra to implement it. Note that I have nothing whatever against teaching Spanish in the public schools, or even against making the study of Spanish in grades 5 - 8 a requirement. Early exposure to languages is good for education. But there's a difference between requiring study of another language and neglecting to teach English... And see below.






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Tuesday,  September 10, 2002

Still in short shrift mode, alas.

Good luck n the DSL. If anyone can comes through, Megapath will most likely be the one. I've had two experiences with them and both went very smoothly.

In case one, they were unable to provide DSL, but we did end up getting a fractional T1 from them (expensive but not as expensive as SBC Pac Bell or any of the other majors). The most interesting part of this install was the local loop, which is still Pac Bell. Talking to the tech that came out to the site was more enlightening then any conversation I had had with marketing people. Turns out Pac Bell actually has a fiber cabinet about 1/2 mile from the site. Of cousre they could provide any kind of service out of that site, but though the tech didn't say so, one could only guess the the bell monopoly on the local loop prefers to not undercut their profitable T1 business with cheap broadband alternatives (most of this area is large enterprises).

Case two was business DSL and it went without hitch one.

As you say, "Highly recommended!".

Dave Krecklow 


And here is a warning:


In the area of trying stupid things so others don’t have to…

Thought you might want to know... I tried Windows XP SP1 from Windows Update and it largely killed USB on my system. None of my USB devices were recognized after the patch (had to work to get the palm pilot syncing, and my CanoScan D1250U2 stopped working (USB2 device on USB1.1 hub… that’s supposed to work…)).

I’ve rolled that back for the time being and I’ll download the full patch and see if that improves the situation at all.

Oh, and Outlook Express now takes about a minute to load. Weird one, that…

-= Scott Advani =-

Integration Analyst

We did not have that problem with SP1. Thanks.

On what will happen tomorrow:

I mourn with the nation the deaths caused by the tragic events of 9/11/01. It certainly affected many lives in many different ways. And we are living with the effects of those terrorist acts.

But, as the US reacts to those deaths by passing (IMHO) overreaching laws regarding personal safety, airline travel restrictions/inspections, the reduction in our privacy, I came across the National Transportation and Highway Safety Administration statistics about deaths in the US due to vehicle accidents (see here:  ).

This report is from the year 2000: highlights are: - 41,821 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2000 - 3,189,000 people were injured in traffic accidents - 16,532 fatalities in alcohol-related crashes (40% of all traffic fatalities) - 12,350 fatalities in speed-related crashes (29% of all traffic fatalities) - 5,211 fatalities involving large trucks

There is some good news: NHTSA estimate that 11,889 lives were saved by the use of safety belts. ANd the fatality rate per 100,000 population has reduced from 15.64 to 15.23 (1995-2000).

Be assured that I am not saying that the 9/11/01 is not a tragedy. And the threat from terrorist activity is real (and new to the US). But perhaps we (US) should work on increasing the safety on our highways and streets.


I said something of this last January. It is not what the terrorists can do to us that will harm us. It is taking counsel of our fears and doing it to ourselves. I wager that the Federal passenger annoyance system we have has done FAR more damage than would have happened had we simply done noting and made no changes to the security system in place on 910.

I have had several letters about an alternative to DiskMapper:

Hi Jerry,

You might want to take a look at SequoiaView, it does the same thing as DiskMapper, it's prettier, and it's free: 

I really enjoy your columns, thank you.

Mike Bielby Computing Coordinator University of Florida


Hi Jerry,

I'm not sure if this program has been recommended to you or not, but I think you should take a look: 

Once I have gotten used to how to how it displays the disk usage, I have found nothing better. There are a couple of screen shots on the main page to give you an idea of what the interface looks like. The program itself can be downloaded from  (~500KB)

Highly recommended. Oh, and it is a free utility.

- Paul

Will give you the gist of them.

On BiLingual Education:

Given the (well-documented) ability of children to learn different languages in the age of 4 to 8, the failure of this so-called bilingual education system is apparent. Not giving those children the chance to learn their country's main language is in reality a nasty form of discrimination. Those in the educational boards should make a trip to Austria and have a look at how members of Croatian and Slavic minorities here are made well-equipped citizens while preserving their ethnic heritage. When they finish school. most of them are trilingual (Their mother's tongue, German, and a foreign language -French or English - of their choice)!












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Wednesday, September 11, 2002









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Thursday, September 12, 2002

I had hoped to get some work done yesterday. That did not turn out to be the case. Leaving more to do today of course.

Reader Douglas Colbary sends a copy of a vicious attack. It purports to be a warning of viruses, with an EXE attachment that supposedly will install patches and protections. It is A VIRUS ITSELF, and if you run it you WILL BE INFECTED. This one is faked better than many and looks like it is coming from an authoritative source.

BE WARNED. DO NOT OPEN UNEXPECTED MAIL ATTACHMENTS, no matter whom the seem to come from. Note that I WILL NEVER send you a mail attachment without unambiguous explanation in another message, not the one with the attachment (and the likelihood that I will even mail an executable as opposed to putting it up and giving you a link is almost nil.)


DO NOT OPEN UNEXPECTED MAIL ATTACHMENTS. What I tell you three times is true.



Hi Jerry,

An interesting satirical look at the Left. If you follow the link and scroll down to 9 September you will find:

"News from another Universe

Good evening, this is the news from the BBC. Peace Activists are still besieging the Saudi Arabian embassy in London to protest at Saudi Arabian funding of violent terrorist organisations and aggressively exporting Wahhabist Islam. Although there are no reports of any violence, the activists have been handing out sample bottles of Vodka and girlie magazines to passers-by as a symbol of their disapproval of the Saudi regime.

A spokesperson for the activists said that the American military campaign will not stop until the root causes of American anger had been addressed..." 

The "root cause of American Anger" is particularly poignant.

Cheers, Rod Schaffter

-- "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence in their behalf." -- George Orwell


Regarding the security notice. which caused me to send out a mailing to my subscribers:

While all of the security experts are ranting about their "discovery", it appears that the notification was sent out in mid August (
  ). Like many things there is more to the story

Al Lipscomb

Thank you. It is often thus. Many security panics turn out to be needless. I try to filter them, but if in doubt I do send notifications.

Mr. Thompson differs:

I'm not sure how the fact that Security Focus posted a summary of this bug in mid-August has any impact on its severity. Basically, XP without SP1 applied is subject to being exploited severely by means of a simple URL.

There's no doubt here I can see. If someone is running an unpatched XP, they're leaving themselves wide open to having their system trashed. This bug is so easy to exploit that I'd expect widespread exploits very soon. In fact, they've probably already started. I mean, how hard is it to put a link with the malicious URL on a web page or in an email (or a redirect to the malicious URL for that matter)?

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

My observation is that I see many of these warnings, but they go out, and once the warnings are out you don't see exploits. But I agree, one needs the patches unless one is behind a good firewall.

The problem is that one of the XP patches seems to have broken my wife's reading program and she's in a bit of a panic trying to see what we must do to fix that.

I agree that with any defect should be corrected as soon as it is practical to do so. Use the workaround in the alert or apply SP1.

My point was how the "experts" were telling us how they must not speak of the nature of the defect as it would tip hackers to the threat and doom us all. The fact is, as I was attempting to point out, that the issue was already out in a very well established location that hackers are known to watch.

The reaction from the "security experts" ignored this fact. For example Steve Gibson went out and wrote a little [.exe] utility to delete this file ( at ), yet the alert already mentioned the file and simply deleting it as a workaround. No matter what you think of Steve Gibson, why would I want to take a sourceless program and run it on every computer in my company to solve a problem that could be solved with a three line batch file?

Al Lipscomb

But then there is another view of the Gibson program. See below.


And Eric writes a proper reply well worth noting:

Robert Bruce Thompson asks:

"There's no doubt here I can see. If someone is running an unpatched XP, they're leaving themselves wide open to having their system trashed. This bug is so easy to exploit that I'd expect widespread exploits very soon. In fact, they've probably already started. I mean, how hard is it to put a link with the malicious URL on a web page or in an email (or a redirect to the malicious URL for that matter)?"

The very same thing that keeps people concerned with their continued freedom and very life from going on shooting sprees just for the malicious fun of it. It's not as though an ample slaughter's worth of guns and ammo are hard to come by for any adult American with a credit card that has a decent limit. If people realizing they were in possession of the technological means was the sole criterion for killing someone they don't like our country's population would take a dramatic dip overnight. Likewise, if all it took was a published exploit the Internet would soon collapse from the volume of disabled hosts.

This is an element that is overlooked in so many security scares. The information on how to perform the exploit could put on the front page of Yahoo!, CNN, AOL, and Slashdot and still have little effect. There are several natural filters in place. First, you can eliminate the substantial number who simply won't understand what they're reading. (A distressingly high number in some cases.) Second, a big one, is to drop as candidates all those people with no desire to do something nasty to a stranger who has done nothing to them. Third, those who would like to do something nasty but can't think of a means to execute that doesn't present too great of a risk in repercussions.

The first question to ask when a potential exploit is discovered is whether it can be used for theft. Those that can only be used for pure vandalism are very limited because most people don't want to risk prosecution without a possible reward to balance the risk. Sure there's plenty of rotten bastards out there in the world but the penalties in most countries for this sort of thing can be more severe than if you took a sledgehammer to a random parked car and waited for the police to arrive. More severe still are the penalties that might occur if the wrong person is victimized and manages to track down his attacker in the soon to be battered flesh.

If an exploit can be used to suck money out of someone's bank, that is a major temptation. Again though, someone found guilty of wire fraud can in many case do more time than if he waited in a dark alley with a handgun to rob passersby. That deters a fair number but the biggest impediment is purely practical. How do you lure victims into your trap without exposing yourself to detection? If you've the level of sophistication to route money transfers in such a way as to not be traced to you but still become available to you eventually you also have the skills to hold down a well paying job. Robbing Joe Sixpack or even a multitude of same won't be enticing. Never steal anything small, as the saying goes.

This means targeting a large commercial entity or a wealthy individual. If you're successful your victim may be motivated not to report the crime since this could be worse than the loss for a financial institution and an individual may not want to publicly admit to the existence of what was stolen. Thus it may be very difficult to assign realistic numbers to the frequency of that kind of crime. This is mitigated by the small numbers of individuals or groups with the necessary collective skills and the greater chance of the victim having a substantial organization looking out for his security interests.

In the world of finding ways to rip off the middle and lower classes the old methods that predate the Internet still are the most common in adapted forms. Conning someone via spam into giving you money and having them actually believe they've been well served is much less of a risk than breaking into their computer since you could still be subject to prosecution without anything of worth existing on the computer. This is followed by techniques that exploit men while blood flow to their brains is at low ebb. Remember the Moldova Porn Dial-up Scam?

So, say you're out just produce mayhem and don't have to deal with monetary issues. How do you best reach a large number of victims? Chances are you don't have such intentions and simultaneous employment by a large web site which you could use to deliver the payload. Your chances of evading blame would not be good and the company would have good reason to bring the full force of the law down upon you as an example to one and all. If you're just some guy with you have a much greater obstacle to drawing in victims and the likelihood of being identified almost immediately. A security company intent on self-aggrandizement would possibly find you before you'd lined up a decent body count. Even now there are probably webbots out searching for occurrences of the critical portions of the culprit URL. (PR-crazed security companies can be annoying but they make a good counter-predator against the malicious sorts out there.)

Your best bet would be a plain old e-mail virus that propagates through the Outlook address book. These are getting harder to execute well since earlier generations have driven sales of AV products as well as inoculating the minds of users against suspicious messages. Still, this would deliver the most bang for the buck with the best chance of evading blame. The limitation would be that the issue is limited to XP and to only a dwindling portion of that installed base as SP1 is installed. XP users are much more aware of updates than any of their predecessors since the Automatic Updates feature is active by default and view mainstream users know and/or care about any silly stuff MS puts in the EULA. Although now that the problem is know and the period of opportunity for the stealth fix is done I would hope to see them deliver a patch separate from SP1 lest they be accused of discrimination against the population of Paranoid-Americans.

I will point out that I get a dozen Klez "remedy" offers a day, and perhaps another dozen attempts to destroy my systems. And I hope the latest repairs to XP unbreak my wife's program...





Now see below for how to test this.




"Friends" of Blacks By Thomas Sowell Jewish World Review | September 12, 2002

Who was it who said, "if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall"?

Ronald Reagan? Newt Gingrich? Charles Murray?

Not even close. It was Frederick Douglass!

This was part of a speech in which Douglass also said: "Everybody has asked the question . 'What shall we do with the Negro?' I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!"

Frederick Douglass had achieved a deeper understanding in the 19th century than any of the black "leaders" of today. Those whites who feel a need to do something with blacks and for blacks have been some of the most dangerous "friends" of blacks.

Indeed. I was sent this by a correspondent who prefers not to be named, because of an academic post. In academia you cannot even admit having read something like this. Alas for America.

Dear Jerry,

The new URL for Lavasoft's home page seems to be . (Assuming I read my scribbles correctly. I downloaded the installer in my administrator account and can't look at that session's history.) "lavasoftusa" doesn't exist. "lavasoft" is a company that, among other things, writes programs for learning Kanji.

Apropros funny movies, have you seen the new "The Importance of being Earnest"? I dragged my kids (daughters, 10 and 13) to it by promising to pay their way into Star Wars II (or -2?) if they didn't like it. I didn't have to pay.

R. G. (also Dr., also Gerry) McKenzie

Oddly enough, when I was chairman of the Seattle Civic Playhouse a long time ago, I produced and directed The Importance of Being Earnest, putting on the first American production of the full four act version so far as we can tell. (Most productions you see combine Acts Two and Three into one long Act Two, and leave out the character of lawyer Gribsby entirely. They also leave out the interesting banter about the Primitive Church between Chasuble and Prism that makes their union at the denouement make sense.

We have attempted to see the new movie: Dench as Bracknell should be worth the price all by itself -- but it is not in many LA theaters and when we've wanted to see it, it's always at the wrong time. I intend to. Or to buy the DVD.

From Joe Zeff

Last night, President Bush made a very important point, although it may have sounded like a quip: No matter whrere Bin Laden is, he's not leading any parades.

Now, I don't know about anybody else, but I could hardly imagine such an egotist not finding a way to get on TV to show he's still alive, well and free on the first anniversary of his atrocity. Even if he had to broadcast from a hospital bed, he'd do so to show he's still at large and to rub our nose in it. I think we can safely say that he's probably dead, but that doesn't mean we can relax, or stop pursuing his followers. We clearly can't make these fanatics love us, but we can and must make them fear us enough to leave us alone.

My sentiments exactly.










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Friday, September 13, 2002

Bob Thompson says:

To test the WinXP exploit, do the following on a WinXP system that has not had SP1 applied.

1. If it is not already present, create the folder c:\junk and copy one or more trash files into it. (If c:\junk does exist, move any files you wish to keep to another directory).

2. Fire up your browser and visit

3. Click on the link.

4. Check the contents of your c:\junk directory.


-- Robert Bruce Thompson

That's definitive. It's also the case that some updates are breaking long established programs. 

Mr. Lipscomb explains his views; I have put that up with the letter it replies to.

And Eric has another, and perhaps important, note on the subject. I have put it up there too.

And all this goes on and on. I am particularly unhappy with the patches breaking programs that were running fine. The remedy may be to return to Windows 2000.


AND here is something else to worry about:

Jerry, As a user of Word, You might like to read this 

Regards, Edward Chambers

If you use WORD you should go read this. There is a work around: put stuff you care about in directories you have created with names that only you know. But since most people just stuff things into My Documents....

And on a timely note:

Re: Computer security.

Dr. Pournelle, Your latest security alert brought the subject to mind. I was wondering if you had ever provided a summary overview of computer security issues and good practices and tools to have? It seems like an appropriate topic for one of your Chaos Manor reports.

There's the one you emphasize often, of course--never open unexpected email attachments.

In addition to operating practices like that, my own security setup has four hardware/software elements:

First, there's having a good anti-virus program. I use Norton 2000 at home and we have Norton 2002 at work. Second, there's having a good firewall. Again, I use Norton at home. At work we have a firewall appliance. Third, I use the GRR! program (Grayware Registry Rearguard) which monitors registry activity for "suspicious" behavior. From time-to-time it's caught attempts by something to attempt to put "run on startup" type commands into the registry. Fourth, I use the program Ad Aware frequently to check for spyware on my computer.

David L. Burkhead "May I be just half the person Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc. My dog thinks I am." 

And see the Xupiter warning. And the beat goes on...

To change the subject:

Hello Dr. Pournelle: I have to wonder: is there something wrong with Democratic voters (other than the obvious), or is this some kind of emotional disorder which infects Democratic candidates? Perhaps this will just become Standard operating procedure. Certainly, after witnessing the failure of similar tactics by Al Gore, two years ago, Janet Reno could have attempted something better. It has already been determined that we voters are too stupid to punch holes in cards; should it also be inferred that we are not thought trustworthy, even to point at a name on a touchscreen? Reno, who had been leading attorney McBride in the polls by a clear 25 points before slipping behind recently, was still mulling her options -- perhaps a lawsuit to overturn the results or a recount request -- and claiming that thousands of voters were turned away from the polls on Tuesday. Reno's campaign complained about polls opening late or ignoring Bush's order to stay open an extra two hours, election workers struggling with new touchscreen voting machines, and voter confusion about polling places because of new precinct boundaries.,2933,62988,00.html   Neal Pritchett

Well, some counties have a lot of people about my age...

You had commented on some odd anti-Conservative rantings on a technology web site a week or so ago. On the gripping hand, here's a guy who "gets it" vis Islam and the West on!

Dueling Civilizations: Islam and the West: 

Since September 11th, 2001, there has been much pontificating and theorizing about the "why" behind the murderous suicide attacks on New York and Washington. I have been underwhelmed by most of the analysis. . A literal interpretation of those verses and others enables Muslims to affirm their religion as "a religion of peace" while assenting to slaughter and oppression of infidels with no sense of self-contradiction.

Jim Riticher

Islam is a religion of peace within the area of submission. With infidels there can only be truce, not peace. It's pretty clear on a reading of the Koran. In the West there was The Enlightenment which made religious questions a bit less deadly. That has happened among some Moslems, but not among Moslems generally.

And on another note:

Charles Cooper of ZDNet wrote: > The first company that figures out how to free us from our > collective computing straitjacket will strike financial gold.

That's an easy thing to say, and I've spent so much time thinking about the topic that I'm sure it's true, but it overlooks the tremendous cost of establishing a new computing platform. Only by throwing away essentially all the work we've done so far on Unix, Windows, and other popular computing platforms can we get around all the terrible problems built into those platforms, and who's willing to do that?

I mean, I _know_ how to create a completely new platform that eliminates every problem I've observed in computer programming and operation over the years, except of course for basic human weaknesses (limits to our intelligence and memory, poor hand-eye coordination, etc.). Even these weaknesses can be programmed around to a large extent. Computers are just what the doctor ordered for augmenting the limited human brain. After the famous comment by Clausewitz, I would say that "engineering is the continuation of evolution by other means."

And while I'm on it, I'll invoke Fermat as well: "I have discovered a truly remarkable computing paradigm which this email is too small to contain."

Such a new platform, over a lifespan of a hundred years, could be worth ten to a hundred times the total value of all computing devices created to date... some tens of trillions of dollars. But it would cost billions just to do the basic research to prove the range of its potential value to the world. As a thought experiment, my model of how computers should work has made tremendous progress over the last ten years, and it hasn't cost me a penny, but the minute it leaves my brain and other people start working on it, it becomes too expensive for me to retain control of it.

To know it would work, hundreds of people would have to spend years building useful amounts of hardware and software. Though the potential payoff is much bigger than this investment, it's still a prohibitively large investment.

We can't fix today's computing platforms using an incremental strategy, and we can't afford to do anything more dramatic. So how the heck does anything get fixed? Alex Pournelle suggested creating the computing equivalent of an X Prize Foundation, and that might work for less ambitious goals, but it would never get people working on ways to replace Unix and Windows. The effort's out of proportion to any award a private foundation could offer.

I'd like to think I can figure out a way to get around these problems, but as I said, I've been thinking about this matter for a long, long time, and I've made no real progress so far. Well, it took the world 363 years to prove Fermat's Last Theorem...

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Peter N. Glaskowsky Principal Analyst, MicroDesign Resources Editor in Chief, Microprocessor Report

Marvelous. Thanks!

From: Chris Morton To: Jerry Pournelle Subject: Spam

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

If somebody else has already addressed this please disregard. Rather than filter email on your wife's PC, have you considered instead setting up a Linux mailserver running Fetchmail and Sendmail. You could download mail for any and all accounts there, doing the filtering on the mailserver. You could get your mail from it using POP3.

Just a suggestion.

Chris Morton Rocky River, OH

We've thought of it. I haven't done it. Sloth. I have actually been hoping to get high speed access and then set up a mail server. It appears I can't, so I guess I need to put a mail server machine in line here. I need to think on the details of that, including the complications of travel etc.  And my head is in the post-Atlantean era...

Dr. Pournelle,

I found the patcher that Steve Gibson has written to be a simple painless download to fix the hole in WinXP if you do not have or cannot install WinXP SP-1 yet. (My experiences installing WinXP SP-1 is detailed below.) The patch can be found at: 

It is informational as well and will leave things well enough alone if it finds the problem fixed or WinXP SP-1 installed. I have already recommended it to several other people who do not yet have WinXP SP-1. It works.

And now for the fun part: Installing WinXP SP-1 (I am reminded of your slogan we do these silly things so that you don't have to...)

It began innocently enough: I logged onto the WinXp automatic updates page and looked at the WinXP SP-1 patch as if it was just another MS patch. The message tells us it will most likely only require a 30MB download.

Well, figuring that I have 350MB free on the C: hard drive (10GB) and that I have already installed all other MS patches (whether critical or not) I thought this should not take long at all.

Wrong. First the installer spent 20 minutes examining my machine, then 2 seconds checking the product reg code with MS, then went into determining if I had enough disk space for the installation. This step took another 20 minutes and then stopped with a message that I needed another 575MB to install or another 850MB if I wanted to install with full backup. Wow!! Since I had un-checked the full backup button earlier I was surprised to see this as well as the need for 575MB of space. Not believing this I stopped the install (you really have no choice since the installer program ends it here), deleted about 300MB of files and restarted. 40 minutes later the same thing happened, I still needed 275MB more space for the install and more if I wanted backup! I deleted the required space and ran again. This time the first part again took 20 minutes, the MS registration check 2 seconds, but the installation space check only took 3 seconds (go figure).

Now it started the actual download of files. First surprise: I needed 55MB of files! Oh, well.

Second surprise: I got 8.5Kbits on my cable modem of download speed (cable modem might as well have been a 33.6 dial up, right...). Since all other MS update downloads have been in the 50Kbits to 100Kbits range you can imagine my surprise. (This slow rate happened each time I downloaded the WinXP Sp-1 patch - on 3 separate occasions.)

After 25MB had downloaded (it shows a download remaining counter) I got Surprise 3: the server dropped and the install program asked if I wanted to "retry" or "quit".

Of course after 2 hours I furiously hit "retry" and was immediately hit by Surprise 4: it now was going to download 73MB of files for another 200 minutes of download time! Actually, the last is a glitch in the downloader since after it had downloaded about 30MB it went straight into installing the files. Once it had started the actual install it took 20 minutes including a re-boot to finish.

Whew. Of course I tried the same thing again on the second WinXP machine with the same results. I had to prove I could take the punishment (proves you are a man, right?).

OK, so now I wised up. On the third machine I cleared off 1GB of space on the C: drive to prepare. While doing that I downloaded the 133MB Network Install of WinXP SP-1. See the MS downloads page for WinXP SP-1 to find this at:

This I downloaded onto another machine (at 9.5KBits this also took several hours). Then I transferred the 133MB installer exe to the D: drive on the target machine via ethernet and clicked it to start it. The install from this point took about 25 minutes.

I did this silly stuff (took two evenings, 6-8 hours each, Wednesday and Thursday after the Monday release) so you might not have to. I can only hope the download speed was limited by the number of people trying to get the WinXP SP-1 patch and not by MS server limitations. Others will experience the same frustrations unless they also clear off 1GB of space and don't download the network installer.

The nearly 1 GB of space requirement really throws a monkey wrench into the SP-1 update process. I can only hope MS improves this because corporations will not be able to predict whether they have 1GB of free space on each and every PC. What an enormous cost of resources if MS cannot improve this process.

Oliver Richter 


See Below for Eric's comment.





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Oliver Richter notes that Windows XP SP1 has a pretty hefty amount of free drive space needed for its installation phase. On the one hand, in this era where one of the perpetual conversations is "what shall we do with all of this space?" it seems unlikely more than a very few will ever find this a problem. Those with such constraints would usually have other priorities in advance of buying XP. Just about any computer that shipped new with XP is going to have at least a 20 GB drive as well as the very high probability of including a CD burner to allow for cheap offloading of data as needed.

On the other hand I'd be very surprised if Oliver's system as described was operating without problem before the attempted installation of SP1. A mere 350 MB free on the main drive (assuming that paging is performed to the default location) without complaint from the system suggests a really miniscule amount of RAM for use with XP. A machine with 256MB RAM is going to want a minimum of 192MB space for paging and twice that for heavy loads. Oliver's situation has him needlessly pushing the edge and likely experiencing annoying slowdowns and possibly crashes as his PC struggles to operate.

I know it's easy to spend other people's money but even if he's saving towards an entirely new system I'd recommend spending a little on upgrading the existing one to make the wait for the big upgrade more tolerable.

It would be interesting if someone at Microsoft involved in creating the Service Pack were available to answer a few questions. Are the drive space requirements just how it worked out with nobody thinking it to be a problem? Or was there a spec for a minimum XP system used as a template? The online install (or Express as they're calling it now) for Win2K Service Packs had very small footprints, taking into account previously installed updates and adding only what was needed. Why isn't this the case for XP? I've done the Express install on a few machines that were otherwise completely current according to Windows Update yet the SP1 install would still find over 50 MB of material needed. Are many earlier patch releases themselves being replaced with newer versions? We know there is some non-patch items like the USB 2.0 support and the new control applet for altering middleware displayed but that doesn't account for nearly the amount of downloaded data involved.

But there is one item that truly obsesses me, and I cannot locate any explanation in the SP1 Fix List. During the extraction process one of the file names that flashes by is spider.exe, as in Spider Solitaire. What dire fault existed there that merited inclusion in the Service Pack?

Good advice.


Dear Jerry:

"If your patch be a virus -- --'A virus!' said he, Your software will suddenly vanish away, and never be heard from again..."

The original poem is subtitled, "An agony in eight fits," which could, I believe, aptly describe the response anyone might have to an attachment that infects his computer with a malicious virus.

.........Karl Lembke


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

a couple of times in the last few weeks, you have commented on the British ouster of the Hashemite dynasty in the Arabian peninsula and the establishment of the Saudis. On those occasions you have attributed these events to the influence of T.E. Lawrence. Not so. This was in fact the result of political maneuvering by St.John Philby, who was closely tied to the Saudi royal house. Lawrence was a strong supporter of the Hashemites. Unfortunately, he was already something of a political outsider and had very little political clout left. What he had was barely enough to get the Hashemistes established in Iraq and Jordan.

Philby was a bit of a rising star as far as the Arab desk was concerned and he was building a nice little personal mythology not unlike Richard Burton's (the explorer, not the actor). He was one of the first westerners to travel the Empty Quarter and did a lot for the study of Arabian geography. He is well worth a bit of study for those with the time. And of course, there is his better known son who had the nickname of Kim...

Your comments on the Kurds are well put. As an added note, it should be mentioned that the Kurds have been in the mountains a long time. They gave Xenophon and the Ten Thousand more than a little trouble as well.

David Levinson

 Thank you for the correction. I have no great expertise on that period, and I suppose I must have given some credence to the movie (which was hardly my only source). Incidentally, Tim Powers wonderful novel DECLARE makes full use of the real events of history over there, and of Kim Philby as a major character.

Joel Rosenberg on the war:

As to Saddam, I'm not -- and this won't surprise you -- of two minds. If the IDF hadn't taken out Osirak, he'd have moved into Kuwait while owning a-bombs, and he'd still be there. The latter is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you're a Kuwaiti or Saudi -- but the sort of cold rationality that characterized at least most of the Soviet or Chinese nuclear policy isn't exactly his hallmark. It's not just that he's a dictator bent on domination of the region -- it's that he's a stupid dictator, bent on domination of the region, who demonstrably couldn't run his country well enough to get by without robbing his neighbors, despite floating on a sea of oil, and will have to keep trying to expand, even minus the sanctions.

Next time he moves into Kuwait, if he's got the bomb, it's a whole 'nother picture.

As to the score to settle, it's not just the rape of some soldiers -- although that's a causus belli in and of itself, and I don't want to minimize it. At least the first WTC bombing has Iraqi fingerprints all over it, and that's a causus belli in and of itself, which hasn't expired. And, for that matter, there's the notion of a "cease fire." Violation of the terms of a cease fire is a bad thing to permit somebody to get away with -- and it wouldn't be the first time the US has done it-- and permitting him to institutionalize it and get away with it for years doesn't make it any better. (Blame Kissinger, for setting the principle that the other side's guarantees in a truce/peace settlement/ceasefire are expected to be just chin music; it's had serious negative repercussions ever since.)

Your thinking on the Kurds largely tracks with mine, so if you're wrong, we both are. I do think -- and I may be wrong, but I have read some on the subject -- that the Kurds would likely settle for 2/3 instead of all of Kurdistan, and even, perhaps, 1/3, although that's less likely.

Making that latter happen would require a major US guarantee to Iran, and I can't see why that guarantee should be made. (The Turkish situation is, of course, another thing; Turkey is a longstanding ally. If -- and it's a big if -- the Turks would agree to a deal in which there is a Kurdistan in ex-Iraq and ex-Iran, they could be expected to live by their promise. Iran, at best, could become a new and not terribly reliable ally for the forseeable.)

Sending Turkey into Iraq via Kurdistan, though, pretty much guarantees that the Kurds won't be of any help to the US, for a long time, if ever. That's a step back from now, as you imply.

You write: "The good and competent Imperial way would be to use the Kurdish client state to help us, given them northern Iraq, and we occupy the rest under a puppet regime."

The first part of that -- while the foreign nation-building that probably isn't, absent any other interest, any of the Republic's concern -- is my own preference. And I think that works under both Republic and Empire -- a Republic can, of course, have alliances, and an extra ally in the region would be only slightly less useful to the US Republic than an additional client state would be to the American Empire.

And the latter part of that worked in Germany and Japan, and quickly transitioned to something else. Iraq would, I think, take longer, if only because we don't have a Clay or a MacArthur available as governor, (not just the abilities, but the ability to rule as the governor sees fit) and governing by -- as opposed to through -- locals would be tricky, at best.

I'm skeptical of the Hashemites. Hussein ibn Talal played the triangulation game too well and sold out his brother just before his death; Abdullah is his understudy, and, like his father and grandfather, has reason to fear a local revolution or assassination if he's seen as too close to the West. He'll sell out to his most viable threat, I think, and that's unlikely to be the US or a US ally for a long time, if ever.

I'd like to be proven wrong, as turning Iraq (and, presumably, eventually, the Saudi entity) over to a putatively reliable Abdullah has some promise, at least in theory -- assuming we can actually do business with him longterm. After all, his father was willing to slaughter people right and left to maintain his power -- the bodycount during Black September was higher than Assad's Hama lesson -- and that's manifestly one of the necessary conditions to rule in an Arab country.

It's going to be interesting, although I'm guessing that the next move on the Iraqi's part -- about three months after the US reserve callups that presage the start of hostilities -- is to agree "unconditionally" to UN inspectors returning, and start that round of games again.


Joel --


We do live in interesting times. I do not want to try "nation building" in the Middle East. There are too many nations within the same borders, we don't speak the languages, and we don't understand the politics or the religion. And the Moslems are pretty clear on the religious attitudes toward both Christians and Jews.

But a good Empire would see that oil prices stay low.

On another topic:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Linux Journal has a fine article on using Snort intrusion detection with a network interface card that has no address. It seems an interesting way to confound your enemies. I remember that you include a Linux firewall in a home network that would give the ordinary home hobbyist nightmares. See  for information on this Linux application. I would make Richard M. Stallman happier by calling it Gnu/Linux, but there is no other kind and the contributions of RMS are already recognized as monumental.


William L. Jones 

I will have to look into that. Thanks!







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Sunday, September 15, 2002

Build your own Macintosh.

Roland Dobbins

I'm not recommending this... 

Dear Mr Pournelle, I have been reading your thoughts on Iraq and the Oil price. The only problem with oil being under $20 a barrel is that the Oil companies do not want oil that cheap. At that price it is not economic to do any exploration. It has been that way for at least tyhe last decade and I don't see it changing in any way. One thing we know for sure Bush is a Texan and Texas runs on oil.

John Grabner. 

Well, since we aren't going to do it anyway...

Dear Jerry,

Thursday night was probably the last time a J-58 would fill the night sky at Edwards AFB with noise and light. To say that it was spectacular is just to prove that I don't have an adequate vocabulary.

To experience a J-58 in full burner close up and personal is hard to describe. Picture a gigantic blow torch, 40 inches in diameter, putting out a blue-yellow-orange flame over 50 feet long. Imagine standing 30 feet from this, feeling the vibration and heat. You wear both foam plugs and earmuffs. Your ears still ring afterward, because the sound is conducted through your body. Once in burner, the back half of the engine transforms from dull gray to bright orange, seemingly translucent. The flame has little three-dimensional diamond shaped shock patterns about every 2 feet. I lost count at 13. It is both frightening and beautiful, an amazing demonstration of perfectly controlled power.

Two J-58's used to power the SR-71 Blackbird. Individually, they have more horsepower than the Queen Mary. On a typical flight at Mach 3.2 and 80,000 feet, these two engines would burn in excess of 100,000 pounds of fuel in a little over one hour.

And to think - this is what we did with 1950's technology. I found myself feeling sorry for anyone who will be crossing the path of the modern stuff. Almost.

On the pad next to us was a T-38 Talon doing engine runs. The crew stopped to watch for awhile, then went back to work. Later we saw them running their engines in afterburner, which was, as one person said, comparing Electrolux to Pratt & Whitney.

The amazing thing to me was that we were able to put together a team that still knew how to do this - most of them are still working for Pratt & Whitney at EDW. The former top sergeant of the detachment that worked the SR's for most of his AF career was also there. The other amazing thing is that we took four engines out of their shipping containers, where they had resided for more than four years, and three of them worked liked the day they were made (the fourth had a broken line).

With the end of any flying on the SR's, we are slowly disposing of the assets of this fascinating aircraft. Already the airplanes can be found in various museums around the country, having had their wings cut off for transportation and then tacked back on for display. There are three SR's at NASA, being "de-milled" preparatory to their eventual emasculation. The sad part about this is that the US killed the SR for political reasons, and still does not have a penetrating spy plane to replace them. The AF won't even use the Global Hawks for this, because a Global Hawk now costs more than an F-16.

There are something around 40 engines in flyable storage condition. A NASA center asked for three for testing purposes, so we had to prepare them for shipment and ensure that they were functioning. We also had promised the base commander that we would dispose of the remaining stock of JP-7, the exotic fuel that was specially formulated to withstand the very cold environment at 80,000 feet and the very hot environment of the engine nacelle. Well, the best way to dispose of this fuel is to -- BURN IT. We also had to ensure that the TEB (tri-ethyl borane) was purged from the engine. TEB is used to light the afterburners and start the engine, and ignites upon contact with air. Each engine carries enough TEB for any combination of 10 lights or starts.

After the run, we stayed for cake donated by the P&W folks. The guys who ran the test stand posed for photos in front of the engine. There were some tears shed. How these guys loved that program!

Sounds terrific.






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