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Mail 229 October 28 - November 3, 2002 






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

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

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Monday  October 28, 2002

I ended last week with this one, but it's already on the clipboard so I'll start it again.

Hi Jerry,

Speaks for itself.

If I remember correctly, you did not see this coming at all. Nope. No way. Came out of left field it did.

PS: Yes, I am being facetious.

Paul S. Walker

As I said at the time, one of the most important outcomes of the Microsoft anti trust suit was the decision by Microsoft to get into the lobbying business big time. It shouldn't have been a surprise. Of course some of the government extortionists intended the result in the hopes that some of the money would come their way. That too is the nature of government. Self government gives you less service, of course, but there are fewer extortionists and demands.

It's unlikely to be an option. And when big outfits like Microsoft and Intel decide to spend money on influencing government, they will want results: and the results will be to their interest.  Charlie Wilson once said, sort of, that what was good for General Motors was good for the country. He didn't quite say that but it wasn't really a misstatement of what he did say: he pretty well believed that, and if you believe the business of the United States is business, he had good reason to. There's some truth to it.

Similarly, I am sure some of the executives at Microsoft are quite certain that what's good for Microsoft is good for the USA. There's a sense in which they're right, too.

In any event, welcome to the Brave New World.





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Tuesday,  October 29, 2002

This will be very short shrift, and there's a LOT of mail. Thanks to all who wrote fan mail to Sable....

Roland on Our Friends at Microsoft:
  -- ------------------------------------------------------------ Roland Dobbins 

But that's not all...

So I was reading the news and saw this article on Yahoo about Microsoft's objections to Kmart's sale (its in Chap 11 now) of because of software licensing?!?!?!

""The licenses that debtors (Kmart) have of Microsoft's products are licenses of copyrighted materials and, therefore, may not be assumed or assigned with Microsoft's consent," the software giant said in its objection, filed last week."


Perhaps I am not as well versed about this as I had thought but, once I buy something, it's mine, right? No one else should be able to dictate terms of resale of property I rightfully paid for and now own, right?

If anyone would care to shed some light on this and perhaps explain this to me I would be grateful as this seems totally preposterous from where I stand.

-Dan S.

I would find it interesting myself...


And a quick note from Tracy Walters:

Very interesting stuff here. Could be a big time sink… 

Tracy Walters


Dr. Pournelle:

I found this little article (on Neal Boortz's web site) re: politicians' abilities to charter aircraft. It seems to fit right in with your republic-and-empire discussion.


SPECIAL PRIVILEGES FOR CANDIDATES? On Saturday mornings when I’m home in Atlanta (and not gallivanting around the countryside in my airplane) I meet for breakfast with a group of fellow pilots and aircraft owners. This last Saturday we naturally discussed the tragic aircraft accident that claimed the life of Senator Paul Wellstone last week. Questions were raised about the competency of the pilots and the regulations under which this particular flight was flown. These conversations drove me to a bit of studying of the Federal Air Regulations (FARs).

OK .. don’t want to bore you here, but I did uncover something curious. Simply stated, when you’re flying yourself, your family and friends around the countryside in your private airplane as a private pilot you are flying under the regulations set forth in Part 91. But, when you’re flying people hither and yon for money you operate under Part 135 where a commercial pilot’s license is required and aircraft inspection policies are more stringent.

But … there is one little exception to these rules. One little inspection whereby a simple private pilot with no commercial license can charge a passenger to get that passenger from point A to point B. And would you care to guess just who those passengers might be? Well, take a look at this particular section of Part 91.

§91.321 Carriage of candidates in Federal elections. (a) An aircraft operator, other than one operating an aircraft under the rules of part 121, 125, or 135 of this chapter, may receive payment for the carriage of a candidate in a Federal election, an agent of the candidate, or a person traveling on behalf of the candidate, if -- (1) That operator's primary business is not as an air carrier or commercial operator; (2) The carriage is conducted under the rules of this part 91; and (3) The payment for the carriage is required, and does not exceed the amount required to be paid, by regulations of the Federal Election Commission (11 CFR et seq.). (b) For the purposes of this section, the terms candidate and election have the same meaning as that set forth in the regulations of the Federal Election Commission.

Yup … you got it. Political candidates. It would seem that our political class managed to get a little exception written into the law that makes it easier, and cheaper, for them to find pilots who will fly them and their staff around during election campaigns.

So … here’s how it works. A business owner who urgently needs to get to a critical business meeting, or a doctor who has an emergency 500 miles away, cannot pay a private pilot to take them there. But, a political candidate who needs to show up at a fundraiser can.

Now, I don’t know whether the Wellstone flight was being conducted under Part 91 or Part 135. It’s just interesting, though, how many special little privileges our politicians have established for themselves.<<

By the way, I have become a student of your reading list, and am reading "The Prince" right now. Slowly but surely, I'm undoing the damage done to my thought processes by public education.

Thanks for the education and insights,

Bart Leahy Orlando, FL

I am shocked, shocked...

Hi, Your comment, "When we pulled the plug and let the motherboard LED die out-it takes several seconds-..." can be helped by pushing the power button with the plug out. It tries to start the system and quickly drains the power. This is a Dell recommendation.

Most motherboard BIOSs have a recovery mode for corrupted flash upgrades. If corrupted, it will still seek a floppy disk and boot it. You need to have an AUTOEXEC set to run the flash program for the last stable BIOS (I always "save a copy" before I upgrade) with all the switches set for a flash to run with no operator input. There is no screen output while it does this, because there is no Basic I/O for writing to the screen yet.

Thanks for all the good advice (for years and years.) pete


Sable looks like a bundle of energy on four feet. :)

A program that I find useful for compressing and cropping pictures is Image Optimizer. 

You can adjust compression levels of the whole picture, or just on part of it.

Highly recommended.

John Weatherby 

Energy she has. I actually use Microsoft PhotoDraw which works fine, provided that you remember that just because you changed the default place to OPEN files, it will still save the darned things in the STUPID IMBECILE MY PICTURES under a DUMB User PROFILE folder where you can't find them.  Once I got the default open and saves set properly I could adjust picture sizes nicely.  Microsoft has some absolutely inane notions of how professionals do things: it's all set up to try to be nice to Aunt Minnie, even when you're using the "professional" copy of the program. Sigh.

And Ed Hume sends:

Put de lime in de coconut and drink it aw up . . .

-----Original Message----- From: Lawrence A. Husick [] Sent: Monday, October 28, 2002 2:06 PM Subject: Joke: I wish this was a joke, but it's a REAL PATENT

Hmmmmm.....I wonder if Margaritas infringe...

[An aside by Lawrence. The real patent is below. Here, you be the judge (actual experiments required to whack yourself in the chest, crush some ice, and INVITE ME!)


1 1/2 cups gold tequila 3/4 cup Triple Sec 3/4 cup fresh lime juice (is this an "effective amount"?) 4 tablespoons sugar 8 cups crushed ice 2 tablespoons kosher salt 6 lime wedges

Combine tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons sugar in large pitcher; stir to dissolve sugar. Add crushed ice. Mix salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in shallow bowl. Moisten rim of 6 Margarita glasses with lime wedge. Holding each glass upside down, dip rim into sugar-salt mixture. Pour Margarita into glasses. Garnish with lime wedges. Serves 6.


============================ United States Patent 6,457,474 October 1, 2002 Method of treating chest pain


A method of alleviating chest pain that stems from the heart, which method comprises: (a) noticing a pain in the chest; and then shortly thereafter (b) taking lime juice into the body to alleviate the chest pain.

Inventors: Hanson; Carl E. (P.O. Box 33427, St. Paul, MN 55133-3427) Appl. No.: 903677 Filed: July 31, 1997

What is claimed is:

1. A method of preventing the reoccurrence of chest pain associated with the heart, which method comprises:

(a) noticing a pain in the chest; and then shortly thereafter

(b) taking an effective amount of lime juice into the body to alleviate the chest pain.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the chest pain is angina pectoris.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the lime juice enters the body by consuming it orally.

4. The method of claim 2, wherein the lime juice is consumed in concentrated form by taking at least one half teaspoon of frozen concentrated lime juice or limeade.

5. The method of claim 1, further comprising:

preventing the reoccurrence of chest pain by taking lime juice into the body daily.

6. The method of claim 5, wherein at least one cup of lime juice is consumed orally daily.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein 2 to 5 cups are consumed daily.

8. The method of claim 6, wherein 2 to 3 cups are consumed daily.

9. A method of treating angina pectoris, which method comprises:

(a) noticing the onset of an angina attack; and then shortly thereafter

(b) taking an effective amount of lime juice into the body.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein the lime juice is taken orally.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein the lime juice is essentially pure lime juice.

12. The method of claim 10, wherein the lime juice is frozen concentrate for limeade.

13. The method of claim 10, wherein the lime juice is limeade.

14. The method of claim 1, wherein the lime juice is administered in concentrated form.

15. The method of claim 1, wherein the lime juice is administered in the form of its active ingredients.

16. The method of claim 9, wherein the lime juice is administered in concentrated form.

17. The method of claim 9, wherein the lime juice is administered in the form of its active ingredients.

Lawrence A. Husick LIPTON, WEINBERGER & HUSICK Intellectual Property and Technology Law P.O. Box 587 Southeastern, PA 19399-0587 610/296-8259 Voice 610/296-5816 Fax AOL/Netscape IM: LawHusick

"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955) - Autobiographical Notes

********************************************************************* This electronic message transmission contains information from the law firm of Lipton, Weinberger & Husick which may be confidential or privileged. Recipients should not file copies of this e-mail with publicly accessible records. The information is intended to be for the use of the individual(s) named above. If you are not the intended recipient, please be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this message is prohibited.

If you have received this electronic transmission in error, please notify us by electronic mail ( immediately, before we get in really big trouble. If you fail to be intimidated by this notice, we will get angry, stamp our feet, and hold our breath until we turn blue. Thank you. ********************************************************************* (Official-Looking Notice V1.6fc3)

--- Incoming mail is certified Virus Free. Checked by AVG anti-virus system ( Version: 6.0.408 / Virus Database: 230 - Release Date: 10/24/2002

which I post without comment because I don't dare let myself think about this.. Any of it...

And a warning from Joe Zeff:

There's an article about e-cards being used as trojans to get people to a site that dumps porn pop-ups and other ads: 

 Some of them email the Outlook address book to the web host. The article also claims that nothing in this is illegal, but I disagree. If nothing else, taking the address book without permission is both data-theft and invasion of privacy, either of which can and should lead to prosecution.

Joe Z


Removing the e-card "virus" is fairly easy. There are currently 2 versions.

Hope this Helps

Charles Butler







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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

The Eve of All Hallows Eve...

There is an essay on the libertarian dilemma by J Neil Schulman; see Reports.

I have many letters on the subject of software ownership and licenses, including debates among my friends and staff. I'll try to edit this into something coherent. Meanwhile


For your (and Dan S.) information: according to the software industry (and this attitude is spreading to the music / movie / publishing industry at lightspeed), you don't own a single solitary piece of any software. This was always somewhat true in the commercial world; IBM rented out all their mainframe software. But that is why all those silly "license agreements" exist: you are being allowed to use their software (music, movies, books, magazines, etc.) under a very clearly defined set of conditions. If you violate those conditions, your license is revoked, and they have the right to have you return their property. In addition, they can change those terms any time they want to, and at that point, what you are allowed to do with their software can change. Read that silly EULA for the latest Winblows Media Player for a prime example. Microsoft can install any upgrades it feels necessary; those upgrades may make the music CD's you have "owned" for 10 years unplayable. Tough noogies. Buy new ones at an inflated price.

You say, "OK, I'll just keep using the old player." Sure; of course, the next time you want a security hole patched, the patch will just happen to require you to install all the new software and delete the old. Free example: we just got new computers at work with Windows 2000 Pro SP3. SP1 still had cdplayer on it. These new boxes wanted to use Windows Media Player instead.... and NONE of my commercial CDs were recognized as legal. This meant that I had no way to set up playlists, exclude tracks, etc. Fortunately, cdplayer was still hidden on the system and still worked... but every time I pop in a cd, WMP wants to start up too, and interfere with CD player. How long before no unauthorized players will be allowed to run?

Well, maybe we shouldn't use Windows! But how long is it going to be before all the Web traffic that happens to route through a Windows server is being scanned and only allowed through if it's papers are in order? And of course, we have the music industry wanting permission to conduct Search and Destroy missions for illegal content on our computers. Does that mean that my old CDs will not qualify? and to the extent that the government is allowing them to do this, does it constitute an illegal taking of my proprty? OOOPSIE! it isn't "my property", it's the RIAA's and I'm just "licensed..."

To resurrect one of your old battle cries: Users Unite! It's us they're after!


Steve Nelson

I used to be pretty feisty, wasn't I?

They took out a full page ad in the New York Times, copy can be found here: 

They sarcastically thank the music industry "fighting the good fight against MP3 file sharing", then noting that "because of you, millions of kids will stop wasting time listening to new music" or having to face "harmful exposure to thousands of bands via internet radio either."

Why is it the RIAA has so much power and influence when it seems like everyone doesn't like how they are treating their customers let alone their artists? What does it take to get a revolution of a sort these days? Are those days long past and forgotten?

-Dan S.

As I said in the column, they're organized. We're not.




Subj: Candidates chartering airplanes

The gentleman misunderstands, I think, the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) pertaining to Part 91 operations in which the passenger is a political candidate (or whatever).

Here's my own recollection of the origin of the rule:

Once upon a time, private pilots used to donate the "in-kind" service of flying their favorite candidates around.

But the Federal Election Commission (FEC), in its zeal that no political contribution of any kind be not disclosed, made an Election Rule that a candidate _must_ pay for any transportation by aircraft. (It might be _all_ transportation -- I didn't bother to look it up.)

This made it illegal -- under the FARs -- for private pilots to carry their candidate friends around any more, because under the then-FARs, it was illegal for a private pilot to receive the FEC-mandated payment.

Whereupon a bunch of private pilots petitioned the FAA, and got relief, in the form of the rule the gentleman cited, which provides an exception to the general rule against non-commercial pilots receiving payment for carrying passengers.

So: the special rule wasn't made to benefit political candidates, but to preserve a customary right of private pilots that the FEC would, otherwise, have taken away.

Rod Montgomery ==

One of Pournelle's Laws is that if you think things are simple you just don't understand the situation...   Thanks. And note that the Law of Unintended Consequences continues. The simplest rules are generally no rules at all, but that requires good faith. And besides, what would the lawyers do?

And on yesterday's musings:

> And we move inexorably toward war. I must confess that when I see who is against the war it moves me to be for it, just to avoid that kind of company: if people I mostly respect tell me that they find it necessary, and people whose judgment I have little use for on all other issues say we must not do this, I have to rethink my situation.

No sir, I respectfully submit you do _not_. I, too, resent having to take sides with bubbleheads and worse, against folks who I respect. However, your political calculus is long-term; you consider what such a war will do to the tattered shreds of Republic. They calculate what they must do to assemble Empire.

-- John Bartley, K7AAY, telcom admin, USBC/DO, Portland OR - Views are mine. 

I like to think you are correct, but then -- ah, well.

Hello Jerry,

I see the FDA suddenly approved sale of Applied Digital Solutions' VeriChip.,1848,55999,00.html 
 Any bets on when this chip becomes "mandatory" instead of "voluntary"?

By the way, Sable is adorable.

Sincerely, Randy Storms

No bets. And she sure is, but she hates being alone...

From Ed Hume:

To view the entire article, go to

FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted

By Guy Gugliotta and Gary Matsumoto

A significant number of scientists and biological warfare experts are expressing skepticism about the FBI's view that a single disgruntled American scientist prepared the spores and mailed the deadly anthrax letters that killed five people last year.

These sources say that making a weaponized aerosol of such sophistication and virulence would require scientific knowledge, technical competence, access to expensive equipment and safety know-how that are probably beyond the capabilities of a lone individual.

As a result, a consensus has emerged in recent months among experts familiar with the technology needed to turn anthrax spores into the deadly aerosol that was sent to Sens. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) that some of the fundamental assumptions driving the FBI's investigation may be flawed.

"In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them," said Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998. "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."



Joel Rosenberg on the Wellstone Rally:

Well, it was probably good exercise for me to watch some of the Wellstone rally last night -- my blood pressure, despite my weight, tends to be lowish.

What was billed as a memorial service for the late Senator, and which therefore attracted, err, gavel-to-gavel coverage by all of the local tv stations, quickly became little more than a Mondale rally. Every time the big screen at rally central focussed on Walter Mondale, the crowd broke into cheers, and he smiled a very convincing, aw-shucks smile; every time the screen showed one of the Republican senators or congressmen who had come to pay their respects -- I presume they weren't really there for a DFL rally -- the crowd broke into jeers.

To give him credit, Governor Ventura shook his head and walked out; he had come to pay his respects to the Senator, not to campaign for Mondale. The Republicans in attendance pasted neutral expressions on their faces.

At one point, the politicking for Mondale became so blatant that the master of ceremonies, a retired DFL St. Paul mayor, was visibly embarrassed, and passed it off with a somewhat humorous aside.

Mondale officially declares his candidacy this afternoon, I believe, and is generally expected to sweep into office on Wellstone's bloody shirt.

Joel Rosenberg

Not unexpected. It has been a long time since anyone said "Really, sir! Have you no sense of shame whatever?" Besides, this is desperation, they have to hold that seat... By any means necessary.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                                                                                          
Date:  October 30, 2002
subject: private sector profiling
Dear Jerry:
    In another episode of "We won't see the obvious, and you can't make us, so there!", The Boston Globe has decided, without bothering with anything messy like evidence, that sniper John Allen Muhammad was in no way influenced by religion when he went on his killing spree.
    R*I*G*H*T.  "And I am Marie of Romania."
P.S. : Those who just insist on evidence might start here, here, and here.
Dear Jerry:
    Son of a gun.  15 minutes after sending the "private sector profiling" letter, I find more.  If you decided to print that letter, please add the following line.
P.P.S.:  Oh, here's more evidence.







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Thursday, October 31, 2002

All Hallows Eve

Begin with a comment on the most frightening subject in America, Trial Lawyers, who will probably be responsible for the people rising up to demand a dictatorship:


I'm beginning to suspect that the real motive behind our rigid environmental protection laws is to keep lawyers from being tarred and feathered. By the time the Environmental Impact Report has been written and filed, the lawyer will have made his escape!

I've heard about companies like this in the Wall Street Journal. People like this are the inspiration for lawyer jokes.

One remedy I've heard proposed for cases like those brought by PANIP is a "loser-pays" rule. PANIP can go ahead and exist, and it can file all the suits it wants, but each time it loses, it pays ALL the costs its suit resulted in. It would have to win very big, very quickly, to succeed with its current business model.

To be sure, there are other problems with a "loser pays" system, but I think they could be worked out with relatively little thought. Right now, the legal system is a lottery, and PANIP, among other companies, makes its money by buying lots of tickets.

........Karl Lembke

The English have got along with making the loser pay; of course the English have a strict separation between Solicitors and Barristers, and this helps prevent the Trial Lawyers from fomenting lawsuits as a way to make money. Also, for many years the States and the US Government had very strong incentives for punishing barratries; but that was when we had self government for the most part, and there were not Unions of Bureaucrats who needed government actions to justify their existence.

Under the present system there is little chance of reform; it will I think literally take an imperial dictum to stop this plague. That will happen sooner than most think. Meanwhile, I have often toyed with the notion of a novel about a league of veterans. When one of the members learns he has a terminal disorder, the others assist him in killing off enemies of the people, of whom lawyers are a prime candidate. It might make an interesting novel...


It's very simple from Microsoft's point of view: It *never* sold you anything. MS software is only *licenced*, and the terms of the licence are that you cannot re-sell yadda, yadda yadda.

Everyone else understands that we buy software. There are now a number of cases in the US (all state court decisions I think) which have held that the bundle of "rights" set out in the 'shrink-wrap agreement' do not amount to a legal licence. In particular, there are no time limits, nor future payments, and unlike a more usual 'right to use' (think: rent), you do not have to give it back. Moreover, there are sometimes weird restrictions, such as not being able to move an OEM 'licence' to another machine.

Meanwhile, I am sure that MS' lobbyists are working hard on proposals to enshrine the 'shrink-wrap' agreement as a fully binding and enforceable agreement, even if you never see it, nor can you object (think: pre-loaded installations).

MS' past conduct has lead to the stupid situation that Dell has to put a copy of FreeDos in the box with an otherwise bare machine, because it is contractually bound not to sell a machine 'without an OS' under its OEM agreements.


As the world turns...

Possony and I had the theory that as societies develop, they turn more and more of their output into structure until they collapse from lack of productive work.  I have seen nothing in the growth of the computer industry to cause me to doubt that observation.

Hi Jerry,

I've recently finished "The Prince" and enjoyed it immensely! I think that the world is still heading towards the future that you and Mr. Stirling have portrayed, save only that America goes it alone. Since we are streaking towards Empire, whether it is advisable/preferable or not, I'd agree that we should be talking about what kind of Empire we should be, as we note the passing Republic. 

What goals should the Empire, or American Hegemony (A.H.), have? Well, here are some debatable ones. 

First, ensure the flow of cheap oil until we need far less of it. An Iraqi "protectorate" will help, but OPEC has to be made irrelevant. 

Second, change the regime of any nation that steps out of line (the usual suspects: N. Korea, Iran, Syria, former Palestine). Third (vey messy), quell brushfires that breed instability & that allow terrorist groups to thrive. This would include the redrawing of maps, constructing defendable borders, relocation of ethnic groups, imposing governments. The American Hegemony would vault past the reluctant world policeman role to the global overlord role, defining and enforcing the A.H's sense of "what the world should look like". 

Of course, everyone will hate us, but perhaps fear us enough to leave us alone. If we are to do this, the great thing is to not lose our nerve, we can't half-ass this sort of thing.

Best regards, Jim Laheta

We may certainly agree that once started, Empire is a long road, and turning back can be more dangerous than going ahead; and if it must be done, it ought to be done well.










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Column Time. See Sunday








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Column Time. See Sunday






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Sunday, November 3, 2002

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I read the comments about Walter Mondale speaking at the Paul Wellstone funeral. We must give him some credit. Although he covered Mom under regard for the elderly and choice for women, he never once mentioned apple pie. I suggest we give him as little as possible. I did read elsewhere where Governor Ventura walked out in disgust.


William L. Jones

As Eric points out, Jesse Ventura walked out in embarrassment; this from a man who has appeared in public in a pink boa...

Hi Jerry,

I am sorry to hear that you are having problems with you DSL service. From what you said in the current view it sounds like it may be a Megapath problem and not a COVAD problem. I have speakeasy though COVAD and once the traffic gets to the first hop it is on Speakeasy's network. I have had great reliability though Speakeasy/COVAD as well as XO/COVAD - not that it helps you right now.

Best of luck,


The problems have cleared themselves up. I suppose I should be more patient. Also grateful: I had to put the satellite up while the iDSL was flaky and I am sure glad I don't have to live with that permanently.

Okay, so Microsoft is complaining about the sale of because they say they own the software on some of the servers. One aspect of the situation that I have not seen discussed on your web site: very probably had a special deal on the licensing.

If you or I go to the store and pay retail for a copy of Windows, we get it under a license that gives us broad rights. We never, for example, have to give the software back. But probably paid much less than retail for their server software, under a special licensing deal. MS very well may have the rights they are claiming.

Note that this is an object lesson on why Linux and other free software are good things to put on your servers. You don't need to sign away your rights to get them cheap, since they are free anyway.

Microsoft has shown numbers claiming the TCO of Windows is less than Linux, and I'm certain that the numbers for software prices were assuming a special licensing deal. A hidden cost of this sort of deal has become clear now.

P.S. One of your letters mentioned the FreeDOS situation at Dell. Recently, I saw a web site that offered, among other things, an OEM version of Windows. That version could only be sold with hardware, so there was an option to buy a set of four thumbscrews for fifty cents if you weren't planning to buy any other hardware! 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" 

Thanks. I'll have more to say on the Microsoft situation in the column.


< >

Since Paul Graham for proposed a Bayesian filtering spam, a lot of work has been going on to do more research into what works the best and to implement filters for various mail applications.

Much of the work has been going on on this site: 

What they found (based on a posting to a Mozilla bug tracking the addition of the filter to Mozilla's mail app -  was:

> ------- Additional Comments From 2002-11-01 08:32 ------- > I just thought I'd mention that the the SpamBayes project > has now pretty much completed their algorithm research > phase, and now have a "clear winner" algorithm based on chi-square > probabilities, which you may want to consider upgrading to. In contrast to > Graham's original algorithm and the Robinson variations in use a month ago, the > "chi-combining" algorithm has a usable "unsure" range where it "knows that it > doesn't know" what a particular e-mail is. The earlier algorithms were either > sure all the time, or unsure in unusable ways (e.g. drifting "unsure" ranges). > The new algorithm can still be "trained" incrementally using pretty much the > same word-frequency data, and has far fewer biases and tweak factors. There > have also been many tokenizer improvements. Last, but not least, the project > has a usable Outlook 2000 add-in that can be looked at for UI ideas and perhaps > used for testing to verify that same-or-better results are produced by the > Mozilla implementation of the classifier. > > One of the most difficult things about implementing this kind of filtering is > validating your algorithms; the spambayes people have put an enormous amount of > both theoretical work and large scale testing for statistical validation. It > would be good to make use of it here.

Anyway, if you go here: 

The Outlook2000 add-in (I think you use this - or maybe Outlook XP?) is availble from this page. It requires you install various python tools, but I think you probably have the space and CPU cycles for it.

There is also a proxy tool to sit between any POP3 mailer and your mailbox. This would be something that you might be able to run on your Netwinder box.

Anyway, just throught you'd be interested. I'm impatiently waiting for the Mozilla plugin...

Pete Flugstad

I need to pay attention to this, but in fact my service provider, Rocket, has got a really good spam filter going. I still look at the NewSpam folder once in a while, but I haven't had a false positive in a long time, and I have been able to turn of a lot of my Outlook Rules for Spam since Spam Assassin run at the mail host has been so efficient. Or would be able to but address now gets a lot more spam than my other address, and the Earthlink Spaminator isn't anywhere near as efficient. Alas.

Dr. Pournelle,

Your comment, quoted below, about Jim Seymour is one of the most unusual "tributes" I've seen.

"I haven't thought about him for a while, so I can't say I'll miss him greatly, but he was a good man, and deserves to be remembered."

What a weird thing to say.

James Young

Perhaps it sounds weird but it wasn't intended to. Seymour was a good friend many years ago, but he stopped going to most of the computer shows were we usually met. In the early 80's we all went to a dozen shows a year, and most of the computer press people knew each other pretty well. Over the years that changed. As to my statement, it was the literal truth, weird or not; but I sure meant no disrespect to a valued colleague.


I am sorry to hear that Dr. Sheffield has passed away. I heard him interviewed on _Hour 25_ once (back in the Good Old Days when KPFK still ran it, and for two hours); that led me to read _Brother to Dragons_ and other works of his.

The downside of not having been born yesterday is that an increasing number of people one admires "cease to be among men", as the Romans put it.

Thanks for writing about him.

--Erich Schwarz

We will all miss Charles greatly.  Now we will never do the sequel to Higher Education.

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You have been commenting on the inaccuracies of the profilers with regard to their predictions of the what the DC sniper would most likely be. I had another thought: suppose what was released through the news agencies was calculated disinformation? It seems only smart to me that they (the various law-enforcement entities) hold some cards close to their vests in a case like this.

Just as likely, though, is that I am either: A) making their excuses for them, because, B) I'm wishing to see competence in law-enforcement officials where none may exist (I mean this strictly within the sense of the ability of the profilers, by the way. You'd have to look long and hard to find someone more in support of the cop on the street than me.)

If that is the case, if all this was calculated disinformation with the hope that there was some sort of "strategy" in place on the part of law-enforcement, then I can only hope this applies with regard to the Anthrax-perps as well.

And on another subject:

The end of the U.S.A. as a representative republic as it transitions into empire:

Lately my question has been: can a representative republic exist, and endure, in a world where other governments can assemble weapons of mass destruction with the express purpose of using them? A representative republic is by its nature a slow-to-respond entity, which caused no end of trouble even before ICBM's with nuclear warheads came along. Are ICBM-defense systems the answer? If so, what about suicide-terrorists arriving with personally carried NBC weapons? Are they rare enough of a threat that a non-imperial government can deal with them? Am I missing the boat in even assuming an empire can better deal with these threats than a representative republic? And if that is so, and the USA becomes an Imperial gov. out of necessity to deal with these threats, might there not come a day when we can again transition back into the kind of country we grew up in?

I can only hope.

Sincerely, Jim Snover

There are no instances of a return from Empire to Republic. When the US becomes an Empire, there may remain a few small places with self government and freedom of the kind I grew up with, but not many. Understand, republics have their defects too. I grew up in a legally segregated society. But they have their virtues, too.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

Date: Nov. 1, 2002

subject: Counterterrorism

Dear Jerry:

If you wish to see just how abysmal our efforts have been, see: . Some excerpts:

"The greatest obstacle to domestic security in the war on terror is the worldview of the liberal elites. No sooner had the Twin Towers fallen than the press and an army of advocacy groups were on the hunt for victims—not of Muslim fanaticism but of American bigotry. The liberal commentariat has denounced every commonsensical measure to protect the country the Bush administration has proposed as an eruption of racism or tyranny."


"Let’s say—and this is a purely hypothetical example—that David Dell, an agent in the New York FBI office, has a FISA wiretap on Abdul Muhammad, an Islamic fundamentalist Yemeni affiliated with a suspected al-Qaida support cell in Brooklyn. Muhammad is not yet tied to any crime or criminal conspiracy; Dell is surveilling him to determine the extent of al-Qaida strength in New York. In a phone conversation with a fellow Yemeni in Pakistan, Muhammad mentions a dying swan and several Muslim names that Dell does not recognize. Several desks away in the FBI’s downtown office, Sam Simpson is investigating the al-Qaida bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Simpson also worked on the al-Qaida bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, for which he traveled to Yemen and Kenya to execute warrants. "In a sane system, Dell and Simpson would be able to talk to each other about their cases . . .[but]

"That reasonable (and, to repeat, entirely hypothetical) scenario is not the world of the Wall. Under the Wall, Dell and Simpson may not talk to each other, because Dell is receiving FISA information, and Simpson is working on a criminal case against terrorists. If Dell wants to pass any information to Simpson 'over the Wall', he first has to get permission from FBI headquarters in Washington, which then notifies the OIPR. If permission is granted, which is by no means certain, someone from the OIPR has either to come from Washington to New York or monitor all further communications between Dell and Simpson over the phone. This bureaucratic Rube Goldberg machine radically chills communication, of course; but the deeper problem is that without Simpson’s expertise, Dell may not even recognize the significance of the information he is receiving, and so it may not even occur to him to request a Wall bypass. And as far as Simpson’s offering suggestions to Dell about other targets that would strengthen both their investigations, forget about it."

Much more, all stupefying.


Best, Stephen


Stupefying. A very good word. Thanks. Incompetent Empire...

And from Joel Rosenberg


Sounds like a good decision, in practice. I'd like to see Microsoft broken up, myself -- although I'm not at all sanguine about the implications of the government doing it by fiat; and I do agree that the method counts, as well as the results -- but this whole court case was a mess, and only going to get messier.

The government could have done much more damage to Microsoft's monopoly (did it actually do any, all in all?), it seems to me, by continuing the Secure Linux program -- not for the software, particularly, but for the documentation. A good, updated documentation set would be cheap by government standards, and there would, I think, be a serious trickle-sideways effect if any reasonably standard-looking version of Linux got wide adoption by the government.

Meanwhile, my home network is now 100% Linux -- both Felicia and the girls -- and each of us has the working environment we like most. The womenfolk have, each for their own reasons, standardized on GNOME; I use fluxbox, with occasional forays into GNOME or KDE when I'm hungry for some eye candy. Same underlying functionality.



I think we will see Microsoft implement what I suggested before the trial began; but we will also see Microsoft spend $100 million a year on political matters. And they will expect some return on that investment. Prior to the trial Microsoft wasn't IN the lobbying business.









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