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Monday  December 15, 2003

In the course of the Mac discussions I got this which seems useful:

DHCP, per its own specification, is inherently insecure. Most OS vendors--Apple and Microsoft among them--tie other services on top of DHCP. Services that are very useful, but which can lead to being compromised by a "rogue DHCP server."

Rogue DHCP servers were fairly easy to handle in the wired days. But in an era of shared wireless "hot spots", it's entirely possible the fellow in the next booth at Starbucks is setting up to find out more about your machine.

If you run any DHCP network, and especially if you ever run wireless, you ought to read John Welch's analysis: 

Steve Setzer


Subject: Well, Duh!

Scholars see Christian values in Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' 

Tomorrow's lead: "Pournelle, Niven, Heinlein's interest in
Space revealed in their writing!"

Rod McFadden

Scholarly scholars indeed....


I happened to watch the cable news channels this morning on the aftermath of the Saddam capture, and noticed something quite amusing.

All the commentators---including those on the web---had stressed that Baghdad immediately witnessed organized demonstrations of jubilation following Saddam's capture, which was hardly surprising to me. But the newsclips of those demonstrations seemed to show all those demonstrators waving pure bright red flags. After I looked more closely, I noticed the flags weren't absolutely pure red---they also contained large hammer-and-sickle symbols. None of the commentators seemed to notice this, or perhaps they had been told by Bill Kristol and Max Boot that in Iraq, red hammer-and-sickle flags are well-known as symbols of Jeffersonian democracy, much like the Goddess of Liberty statue had been among the Beijing students.

Earlier this week, I'd seen news reports that large "pro-democracy"
marches had been taking place around Baghdad demostrating support for our invasion, and other news reports claiming that all these marches had actually been organized by the Iraqi Communist Party. Based on the Fox News footage, I now tend to credit those latter claims.

I don't doubt that the Communists are genuinely glad to be rid of Saddam. After all, for decades he'd brutally killed their leaders and suppressed their organization, among the leading reasons he'd been regarded as one of our closest Arab allies in the region.

Not sure I know anything about that at all. Thanks


This came up in another place, but we have had discussions of The Flynn Effect here before, and it seemed relevant. Published with permission:

From: Chris Brand []

 Subject:  The Flynn effect and the Bell Curve

It is ludicrous to say the London School has tried to ignore the Flynn/Lynn effect (Lynn, 1982, Nature; Flynn, 1984, Psychological Bulletin). Secular IQ score rises were known from 1949 and result from the bicycle (outbreeding), better nutrition and, above all, a willingness to guess and risk the occasional mistake -- the right approach to many IQ tests, for the tests were designed precisely to identify intelligence in children whose accuracy/obsessionality/academicism was not high. I reviewed Flynn's work in Nature as soon as it was published in the 1980's and began an ongoing argument with him in the Irish Journal of Psychology. Budding fans of Flynn can read Chapter 4 of my 1996/2000 book for an easy summary of the whole matter -- available FREE (thanks to Philippe Gouillou) at In the past decade, leftists have relied almost entirely on Flynn to argue via the media with the London School -- but they show no sign of having read what either Flynn or I have said.

Since my book's 1996 publication, Charles Murray has shown the B-W test-score gap has NOT been decreasing (contrary to every Flynnite expectation); Phil Rushton has shown that the Flynn-type rises were largely in NON-g-components of IQ tests; and I have noted that top sociologists Christopher Jencks and (Black) Meredith Phillips quite failed* to account for the B-W difference in their major 1998 tome (my review was in 'Heredity' in March this year and I will post it to HBD if people want). Stalwart trooper of the liberal-left that he is, Jim Flynn has kept going with his thesis that 'problem solving ability' might one day improve in Blacks and he has had the Brookings Institute on his side. But N.B. HE DOES NOT CLAIM AN intelligence RISE! -- Flynn lately told me face-to-face he thinks his own great-grandfather would NOT have had intelligence different from himself (allowing for regression to the mean). Also, I have replied to him (and he to me) at  and my reply was appparently enough to make Science desist from publishing more from him pro tem.

Best to all readers here, -- Chris Brand.

* From my review: "....their 500 pages of scholasticism will not fool any serious reader. The truth is that these authors have nothing serious which they can demonstrate. Let Jencks and Phillips speak for themselves: "We recognize that few readers will find our sketchy agenda for reducing the black-white test score gap entirely persuasive.""

The disparity in IQ scored between races remains despite attempts to explain it away. It is a tragedy ONLY if you consider the intellectual professions greatly superior to those of craftsmanship, and if you think that racial equality in a republic depends entirely on equality of results. We know that black scholars can reach the highest levels: my former student William Allen is a prime example, although many others come to mind.

The real tragedy is in assuming that unless everyone is eligible to be an intellectual then tragedy results.

It's not true. People should do what they are good at, and education ought to be directed at getting better at what you can do, not at sort of being able to do something you aren't good at. And it is as true for whites as blacks that half the population is below average. To say that if you can't be a college educated professional you have no future is to say that a great number of people of all races are doomed to have no future.

The Flynn Effect is that test scores are getting higher. That says a lot about the tests, but perhaps not so much about the concept of 'g'. As nutrition improves, average 'g' levels improve: many tropical peoples are stunted by early protein deprivation not to mention parasite infestation; but there comes a time when those improvements cease because the causes are removed. The Flynn effect finds those gains of course, but they aren't enough to account for the rise in IQ scores on tests. Precisely why that should be is a matter of debate, and gets very technical.

But: When everyone is at maximum potential, half the population will be below average in "g" no matter what we do. If we don't have jobs, meaningful jobs, for those on the left side of the bell curve, we will be in trouble. Giving people largess from the public treasury is not the way to make a republic of independent citizens.

There was a lot of discussion of this some time ago, including comments from Charles Murray.


Dear Jerry:

In Mac's DVD player if you let your mouse pointer hover over the "fast forward" or "rewind" buttons a hint will appear to press to go to next (last) chapter, press AND HOLD to scan forward (or back). No slider but this works just as well.

Also Macs have two sound level settings, a system level set when you are in the Finder and an application level when you are in an application like iTunes or DVD player. I suspect you had one set low while the other might have been high; with both set to high I think you'll have plenty of volume.

As for Haiti, it is different from Iraq because:

A) Haiti has no 5000 year history as a cradle of civilization, or

B) Aristide is a creature of the Clinton Presidency and thus very suspect as a leader of anything BUT a mob, or

C) Despite having the same location and basic natural resources as it's mirror image, the Dominican Republic, Haiti has a 200 year history of doing absolutely nothing worthwhile with them, or

D) All of the above.

I say it's "D". Comparing Iraq to Haiti is like comparing Harvard to Cape Cod Community College - I really don't think the same rules apply. They are both based on tribal cultures, however, which I admit does seem to be the kiss of death for democracy. Have you ever thought about why that is? (Genuine question, not rhetorical).

All the best--


I found the fast forward. It's not as sensitive as a slider, but it does work.

I agree that Haiti is different from Iraq, but I am not sure we have a lot of business building nations to begin with. In this hemisphere we have more than we do in Mesopotamia.

I suppose we have no choice but to end what we have begun, but I have far less confidence in our abilities than the authorities have. It's very hard to build a democracy where there never was one.


This is fairly representative of many letters:

Tee Hee! Thanks for the account of your shopping trip [as told in today's release of the column, ]. I wondered if the Dallas/Plano Apple Store was representative of the chain. Apparently so. The company store is supposed to fix the lousy service and uninformed salespeople at CompUSA and Fry's. I'm afraid the Apple stores take their heritage from The Gap much more than a user group. Clerks (sorry, associates they're called nowadays) are selected because they look hot, not because they know anything. The level of technical expertise in the Dallas store is on par with the technical expertise in a Gap store.

I went there because I had a problem with my iBook which CompUSA couldn't handle. The service manager at CompUSA told me when I brought the machine in for warranty service, "Oh, I don't know anything about these Macs. I can't say how long it will take. We'll call you in a week or two." I hoped to get a better answer at the Genius Bar. Alas, after waiting an hour and a half for the genius to get through formatting a couple of folks' drives, it turned out he never heard of an iBook that turned itself off as soon as it came awake. He didn't know there was a power management processor, he didn't know how to reset it, and basically didn't know what I was trying to talk to him about. Nor did he care to find out. I had already exhausted all the remedies Apple mentioned on their support web pages, so I was way ahead of him. I had a couple of other questions, but it was clear this genius had become familiar with the Mac less than a year ago, had undergone a couple of days seminars, and was now busy formatting disks and restoring the OS, or shipping the machines to Nashville for service.

Alas, CompUSA tried many times over a five month period to fix my 'book, but never succeeded. They replaced the motherboard multiple times with pulls from other dead units in their system, it seems, but it never worked out. Finally, after a bit of prodding and reading their warranty to them, they replaced it with a new unit. Not a total loss, since in the interim the hard disk went from 10 to 30 GB, the CPU nearly doubled speed, the DVD drive learned to burn CDs, and the video interface went from 8MB Rage chip to 32MB ATI 7500.

I suspect that my Mac could have been fixed by simply typing in the right incantation to the open firmware bios or reflashing the PMMU. Such information is a sharp blade, however, and Apple shields its customers (and apparently it's techs) from such dangerous tools.

Moral; make sure you get AppleCare, not CompUSA's in house warranty. I understand that when you call Apple, they FedX a box next day, you stick your unit inside, give it to FedX, and about 3 days later, your toy is back. I hope you don't test this, however.

Also, you'll find Apple prices are remarkably uniform across dealers. The biggest discount I've seen is 5 cents. What you get are freebies if you buy a bundle. Fry's is no cheaper than Apple. The one exception was a $50 price cut on the iPod from Dell's online store, and Apple pulled their franchise for a couple of weeks over it. Last time I remember somebody cutting off the Dell store, it was Bill Gates threatening to pull Windows if Dell kept selling systems with BeOS installed.

You'll find Macs are as deep as you want them to be. You can skate along on the hard candy surface, dig into the Unix terminal CLI, or root around beneath the OS in the Open Firmware if you hanker for Forth and bare metal. What help there is is more useful than MS usually provides, but to get to a lot of it, you need to dig into the developers' tools. Neat thing is, with OS X, Apple throws in a complete development kit. You can sign up as a developer for free and get access to the web based developer info also. I'm afraid all personal computers are so complex these days that no user can understand more than the basics. I sometimes wish I could go back to the Apple ][ or CPM, which I knew well enough to write replacements for half the OS.

Anyhow, welcome to Mac ownership. I've nodded sympathetically over your Windows exploits for years, and I expect to do the same with MacOS. If you need silly things to try, I can probably suggest a couple of new ones almost any day.

Henry Spragens henryspragens(at)swbell(dot)net

I did get Applecare. Not cheap. I need an iPod one of these days, both for backup and for audio books for trips. I do not think I will bother going back to the Glendale Galleria store.




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Tuesday, December 16, 2003  

This is reasonably typical:

Dear Jerry,

I just bought the same Mac you did from MacWorld online. I thought I was buying a used car. This rebate that rebate this included that not included. They knew nothing. The salesman was clearly on commission. It was a joke. The price was about exactly the same as everyone else charges because clearly there is no competition. The buying experience alone would slow me down from buying another computer.

I bought the machine because we are developing plug & play software that runs off the browser. Mac people have a lock/chokehold on the graphics industry. Mac is/has dropped Microsoft Internet Explorer for their own browser Safari for which practically nothing is written for developers. What is Mac’s purpose in this? Are they going to reinvent the wheel all over again so they can continue to be the undwindows? Perhaps they should hire a marketing guy and figure out how to get some better prices on their machines and how to win some customers over to their operating system. If I didn’t have to I wouldn’t buy one of their machines again.

David Brown

Which leads one to the reasonable question, why do people put up with all that? You pay for Macs: why don't you get full service for it?

Mozilla is also a great browser choice on OS/X, along with Safari.

I hate Apple as a company - they just make great stuff. It's worth dealing with the hassle of dealing with them to get their gear and software.

----------- Roland Dobbins

Which may say it all...


Subj: SCO won't have to make disputed code public,39020387,39118559,00.htm  ZDNet UK - News - SCO keeps disputed code secret

"... SCO public relations director Blake Stowell said this week that the company had secured permission to present the code to a closed court."


I think the world of the law has gone mad. But see below

More of the Crazy Years (and, no, I'm not including the idea that Howard Dean will be the Democratic candidate :))

In Florida, four women students were arrested for stealing food from the U cafeteria, and the U is punishing them by ordering them to work in that cafeteria.

"It will be during the 'prime time' of the cafeteria," said Kaitlin Sjostedt, one of those arrested. "It's cruel and unusual punishment.

Joel Rosenberg

Crazy years indeed.



This interrogation technique sounds a bit like science-fiction, and many will discount the article out of hand because of the originating web site. I have no comment, except it sounds interesting. 

Interrogating Saddam Jack Wheeler Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2003 How can the U.S. quickly and effectively extract information from Saddam Hussein’s brain – information about the Baathist guerrilla network, cooperation with al-Qaeda, and WMD programs – yet withstand the watchdog scrutiny of the media and the Red Cross?

There is a quite simple way. It works the first time, every time, with everybody – no exceptions. Yet it is harmless, completely reversible, with no aftereffects.


The neurotransmitter serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan. Without tryptophan, the brain cannot make serotonin. This mechanism applies not only to the human brain but also to the brain of every animal in the animal kingdom, from dogs to rats to elephants to birds.

There have been numerous experiments that demonstrate the effects of a tryptophan-free diet on brain function in humans. Within about four hours, brain serotonin levels drop like a rock. Lacking the inhibitory regulation of serotonin, the brain becomes incapable of modulation. The individual possessing such a brain rapidly becomes angry, depressed and impulsive – incapable of controlling his emotions.

The last thing a captured terrorist or dictator, intent on withholding information and resistant to interrogation, wants is to be uncontrollably impulsive. Such an individual would be putty in the hands of a skilled interrogator.


With a protein-free meal, blood amino levels will drop, causing the liver and other organs to start extracting aminos from blood albumin, then from muscle, then from organ tissue. Such amino extraction will include tryptophan. In other words, deprived of dietary protein, the body will cannibalize itself in order to supply the brain with tryptophan and other vital aminos.

But a meal engineered to provide all necessary aminos except tryptophan exclusively will not cause such cannibalization. The liver has no capacity to notice the lack of one single amino such as tryptophan, just the overall lack of entire assemblies of aminos, or protein.


Three such TFMs should be given to Saddam over 12 hours, with his not having anything to eat prior to the first TFM for several hours. After four hours, Saddam will become agitated, depressed, angry and impulsive. Over the next eight to 12 hours, his symptoms will increase, and he will become suicidal. Should he be subjected to a TFM diet over a period of several days, Saddam would become fully psychotic.

After a round of interrogation during a TFM period, Saddam should then receive a normal meal with complex protein – or simply the TFM with one or two grams of crystalline tryptophan added (it’s tasteless so he won’t notice any difference). He will calm down and feel pleasant. Then a "good cop” interrogator can step in and soothe him. Next mealtime, it’s back to the TFM, and back Saddam goes into uncontrollable impulsiveness – and puttiness in the hands of a "bad cop” interrogator.

No one has to lay a finger on Saddam, or threaten to. No threats of any kind need be made. The interrogators do not even need to raise their voices. There are no side effects or aftereffects of TFM Interrogation. It is completely reversible immediately within an hour or less after one regular non-TFM meal.


................................Karl Lembke


Here may be an answer to one problem (but the MacSlashers are certain there were no problems other than my incompetence)

Panther clients binding to Active Directory: bug and fix. December 16, 2003 --Brandon Edling says he found a problem with Mac OS X 10.3 binding to Active Directory, and a way to fix it: I am testing out adding 10.3 clients to our Active Directory structure. In the Active Directory plugin, I entered the appropriate Forest and Domain information, the computer name (in our case the first letter/last name of the user of the machine), and clicked "Bind..."

The machine would successfully bind to the Active Directory domain. I then set the authentication and contacts path, and (though it might not be necessary) rebooted for the changes to take effect.

When the user of the machine went to log in (with a username of first initial/last name), the machine would NOT let him log in; the log in screen would shake as if the password was incorrect. I, however, could log in with ANY other account on my AD domain. This struck me as rather odd.

After hours of investigation, my Windows Admin and I found the following:

When the Mac is bound to the domain, it would successfully create an entry in the "Computer" section of AD, but it seemed to also attempt to create a user account of the same name (for example, the computer is named and the user account it tried to create is This was found by looking at the Computers section of AD and looking in the "User Account" column.

We looked in the AD system log and found an error message saying, in effect "jdoe has multiple accounts created in the domain". We then searched AD for jdoe and only came up with one account -- a REAL user account that I had manually created months ago.

The first thing we tried is killing the user account jdoe and the computer account jdoe, then rebinding it to the domain, to see if the user account it was referencing was actually created. It was not. We then decided to try to create the computer account (and the user account) MANUALLY in the AD domain, BEFORE we bound the OS X machine to the AD domain.

This seemed to do the trick!

When "Bind..." is clicked on the OS X machine, a message appeared stating that a profile of that name was already in place and if I wanted to use that profile. I stated yes (assuming that canceling would cancel the binding process) and now jdoe can log in to a machine named jdoe.

This is an obvious bug, but I don't know if it's with OS X proper or with Samba 3.

Aki Heikkinen of Finland also had problems binding to Active Directory, and offers a partial solution: Binding Panther to Active Directory with Apple's new much-hyped AD integration doesn't work in .local domains, even if you disable Rendezvous with methods from Jason Prell and/or Larry Paxton that your report have. By applying these hacks Mac workstations see .local domain correctly (for example in Internet explorer and nslookup), but by running tcpdump you can see that Mac still tries to query only when trying to bind it to AD forest and thus returns "invalid domain/forest".

The only partial solution we managed to figure out was to create a different DNS zone in windows domain controller with .company, but then you run into trust and authentication problems because domain controller and dns zone domains are different. Maybe with two AD servers running different zones this could be managed with trusts, but with only one server and limited time we gave up after weekend of hectic trying.


December 16th

I am sure it is all very simple, and it was all my fault...


Subject: Bruce Schneier's CRYPTO-GRAM, December 15, 2003

Do you subscribe to it? If not, you can get back issues at < >. He has an interesting article, "Blaster and the August 14th Blackout" in this issue. It starts: "Did Blaster cause the August 14th blackout? The official analysis says 'no,' but I'm not so sure." Definitely worth reading.

I tell my students that the problems we're currently seeing with spamming, malicious hacking, and viruses in large part reflect the operations of criminals on the network. They need to be very careful out there.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Security engineer and analyst.


On transferring to Mac

Could try:
 - download to one of your PCs -
use it to read your wife's floppies
- rewrite them (with macdrive) to a usb flash keyring thingy
- mount the usb flash drive on your new powerbook -Ian

------ Ian Cottam

Actually the network works well enough I can transfer files from the PC. Where do I get this marvel?

OK that ought to work.

Microsoft had been holding Apple's feet to the fire with Office, IE, etc., so Steve funded a substitute. Microsoft has been a bit lazy about modernizing IE, so Safari, like Opera, is about two years more modern in its features and a good deal more standard-compliant. (Diane switched to Opera this year on her Windows 95 machine, and that machine has been a good deal more stable ever since.)

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

Interesting. I have been looking at Opera. I confess that IE has worked for what I do: what features do I need that I don't have? Almost all our systems are XP now.



Note that what was in the news today was an unconfirmed rumor. Note that SCO would dearly love some kind of good news right now, and this rumor is the closest thing they can spin to being good news for them. And note that a careful judge will be inclined to grant a motion to seal the code, since it can always be opened later if it turns out that SCO is full of it.

I'm certain that we will find out what we need to know about SCO's claims, soon enough.

Perhaps the world of law has gone mad, but this latest news isn't really a good example of it.

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

Perhaps, although the notion that you can sue me for plagiarism without telling me what I have plagiarized remains bizarre to me.


There are those who oppose the death penalty for Saddam Hussein. The alternative, life imprisonment, is seen as somehow more humane. I can testify from personal experience that it is nothing of the sort. During my time in the US Army, I was stationed in Berlin. One of the duties of the US Berlin Brigade at that time was the guarding of Spandau Prison, and it's sole inmate, Rudolph Hess. In spite of the crimes he was at least partly responsible for (the evidence of which could still be seen around the city), I and my fellow soldiers could feel nothing but horror and pity for the man, old and broken as he was. Of course, there are those who might say that Saddam Hussein deserves the slow torment of decades in captivity. But I doubt any of them are willing to help carry out the sentence in person. Hang him and be done with it.

John Stephens



When I read your question about an amp for between your HEADPHONE output and Sharp input I may have stumbled on the problem. The Sharp is probably expecting a Line-In level input which is fairly higher than the level of a headphone output. This would make it normal (and, unfortunately, irritating) that you have too little sound coming out of your speakers. I don't know the Mac (I am a Windoze user so automatically short on intelligence :-) ) but if it has a line out you should use that and if not then a small amplifier between the two would work. Perhaps something used to power speakers from a Walkman. Another idea is to connect the headphone out to microphone-in on a stereo set (try this with volume turned way down at first).

Kind regards,

Mac Dekker

There is no "line out" on the PowerMac. The sound from its speakers is low, too low to make watching movies enjoyable without headphones. Thus I thought to plug in the speakers on the Sharp, which has its own amplifier, and while that is an improvement, it is still not enough.

In order to make movies enjoyable (assuming it's a good movie) on the PowerBook, at least for me, I have to use headphones. With the PC I can blow myself out of the room at full volume. Apparently rock music addicts don't use Macs?

Now clearly I am more hard of hearing than most, having been that way for a long time. And one remedy is to watch DVD's on the PC systems here. But I thought the problem worth recording. I will probably end up getting a pre-amp of some kind to boost things between the Mac and the speaker system.

One mystery is clear: the Sharp 15" doesn't have very good output either.


Subject: US Navy vessel used as spam relay by Chinese spammers.

-------------- Roland Dobbins


Powers Phillips, PC is a Denver law firm, owned by bitch-from-hell lawyers (their term, not mine). Their website is hilarious. One example:

Obnoxious Disclaimer

Due to circumstances beyond our control some documents on this website have not one funny word in the whole document. Worse than that, we have had to rely on our individual lawyers to supply us with their resumes and other biographical information. There is just no telling what kind of lies they may have put in those documents. Our firm is a small firm. We do not have the resources to try to track down every possible lie one of

our lawyers may be telling. Just take all that stuff with a grain of salt.

Read more (it's very funny...)

Ed Hume

Better than some I've seen. Thanks.








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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

From pschrink:Jerry

This just had to make its way to the Internet


Yeah, I guess.

On Updating the OS in the older PowerMac

You can download 7.5.3 free from Apple's web site, and then download the updates to make it 7.5.5 (which is the last version Apple gives away for free).

You could then burn all that onto a CD and transfer from Ariadne to the old Book in that way.

Or, since I already have all this stuff stashed on my hard drive, I could just burn a CD and mail it out to you.

Better yet, I can make an image of the CD, segment it, and email it to you. You can reassemble it on Ariadne, burn a CD, and use that CD to install the fresh System on the PowerBook.

Let me know what you'd like to do.

Gary Utter

-- ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Freedom of speech isn't working out so well for liberals now that they aren't the only ones with a microphone. It's not so much fun when the rabbit's got the gun." - Ann Coulter

Thanks. As I said in reply, I'll give downloading and burning a try, but I'd greatly appreciate a CD in the mail just to be certain I have a backup. When dealing with Roberta's stuff I really like to be able to keep my promises...

I blanche a bit at "reassemble" and "segment" but I am sure I will learn what all that means.

We may or may not try to "update" to 7.5.5; everything we need for the old PowerMac runs nicely on 7.5.3 and it ain't broke other than that SimpleTalk doesn't work.


Dr Pournelle,

This story is irresistible: 

No comment,

Jim Mangles


And a retraction:

Jerry, Have loved the books, and read your columns religiously. Thanks.

Regarding; Bobbing for Apple By Jerry Pournelle December 15, 2003 " FireWire which you won't find on any PC Laptop I know of,"

I'm two for two with newer laptops. The Dell Latitude 840 I have came with Firewire (IEEE-1394) standard. Checking Dell's web site, many of their notebooks and desktops have it standard. My wife's Sony Vaio 505ax also has the interface, and since Sony uses it for all their digital video products, I suspect it is common on all but their lowest-end PCs.

Best wishes for the Holidays!! Cliff Frieler

Which shows how little I -- and my tech editors -- know about modern laptops. I confess I have been using my old Compaq for years, and now I use the Tablet PC, so I have not looked much at new PC laptops. And of course now I have the PowerBook.

Thanks for the correction and the kind words.


Getting Roberta's program going:


You wrote...

> She has OS version 7.5.3 on the PowerMac. SimpleTalk is hosed. If I > had a copy of 7.5.3 I could reinstall on her PowerMac it might get > that back. Meanwhile in a couple of days we will have a USB floppy drive.

Goodness! Mac OS 7.5.3 -is- ancient!

However, it is still available on Apple's web site, freely downloadable.

< >

When you get to that page it's about 3/4 of the way down the page (web page search string = "7.5.3_01of19").

The good news is that's it's all there; the bad news is that it's in the form of 19 floppy disk images.

What you should be able to do is to download all of them, put all the individual images inside one folder, and burn that to a CD, carry it over to Roberta's Powermac, and double click the #1 floppy image. It should then mount (and semi-invisibly mount the remaining 'segments' 2-19) and allow you to re-install the 7.5.3 OS on her machine.

I have just done this very thing, using my brand-new 15AlBook (the same one you have), and an older PowerMac 7300/180.

Open nets...

(PS: let us not confuse AppleTalk and EtherTalk. In the words of Gusharan Sidhu (the architect of AppleTalk), "AppleTalk is not a cable." AppleTalk is a full 7-layer protocol suite. Cabling technologies over which AppleTalk can be carried include LocalTalk (what you were probably referring to as AppleTalk), Ethernet (EtherTalk is essentially the driver for AppleTalk over Ethernet), TokenRing (there once was a TokenTalk driver), and of course these days you can even do AppleTalk over 802.11b and 802.11g.)

-- Norman Ferguson | Dir. of Technology Services | Tekgnosys Member, Apple Consultants Network | Microsoft Certified Professional Email: | iChat:

I will try that immediately. I am told there are some problems with the Apple site. We'll see.

It doesn't work. I click on the file name, it acts as if it is downloading, it produces the message "mounting failed",  and now there is this grayed thing in my download folder. Nineteen of them. I can do nothing with them. I can't MOVE them, I can't copy them, I can't do anything but look at them. Are they shortcuts? Are they copies of files? I have no idea.

I would know what I am doing with Windows, but this defeats me.


I found the files. They were on the desktop hidden under the folder called Downloads that was full of the grey ghosts. I could move them into a folder called System 7.5.3 or whatever and I will shortly try to burn a CD with all that in it.

But what is this “Downloads” folder which has several REAL files and 19 ghosts in it? How do I get the ghosts out? What good is this?

I have the files downloaded but I sure don’t understand what this thing has done.

One day I will understand what this Mac thinks it is doing.


Dear Jerry:

You can't hear it but I'm typing pretty loudly right now on my new MECHANICAL USB keyboard for the Mac! Made by Kensington, $139 list, $85 sell at Mac Connection. Very much like the old (original) IBM keyboards - tall keys, plenty of stroke, satisfying click, but not quite as much resistance. Not quite up to the standards of the Avant Prime board, but very close (or maybe I'm just not used to it yet). Has the two USB ports (indented so the connector doesn't stick out and snag your mouse like MacAlly's boards), white keys with clear plastic surround, it's the Kensington StudioBoard Mechanical Keyboard.

BIG return key, inverse "L" shaped, and there's a power switch on the board like the old Mac keyboards.

Anyway I know you're not in the market right now (it doesn't get much better than the PowerBook's keyboard), but if you spring for a G5 you'll want to keep this in mind.

And you DO want a G5, don't you??? <grin>



Actually I do have an external keyboard on the PowerMac and I rather like it. But the PowerMac keyboard is very good for a laptop.

What I have is an Adesso, which wasn't expensive, and is actually pretty good. But for my PC's I use these hefty programmables from Ortek and they are one reason I may never give up PC's for primary writing engines.


John McCarthy says:

In another discussion one participant said:

> Samuel P. Huntington, "The West won the world not by the > superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather > by its superiority in applying organized violence. > Westerners > often forget this fact, non-Westerners never > do." >

John McCarthy replied

Historians, other social scientists, journalists, and politicians often ignore technology in making their theories of what happened. So it is with Huntington and Schaeffer.

1. By the time of the Opium War in 1840, which was the first armed clash of the Chinese with a European power if you don't count the Mongol conquests around 1200, the West had steam engines and the resulting steamships, railroads, mine pumps, and factory power. It also had the telegraph.

2. Socially the West was far ahead by 1840.

a. In the early 15th century the Chinese reached East Africa in a monstrous expedition. In the late 15th century Vasco da Gama reached East Africa in a single ship, and Columbus reached America in three ships. The social technology, both governmental and commercial that permitted sending a small body of men as agents for many thousands of miles was not achieved in the East.

b. By 1840 there was substantial political democracy in Britain, the US, France, and even in South America. There were corporations, and a body of international law sufficient for worldwide trade.

c. Slavery had been condemned and was gone from the British Empire.

d. Free, universal, and compulsory primary education existed in the advanced countries.

So it's not a fact, and China today is advancing, not by increasing the "Peoples Liberation Army" but by implementing Western manufacturing technology on a huge scale.

Many Chinese favor Western democracy, represented by the goddess of liberty. I haven't heard of political agitation in China for more military power, although the Chinese military doubtless would like it.

The Arabs, on the other hand, do dwell on their grievances with the West, and look what it is getting them - poverty.

John McCarthy

While the item on education was premature, the rest makes a very succinct reply to the people who say Western Civilization is really only good at winning battles.

Published with permission.


We had global dimming, now scare yourself some more:


Sun researchers: Computers do bad math (12-17-03)

"There are a lot of errors that happen in machines that go undetected," Papadopoulos said. "Sometimes a machine just goes away and freezes. You always blame it on Microsoft. We do, too. It's convenient. It's convenient for Intel, too."

"It's a dirty secret. Floating-point arithmetic is wrong," said John Gustafson, a principal investigator with Sun, based in Santa Clara, California. "It only takes two operations to see that computers make mistakes with fractions." 

As an engineer I regret that these two gentlemen are correct. Life is easier if you believe that something is perfect, like computer math. Life gets harder, and deadlier per the article, when someone pulls back the curtain...

Rod Wittler

Well well well




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, December 18, 2003

Global trends (and see view):


Here's another bit of coal for the fire:

"Some geologists think we ourselves live at the end of a period of orogeny [mountain building], and can look forward to 25 or 50 million years of sinking, shrinking, and warming of the lands we live on."

L. Sprague deCamp, =Lost Continents; The Atlantis Theme= (Original copyright 1954)

As you have pointed out repeadedly, there are many possible reasons for the planet's warming, and our contribution to the total is probably very little, overall.


You can find many opinions and trends: my point has always been that simple Bayes theory analysis will tell you that we ought to be spending more on finding out what is happening, and little to nothing on "doing something" until we have better data on what to do.

Perhaps the solar system might be moving through an increasingly dense region of interstellar dust?

Karl Voelcker



The last time I looked there were still not enough neutrinos coming from the sun. An explanation is that the rate of solar fusion fluctuates. That would explain global dimming as well as ice ages. We'll see what happens over the next few decades as the atmosphere continues to clear up.

If global dimming is due to solar dimming, we should see a slight reduction of global dimming for a time as more sunlight reaches the lower atmosphere, followed by a return of dimming; after all, an atmosphere can't clear beyond full transparency.

Interesting times ahead. Fallen Angels indeed (I especially liked the part where they had to walk across the glacier nearly naked because of the microwave laser).


Yes I wrote about the missing neutrinos 30 years ago now. Still haven't seen any explanation. But be sure to see below.





On SS1 Flight yesterday

See the film first.

Good Morning,

Yesterday, on the 100th anniversary of powered flight, Burt Rutan's White Knight carried Space Ship One aloft for its first powered flight. The private launch plane, private rocket plane and private rocket engine, all developed without the government or NASA, performed very well. Space Ship One flew in a vertical climb at mach 2+ to an altitude of more than 68000 ft. It then shape shifted to a re-entry mode and shifted again to a glider for a good if not slightly exciting landing.

I am honored to be alive and to have learned about such an event. Kudos to Mr. Rutan, Scaled Composites and the continuing success of his efforts.

Not surprising, the event was all but neglected by the media.

Pat Rollins

Materials Engineer


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You've probably already heard, but if not, it was reported that SpaceShipOne has broken the sound barrier. It was also reported as the first manned supersonic flight by a "small company's private non-governmental effort."

See  -- Cheers,

Art Russell 

"Geography, group characteristics, and so on influence but do not determine our lives." - Robert D. Kaplan



You have been sent this message from as a courtesy of

Personal Message: Another step on the way...

Scott Kitterman

Private Rocket Plane Breaks Sound Barrier

By Kathy Sawyer

A privately funded rocket plane called SpaceShipOne yesterday broke the sound barrier over California's Mojave Desert, achieving what its developer called the first supersonic flight achieved by a nongovernmental effort.

Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight, the event was billed as a milestone in the drive by celebrated aircraft designer Burt Rutan to show that human spaceflight can be done economically and without government aid.

In addition to SpaceShipOne, which is designed for manned suborbital flights, the research program includes a turbojet aircraft called White Knight that carries the rocket plane aloft.

Yesterday, test pilot Peter Siebold flew the White Knight to 48,000 feet, near the desert town of California City, and released the rocket plane at 8:15 a.m. Pacific time. Once SpaceShipOne was in a stable glide, test pilot Brian Binnie fired a hybrid rocket motor and began a climb. Nine seconds later, "SpaceShipOne broke the sound barrier and continued its steep powered ascent," said a spokesman for Rutan's company, Scaled Composites.

Binnie reached almost Mach 1.2 (930 mph) before the engine shut down after firing for 15 seconds. He continued in a vertical climb to an altitude of 68,000 feet before gliding to a landing.

Rutan is competing for the $10 million X Prize, which will go to the first successful privately funded manned spaceflight.

Would you like to send this article to a friend? Go to

=More with pictures: click here


From Richard Doherty

Paul G. Allen Confirmed as Long-Rumored Sponsor of SpaceShipOne

Allen Sponsors Scaled Composites' Cutting-Edge X-Prize Entry, Attends Today's Successful Test Flight of the First Manned Privately Funded Supersonic Aircraft

December 2003 (Newstream) -- Investor Paul G. Allen today confirmed international speculation that he is the long-rumored sponsor behind the innovative SpaceShipOne project, which broke the sound barrier today during its first manned test flight. SpaceShipOne and its White Knight turbojet launch aircraft represent the first private non-government effort to demonstrate a low-cost manned space effort. SpaceShipOne is a contender for the coveted X-prize.

"Being able to watch today's successful test flight in person was really an overwhelming and awe-inspiring experience. I'm so proud to be able to support the work of Burt Rutan and his pioneering team at Scaled Composites," said Paul G. Allen, who has funded the effort since he and Rutan joined forces in March of 2001. "As we celebrate the centennial of flight, it's wonderful to be able to capture the spirit of innovation and exploration in aviation. SpaceShipOne is a tangible example of continuing humankind's efforts to travel into space, and effectively demonstrating that private, non-government resources can make a big difference in this field of discovery and invention."

"Today's milestone and the SpaceShipOne project would never have been possible without Paul's tremendous support," said Burt Rutan, the acclaimed inventor and aerospace engineer who leads the project along with his research and development team at Scaled Composites, which Rutan founded. "Paul shares our energy and passion for not only supporting one-of-a-kind research, but also a vision of how this kind of space program can shape the future and inspire people around the world."

For details about today's test flight, including specifications on speed, altitude, etc., visit

For details about the X-prize visit


Paul G. Allen owns and invests in a suite of companies exploring the potential of digital communications. Allen's business strategy includes encouraging communication and synergy between his portfolio companies for mutual benefit in the areas of technology, new media, biotechnology, entertainment, telecommunications and entertainment. His primary companies include Vulcan Inc. of Seattle and Charter Communications of St. Louis, the nation's fourth-largest cable provider. Allen is owner of the Portland Trail Blazers NBA team and the Seattle Seahawks NFL franchise, and a partner in the entertainment studio DreamWorks SKG. Allen co-founded Microsoft Corporation with Bill Gates in 1975 and served as the company's executive vice president of research and new product development, the company's senior technology post, until 1983. Allen gives back to the community through the six Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundations, which support arts, health and human services, medical research, and forest protection in the Pacific Northwest. He is also the founder of Experience Music Project, Seattle's critically-acclaimed interactive music museum, the forthcoming Experience Science Fiction Museum and Vulcan Productions, the independent film production company. For more information about Paul G. Allen visit


Scaled Composites, LLC is an aerospace research company located on Mojave Airport.

--------------- Produced for Vulcan, Inc. Contacts: Michael Nank Vulcan Inc. 206-342-2000 Jason J. Hunke Vulcan Inc. 206-342-2000 Kaye LeFebvre Scaled Composites 661-824-4541

------ Richard F. Doherty, Director The Envisioneering Group 3864 Bayberry Lane Seaford, NY 11783-1503 P (516) 783-6244 F (516) 679-8167

Envisioneering: Informed Intelligence.


Ron Unz on the Middle East

Subject:  Win one, lose one?...

Ron Unz here:

By a truly remarkable coincidence, right around the time we were digging an old has-been anti-Islamicist dictator out of his grungy foxhole, the pro-American dictator of Pakistan reportedly came within seven seconds of being blown up by a half-ton bomb in a supposedly ultra-secure portion of his capital city. President Musharaf has no obvious successor.

A few important points. Pakistan has a population approaching that of the entire Arab world combined, numerous nuclear weapons, medium range missiles, and (I suspect) more violent Islamic fanatics than the rest of the world combined. With the local Madrasas turning out huge cohorts of Taliban-type supporters, the Islamicist political parties some months ago won the relatively free elections in several of Pakistan's more important provinces.

As far as I can recall, no Arab army has won any major military victory in the last 1000 years. By contrast, the British regarded the Punjabi Muslims as the best infantrymen in the world. My guess is that Pakistan's army is about an order of magnitude stronger than that of all Arab regimes combined.

Sending the U.S. army to occupy Iraq is dumb and dangerous because the Iraqis are violent and disorganized. Sending an American army to occupy Pakistan---namely "fighting a land war in Asia" in Eisenhower's words---would be orders of magnitude more dangerous.

I recall that about a year ago I suggested the possible takeover of Pakistan by violent Islamicists as one of the most dangerous possible collateral risks of our planned Adventure in Iraq. If the Presidential convoy had been seven seconds slower, this might well be occurring right now.

If Islamicists were on the verge of seizing Pakistan, what would be our best options? It seems to me that many millions might likely die, perhaps with nukes being used for the first time since 1945, and with consequences that might well destabilize the entire planet.

Back in the old days, conservatives were actually conservative, and regarded huge, risky leaps into the unknown---whether social or military---with endless potential adverse consequences as the plans of radicals and lunatics.

Dispatching hundreds of thousands of Christian soldiers to conquer and occupy a Muslim country for the first time in three generations in the center of the volatile Mid East for no clear reason other than perhaps the ideology of promoting a Worldwide Democratic Revolution really seems like the sort of Socialist Adventurism that once gave the Trotskyites a very bad name in certain circles.

What should we do if there is chaos in Pakistan?

I continue to advocate energy independence and detachment from that part of the world.


And some later news on neutrinos

Re: global dimming, and the solar neutrino flux

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Just a note in case someone else does not give you the information--

The current thinking in physics is that we understand the "missing" solar neutrinos and it has nothing to do with changes in the nuclear reactions in the Sun. (Besides, the conventional estimate is that if the nuclear reactions in the Sun changed somewhat it would take of order 1 million years for this to affect the radiation output at the surface. This is just how long it takes then energy to travel out from the core to the surface layers.)

See the results from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory

which has a press release about their recent results. It looks like the neutrinos change "flavour" on the way to the Earth so if we try to detect the electron neutrinos we see 1/3 of what is expected. The rest have changed to muon or tau neutrinos.

By the way, it is worth remembering that the we have direct measurements of the total solar energy reaching the Earth from space and as far as I know this is not declining 0.3% per year. So the energy still is coming and and it must be absorbed somewhere in the atmosphere. Thus we do not have to worry about another ice age yet, I think. If just plain more haze and aerosols are doing the dimming, then the energy is being absorbed in the lower parts of the atmosphere where there is lots of mixing and we do not have to worry about global cooling. It may effect the weather of course.

Another reason not to panic about global cooling is that the mean global temperature is increasing in spite of the global dimming. This we know, as far as I can tell. Of course a few people dispute that there is any global warming.

regards, Kevin Volk

Well I stopped having a general science beat a long time ago so I didn't follow the neutrino story as closely as I should.

Thanks. Comforting words. Sort of. We still don't know what is happening. Baliunas and the Lowell Observatory are convinced that solar output varies, see the figures on the brightness of Venus in the last century... And see below


You wrote: <<So to use the Mac Mail Program properly you must feign insanity: keep trying the same thing over and over until it works.

It's really neat when it works. And I can understand mail servers going out. The Earthlink mail server dies; but Windows just tells me it can't make contact with it, not that my password was rejected.>>

Dr. Pournelle, The (or dot.mac) service is terrible and has been since it launched. The server goes up and down with infuriating regularity. That should not prevent you from using and enjoying the Mac Mail *application*, however. It can handle mail from many types of accounts.

I kept the Mail application, deleted my address and just added my accounts. Works like a charm.


Tim Elliott

Interesting. But surely the erroneous error messages come from within the Mac.

I continue to learn my way in the Mac world.










CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now



Dear Dr. Pournelle,

It may be a bit early, but apparently Asimov's "I Robot" will arrive this summer as a movie. See 

The website is alone worth the price of admission. -- Cheers,

Art Russell


"Behavioral Science is not for sissies." - Steven Pinker

Neat! I didn't find credits, is it Harlan's script?

Subject: info about the movie "I, Robot" buffy willow

About the credits and production of "I, Robot," see: 

David C. Plunkett

Aha. I thought not. No Ellison credit. Harlan wrote a beautiful movie but no one I knew thought it could actually be filmed.



Global dimming

Hi, Jerry!

When I spied the global dimming story at the Guardian (via SlashDot), I was reminded of this story from Wired:,1282,52512,00.html 

This describes how some climatologists took advantage of the grounding of flights over the US following 9/11/01 and discovered that contrails seemed to have dampened the temperatures over the US by about 1.2 degrees Celsius (that is, without the contrails the temperature range between noon and midnight might have been 1.2 degrees greater during the 9/11-13/01 period).

In trying to track down the above story, I came across this site:

Perhaps the creator of this site is on to something?

Now it may be only coincidental that the period of dimming is roughly the same as the age of jet flight (especially commercial flight), and it lacks an explanation for the equilibrium in dimming that we have had over the past decade (though 2 possibilities come to mind: we may have reached a maximum contrail saturation level along the major flight corridors, or we may not have had a significant increase in number of flights over this period), but I think this might be worthwhile as a direction of inquiry.

Arthur Maruyama

I think it has been going on longer than that, but contrails may have an effect. Just how much I'd have to calculate. Particulates from coal fired furnaces would affect the albedo more I would think.

And see below


Dr. Pournelle,

First, to set the record straight, Al Qaeda had committed acts against the US and its citizens prior to 9/11; the 1993 Trade Tower bombing and the attack on the UISS Cole. Having said that, it is still a miscarriage of justice (at least as I understand it) to effectively outlaw joining any organization by jailing members who have committed no overt act.

When I was in Navy basic (Great Lakes, 1971), there was a member of my platoon who was a college grad. He had a major in Russian and a minor in German, and was expected to be assigned to some embassy duty somewhere. Then his background check came back. He had been a member of the Students for a Democratic Society while in college. This was the same organization some of whose members were instrumental in the protests (riots) during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Some of the acts they committed would be recognized today as terrorism. He was lucky to be allowed to stay in the navy but any type security clearance was out of the question. He was not however jailed. He himself, had done nothing unlawful.

I have a problem with the way this country is run. There are no candidates that espouse the causes I support and it is financially impossible for the average citizen to run for any office higher than local level. The politicians in office do not listen to the common people as a general rule and when they are forced to, they reward those who protested for their efforts. (The first shuttle was named Enterprise after a massive grassroots effort lead by trekies. The budget cut following that naming resulted in the first shuttle being hung in the Smithsonian rather than launched into space. Thus was the first shuttle lost).

The USA Patriot Act and its relatives are ill-conceived legislation, but protesting it will result in negative publicity, and possible arrest, but not in a repeal. The powerful are safe enough, but those of us who have to financially support this country and its adventures are left without protection except that which we can provide for ourselves, and they want to take away our weapons. I have understood for a long time that there is no security except that which you provide for yourself and your loved ones. In the end, we will all die. I have a problem with someone who takes money that I could use for my security so that he can provide it for himself or someone else I have no concern for.

I have been accused of being isolationist. I prefer to think of it as minding my own business. I like your idea of Monuments. I also like the idea of destroying any government that supports terrorists. Destruction is inherently easier than building (especially nation building), and can be done from a safe distance that reduces the risk to those at the sharp end. The society that is destroyed will be unsupportive of terrorists as a result of the ensuing chaos. If the terrorists take charge, they now become targets for the next round. Maybe I am too simplistic?

Patrick A. Hoage

If you post this, edit it as you see fit.

I generally don't edit other than using the spell checker, but I will always cut out irrelevant rambles. In your case I just used the spell checker.

You're right on the record, and I can't think what kind of lapse caused me to imply otherwise. Al Qaeda has been after us a long time.

In another place I'll comment on the Court of Appeals decision today regarding internees. I completely agree with the court. Charge them or release them in the case of citizens, and if they are POW's then which is the war?

The Shuttle Enterprise was a boiler plate never intended to go to space -- too heavy. It did fly in air drops to measure stability and flight characteristics, and showed as expected that it had all the gliding capability of a brick with painted stripes. The Trekkies didn't realize this, and used a lot of their clout to get the name changed. They should have waited for Columbia...

My sentiments remain unchanged. We are the friends of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own. Guarding our own may well include regime change for places that harbor, aid, or abet our enemies.


Subject: Saddam's Arrest Brings Humiliation Debate

Hi Jerry,

I saw this article and thought it interesting.,1280,-3525555,00.html 

While I am first to admit that there is an awfully lot I don't understand about Islam and Islamic culture, I cannot conceive why there is a debate on whether Saddam was a dictator.

Merry Christmas and best Holiday wishes,

Terry Goodrich

===================================== Terry Goodrich CSMG Design "Machine Design & Parametric Modeling"

web:  email: terry@

Nor I. Merry Christmas indeed.


Dr Pournelle,

How’s this for a conspiracy theory?

And from a former Secretary of State at that.

Jim Mangles

You are astonished that the dimmest bulb we have ever had at State would believe anything? She did while in office, too.

Subj: Marine Corps Small Wars Manual

Your readers might find this interesting: 


And me too. Thanks!


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Have you read "For Us, the Living" yet? I imagine many of your readers are interested in your reaction. I'm especially interested your take on social credit theory.

Also, a while back when you mentioned that a believed-to-be-destroyed first novel of Heinlein's was scheduled to be put out, you noted that you had a couple of letters by him that you asked for permission to publish. Mr. Heinlein granted permission to do so upon his death, and Mrs. Heinlein requested that you hold off until her death.

I conclude that you thought those letters were important, or you would never have asked for that permission. Do you intend now to release them? Will you give us some hint as to what they are about?

--William S. Cornell

I have not read it, in part because I know that Ginny would have ordered it destroyed if she had known a copy had been "found", and that leaves me with mixed emotions. Apparently Robert and L. Ron Hubbard at one time had planned to collaborate on this work, which complicates it even more.

Not long before it was written Robert had run for California State Assemblyman on the Upton Sinclair "Ham and Eggs" platform. He lost in the Democratic Primary to Sam Yorty, later Mayor of Los Angeles. I managed Sam's successful bid for a third term as Mayor and served as his deputy for a period. Robert found that amusing.

I will read the book when I get a bit more time. As to Social Credit, that takes a lot longer reply than I have time for.


And Joanne Dow says on global dimming

Recent studies of Sun spots and overall insolation of the planet seem to be saying that the planet is receiving more energy in the last 50 to 100 years than in the preceding 1000 to 1500 years. If less is reaching the surface that means more is staying in the upper atmosphere. This gets rather interesting.

Of course, setting out a pan of water to watch it evaporate and noting it takes longer today than it did some time in the past does not sound like a very scientific technique to me even if you can find standardized pans with standard reflectivity, thickness, materials, and neatly standardized distilled water. Is it standing out over a snow drift or over a black tarmac parking lot? Is the ambient humidity higher or lower today? (That latter is a BIG effect here in Rancho Cucamonga. With all the people irrigating lawns around us the humidity here is getting higher every year. Pans of water left out in the Sun will take longer to evaporate. I also note there is more smog in the air here than 50 years ago. That means less Sun light gets to any photocell detectors that might be used to measure insolation.

That report, as far as I can see, is meaningless alarmist palaver more suited to one of Art Bell's guests than your site.


But I have been one of Art Bell's guests, as you well know!

It is certainly the case that we seem to be getting more not less energy from the Sun -- and note that the Lowell's records on the brightness of Venus fit in here. I don't pretend to know what's going on. I do continue to say we should be spending money on facts, not on "remedies", until we have better understanding of what is going on, including effects of contrails, CO2, particulates, and all the rest.


On John McCarthy and the west

Subject: re: McCarthy vrs Schaeffer on the West

What John McCarthy fails to note is that the technological and organizational advantages of the West didn't come up out of the ground. They came from those very ideas that Francis Schaeffer wrote about in his books.

Those ideas made modern science and technology possible. Those ideas made freedom possible - that there is one logical transcendent God who created the universe and acts in it is the necessary foundation for science and more than accidental technology. Politically, that this God is *where all final authority rests* - and thus not in the State or the person of the king, and thus we have freedom. Where you have freedom, you don't need an extensive State apparatus - indeed such an apparatus can be seen as blasphemous - and you don't need to take that apparatus with you on a voyage of discovery.

So yes, Christendom had superior technology and a more effective organization for voyages of discovery and colonization. But those came from the ideas of Christianity (and which Christianity shares with the other manifestations of Second Temple Judaism). They don't come from blood or soil.

Steve Schaper -- Steve <>


On the problems with Mac Mail

Feel free to use the following as long as you leave in the disclaimer that this is guesswork. I'd really rather not have a lawyer tell me that I'm wrong.

This is an odd problem that you've experienced. It's one that I doubt the Apple engineers expected, but it's also one that I'm sure they are trying to work around now.

I haven't examined the service or software offerings from Apple with any rigor, so I need to make it very clear that all of the following is guesswork.

The symptoms you've described were probably _not_ signs that the "mailserver" itself is down. They were more likely a symptom that the connection between the front end mailserver and the database (be it LDAP or whatever Apple uses to store user information) was broken.

This is clearly the worst of all possible worlds.

First of all, that mailserver will stay up, accepting connections but unable to authenticate its users. Your client software, when the password is rejected due to some transient failure on the other end, will fall back to its "my user is a dyslexic nincompoop" mode and ask you for the password. I suspect that this happens because the server returns a "450 Authentication Failed" response.

This is, unfortunately, one of the side effects of dealing with SMTP (which doesn't have quite the riches of syntax that you will find in the Microsoft mail protocols).

Now, if ugly little problem had reared its head across a swath of Apple's inbound servers, I can assure you that any reasonably awake sysadmin would have noticed it -- sysadmins do tend to take an interest in these things when their pretty little graphs start flatlining. It's more than likely, then, that it cropped up on only a very few servers.

BUT, Apple clearly does load balancing on their inbound smtp systems. It's also likely that they maintain some client->server affinity for a given period of time. It's also likely that they direct connections to the servers that are completing their sessions quickly. That would mean that, over the course of (say) thirty to sixty minutes, more and more traffic would be routed to the malfunctioning servers.

... And the pretty graph approaches a flat line ...

... And the sysadmins swear prettily and unplug the bad server ...

... Or Apple runs an unusually competent operation, the software notices the unusual activity and takes the odd server out of the load balanced pool ...

... Or the problem magically went away ...

In short, this is actually not likely to be a client problem. This is either an operational problem or a protocol problem because the status code that server sends you is "450 Authentication Failed". That's the same error you would get if you actually were a dyslexic nincompoop.

Yes, it's a transient failure that is not marked as such. Yes, it's their fault and they should do better. But.

Apple's behavior here seems to exactly the same that other software display. I just looked and it's present in the source code for Postfix in the area of code where the smtp server deals with the sasl authentication framework.

The good news is that it looks like it can be fixed. The bad news is that it might take a while. The fix would require that the MTA return different error codes for a bad password than it would for a failure of the authentication mechanism. The MUA ( would then need to handle those two codes differently.

Unfortunately, the problem does not seem to be limited to Apple clients and Apple's own servers. I can duplicate the symptoms locally with Eudora and Mozilla when connecting to Postfix on FreeBSD by inducing failure in the LDAP back-end.

Again, however, this is just guesswork.

Malachi Kenney

Interesting guesses. MY problem at my end is that the error messages were wrong; but Outlook used to do that too. Fortunately Outlook 2003 fixed that particular problem.


From the blog, "Jessica's Well"
< >
Nigerian e-mail con-spam: It's America's Fault!

"The image of capitalism now being spread about the world is cowboy stuff: little gleaned from America extols the virtue of regulation, restraint and control. We reap from the third world what we sow: if some Nigerians learned lessons in capitalism from global oil companies that helped corrupt and despoil that land, it is hardly surpising they absorbed some of the Texan oil values that now rule the White House."

How stupid does one have to be to write this?

This stupid:

"With embarrassment, feeling a fool, I [the author] admit I was a victim of a Nigerian fraud."

................................Karl Lembke

Hmm. Thanks.


Subject: Christianity as seen by modern scholars

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Public television had a series fo shows about Jesus and Christianity that is written up in a series of essays and articles at  . There is a lot of material explaining the modern viewpoint and includes modern archeological discoveries. It will have to serve as its own comment.


William L. Jones wljones(at)

There is indeed a lot there. I haven't done much of the "new scholarship" and I suppose my views come as much from C. S. Lewis, "The Apostle to the Skeptics", as from anywhere else. That and Paul's rather stark statement:

12: Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13: But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

But I am not a writer of apologetics. I can leave that to others more gifted than I.

On Arbitrary Power


You may find this of interest (assuming that you haven't read it already)... 

In a nutshell, Congress *has* given the President the power to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

You may wish to argue that Congress overstepped what was prudent in passing such a joint resolution, but that's a different matter.

On an unrelated note, you had stated...

But I see no reason to sink $80 billion into Iraq as a gift to Mesopotamia. I would rather put that money into 40 1,000 MegaWatt fission power plants, a small fleet of heavy lift re-usable (single or two stage to orbit) spacecraft capable of restoring our military space assets in the event of an Argus-like event as well as of beginning solar power satellites, and research into the best use of electricity as a substitute for gasoline in transportation systems.

...and would pretty much agree when you replace the $80 billion with the cost of the Medicade bill that was oh-so recently signed.[1] In other words, I don't think that if we *really* wanted to do those things that the price tag would stop us.

It certainly hasn't stopped us from doing stupid expensive things in the past. What you are proposing are at least *investments* that will eventually repay us with something useful.

Good day to you, sir. Have a great Holiday season!

Footnotes: [1] Well, I'm 44 years old and am not holding my breath for Social Security or Medicare to exist when I retire.

-- Mark A. Flacy Any opinions expressed above are my own. Any facts expressed above that you could detect means my weasel wording needs work. "He exhibited difficulty operating complicated modern devices such as doorknobs." -- Robert Frezza, "McLendon's Syndrome"

Yes, their argument is that the Congress has already passed The Ultimate Decree authorizing the President to save the state by any means necessary. When the Senate of Rome did that, they put time limits on such power; and they worried a lot about such arbitrary power. Cicero put to death without trial some of the Cataline Conspirators -- "They have lived" -- and that was considered a blemish and a shame for the rest of his career; indeed was the reason Mark Anthony put Cicero on the proscription list. Arbitrary power begets more arbitrary power.

I do not believe the Congress was foolish enough to have meant this act as The Ultimate Decree, nor do I think Congress has that power even if that is what it meant.

I don't know how much more money we can borrow.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, December 20, 2003

With her head tucked underneath her arm...

Hi Jerry,

Do have a look..... 

Can ghosts close doors????????

Stay well,

Tony Brown

And can you record their presence...

Russell Kirk used to tell personal encounter ghost stories that so far as I can tell he believed entirely, and Russell was one of the fifty smartest people I have ever known. And I've known some smart ones.


SpaceShip One conducts first in-flight engine ignition test
SS1 soared to over 20 kilometres altitude (Image: Scaled Composites)
(image copyright scaled composites)
For those who haven't been following Burt Rutan and the Scaled Composites group he heads, You may not be aware that on Wednesday, December 17 - which just happened to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk - he conducted the first powered flight test of his X prize entry, SpaceShip One.  What made this flight test special was that he ignited the hybrid rocket engine for the first time.  Previous flight tests had been unpowered drop tests, to check the handling and performance capabilities of the craft.  Ignition of the rocket, and thus powering the craft, was viewed as a major milestone in the development of SpaceShip One.  As a side issue, the craft blew right through the sound barrier, thus also becoming the first privately owned aircraft to do so in the history of Man.
Everything went picture perfect until the landing, at which point a strut on the landing gear collapsed and sent SpaceShip One off the runway and into the dirt.  The pilot was not injured, and the spacecraft experienced only minor damage, which the Rutan group believes they will easily have repaired within a month.
Burt Rutan has a history of highly successful, and highly unconventional, aircraft.  One of his first aircraft was the Long EZ, a fiberglas composite aircraft whose unconventional design placed a small wing near the front of the aircraft and moved the large, conventional wing virtually to the back.  In addition, the tail was highly modified and the engine was moved to the back, where it acted to push the aircraft through the air, rather than pull it.  The net result was an aircraft that almost looked as if it was flying backwards - but the high strength and light weight of the fibreglas design provided sparkling handling characteristics, low manufacturing cost, and an enviable safety record.  In the process, the concept of mounting a small wing at the front of the aircraft and moving the large wing back has become known as the Canard design, and the many advantages of the design have since been adopted by dozens of kit and specialty aircraft manufacturers.  More recently, Richard (Dick) Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew Voyager, a specially designed aircraft, around the world nonstop.  This was a feat largely regarded as impossible by aeronautical engineers; however, Burt Rutan has a formidable track record, and most people are now unsurprised when he routinely accomplishes the impossible.  If anything characterizes Rutan's career, it is the brilliant, outside-the-box thinking which regularly combines leading edge technology - often in a jaw droppingly unconventional fashion - to arrive at solid, reliable and inexpensive solutions to aeronautical problems previously thought unsolvable.
SpaceShip One is being funded by Paul Allen, co-founder (with Bill Gates) of Microsoft.  The cost is estimated by industry watchers to be in the tens of millions of dollars, a lot of money for most of us, but not a lot of money for Mr. Allen - particularly when one is purchasing the worlds first privately owned spacecraft.  Mr. Allen has a strong interest in science and space research, and has also committed to the contribution of 11.5 million dollars for the construction of an innovative radio telescope array to be used for SETI research.  SpaceShip One is considered to be one of the leading contenders for the X prize, a ten million dollar cash prize which will be awarded to the first non governmental organization which can construct and fly a three passenger vehicle to a 100 KM altitude twice within a two week period.  Most industry watchers expect the prize to be awarded some time in the year 2004.
Personally, I don't expect this process to end with the successful completion of a spacecraft capable of winning the X prize.  I believe that Mr. Allen and Mr. Rutan will continue to work together, and develop progressively more capable designs.  It would not surprise me to see the technology developed for SpaceShip One to be turned into a passenger craft that could move people across the continent or halfway around the world at ten times the speed of sound; or to continue to be developed into a spacecraft that can achieve orbit (or more).  Certainly Mr. Allen has the money, and the desire; and just as certainly, Mr. Rutan is one of the worlds most gifted engineers.
It's an interesting partnership.  I don't think we've seen the last of these guys.
Best wishes, all - Charlie
(The following spectacular photographs were created by skilled photographer Alan Radecki)



Good luck and best wishes indeed.

For the record  Dick Rutan, Burt's brother, who flew Voyager around the world on a single tank of gas, is chief test pilot for X-COR, the company my son Richard works for. X-COR has its headquarters about four hangars down the Mojave airstrip from Burt Rutan's operations center.

Also for the record: SpaceShip One will probably win the X prize, but there is no discernable path from this to orbital flight. Composite engines won't do it, and the ship isn't designed for reentry at such speeds.


Joe Zeff comments

"As a side issue, the craft blew right through the sound barrier, thus also becoming the first privately owned aircraft to do so in the history of Man."

I didn't know that all the Concourds were owned by governments. -- Joe Zeff

The only problem with trouble-shooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back.

Well Concorde was corporate owned. I suppose Scaled Composites is technically a corporation, but it's not itself owned by a consortium of governments...

And more good news although I have reservations

Dr Pournelle,

Fusion close?

If this report is true, we may have fusion reactors sooner than I had thought would be the case.

Spotlessly clean, unlimited nuclear power? Let’s hope so,

Although I bet the tree-huggers will find some reason to protest it.

Jim Mangles

Last time I looked -- and that was a while ago -- fusion reactors were possible but the costs were prohibitive for the outputs. But things change. I recall when the government sent "experts" to Boeing to convince us in the advanced planning group that lasers would never be more than 2% efficient and thus big lasers capable of anti-missile or anti-aircraft kills were simply impossible, and Boeing should stop wasting money planning for such things.

Dear Jerry,

While surfing the internet today I came upon several articles on Helium-3 fusion. While Helium-3 on Earth is very rare (a by product of nuclear reactions), it seems that the Lunar Maria are literally hip deep in the stuff. The link is to an article on the testimony of Harrison Schmitt to the Senate last month. It's interesting reading.

Could this be the reason for China's and India's sudden interest in the moon?

Terry Goodrich CSMG Design "Machine Design & Parametric Modeling" web: email:

We had this speculation in the Spacefaring Nation report of the Council I chaired back in 1986. I am unaware of any new data since Columbine, but the theory says there ought to be Helium-3 up there.

Subj: Lunar Helium-3

Some lecture notes from U Wisconsin seem to indicate that Helium-3 was actually found in returned lunar samples:  NEEP 602 Lecture #13  taylor.JPG   (JPEG Image, 783x626 pixels)

The caption on the taylor.JPG cites a 1993 paper, which would be more recent than your 1986 Council.

Guess I ought to see if I can run down the paper.


Thanks. I seem to recall there has bee some data, but I am not certain. I have lost track over the years and I'd have to tool up to be any kind of "expert" again.

Subj: Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics (WCSAR)

This seems to be an online archive of many papers on lunar He-3 and other topics, that may be of interest to your readers -- and maybe even to you! 8-)  Fusion Technology Institute WCSAR Reports

But please, finish the _Janissaries_ series, before you dig into this yourself?


I have no real reason to go digging on this. Now if someone wants to hand me $10 billion to build a moon base it would be different.

And if Congress were simply to put up a $10 billion prize it would happen. But NASA will never allow that.

I dimly recall hearing about the helium-3 on the moon some time and forgot about it until you mentioned it recently on your wonderful blog (okay, it was actually Terry Goodric's letter, but at your site).

And that points to Harrison H. Schmitt's testimony to the Senate from .

Okay, "There is a resource base of helium-3 about of 10,000 metric tonnes just in upper three meters of the titanium-rich soils of Mare Tranquillitatis. The energy equivalent value of Helium-3 delivered to operating fusion power plants on Earth would be about $4 billion per tonne relative to today's coal. Coal, of course, supplies about half of the approximately $40 billion domestic electrical power market."

Wait. We have both titanium and helium-3 on the moon? Lots of it? And they want to throw back down HERE? Whoa, whoa, whoa! This almost sounds like a test by some Starseeders to see if we are intelligent enough to leave the Earth-womb! We could use this to first build mass-drivers and then build HUGE cities in space and then big space ships. We have the right material and an energy source and these guy want to throw it back down this huge gravity well, where it is plenty of other sources yet unexplored - like wind, solar, and deep, deep methane? Or at least use this resource to bootstrap solar arrays and microwave the juice down to collectors!

If my economics are all wrong, it is indeed cheap to throw the helium-3 down into the biosphere and burn in huge fusion reactors, well, I just cannot help feeling that our economic system is just sick, sick, sick. Let this space resource be used for space! We need a frontier and this may just be the juice we need to get us building one!

Now, if only we can find a layer of ice under that helium-3/titanium rich soil.

Larry Beckham

I seem to recall writing such things once...




On the Mac Front


For your amusement, I offer the following link: 

You may know that Apple has had a bit of a PR scandal with its iPod. Seems that the rechargeable battery is not replaceable, and they expected you to buy a new iPod if/when the battery died. (Great bit of product engineering there..) This enraged an artistic iPod owner whose battery had died. He and his brother created a short video clip (using iMovie, no less) to publicize the problem.

( )

The clip has gotten a lot of circulation on the internet, and created negative press about the iPod.

Buried far into the story is something you will find really amusing: the response of the Mac community to the movie. It seems that a hard core group of Macjihadist's is dumping on the brothers for pulling back the curtain and exposing this flaw in the product's design.

Those who engage in Guerilla PR campaigns should remember that the sword can cut both ways!

C. Pawlisch Duluth, MN

You can buy (rather expensive) insurance for the iPod that in theory will allow you to get the battery replaced also. I am still hearing stories on all this. There are also third party solutions, and their efficacy is vigorously debated...

iPod unreplaceable battery lasts only 18 months. It costs $255 to replace so you may as well buy a new iPod. Cheers.


Dr. Pournelle,

At  you can buy replacement batteries for old and new makes of iPods for US$49.00 each. It seems to be a fairly simple process to replace the battery yourself, and should not prove a problem to anyone who builds PCs on a regular basis.

I'm not a Mac jihadist; I run my iPod via a PC, and very useful it is for keeping important file backups as well as my music collection. -

- Harry Payne "Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature." - Caesar and Cleopatra, Act II, George Bernard Shaw.

But I am also told that while it costs more, it is better -- safer at least -- to buy the Applecare package and let Apple replace the battery. That would not be my usual inclination, but I don't know enough on this to have a real opinion.

Jerry, Here's a post that goes into a bit more factual detail than my previous message about why the "Dirty Little Secret" iPod video is misleading: 

Lawrence Person

I am going to let others fight on this. I'd rather take a beating than get into a slashdot conversation anyway.

But I did find this:

Days after the movie made the rounds, Apple announced expanded warranties for new iPod owners to purchase for $59, and also introduced a new $99 battery-replacement mail-in service for others.

Which sounds more reasonable.



On unintended consequences:

One negative to purchasing and reprocessing old Soviet nukes is that it has effectively destroyed the Uranium mining, processing, and enriching industry in the United States. The industry was on the ropes already in the early 1990s, and this program did it in. Of course, we'll be able to get Uranium from Russia for many years, but when that supply runs out, it may prove very difficult to restart the industry in the United States. The necessary evil of of environmental impact statements, etc., will be much harder to go through than it was back in the 1950s!

Note that there are plans to mix Plutonium from old warheads with Uranium to make a "mixed oxide fuel" that can be burned in commercial power plants. See 

and this reprint of a NY Times article:

 Regards, Mike Broderick

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


On the rude responses from from the Mac tribesmen :) ; I apologize for my compatriots, but the paranoia is a learned response from mountains of BS in the press. See,4149,1408924,00.asp  for a recent nonsense example. There are extensive responses to this; the columnist is crowing over a DHCP security hole that has nothing to do with Macs, but he doesn't know or doesn't care. See  for a clear explanation/rebuttal. I hope you DO PUBLISH this paragraph, because it puts the Mac tribesman behavior in a different context for people who don't know the sub-culture :).

Charles Bouldin


I grew up reading your columns in _BYTE_. I even have a copy of _Adventures in Microland_ :) Your adventures have been a part of my computing experience since I started as a teen. The main thing I received from all those columns: comfort. We all have the same frustrations with these devices. It is not ignorance or laziness. It is the State of The Art.

I make my living with IT both as a Systems Analyst and a Programmer. I also do more far more tech support than I would like both for-pay and for-friends. I always tell people suffering from glitches: It is not your fault; you didn't do anything; it is the system; would you blame yourself for a defect in your car. . .say, a faulty alternator? People are genuinely afraid of their machines. People are afraid to appear ignorant or stupid. This fear may go straight down to putting food on the table. "If I'm not expert with system x, y or z will it hurt my advancement opportunities?" "If my system of choice is marginalized will I, too, be marginalized?" Knowledge--even apparent knowledge--of these systems _can_ confer great power. In a kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man. . .

Fear and desire are a bad cocktail. One of the more unattractive behaviors produced by this potion is vicious advocacy.

People who are comfortable with their abilities do not attack the abilities of others. Vicious advocacy is cross-platform. Mac and Linux advocates dominate in print. They write more for some reason. Windows advocates dominate your typical office and are every bit as irrational as the others. All vicious advocates share the same desire: They want the world to acknowledge the perfection of the system on which they consider themselves expert. They want _everyone_ using the exact same hardware/software mix they have at home. They want to be *know*. They want to "be done". Vicious advocates fail to realize that to be expert in an evolving field means running hard just to stay where you are ;>

Chaos Manor is where all computer users live no matter if they admit it. There are thousands of venues dedicated to the fantasy of what ought to be. Chaos Manor is one of the few honest places about what is. Remember that the people attacking you are simply afraid. And after all, _you_ know you are not an idiot.

I hope that as long as you have the resources and inclination to continue your daybook you will do so.



Talking about Chutzpah:

From CNN online:

OPEC wants aid if world shifts to renewable energies

read the story at this link:
Jerry, this is nuts.
Quite aside from the fact that the very BEST thing we could do is shift to a non - petroleum energy source... hell, my grandfather was a blacksmith, and made his living putting shoes on horses.  When Henry Ford introduced a better technology, no one was offering my grandfather any aid.  Nor should they have.
Why would a renewable energy source be a really good idea?  Because it's renewable.  Because it's (potentially) cleaner.  And most of all, because it would prevent billions of US dollars flowing, every day, into the coffers of people that want to kill us.
There are lots of good approaches.  Grain alcohol can be produced from locally grown crops, or crops in third world countries.  Fuel cell technology can be used to power electric cars.  A US firm has developed a method to turn virtually anything into oil, at competitive prices - (the article at Discover magazine was available for free, but now they want money for it, so for your personal perusal I've pasted it to the bottom of this email.)
I'm sure you know everything about Bob Lazar, so I won't waste your time with his (ahem) unusual bio; but he is now developing a hydrogen gas retrofit kit which he claims will allow any existing vehicle to run on hydrogen gas.  The gas is stored in hydride tanks, which he claims is a safe and energy dense way of storing hydrogen.  He is also developing a home refuelling station, so that a homeowner can separate hydrogen gas from water through electrolysis and refuel his vehicle at home, thereby making fuel for pennies and totally screwing up the tax base.  You can read his page here:
Jerry, I am bewildered.  There seem to be LOTS of good alternate technologies.  Certainly some will not be as good as represented - Lazar in particular has an unenviable reputation in many arenas - but not all of these technologies are total duds.  Further, once a commitment is made, improvements in efficiency would be large and rapid.  They always are, in the initial development stage of a new technology.  (That's one of the big arguments for SSTO technology, and I believe it's correct.)
I am so tired of seeing these promising technologies, with no visible defects and great potential advantages to the consumer, sink like a stone and disappear from view.  The Discover article is the latest, but by no means the first, report of a huge breakthrough that just seems to vanish.
Why aren't we switching over to an alternate fuel source?
Why are we continuing to use petroleum as a fuel source?
If we wanted to lower fuel consumption immediately, all we'd need to do is encourage more effective passive insulation in homes, possibly through legislation requiring higher levels of efficiency in new building construction (homes, office towers) or possibly through government rebate programs for insulation retrofits.  That would cut yearly consumption of oil immediately, and underscore for the Arab world how important our continued good health is to their lifestyle. 
But we're not doing that, either.
I can only conclude that the United States government is not particularly interested in moving the United States away from a traditional petroleum based economy.
If it were, the programs would be there.  But they're not.  And the problems don't appear to lay in the technology arena.
The problem, it would appear, is leadership.
Best wishes, Charlie Worton


We know two "alternative" energies that work fine: nuclear fission, and space solar power. The latter is renewable but requires investments in both research and infrastructure. The former is renewable for a long time given the fissionables we no longer need for weapons.

Everyone knows all this, and nothing happens. We will put $83 billion into Iraq and build nothing over here. Why?

Dr Pournelle,

OPEC & renewable energy

"I can only conclude that the United States government is not particularly interested in moving ... away from a traditional petroleum based economy."

The reason the West in general and the US in particular has not moved to other major energy sources than oil is not due to a conspiracy, or disinterest by the government, but because the market rules.

Oil is not nearly expensive enough yet. So long as it costs less to get oil from wherever than develop space solar power or build nuclear power plants or whatever, oil (and its side-kick natural gas) will continue to be the fuel of choice. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “You can’t buck the market.” More exactly, you can but it will cost you a fortune, not just in money but also in votes, because no-one but the government could fund such a huge non-commercial project or projects. (BTW, this is the fundamental dilemma of government-funded space in peace time. I hope to return to that topic before long.)

At some point, the tipping point, oil will cost enough, and one or more of the alternatives will cost little enough, to make space solar or nuclear, etc. economically viable, but I suspect we’re a long way from that yet.

So the real question is, how long will it be before the price of oil rises enough to trigger viable alternative energy projects?

The apparent answer is, a couple of decades or so, because the official reserves of oil will be running out about then. It’s worth noting at this point that if the official reserve figures are correct, global warming can’t happen even if everything the IPCC tells us is gospel truth, because without oil to burn anymore by about 2025 or thereabouts, the volume of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere will collapse. However as an ex-oilman I know the official reserve volumes are horse feathers. There’s no precise unofficial figure but I’d reckon there’s oil enough to keep us going ‘till about the end of this century.

What about protecting ourselves from being blackmailed by all or part of OPEC? Well, I wouldn’t worry about this too much either just yet. Ask yourself who else will buy their oil in vast quantities but the West (if we include Japan)? If the stuff is not sold to anyone the producers are going to be starving their own highly oil-income-dependent economies and populations. They can’t keep that up for more than a few days and hope to remain in power.

Jim Mangles

Market people tell me this all the time, but they never factor in the costs of war, subsidies to Israel, huge defense establishments, terrorism, and all the rest as part of the cost of the oil economy. The market rules except it doesn't really. Politics always trumps.

The market rules in that it's possible to segregate costs. It's like exporting jobs: the people who benefit from the job export do not in general have to pay the costs associated with doing it. If you can make someone else pay for the infrastructure, markets are wonderful for efficient allocation of capital; but if you have no rule of law they don't work, and the costs of that are not usually allocated to the goods the market gives us.

Petroleum economies may well be cheap, but to whom do you allocate the $83 billion in gifts we will be giving to Iraq? As well as the cost of the war.

I do not say that energy independence is economically more efficient than letting the world market vie for the privilege of selling us energy and building our entire infrastructure around the assumption that the overseas energy sources will always be there and ready for us. I do ask if it might not be better to have self government, smaller armed forces, and no foreign gifts to anyone (other than private charities by US citizens who can give their money away if the government lets them keep some).

The self-governing republic I envision doesn't cost a lot, and within that framework the market can operate; but it doesn't send the Marines out to enforce overseas market contracts made with dictators and kings.

The above has an unclear statement; please see the rest below.






CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, December 21, 2003


Subject: NERDS

If there's a Nobel Prize for short form literature, this man should win it.

"I think teenagers are driven crazy by the life they're made to lead. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance were working dogs. Teenagers now are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere."

John Bartley


Subject: SpaceShip One

Interesting that they did what Chuck Yeager and the X-1 did in, what? 1947? They did a better job re-creating the first Mach1 flight than the Wright Experience did the other day re-creating the Wright Brothers first flight. Wish they had had the wind they needed.

I'm not sure that was the first private-venture Mach1 flight. I know there are a few old jet fighters (like the F104) in civilian hands.

James Meader

Well, the lifter cost considerably less than what we used to hoist the X-15...


Hey Jerry, I'm pretty much with you on what you had to say of the type of Republic you'd rather build than keep going in the direction we're going vis a vis oil, foreign adventures and all that. But where you said "but it doesn't send the Marines out to enforce overseas market contracts made with dictators and kings" I'll have to quibble with you just a bit. I'd say that that is what the Marines are for, we don't want to do that on the scale that we are now with the Army! But I take you meaning and largely agree with it.

I'm not sure how the small Republic deals with the Islamic terrorists that have been born of the Arab tyrannies of the 20th Century. There is a certain compelling logic to the neocon position that when you look for the "root causes" of Islamic terror, you find them to be a reaction to tyrannies in almost all cases. So you've then got to reform or remove those govts., and restructure them.

Please note that the death count on 9/11 was larger than Pearl Harbor, and the economic damage far vaster. That got our attention, and engages the Jacksonian wing of the American psyche's survival instinct. As they say, Iraq is a means to an end, as any map makes clear.

So in the end, I'd rather have the Republic we had before the New Deal, but I don't know if that's in the cards. May God continue to Bless America.


Raul Gonzalez Tucson, AZ

I should have said "made among tyrants and dictators and kings and international corporations."  But the main secret of not sending the Marines in foreign countries is not to be so dependent on the foreign countries. US energy independence -- even hemispheric independence -- cuts way down on our defense costs because there are fewer vital interests to defend.

I am not entirely against being part of an international effort to enforce agreements, but one needs to be careful. The Monroe Doctrine was partly in response to foreign threats to land their marines in Latin American countries to collect money owed to them. One wants to be careful about taking on the the job of world cop.

As to the necessity of retaliation against tyrants who attack us, of course. Bring them down, and make sure everyone knows: attack the US and you will die. Harbor our attackers and you will lose your job as dictator or king; and since you supply us nothing we cannot live without, you will understand that we mean it.

But that doesn't mean we have to intervene in countless places of injustice and horror, of which there are plenty. If we reduce the number of places in which we have vital interests we have fewer vital interests to defend.

If Iraq is to remain as a single country, either the Shiites will rule, the Sunni will rule, the Kurds will rule, or secular Baathists will rule. If the Sunni rule, which is what the State Department sort of wanted, the Shiites will believe themselves under a tyranny. If the Shiites rule, who knows? But they have no reason to love the Sunni who ruled them for hundreds of years. Iran isn't Arab, but it is Shiite. Add Arab and Shiite and what do you get? Tolerance? Live and let live? I don't know.

I do know that Turkey is the only nearly democratic country of consequence over there, and it operates because the Army enforces the secular constitution, hanging corrupt politicians, and otherwise staying out of the way and not trying to govern. Good luck on finding a Kemal Ataturk in Iran.

Kurdish rule? Saladdin was a Kurds, who became the Light of the World through using his tribesmen to consolidate his rule over the region. The Shiite Assassins didn't like him much. The Turks aren't going to permit a Kurdish Sultan or Caliph in any event. Or a Kurdish ruler with lots of oil money and a thirst for liberating the Kurdish part of Turkey. The Iranians aren't going to be any happier. Persians and Kurds are both Aryan, not Arab, but they don't have a lot else in common.

Sure there are models for Iraq. The Swiss Confederacy. The US under the old Constitution before the Civil War. Exactly how much enthusiasm is there for such?

No wonder the State Department, like the Brits in 1920, think Sunni rule of a Shiite majority may be a great idea.

Me, I don't know. Saudi Arabia keeps its monarchy by deals with the Wahabists. The Hashemite kings of Iraq didn't do that. Is there a lesson?

My point is that we don't know, and why do we have to? Deterrence works. And it's a lot cheaper than wars.

We face half a trillion a year in deficits. This is no small sum.


MacWindows the web site for Macintosh-Windows integration solutions.

I had a lot of the same problems when I first switched from Windows to Mac. Whenever I felt like switching back I would read one of your columns about your latest adventures with windows tech support in Byte magazine.

Bob Booten



I had the stealthboot virus on one of my computers. I bought mcafee viruscan pro 8.0 which found the virus but couldnt clean it. I spent a lot of time online chatting with mcafee help. They had me run bootscan which had the same affect. Their online guy ended up bailing with the excuse that viruscan doesnt support win2k ntfs. He told me I had to have FAT. I kept searching and found the following article which resolved my problem in 2 seconds with a standard microsoft utility. Too funny.

Thanks, Larry Fischer 12/21/03 ---------------------

From this site, I found this note: ----------- Thanks. I had tried that. On Eagle One, it shuts down slower, but it also ends with the "Windows 98 is shutting down" screen as before, which stays up forever. Apparently it's close enough to actual shutdown that the system thinks it did, because I don't get the Scandisk nonsense on restart. On the other hand, it still doesn't shut down properly. I have one and only one Windows 98 machine that shuts down properly every time, although some will sometimes. I think in the case of Eagle One the Play Gizmos are still running something or another. One day I will sit down and use ctl-alt-del to shut down processes one at a time until I find the one that is hanging; then at least I will know what it is. It's a minor annoyance, but it's an annoyance all the same.

"THAT WAS QUICK: fdisk /mbr. I’ll put up the actual mail that told me about it tomorrow. It’s 4:30 AM and I need to get to bed. Incidentally, format /mbr gives an "invalid switch" message. but fdisk /mbr just trundles: you never see fdisk at all, and next time you boot the system comes up in DOS."

Incidentally, fdisk /mbr is also a handy way of cleaning out those pesky boot sector virus’ if you haven’t been particularly careful.. Fixed a particularly persistant instance of StealthBoot.B for me after a week long bout of trying to install norton AV, mcafee AV, formatting the primary partition and who knows what else..

Rex Binns

Intriguing. Of course that would work, but I doubt I would have thought of it. Thanks!


Subject: Fwd: Is this any way to treat a backhoe? (Can you say "Safety Violation"?)

>Subject: Is this any way to treat a backhoe? (Can you say "Safety Violation"?) > >

  > > Big file, may download slowly > > Be patient, it's worth it...

Mike Morris



And sadly:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Airport Avoidance Agency news (You can feel safe at last)

<snip> Security officials say the practice of stuffing your luggage at the airport prior to checking it at the counter is a no-no.

"You really need to look at your baggage before you take it to the airport here, and your carry-on, making sure you don't have things that if we carry on [the plane] can be weapons," says Julio Garcia, Jr. with the TSA. "And we make that determination." (emphasis by me) </snip> 

<snip> Fierberg wound up guiding passengers to lines at Denver International Airport over Thanksgiving. "It was a nationwide effort," he said. "There were special rules that we changed to allow non-certified screeners to perform certain duties." (emphasis by me) </snip>,1413,163~29969~1827666,00.html 

In the above article, the TSA spokesman says the TSA expects to be fully manned during peak times at Christmas but the numerous news articles show that TSA is looking for part timers for the holiday rush all over the country.

USA Patriot Act 

The first part is about the harrasment of a (naturalized) U.S. citizen and his family. The second part is about foreign students complaining that they have trouble getting into the country and after school, getting jobs here.,0,6625010.story?coll=ny-nationalnews-headlines 

A search on Google under news shows tens of articles about localities condemning the Act. A lot of it is blatantly partisan but not all. I hate to criticize the President but this law seems to me to annul large portions of the Bill of Rights. Special interests and the government have been doing this piecemeal for a long time, but this is a whole 'nother thing. I think it was a mistake and I hope we can do something about getting it repealed.

Patrick A. Hoage

Empires don't need no stinking Bill of Rights. Safety First!

======================  is the Ultimate Crossover concept - unless, maybe, you, Niven and Flynn write FALLEN ANGELS II amd send the Illegal Droogs back to the Revolution.  gives an entirely new meaning to 42, don't it?

Many, many thanks for the insight you both provide and distribute.

-- John E. Bartley, III 503-BAR-TLEY (503-227-8539) K7AAY This post quad-ROT13 encrypted; reading it violates the DMCA. ..We're living in a collaborative SF novel... and now, of course, it's Philip K. Dick's turn. In a back room somewhere, Vernor Vinge and George Orwell are currently arguing about who gets to take over in 2025. (Ross Smith)

That's one great crossover!






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