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Monday  January 5, 2003

As usual, there was a fair amount of good stuff over the weekend. And for that matter all of last week. You might start there. (Last weekend     Last week).

There is considerable discussion of The Language Wars. I haven't really time to comment on all this at length, so I'll let some the participants speak and try to reply to the whole issue later. To skip all this click here.

One general point: Pascal was written as a teaching language, and lacked many of the features (particularly IO and good libraries) that important commercial compilers would need. When I say "Pascal" I mean it as a shorthand for "A commercial version of Pascal written for micro-computers." Modula-2 was a good step in that direction. Note also that there were working Pascal and even Modula compilers for small computers before there was a C compiler for micros: the first C programs for micros were written on cross compilers run on larger machines.

A second general point: I don't think anyone has ever seriously said that a large program written in C is easier to understand than one written in a Pascal-like language (including Ada); and I have had few dispute the notion that it is often easier simply to rewrite the program than to try to understand the old one if the original programmer is run over by a bus before completing the program.

C compilers support type checking just as strong as anything Pascal ever had, and they have supported this for about the last decade.

However, C compilers don't force you to use these features. If you don't declare your functions with all arguments specified, and instead declare your functions with the old C syntax, you can get functions that will not check their arguments. You will face many warnings from the compiler, however.

C has always allowed you to "cast" a variable from one type into another type. This is handy; for example, you need not write both a PrintInt() function and a PrintShortInt() function; you can just write PrintInt() and cast short integers into long ones. C even has built-in type conversion rules which would probably take care of that for you in this example anyway. A badly-written cast can disguise an error; a cast essentially tells the compiler "trust me, I know what I'm doing" and when you don't really know you have a problem. But the lack of type casting was a huge problem in Pascal.

Unlike Pascal, C allows you to declare functions with a variable number of arguments... with absolutely no type-checking of the variable arguments. This allows for functions like printf(), but that brings us to another point: older APIs, including the standard C library itself, may contain lots of non-type-safe stuff. Such as "printf()".

By the way, I'd like to see the strcpy() function removed from the C library. It copies a string to a string buffer without checking to see whether the string is longer than the buffer! This one function is the source of many "buffer overrun" errors. It's more efficient than a length-checking function, but at this point it's causing more trouble than it's worth.

I don't know any C compilers that support any run-time checking of array bounds. There is little point to it anyway, as it is common practice to dynamically allocate a raw chunk of memory and simply use it as an array. It would be difficult to write a compiler that could create run-time code to check that!

The real reason why Pascal lost out to C was that C was a tremendously practical language, much more practical than Pascal. Pascal was designed as a teaching language, and some of the features of the language make it easier to write a Pascal compiler. But the Pascal standard was broken in several important ways, and different compiler vendors solved the broken parts in different (incompatible) ways. C worked, and worked everywhere (it was easy to bring up a C compiler on a new platform, and your could would actually compile).

C++ provides ways to write completely type-safe programs. You can write classes that validate their inputs, with array bounds checking as a trivial example. But C++ is a rather large thing to grok in fullness.

I haven't done much with C++, and I have done even less with Java, so I'm not the best expert. But Java appears to offer much of the benefit of C++ (at least with respect to type safety) and to be easier to really learn.

P.S. For my own projects at home, I'm very partial to Python. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

[Emphasis added by JEP]

I think you have made my point: the compiler doesn't force good programming practices, but allows you to think you have correctly simulated the compiler in your head and you know what you are doing. From my past experience I can say emphatically that if you are not forced to do all your declarations of both type and range, you'll put it off until "later" while you are in the throes of creation, or you'll be so certain you did nothing wrong you won't bother.

Brian Kernighan wrote an essay about Pascal and what's wrong with it. If you read this, you will better understand why C defeated Pascal. Many of his complaints were addressed in specific versions of Pascal (e.g. Borland's Turbo Pascal), but C provided a more practical language without locking you in with a specific compiler. 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

Sure he did. I reviewed it in the old Byte. The essence of my review was "He doesn't like Pascal because it isn't C," and I see no real reason to change that view.

Hi Jerry

Happy new year to you and yours.

I'm a professional developer. Over the last 18 years or so I've worked extensively with C and C++. I've also worked quite a bit with Pascal, COBOL, FORTRAN and BASIC (and its derivatives) plus many others. I've also taught C, C++, Pascal, Modula II and COBOL at University (Bachelor and Masters) and Tertiary College (Diploma) level.

I find myself in almost complete agreement with your correspondent David H. Lynch Jr.

I've inserted my comments amongst yours, which I know you don't much like, but I think it makes it easier to respond to particular comments. I've included your entire comments (nothing is missing). I hope I haven't misrepresented you in any way.

> I suspect that both Kernighan and Wirth would be astonished to find > that C and Pascal are highly similar,

As languages go, they are reasonably similar - both being descended from Algol. Certainly closer to each other than to FORTRAN or COBOL. Modern BASICs have become very similar to Pascal, but early BASICs were very different.

> and if there is strong type checking in modern C compilers that must > be rather recent.

Strong type checking has been available in C compilers since the mid '80s - but you can turn it off. Even strongest type checking is available in C++, but you can get around it if you try. (Not that I'm recommending that you do.)

The "lint" program has been available to perform strong type checking on C programs for longer than I can remember. Good practice has always included "linting" a program.

> And it may be squirrelly to say that programmers simulate the compiler > in their heads as a means of testing for potential bugs, but in that > case some of the best known C programmers must be squirrels, since I > didn't make up that phrase, I got it from the people at Digital > Research quite a few years ago.

In the early '80s (and probably the '70s) C programmers wrote some obscenely ugly code to maximise performance on slow machines with little memory. Such hacks needed intimate knowledge of the compiler output to work properly. If somebody wrote such code in the last 15 years, they should be hung. (But of course, some people have).

Even into the late '80s, you could gain significant speed and space optimisation by understanding the way the compiler works.

Today's optimising compilers are so complex that few programmers can predict what they will do with a particular piece of code.

> It may be that using languages that look for logic flaws, out of range > inputs, and unexpected type changes wouldn't result in better code so > long as the programmers are the same, and thus only people who really > understand what is going on can be programmers, but I suspect that > letting the computer do a lot of the work is a better way to go.

If you want a little utility program for yourself, tools like VB or Delphi are perfect - and they need minimal skill levels to achieve quite reasonable results. If you want to build large, complex programs then you really need skilled developers, no matter what language you use. C is hard. If you want to use it, you need to be properly trained. An amateur will make a big mess, but a skilled programmer can produce robust powerful software. Unfortunately, too many employers don't want to pay for experts, so they hire half-trained programmers and they get what they paid for - half-baked software.

> Good languages force you to write programs that work as you expected > them to.

My C/C++ programs almost always work as I expect them to. If they do not, my testing department returns them and I fix them. The message here is to thoroughly understand your tool - whether it is BASIC, Pascal or C.

> That was the whole point of the old language wars,

I never really saw a point to those :-)

> and the efforts to prove programs,

Proving programs is a very good way to produce good software. The trouble is, it is extremely hard to do. Some good results have been achieved, particularly with life-critical software. However you need **very** good people, and it takes a long time.

Prof. Ken Robinson at Uni of NSW (Australia) was researching the automation of proofs. A friend of mine did a PhD with him in the '80s. I haven't heard about that in a long time and I don't know how (or even if) it is going.

> and even the military's move to ADA which was in fact a good idea > badly executed.

I've never worked with ADA, so I am limited in what I can say. I've known a number of skilled developers who have worked with it, and they generally hated using it - but produced reasonably good results. I guess that one can draw one's own conclusion from that.

The fundamental point is that good people will produce good results with almost any tools, but under-trained people with powerful tools can make a big mess.

Sorry for the rant - it is a bit of a hobby horse of mine. :-)

The old adage: We produce software - Fast - Correct - Cheap (Choose any two)

------------------------------------------------------------------- Michael Smith, Senior Software Engineer Aurema Pty Limited Ph: +61 2 9698 2322 PO Box 305, Strawberry Hills 2012, Australia Fx: +61 2 9699 9174 79 Myrtle Street, Chippendale 2008, Australia

[Emphasis added by JEP]

I repeat: if you can turn off an important requirement like type checking, someone will, and in fact one of the problems with security in some pretty famous programs turns out to be that someone did.

I make no doubt that your programs work as you expected them to. I doubt seriously that the Microsoft programmers intended their programs to include the security holes that Windows was riddled with: many of which would have been impossible if strong type and range checking had been applied.

As to the "good people make for good results" argument, that was the entire point of Henry Ford and the US Industrial Revolution. Hitler was certain that the United States would not make a big different in World War II because there was simply no way to automate craftsmanship, and it took a long time to train people to sufficient skill to make military optics like tank gunsights and the Norden bombsight. The point of proper tools is to compensate for having people of reasonable intelligence using them, rather than requiring geniuses and experts.

That was what the language wars were all about: would we continue down the UNIX path of guru-friendly programming and operating systems, or would we try to make things user-friendly by letting the computer do most of the work, and forgive me for saying it, but I am not at all surprised that you never understood the point.

Experts seldom did. And some understood perfectly and fought like hell to protect their turf.

In comparing C and Pascal you could argue that they are "more similar" to one another than either is to FORTRAN, COBOL and LISP based on the fact that C and Pascal are block structured languages and the others are not. At this point you could argue that PERL and C are almost identical as PERL borrowed very heavily from C's syntactical rules.

"C succeeded as a systems programming language and eventually an applications programming language because Pascal failed"

I would argue that C gained popularity due to its availability on UNIX systems found at schools around the world. Borland's Pascal compilers continue to have some following and I would think of them as a success. Other languages continue to become more Pascal like in practice. C "won" because it gathered a following, not because it was the better (or worse) language.

Is it easier to write bad code in a given language? I would argue that it is. Few languages require the programmer to maintain the attention to detail the C language does. The greatest hazard is requiring the programmer to correctly manipulate memory with allocation and release of memory done with direct pointers. Languages built on C remove these requirements and seem to have fewer errors that result in exploitable situations.

The Pascal family of languages require such features as array bounds checking to be part of the emitted machine code. While programmers should still check for errors, the compiler will always create a correct test that will catch the error. Making sure the test is correct becomes the problem for the compiler to solve and eliminates one of the most popular mistakes that result in a security exploit.

--- Al Lipscomb


And finally:

Regarding writing safer code:

This whole mess with computer viruses derives from a decision to merge the call-return stack with the stack of parameters and local variables. Separate those two, and 99% of viruses have no way to get a grip. Buffer overruns could cause errors - but could not set the instruction pointer by modifying a return address.

Who came up with the single-stack scheme, anyhow? I'm pretty sure that the first microprocessor designers must have simply copied the idea from existing CPU designs, probably assuming that it was just the way you had to do it.

In any case, it's something that COULD be fixed in the hardware.

Tom Craver Chandler, AZ

Or even with better code generators...



But See Below

=========End of Language wars

One of your correspondents said (Currentmail, Jan 2):

> What about going after the companies who use spammers? Some might say > that those companies don't know how the spammers operate, even if it's > illegally. I say that's crap. If we were to start slapping fines on > the companies who hire the spammers, I'll bet we'll see a reduction in > spam. Maybe start listing those companies that use spam and organize > boycotts?

Boycotts? How many of them are selling anything any sane person would want to buy anyway? Companies use spammers, I presume, because they are selling crap and can't find enough mugs by any other means.

Excluding the porn sites and, ahem, personal enhancement products, most of my spam seems to be (a) dubious "debt reduction", "instant loan", "guaranteed credit card" and related financial offers; (b) dodgy-sounding cheap software deals, and (c) even dodgier-sounding pharmaceuticals (codeine, weight-reduction products).

I'm not going to boycott, say, IBM software just because someone offers me a probably-pirated copy of ViaVoice. Most of the rest of what's on offer is of zero interest anyway: I won't buy it, but that's because I don't want it rather than because it was spamvertised.

Happy New Year!



Cheery News:

Pharmaceutical giants hire ghostwriters to produce articles - then put doctors' names on them,6903,1101680,00.html 

Although IANA Doctor, would it seem appropriate, when a physician prescribes to you a *new* drug or presses samples on you (which are almost always *new* drugs IIRC), that involved patients look into the *number* of studies published lauding that drug, and look for a diversity of sources... or is that likely to be ineffective in scouting out medi-flack? This greying post-boomer would like to hear from a doc on this.

-- 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)

Well, Vernor's not dead yet. We just heard from his this morning.

 On the substance of the article, see below.

And in that grim vein:

Dr. Pournelle:

According to a report on CBS's 60 Minutes of 1/4/04, a police search is justified if a "well-trained and reliable" dog [standard set by the Supreme Court] alerts to drugs.

A high-school student was removed from class because a dog had alerted to drugs in her car. No drugs were found. The dog alerted improperly (false positives) for drugs 71 of 72 times. The student's parents were informed by letter that their daughter "had been" in contact with an illegal substance. The parents protested, whereupon the school changed the letter to read, "may have been in contact . . ."

The student's parents, having apparently a firmer grasp of the contents of the 4th amendment than did the school district, sued. (They were represented by an ALCU lawyer.) The school district settled, agreeing to refrain from the use of drug-sniffing dogs, and to remove references to drug possession from the student's record.

There is no licensing or certification program for drug-sniffing dogs. How can a dog be proven reliable?

I now wonder whether the use of drug-sniffing dogs could lead to as many opportunities for inequity, injustice, and corruption as the drug-possession asset-forfeiture laws. Whatever the behavior the dog uses to "alert"--barking, sitting, scratching at the purported hiding place--it would be easy to train the dog to perform this behavior when cued by a command or a hand signal. Then, the dog's handler would have, it seems, cart blanche to search any home or vehicle for anything, without a warrant, on the grounds that the dog had 'alerted' to the presence of a controlled substance.

At this point, I think we've solved the energy crisis. Just hook a turbine to the graves of the Founders. Washington, Madison, Adams--they must all be spinning in their graves. Rapidly.

But of course no trainer would be corrupt, and the incentive to have a Mercedes to drive would never tempt any policeman, particularly if he knows this is a bad guy. Never.



And for some really good news:

Subject: QuickTime VR Panorama of NASA Spirit's Landing Site on Mars

Very cool. Didn't have anything like this in the days of Viking. The TV said the whole program cost $750 million. 




Army Uniforms

Mr Pournelle:

The 29DEC03 issue of Army Times has an article on a military website where soldiers can send in their opinions on the current Army Class A uniform and post their opinions on what a new Class A uniform should look like. Some of the examples may surprise you as one looks rather like something often seen at Star Trek conventions.  is the website for the polling. The polling is conducted anonymously.

-SFC Brian Huss brian.huss@

Thanks. A good army should have good dress uniforms. Wearing battle dress doesn't cut it.

C. Northcote Parkinson had much to say about that.



On a more serious note, in response to Mr. Bartley’s question about “new” drugs and the implied question about how gullible we physicians actually are….well, I’m hopeful that I’m not terribly gullible. I can argue best by analogy. If I build houses and I’ve used lumber to build houses for years and years, I’m not likely to begin to build houses with compressed earth just because an article suggest that I do it. In similar fashion, I don’t prescribe drugs because an article suggests that I do it. It takes years, in almost every setting, to change my pattern of prescribing and it takes lots of articles. Even then I’m wary. Of course, the other side of this is that some sensational new drugs are very slowly adopted because we doctors don’t change easily.

I’d also humbly suggest that we be a little leery about an article written in the “Guardian Unlimited” which claims that “hundreds” of articles in the “medical” journals are written by ghostwriters and then cites two articles...without asking either the New England Journal or the Journal of Alimentary Pharmacology to comment. I’ve no doubt that such articles have been published, and no doubt that scum exists in every profession, but I’d suggest that the ratio of scum/good guys is heavily weighted toward good guys in medicine.

Of note, I’ve had the chance to work on articles over the years and haven’t had anyone offer me “handsomely” or even “unhandsomely” to ghostwrite said articles. Perhaps my success rate of publication would have been higher!

Mark Huth (in my role as MD-PhD, FACC and loyal pournelle reader).

Of note, I saw your request for real data about Mad Cow disease, but don’t really have the background to comment. If some pharmaceutical company would like to ghostwrite an article for me and pay me handsomely to publish it on your site, I’d probably be willing to accept (with appropriate disclaimer, natch). Heck, we might even be able to get a nice little cottage industry going here!! Lets say our price is...12 million dollars a paragraph. I’ll keep you posted if someone responds….grin.

Thanks for the most uncommon sense.

On a lighter vein, same subject, Dr. Huth says

Subject: On the subject of snakes, ladders, and spin


One of your recent correspondents wrote about ghost writers and medical articles. Here is a very useful article from the British Medical Journal!







This week:


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Tuesday, January 6, 2004 

The column is done.

Subject: FW: Compassion for Mordor 


OSLO, Norway (Prager News Service, Jan. 5, 2004) -- In a just-published interview with the Norwegian Society for Universal Neutrality (NSUN), former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said that the blockbuster trilogy "Lord of the Rings" is sending dangerous messages to the world's young people.

CODA: "This story is fictional, but not false."

Jim Woosley

Why am I not surprised? But he let Iran fall. I'd argue that the people of Iran were much better off under the Shah. There wouldn't have been the war with Iraq, either.

Quibbles with Cochran

It's always risky to quibble with Cochran, but I'll take on the task:

First, Arab/Moslem terrorists have killed more American civilians on US soil than the USSR, Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan ever did. That may not be strategic but it is certainly an attention-getter.

Second, Al-Qaeda appears to be implacable. The evidence for Saddam Hussein's "placability" is also sorely lacking. We might be able to placate Hezbollah; ask Terry Anderson.

Third, you're right, Iraq (probably) did not assist Al-Qaeda on 9/11/2001. Iraq did assist Al-Qaeda in murdering Americans at the World Trade Center in 1993; they did assist Al-Qaeda in murdering an American diplomat in Jordan in 2002. Thinking the two might work together again to kill many Americans was not an unreasonable assumption in early 2003.

Fourth. We've already achieved something valuable in Iraq. If Iraqi "democracy" fails, it will take the next strong man years to rebuild the chemical weapons, and he will know which groups not to affiliate with.

Still, a justifiable war is not the same as a prudent one, and this one may not have been worth the time. We will see. Libya's change is a promising development.

Steve Setzer


The language wars continue:

Would C have been better if it had been written from the first to have more and better type checking? Definitely yes. One of the major reasons for allowing non-type-checked functions was to compile old code, written before the type checking. But you implied that most programmers will just not use the type checking, and that does not match up with my experience. Modern C compilers check types and modern C programmers use that feature. People who like C don't reject all good ideas from other languages, and people smart enough to program *like* it when their mistakes get caught for them by the compiler.

Would C have been better if there were no type casts? No! No! A thousand times no! I went crazy in Pascal, needing to write redundant functions that all did the same thing, each for a different but related data type. Casts can be abused, but they are indispensable. (By the way, Turbo Pascal had casts.)

Is C the best general-purpose language available now? No (assuming you define general-purpose the way I do). C is still the language of choice for word processors and OS kernels, but it's modern C with type checking (and with people using the type checking). C++ has vast power, but also vast ability to shoot yourself in the foot. For general-purpose programming, I'd suggest Java or Python. Maybe even Visual Basic, if you don't mind locking yourself in to Windows and only Windows.

Which was the Right Thing to use in the 80's, C or Pascal? Definitely C. You dismiss Brian Kernighan's comments, but speaking as a person who had to use Pascal for many hours in college, and as a person who has used C for many many many hours since, those comments are all dead on. There were of course versions of Pascal that fixed many of the problems, but once you have deviated from the standard, IT ISN'T PASCAL ANYMORE. That's why I'm so adamant on this subject. You could write C code, get useful work done, and then move your code to a different compiler or even a different platform. If you used Standard Pascal, you would have to work around the warts on the language, and if you used Turbo Pascal, your code wouldn't easily port.

A good language makes it easy to write good code. It will have enough type checking to help the programmer, but it will allow programmers to override the type checking when they know what they are doing. C is closer to this ideal than Pascal, but there are modern languages better than either.

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Dr. Pournelle, choice of programming language is an interesting question, but as a working programmer, I have to say that the "C vs. Pascal" debate on your site strikes me as... Not very relevant! I can easily believe that Module 3, ADA, etc. are generally better for applications programming than C. Almost ANYTHING higher level than C is!

The conventional wisdom seems to be that C is a "portable assembly language" for low-level bit twiddling, performance criticial library functions, and writing byte code compiles for scripting languages. My experience seems to bear that out.

The much more interesting and important question is, of the vast number of higher-level-than-C languages, which are better, for what, and why? And how does the answer change under different conditions, like:

- Project scale: Small, medium, large, the very largest.

- Programmer abiliity: Mediocre, skilled, demi-god.

- Different application domains: Probably too many to list.

ADA, Modula 3, Standard ML - maybe? Java - no. Tcl, Python, Perl? Scheme? Eiffel, Erlang?

Is there much good research on those questions? I haven't seen much, but maybe I haven't looked hard enough?

Many of the more recent languages have features which aficionado's claim make for both more reliable programs and more efficient programming - Standard ML's strong typing and type inference system; Erlang with concurrency; Eiffel's design by contract. But what is the real effect of these features? Which are of value, which should be combined and adopted into other languages?

As for "programming in the large", how prevalent is it? Compared to programming as a whole, what is it's share of developers, lines of code written annually, total lines of code written and in use? Primarily what organizations do it? Is programming in the large perhaps only a small niche? Many discussions of programming language design seem to ignore it completely, e.g.:

My own rules of thumb drawn from my personal programming go like this:

- For any project of reasonable size, you HAVE to know C, because it is ubiquitous, and you will have to use it somewhere.

- Therefore pick a very high level language suitable for the most rapid development possible, and use that for as much of your code as possible. But ability to easily interface with C is also important.

- Use C only where you really need it, which means: 1) Small amounts of very performance critcal code. 2) Where you have to in order to talk to other C code - vast numbers of 3rd paty libraries, etc.

- For the "very high level language", so far I've found that a scripting language like Tcl works very well. (For more math and especially statistics intensive use, S/S-Plus/R can be excellent.)

- Proper use of an RDBMS (like Oracle or PostgreSQL) can make a HUGE difference, as it provides a high level interface to many powerful features that are hard to find anywhere else - ACIDity, concurrency, constraints to enforce data correctness, etc.

A corrolary of the above is that Java is not interesting. Java is higher level than C but not very much. I'm already using C for any really low level stuff, I want something a LOT higher level for anything else. My very limited contact with Java says, Java isn't it.

Of course, with an interpreted "scripting" language like Tcl (or Python, Perl, etc.), fewer correctness checks can be done at compile time. I've heard that this can tend to make such languages impractical for large systems. However, the largest projects I've ever personally worked on were probably still well under 1 million lines of code, and used the RDBMS as well for a lot of the heavy lifting, so I don't really know first hand. (And perahps there are counter examples, like the Lisp Machine.)

Also, you seem especially concerned with being able to "get around" type safety with casts and the like. I think that's a red herring. If any "safety feature" is turned off, it should be easy to identify all such occurrences, so that they can be reviewed. If it's not easy, I suspect the programming tools involved are probably inadequate in other ways too.

More importantly, A good language should give you powerful tools that make it easier to do things the right way, NOT tie the programmer's hands. One of Graham's correspondants calls this "languages designed for smart people (LFSP) vs. "languages designed for the masses" (LFM).

But, as far as professional programming go, will there be ANY need "languages designed for the masses" once millions of Indian and Chinese engineers get into the game? Perhaps the bar will be raised till anyone who you wouldn't trust with a LFSP won't be able to find full-time programming employment anyway?

And it already seems that non-professional programmers are much better served with something like Tcl or Python, not Java, C, or - I assume - Pascal.

Perhaps some of my rambling above will be of interest. Thanks again for all the fabulous writing and thinking, especially your nonfiction both in print and on the web!

-- Andrew Piskorski <>

My point was not that Pascal was "better" than C back in the critical days, but that had development of Pascal continued -- as it was with Modula-2, but not far enough -- we would have structured programs written in comprehensible language with the compiler doing most of the work.

C will compile mistakes including careless errors. Sometimes those can be devilishly hard to find.

We used to have big projects on computer assisted programming. After a while all the effort seems to have gone into trying to live with C and its consequences. There has to have been a better way. There still has to be a better way. Once a program runs properly and securely you can go in and optimize loops and such; but concern for code efficiency back when the logic isn't nailed down solidly is a formula that can lead to disaster.

The discussion about the "language wars" and PASCAL vs. C have missed a point. The arguments have centered on what is good or bad for professional programmers who code for a living. But what about the large pool of engineers who write short programs (a few thousand lines of code) for special analysis tasks? I used to see those written routinely by engineers in BASIC or PASCAL, or in C-shell on UNIX systems. Now that C and Windows have taken over -- they are written far less often. Whatever the merits of C may be, you have to live and breathe C coding to achieve them. There is a place for programming languages "for the rest of us" -- and I have recently started looking at Gnu PASCAL for just such a purpose.

Jeff Greason XCOR Aerospace

Well, precisely. C is not a part time occupation. Guru friendly things seldom are. UNIX is a wizard full employment act, as C is a full time programmer full employment act.

PYTHON is one of those utility languages that does seem to do the work that Turbo Pascal once did.

C# is about as easy as VB.NET, and now C# code can run on Linux with the Mono runtime. Even windows forms are supported.

Francis Gingras

Steve R. Hastings wrote: "For general-purpose programming, I'd suggest Java or Python. Maybe even Visual Basic, if you don't mind locking yourself in to Windows and only Windows."

The Microsoft executives at PDC told me they are now using C# for Windows programming.

I confess I am not familiar with C#.




And a question from a reader:

Dear Jerry,

Do you know anything about Safari Mac’s proprietary browser? Do they intend to stick with it? What language is used to work with it? We have program written in java script that captures Internet Explorer for a program we developed but are a bit flummoxed by Apple’s new browser. Can you suggest someone who knows something about it?

Had the same experience you did with the memory. Bought a Powerbook and extra memory from MacWorld (a lousy buying experience—full of bait and switch and mix-up and unwanted rebates and inclusions) and found out that the extra memory they sent meant I had to extract one of the 256k modules and toss it. Give me a break. I sent the 512k back. Next time….Let’s just say I’m not in love with Apple and if they didn’t have a stranglehold in the graphics end of the industry I never would have bought one although it is a nice, light, pretty machine.



Hi, Dr. Pournelle. Merry new year to you. I thought I'd pass along this third-party response to your reader's query about Apple's Safari browser:

Dave Hyatt, lead developer for Safari, has a blog [ ] that would be the place to ask this question. If Dave himself doesn't answer (and he often does), there are many other knowledgeable people who frequent it, so you may be in luck.


Tim Elliott


Safari is based on an HTML engine called KHTML. This was developed by the KDE project. Essentially, Apple built a native Mac shell around KHTML and that is Safari.

As far as I know, Apple is serious about Safari and will support it forever. Before Safari they depended on Internet Explorer, and having such an important thing as a web browser under the control of another company cannot be comfortable.

Microsoft, for whatever reason, didn't put as much effort into IE for Mac as into IE for Windows. IE for Mac was a bit slower than it needed to be. Safari, on the other hand, is fast.

Many people were surprised that Apple didn't use Gecko, the HTML engine at the heart of Mozilla. Instead they chose KHTML, which does render as many web pages correctly, but is smaller, faster, and (according to Apple) easier to work with. Over time, both Apple and the KDE guys will improve KHTML, and an already good browser will be even better. 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


On Sleeping Macs

Apparently it's the USB hub that is a problem. There is some slack in the definition of USB protocol, so some hubs notify the Mac what's attached properly, some don't. I haven't found how to tell without actually testing. Perhaps one of your other readers will know. I bet if your keyboard & mouse are plugged directly into the computer, it'll work the way you expect. If the mouse is plugged into a keyboard, of course, that's another hub in the chain.

You can wake the Mac with a button push on the mouse; just wiggling it doesn't work. I use a MS 5-button taillight mouse, BTW. I assigned one of the thumb buttons to Exposé. Neat!

If you want to impress your Linux friends, start your Mac with the splat-V keys down for verbose mode. It'll print the boot log entries to the screen like a regular Unix terminal.

Henry Spragens henryspragens(at)swbell(dot)net








This week:


read book now


Wednesday, January 7, 2004

I was listening, while out running errands, to six of the Nine Dwarfs debating who gets to be the Presidential candidate, and unless I'm misremembering, John Kerry, for the first time among any of them, as far as I know, brought up the issue of what to do if the Islamists take over Pakistan, and just this side of announced that he'd favor an Indian invasion to make sure that the nuclear weapons don't fall into the wrong hands. (He didn't put it so bluntly, of course.)

I'm not a big fan of Kerry's, but I'll give him credit for at least looking at the problem and considering what to do about it. I'm assuming -- and hoping -- that somebody in the administration is doing the same thing, although my fear is that there's a State contingency plan, perhaps written by Assistant Deputy Undersecretary Grossblunder, involving sending a Stiff Note with Repressed Hints of Contemplation of Withheld Support. As time goes by -- and despite there being smart folks like Jim Young in the department of State, and having nice things to say about Powell -- I'm more and more coming to the conclusion that Laumer wasn't writing parody.

Very strange listening to the Democrats debate, though; the only ones who seem to live in the same universe I do are Lieberman and, occasionally, Gephardt, and -- at least this once -- Kerry. On Planet Dean, US unilateralism is bad, which is why negotiations with North Korea must be conducted unilaterally.

Still paying attention to the Libya thing; seems there are some folks for whom "do what we tell you or we'll shoot you" works, as long as you've got some credibility. I take it you caught the quote from Berlosconi about what the Great Leader said to him.

American Empire or Republic (or some combination), it's hard to argue that anybody would be better off if Qaddaffi had the Bomb. Except, of course, Qaddaffi.

Apropos of nothing, check out the trailer for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow --  . I'm worried about the likely idiot plot problem, but it's visually gorgeous -- and I don't just mean for babe value -- and I've always had a soft spot in my heart, and presumably head, for stories involving giant robots.

-------------------------------------------------- Joel Rosenberg 612.824.3150 AACFI-certified Carry Permit Instructor and Certifier BCA-validated Minnesota Carry Permit Instructor NRA-certified Range Safety Officer, Pistol Instructor, Home Firearms Safety Instructor, and Personal Protection Instructor


Subject: Mars pictures yet again

Dear Jerry,

The pictures are getting more and more awesome. The next few weeks ought to be pretty interesting. 

Here's hoping they find a fossil bed of dinosaurs.


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

phone: (478) 836-5908 fax: (478) 836-5908 web: email: ====================================


Dear Dr. Pournelle:
I saw this today and thought you might be interested in the last line of the quote. When does a feeling of moral superiority justify a military to refuse a "civilian's" order  (an unfavored President) or co-op civilian authority? 
I always believed that the military should have the highest moral standard. I fear when they believe they have the moral high ground.  
A new Army Times poll shows something that candidate George W. Bush found out during the Florida presidential recount: The all-volunteer military is growing more Republican.

Mr. Bush won the original Florida tally by garnering a majority of absentee votes from service members counted after Election Day.

The Army Times, an independent newspaper, said this week that its 2003 poll "reveals a military more conservative, more Republican and one that considers itself to be morally superior to the nation it serves."

As I said in the subject the beginnings or a worry.

Happy New Year to You and Yours,


John Wm. Zaccone

It's hardly an unusual situation.

"Make haste to reassure us... for if we have left our bones to bleach in this desert in vain, beware the fury of the Legions." Of course that was a long time ago.


My experience is now 30 years old, but the Class A uniform was not the Dress Uniform. The Army had the Dress Blues for that purpose. In my day we used the uniform to move between units and in some office environments. Otherwise we wore fatigues or khaki.

I did spend a year in Monterey at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) where they insisted that we wear Class A uniforms every day. Khaki would have made more sense.

Chris Landa

Of course you're right, although Class A is usually the top of the line for most enlisted men.


I have more letters on the language wars, but they add little that is new. Most tell me all the tricks you can do in C, and all the features: and thus again miss the point, which is that sometimes the tricks and features are the problem. Back when memory was scarce and machines were slow, many of those tricks were needed, but every one of them was used at the price of clarity.

Structured languages are not "easier" to use, and often are harder. I recall Wirth on the subject of raising exceptions: in almost all cases, anyone who needs them doesn't know how to program.

The debate is precisely over structure and readability which increases reliability and security vs. features that make things go faster and are often easier to use but which make things obscure. The original "GOTO Statement considered harmful" essay was making a point: GOTO statements are very easy to use and make life easier on the programmer -- until you are going through the code, come to a label, and have no way of knowing you the program gets to it. I recall having that debate a long time ago -- and losing it because I used GOTO statements and liked them.



I suggest you take a look at REALbasic, a high level object oriented programming environment with versions which run under Windows or the Mac. It produces compiled, not interpreted, programs for the Mac and Windows with essentially the same source code. A ten day demo is available at .

Using C++ I wrote a plugin for REALbasic which provides the functionality of an HP RPN calculator with up to 30,000 digits of precision and with many scientific functions. Then with REALbasic I wrote the code providing a graphical representation of an HP RPN calculator. REALbasic, with my plugin, then generated three versions of the calculator program, MPCalcRB, for each of Windows, Mac OS 9, and Mac OS X.

So a plugin can be written in C or C++ for speed, and then REALbasic can do the GUI.

All my programs are freeware. MPCalcRB can be found at 

You might like to try them out in Windows, Mac OS 9, and Mac OS X to see the GUI's and contrast the speeds of operations. With large enough precision the speeds will essentially come from the C++ code, which is the same for all three environments.

I'm a retired Professor of Physics from Saint Louis University who likes to write such programs now that he has a lot of spare time.


Wow. Thanks.


To Steve Setzer:

I think the 9/11 attack was a 4-sigma event , far more damaging than planned or expected by its planners. From it we have a false impression of how dangerous in general these guys are: a bit like fearing cows after the Chicago Fire. . They aren't that dangerous, mostly because they aren't very competent. If they were that would be another story, but if they were, they'd be somebody else - Germans, probably.,

Al-Qaeda may be implacable, but what we do has an influence on how many people join or support it. As for Saddam, he was perfectly placable - or, more exactly deterrable. . He did nothing at all for ten years. As for Hezbollah, they haven't bothered us since we got out of Lebanon.

As for Iraq assisting Al _Qaeda in the 1993 attack on the WTC: that never happened. I have never found any reason to believe that Iraq trained, planned, or paid for any of that. In fact, nobody paid for it: the whole plot only cost a a few thousand, while is all those vicious morons could afford. They were broke: the guy who tried to get the deposit back on the van they blew up did so because that was only the hope of paying for an airline ticket out. Did Iraq assist Al _Qaeda in murdering an American diplomat in Jordan in 2002? I know of no evidence that ever happened either. Do you? More generally,. I see a fair-sized industry of people making up stuff, false connections, unproved stories, etc, to support the Administration policy - nuts like Laurie Mylroie. I'm not in the mood to hear it anymore. Every single thing along those lines that I can check turns out false. That is a bad sign, isn't it? Look, I listened to the Administration WMD talk. Before the war, I knew for a fact that their nuclear claims were all false, on technical grounds. I knew that there was no confirming evidence for any of their _other_ claims, some of which were at least physically possible. And there should have been. Let me expand on that: the government of the United States was making claims about an Iraqi nuclear program that could not possibly be true. that didn't exactly fill me with faith in the rest of what they were saying.. Their claims about aluminum tubes being used for gas centrifuge rotors were clearly false, on engineering grounds - and the people working on centrifuge isotope separation ar Oak Ridge and Livermore _told_ their political bossess it wasn't true. Didn't matter. We gave tens of tips to the IAEA inspectors before the war, and _none_ of them panned out. As it turns out, every single factual claim in Powell's UN speech was untrue. Maybe you're comfortable with that: I'm not.

Thinking that the Saddam and Al-Qaeda might work together was not beyond the bounds of possibility, but was never likely. First, they weren't exactly soulmates. Second, the only thing that Saddam was going to accomplish by such an act was to have us stomp him - he wasn't suicidal. Dick Cheney said that Saddam was amassing weapons that he would then procede to use on us and our allies. He wasn't, of course, and he wouldn't have used them thusly if he _had_ had them, because we'd have vaporized him. Saddam was no more a kamikaze on 9-12 than he was on 9-10: _we_ changed, but nobody else did. There is only one thing that could have made Iraqi Baathists likely to cooperate with Wahabi fundamentalists: invading Iraq.

We've certainly achieved something _costly_ in Iraq, but that hardly makes it valuable. How it is valuable to us? 2002 Iraq was never a threat in the first place, or on its way to being a threat, and all the real players knew that. Ask the Turks or the Iranians. What have we gained? We are spending a lot of money, half the Army is unavailable for any real threat ( not that there are many), radicalized most of the Moslem world, alienated a lot of Europeans, and we're getting nothing for it. If you think that an independent Iraq would take a long time to develop an unconventional weapons capaicty, you are quite wrong. Chemical weapons in particular aren't that difficult.

Let me say it again: how is it valuable to us? Knocking off the Baathists is a nice thing, assuming that Iraq avoids civil war, but how does it help us - help us in a way that corresponds to the costs icurrewd, currently running over 75 billion a year? Most people don't really know what a billion dollars means, but I do: That's like sinking three-Nimitz class carriers a year, without crew: is it worth that? I think that Moslem terrorism is overrated - I could cause more trouble all by myself - but occupying Iraq is going to make it worse, not better. As for any favorable political outcome in Iraq - do you care to bet?

Gregory Cochran

It's always risky to quibble with Cochran, but I'll take on the task:

First, Arab/Moslem terrorists have killed more American civilians on US soil than the USSR, Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan ever did. That may not be strategic but it is certainly an attention-getter.

Second, Al-Qaeda appears to be implacable. The evidence for Saddam Hussein's "placability" is also sorely lacking. We might be able to placate Hezbollah; ask Terry Anderson.

Third, you're right, Iraq (probably) did not assist Al-Qaeda on 9/11/2001. Iraq did assist Al-Qaeda in murdering Americans at the World Trade Center in 1993; they did assist Al-Qaeda in murdering an American diplomat in Jordan in 2002. Thinking the two might work together again to kill many Americans was not an unreasonable assumption in early 2003.

Fourth. We've already achieved something valuable in Iraq. If Iraqi "democracy" fails, it will take the next strong man years to rebuild the chemical weapons, and he will know which groups not to affiliate with.

Still, a justifiable war is not the same as a prudent one, and this one may not have been worth the time. We will see. Libya's change is a promising development.

Steve Setzer

And another reply:

You may be interested in my reply to the Glick article you have read.

Michael Kochin

Don't Confuse Diversity with Bias

Michael S. Kochin Senior Lecturer, Political Science, Tel Aviv University

Visiting Associate Professor (2003-04), Political Science, Yale University

I am a recently tenured member of the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University, the department that is the focus of Caroline Glick's "Academic Gulags." I am also a conservative, an opponent of a Palestinian state, a supporter of Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza -- and I have not hesitated to air my political views since joining the department in 1995. I have written for the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, and have received funding from such well-known conservative institutions as the John M. Olin Foundation and the Heritage Foundation.

Nor am I the token conservative in an otherwise solidly far-left department. One colleague, a strong cultural Zionist, participates in a seminar at the conservative Shalem Institute in Jerusalem. Another, while dovish politically, works on the politically incorrect topic of sociobiological explanations for warfare. Yet another has, in her scholarly publications, defended the Israeli right to retain the settlements. Nor are we monolithic in our political affiliations and political activities: members of the department have been linked to political parties from the right, the center, as well as the left, advising figures from former IDF Chief of Staff Raful Eitan to Likud's David Levy to former Labor Party foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami.

We Tel Aviv political science professors are active in presenting Israeli affairs from diverse points of view both at home and abroad. My colleague Gideon Doron defended Israel and the Sharon Government in an internationally publicized debate with Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi last year at the University of Colorado. Another colleague, Yossi Shain, has defended Israeli policy on ABC's Nightline and other major media outlets.

Ms. Glick found that some of our students echoed back to her the teachings of Yoav Peled. I am not surprised: Professor Peled is, without a doubt, the most influential teacher in our department  not because his views are echoed by other members of the faculty, but because he does the best job in his lectures of marshaling arguments and evidence in support of them. To the rest of us, who disagree with him about everything from the virtues of capitalism to the Palestinian right of return, Professor Peled's influence is only a spur to us to do a better job in researching, writing, and presenting alternative understandings that we find more plausible. Professor Peled is also the strongest voice in the department for the maintenance of unimpeachable academic standards and the place of the liberal arts in our curriculum, to an extent that even I, a former student of the late Allan Bloom's, am sometimes hesitant to echo.

Yoav Peled is indeed a Marxist, a supporter of concessions to the Palestinians, and has even spoken out for "regime change" in George W. Bush's United States. Professor Peled is also a captain in the Israel Defense Forces reserves, a former El Al air marshal, and the son of one of the most prominent generals in IDF history, Motti Peled. Somehow I doubt that many such figures can be found in America's academic left.

Are alternative views to Yoav Peled's welcome at Israeli universities? My experience of the past decade, a tumultuous decade for Israel, as we all know, indicates that such views are more than welcomed; such views are rewarded by Tel Aviv's Department of Political Science. My department values diversity of viewpoint and excellence in research and presentation above criteria of political correctness whether leftist or conservative. By following that policy, we have become the leading political science department in Israel.

-- Michael S. Kochin Visiting Associate Professor (2003-04) Department of Political Science Yale University P.O. Box 208301 New Haven CT 06520-8301 USA Tel. (cell): 646-483-8658 Email:

The neo-conservatives have read me out of the ranks of conservatives, so I watch these events from a bit of distance. When I was young I was thought a hopeless radical for my views. Now I am thought a hopeless reactionary. While I have adjusted with the times, most of my views are the same as I had when I was in high school. I did have a brief stint as a genuine radical revolutionary as an undergrad, but I got over that...




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now









CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now




Regarding the statement by Jim Mangles in the Tuesday December 30th exchanges;

quote " This is nothing new, he said, and gave the example (which I did not know of) of the US Marines in France near Amiens during the Kaiserschlag— the last great German offensive of the war, in early 1918-- who refused the advice of the British gained from almost four years of trench warfare experience, and chose to advance across open ground walking upright at a slow pace as the German machine gunners mowed down over 5,000 of them all in one morning." endquote

Maybe, possibly, but I severly doubt it.

The Kaiserschlacht, or Michael offensive, took place in March, against British, French and Australian troops. American troops were, at the time, in quieter sectors. Rather than having "over 5,000 of them" "mowed down" there were over 21,000 BRITISH troops captured on the first day of the offensive. This offensive spurred the process of getting American troops into the actual fight. ( < >

The last great German offensives of WW I were not early in 1918, they were in June and later. The Marines entered their first major fighting in June, near Chateau-Thierry. Their advance in these was described as "rushed the enemy's positions". (   <%28> No mention of a slow, upright advance. Our soldiers and Marines actually did learn from our allies and avoided many of the mistakes that they had made. Besides, why were the Americans advancing that way if it was a GERMAN offensive? Shouldn't they have been defending? Sounds too big to be a local counter attack and not big enough to be a general counter attack.

I doubt his number of casualties. TOTAL casualties for the Marines in WW I was 2,461 KIA and 9,520 WIA. ( < > I find it difficult to believe that we took half of those in one unit, in one action and then got through Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Woods, the Marne, St. Mihiel, etc, etc and improved enough to limit casualties to only a like number again. Without more pointed information, I just don't buy it.

Finally, having served with British troops, I take ALL of their statements as to the quality of our soldiers with several pounds of salt. They're usually great troops and good people but they have a definite need to put down the 'colonists'. And yes, some of them still use that term.

As far as his statements regarding winning hearts and minds in Iraq go, I agree partially. Our Marines seem to be doing a better job at it than our Army, at the moment. There are quite a few folks though, in all of our forces, who are working really hard at the hearts and minds part, and not shooting anybody while they're doing it.

Dennis Morehouse LTC, IN USAR



The following is from the newsgroups, my posting on implications, with the full Cowing/Sietzen scoop attached as posted by Keith Cowing.

Henry Vanderbilt

Subject: Implications (Was, Re: UPI Exclusive: Bush OKs new moon missions) Date: Fri, 09 Jan 2004 18:03:43 GMT From: Henry Vanderbilt <> Organization: EarthLink Inc. -- Newsgroups:,, References: <>

Good to see the full text of the story; all the news outlets have edited out vital bits, like when Shuttle would be shut down. After completing Station construction was my guess, but it's good to see it confirmed. Good work on getting this story out, Keith and Frank!

Some implications I see...

First, the current NASA manned space organizations are seriously and fundamentally broken, see the CAIB Report for details. Any major new initiative that depends on them absent radical reform is going to end up like Shuttle and Station - years late, billions over budget, and producing systems so complex and fragile as to be at best of marginal actual utility in the field.

The current NASA was built on the hasty ad-hoc Apollo structures that should have been discarded with the end of that project. Instead, for over thirty years they've been set into ever-accumulating bureaucratic concrete. The result may well be unreformable for all practical purposes - certainly the backsliding after Challenger, the prolonged mess of Station, the loss of Columbia, and the current organizational attempts to pay only lip-service to the CAIB reforms don't bode well.

My take is, reforming the main current NASA manned space organizations, JSC, KSC, and MSFC, would be like trying to shovel out the Augean stables with a teaspoon. The only NASA option with a reasonable chance of success is to start new organizations elsewhere and slap the NASA logo on their buildings, while winding down and pensioning off the existing NASA manned space bureaucracies.

I see two key litmus tests for whether this new Return To The Moon Then On Outward policy has a chance of succeeding, one near-term and one a bit farther off.

First, where will the new CEV, Crewed Exploration Vehicle program be run from? I understand that JSC, KSC, and MSFC each already have their own OSP program offices. These need to be radically trimmed if not shut down entirely, and CEV run out of a fresh-start new place.

Second, what will happen to the current massive Shuttle operations bureaucracies after Station is assembled and Shuttle shut down? These need to be wound down and pensioned off, with a new outfit set up to run the return to the Moon missions.

If CEV is handed to the existing organizations that have screwed up Shuttle, NASP, X-33, and SLI over the years and are currently working on OSP in what is at best a very nervous-making absence of external scrutiny, it's a very bad sign. If Return To The Moon is handed to the lineal unreformed descendants of the Shuttle operations organizations that brought us Challenger, Columbia, and a half-dozen missions a year at a half-billion a mission, forget ever seeing a practical permanent return.

All the preceding my humble but moderately informed opinions...

Henry Vanderbilt

> Subject: UPI Exclusive: Bush OKs new moon missions > Date: 8 Jan 2004 16:29:38 -0800 > From: > Organization: > Newsgroups:,, > > UPI Exclusive: Bush OKs new moon missions By Frank Sietzen Jr. and > Keith L. Cowing United Press International > > WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- American astronauts will return to the > moon early in the next decade in preparation for sending crews to > explore Mars and nearby asteroids, President Bush is expected to > propose next week as part of a sweeping reform of the U.S. space > program. > > To pay for the new effort -- which would require a new generation of > spacecraft but use Europe's Ariane rockets and Russia's Soyuz capsules > in the interim -- NASA's space shuttle fleet would be retired as soon > as construction of the International Space Station is completed, > senior administration sources told United Press International. > > The visionary new space plan would be the most ambitious project > entrusted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration since > the Apollo moon landings of three decades ago. It commits the United > States to an aggressive and far-reaching mission that holds > interplanetary space as the human race's new frontier. > > Sources said Bush's impending announcement climaxes an unprecedented > review of NASA and of America's civilian space goals -- manned and > robotic. The review has been proceeding for nearly a year, involving > closed-door meetings under the supervision of Vice President Dick > Cheney, sources said. The administration examined a wide range of > ideas, including new, reusable space shuttles and even exotic concepts > such as space elevators. > > To begin the initiative, the president will ask Congress for a down > payment of $800 million for fiscal year 2005, most of which will go to > develop new robotic space vehicles and begin work on advanced human > exploration systems. Bush also plans to ask Congress to boost NASA's > budget by 5 percent annually over at least the next five years, with > all of the increase supporting space exploration. With the exception > of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, no other agency > is expected to receive a budget increase above inflation in FY 2005. > > Along with retiring the shuttle fleet, the new plan calls for NASA to > convert a planned follow-on spacecraft -- called the orbital space > plane -- into versions of a new spaceship called the crew exploration > vehicle. NASA would end substantial involvement in the space station > project about the same time the moon landings would begin -- beginning > in 2013, according to an administration timetable shown to UPI. > > The first test flights of unmanned prototypes of the CEV could occur > as soon as 2007. An orbital version would replace the shuttle to > transport astronauts to and from the space station. However, sources > said, the current timetable leaves a period several years when NASA > would lack manned space capability -- hence the need to use Soyuz > vehicles for flights to the station. Ariane rockets also might be used > to launch lunar missions. > > During the remainder of its participation in space station activities, > NASA's research would be redirected to sustaining humans in space. > Other research programs not involving humans would be terminated or > curtailed. > > The various models of the CEV would be 21st century versions of the > 1960s Apollo spacecraft. When they become operational, they would be > able to conduct various missions in Earth orbit, travel to and land on > the moon, send astronauts to rendezvous with nearby asteroids, and > eventually serve as part of a series of manned missions to Mars. > > Under the current plan, sources said, the first lunar landings would > carry only enough resources to test advanced equipment that would be > employed on voyages beyond the moon. Because the early moon missions > would use existing rockets, they could deliver only small equipment > packages. So the initial, return-to-the-moon missions essentially > would begin where the Apollo landings left off -- a few days at a > time, growing gradually longer. The human landings could be both > preceded and accompanied by robotic vehicles. > > The first manned Mars expeditions would attempt to orbit the red > planet in advance of landings -- much as Apollo 8 and 10 orbited the > moon but did not land. The orbital flights would conduct photo > reconnaissance of the Martian surface before sending landing craft, > said sources familiar with the plan's details. > > Along with new spacecraft, NASA would develop other equipment needed > to allow humans to explore other worlds, including advanced > spacesuits, roving vehicles and life support equipment. > > As part of its new space package, sources said, the administration > will convene an unusual presidential commission to review NASA's plans > as they unfold. The group would consider such factors as the design of > the spacecraft; the procedure for assembly, either in Earth orbit or > lunar orbit; the individual elements the new craft should contain, > such as capsules, supply modules, landing vehicles and propellant > stages, and the duration and number of missions and size of crews. > > Sources said Bush will direct NASA to scale back or scrap all existing > programs that do not support the new effort. Further details about the > plan and the space agency's revised budget will be announced in NASA > briefings next week and when the president delivers his FY 2005 budget > to Congress. > > -- > Frank Sietzen Jr. covers aerospace issues for UPI Science News. Keith > L. Cowing is editor of and E-mail > > > Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International


I am pleased to see that I am not alone with this problem:

1. I've encountered the problems with USB hubs on the mac. Since my PowerBook is OK with directly connected USB devices, I suspect something about hub is the problem. Either the driver doesn't poll it correctly, or it doesn't respond according to the standard. Power availability to the hub also seems to be an issue.

2. I originally used Pascal, but I needed subtype polymorphism in a simulation program I was developing back around 1987. I couldn't do that in Pascal, but I could with C, so I changed languages. Later C++ came out and I was very happy.

3. C# is Java as embraced and extended by Microsoft. I need write-once/run-anywhere, so I'm not going to try C#.

 4. I run about a half dozen browsers on my PowerBook, but Opera and Safari are my favorites. They support non-latin character sets, are fast, and are a lot more standard-compliant and modern than IE. I would use Safari for everything, but I haven't figured out how to import my Opera bookmarks. --

"The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl) Harry Erwin



As for Saddam's statement, "I want to negotiate," it seemed foolish (although I should be used to it by now) of the TV people to be braying about his cowardice, etc. I thought it good news he would make such a statement, if he meant it. He must know a heck of a lot of stuff we need to know. In this vein, I thought to see what OTHER former dictators in U.S. custody have ever accomplished by cooperating with the feds. I may be totally wrong, but as far as I can find out from the internet (without having Lexis Nexis to call upon), Noriega is - well, missing. Any of your readers want to take a stab at finding out exactly where the guy is, and under exactly what sort of conditions he is living in? Russ Newsom

Anyone have any information at all on this? I presume he is in Club Fed.

On Uniforms

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

My year in Korea is drawing to a close; I am quite surprised at how quickly it went. Though at my age (47) it is finally starting to be real to me that "the days crawl by, the weeks walk by, the months run by and the years fly by." I have quite a few thoughts about the situation here; most likely none are interesting enough for Chaos Manor Mail. But I had three random thoughts about subjects recently brought up.

The current Army dress green (Class A) uniform simply stinks. 19 years of wearing it has not changed my opinion of it one iota. It has no personality at all and while one Can look good in it I usually try to avoid wearing it whenever I can weasel out of doing so. I took the survey and thought every one of the current proposed designs was equally poor. The futuristic designs were, in a word, laughable. We do not want to look like Starfleet, we want to look like soldiers of the United States Army. This leaves me with the choice I have touted for my whole career; the "Ike Jacket." It is practical; it won't wrinkle when I sit down like the tails of the current jacket. It has a historical feel yet is still modern; it is timeless. Above all it shouts "ARMY!" Very distinctive. But it has been proposed over and over for far longer than I have been in and I doubt it will be adopted.

The military would not be seen as so "Republican" if the Democrats didn't do such a poor and ambivalent job of communicating with "us." The Democrats whine that the military absentee ballots won Florida in 2000. But the hypocritical attempt by the Democrats to deny servicemembers the right to vote by trying to get those same votes thrown out has angered many in uniform. So have the self-serving complaints by Ted Kennedy and his ilk that "the Pentagon has endangered our troops by not providing armored Humvees," while being the same Congresscritters who have consistenly voted against the whole military budget. But they won't admit to their own culpability for "the troops" not having adequate equipment. The Left's historic and ill-disguised hatred of the military has been as great a catalyst for driving it to the Right as anything else in recent history. If the Democrats want to influence military, they need to come up with some convincing arguments. So far I have heard none.

As for airport security, a girl's goldfish, an Army sergeant's can opener (mine, if you remember my rant of a year ago) and a retired war hero's Medal of Honor are all just a part of the pattern of petty abuse and harassment. I have heard several similar incidents in the past year from other soldiers who had similar problems when flying. No doubt the pattern is repeated thousands of times a day. Are we any safer because the girl was told to get rid of her fish? Or because I had to get rid of my P38 can opener? Because Joe Foss got his Medal of Honor stolen by thieves in security uniforms? Bitter laugh... But as you say, we were born free.

End of rant; there probably was nothing worth mining in this letter. But my subscription is up next month and you will get something more valuable from me; Money! Thanks again for sharing Chaos Manor with us.

Sincerely yours,

Frank L. (SFC, USA)


The Class A uniform (Greens) is and has been the 'dress' uniform for far longer than the 25 years I've been in the Army. The uniform is considered appropriate for any function that would require civilian suits and can be upgraded to 'full dress' attire by adding medals, a white shirt and bow tie, which then qualifies it for State functions. (For enlisted folks.)

The 'Dress Blues' and 'Dress Whites' are formal uniforms, with either ribbons or medals and the 'Mess Dress' are the formal full dress top of the line with their waist length jackets and miniature medals.

When I was in the Coast Guard, the Dress uniform was also referred to as 'Class A' and the addition of medals upgraded it to the colloquial 'Full Dress Canvas' .

Dennis Morehouse LTC, IN USAR

That was my understanding too, but it has been a long time. Of course I was in the brown shoe army.


I find Teoma <   > an interesting alternative to Google.

Jim Bunnell

Interesting. I'll have to look. Thanks









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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Dear Jerry, #$@% it! I have been surveying responses to the new plan for a return to the Moon and an eventual manned expedition to Mars. To say the least, it is not encouraging. People are almost falling over each other in their smug determination to trash the idea.

The wingnut/creationist luddites at Free Republic  sound just like the New Age/socialist luddites at Democratic Underground  on this issue. It mostly stems from the ignorant fools having something better to do with "all that money" (as though they have any idea how much, or how little, it really is). Even my own Nuclear Space  message board seems to be infested with them, including one guy who thinks we should wait until private enterprise somehow creates the means to get to Mars cheaply. I suppose we should have waited for private enterprise to build the Interstate Highway system as well.

I believe it was a character in one of yours and Larry Niven's books who said, "it's raining soup out there, and we don't even have a bowl" or words to that effect. It may take 100 years to really begin to tap the riches of space, though I believe it can be done a lot sooner with the right effort, but it will never happen if we never start. I know one thing, if someone else (China? India? Brazil?) gets to those riches first because we didn't want to spend the money to prime the pump, the Americans of that time will curse this present generation for its short-sightedness and stupidity.

Best Regards, Jimmy Reynolds

The best reason to go back to the Moon with a permanent base is that if we are to build a real base on the Moon we will have to develop good ways to get to orbit; and cheap access to orbit takes you to space for everyone.

The It's raining Soup comment was from my A Step Farther Out and was one of my dinner speeches until Larry started giving it.





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