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Mail 301 March 15 - 21, 2004






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Monday  March 15, 2004

As usual there was mail last weekend. Begin with that...

Subject: MPAA writes the CA AG's opinion for them

I guess its lucky so many people are clueless about the zillions of features in Word and how to use them...,1412,62665,00.html?tw=newsletter_topstories_html 

-- John Harlow, President BravePoint



Subject: essay on Islam

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I have written you about Islam and my observations in Saudi Arabia. I stand by my observations, but the essay on Islam at  by Deborah Birkett is much better than than anything my limited experience and education could provide.


William L. Jones

wljones (at)

Well, it's an exposition on formal religion, and good as apologetics, but as far as I read, at least, it doesn't seem to cover the important points about jihad and undoing the reconquista. In particular there's nothing about forced conversions and tribute.

It's a respectable attempt to make an enlightenment religion out of Islam, and I am sure that it covers most of the Muslims who live in the US. Most. Not all. It isn't so applicable to Tehran and it's not at all applicable to Wahabbi sects. And the Wahabbi's are powerful because they have lots of money and considerable access to government assets.



It's another world ... but is it our 10th planet?
15 March 2004
SCIENTISTS have found a new world orbiting the solar system – more than 3 billion kilometres further away from the Sun than Pluto and 40 years away from Earth in a space shuttle.
The full story is available at:,5744,8968352%255E29098,00.html

Jim Woosley


Dr. Pournelle:

This site comments upon the Attorney General's staff proposal to add to the Patriot act. It contains links to sites which have the full text. The full text is a biggish .pdf file. 

 Mark Thompson jomath #


I received this from a dozen people:


A glimpse of our future? The rich and the poor and few in between:


In New York City, Fewer Find They Can Make It

By Michael Powell

NEW YORK -- Michael Bloomberg, this city's billionaire mayor, looks at Manhattan's glittering economy and all but chortles. "Jobs are coming back to the Big Apple," he said recently. "Our future has never looked brighter."

The Wall Street bull is snorting. Investment bankers arm-wrestle for a $18 million Park Avenue apartment. Slots at prestigious private kindergartens retail for $26,000. Lines trail out of the latest, hot restaurants, and black limos play bumper car in Tribeca.

"New York," a recent newspaper article proclaims, "it's HOT."

Except that a closer look at this largest of U.S. cities reveals much that's not so hot. New York's unemployment rate jumped in January from 8.0 to 8.4 percent, the worst performance among the nation's top 20 cities. It has lost 230,000 jobs in the past three years. Demand for emergency food has risen 46 percent over the past three years, and 900,000 New Yorkers receive food stamps. Inflation, foreclosures, evictions and personal bankruptcies are rising sharply. Fifty percent of the city's black males no longer are employed.

Ed Hume

Democracy works if and only if there is a middle class to rule, and it is reasonably satisfied with the distribution of the goods of fortune. It is unstable in times of economic instability, and the government must either find ways to ameliorate the instabilities or watch the people try to find measures for themselves. Encouraging people to believe in the power of government usually results in unreasonable expectations of the fruits of winning elections, followed by more schemes to vote benefits on the masses while imposing taxes only on the few. That experiment has been run many times in history.

"There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide."

The Framers' remedy was division of power between Federal government and the States, lowering the expectations from capturing control of the central government, while limiting the extent to which State schemes affected the country as a whole and thus giving some room for experiments.

The Warren Court, by removing such things as residency requirements for state largess, and changing the very nature of State legislatures, destroyed this balance. We have sown the wind. Earl Warren sowed the wind.


Subject: Pavarotti's last hurrah

Hi Dr P.,

Given your love of opera, you probably already know this, but Pavarotti's last opera (,5478,8965404%255E663,00.html )

was the lead entertainment story on Google news just now.

<snip> "I think it's time," he said.

"Let's say that in the last 10 years there are a lot of performances that are not super. They are very good -- like many other tenors would have liked to do -- but still, they are not super."

Bad knees and hips have forced stagings to be changed; he often sits on chairs and hides cups of water on sets. Reviewers of weekend performances said he was nearly immobile.

Pavarotti has sung 379 times at the Met, 140 times at Milan's La Scala, 100 times at London's Royal Opera, 76 each with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the San Francisco Opera, 48 times at the Opera de Paris and 45 times at the Vienna State Opera. He's also performed 31 Three Tenors concerts with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.~ AP <snip>

I hadn't realized that he had mobility problems of late. I guess my opera experiences are limited to older performances that show up on PBS every now and then.

cheers -Josh

It has been many years since my wife tracked down Pavarotti's house in Modina and made me drive here there so she could have her picture taking knocking on his gate. He was just beginning to be well known then.

He has had a great run.


On the Spanish Election

Apparently the Spanish people decided the incumbent party was too dumb to deal with the terrorist problem. On the other hand, I'm now a good deal more optimistic about our ability to deal with the perps. Whoever is planning these things is brilliant--he can obviously outthink most security people--but has a complete tin ear for politics (sounds like some hackers). There can't be very many people in that category, and if we can catch him, it will probably shut things down. -

- Harry Erwin, PhD

 "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine



The voters in Spain have sent the message that terrorism works. The belief that the terrible bomb attack was incited by participation with the United States in Iraq persuaded Spanish voters to do exactly what the terrorists associated with Al Quaeda wanted. Now all the winning Socialists have to do to complete this victory for terrorists is to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

Bob Delaney


There's been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over the past 24 hours in the press and on the BBs I frequent about what it all means. I can't get over the thought that the Spanish people, when shown the whip, couldn't be too quick to shove their head through the yoke. Your thoughts?

Tony Evans

We will see.


Dear Jerry:

Recent events in Spain bring to mind something that Brian Jenkins, the RAND Corporation terrorism expert said about terrorism being a form of theatre. The idea is to horrify the audience, to scare them, but there's a point where it becomes too much and revulsion turns to rage. Thus it is in Spain and so it was here after 9/11. The slaughter of innocents does not advance your cause, but just pisses people off.

Little wonder ETA was quick to disavow the action. As for the jihadists, they don't care if we get mad at them. My friend Jim McDonogh put it best: You cannot reason with them, you cannot accommodate them without adopting their world view, and you ignore them at your peril. In the end, the only thing left is to hunt them down and kill them. This is why I said the war will last a hundred years or more.

Seeing some of the training the replacement National Guard troops are going through, as seen on television news, it's obvious that this will be our solution. Armor and artillery units are being converted to the kind of constabulary force that CBO said would be needed to win in Iraq.

I would look for Spain to offer a division or so of troops for Afghanistan and/or Iraq. Despite the Bush Administration's unerring ability to offend our friends and muck up our alliances, events like Madrid send a message. No one is safe. That being the case, other nations will begin to get on board. I don't want an empire either, but I'm still reading Mahan and our situation seems somewhat like that of the Brits after the War of Spanish Succession. They got the job because everyone else was too poor and too tired to compete.

The Problem is that we're pushing the envelope of our capabilities. Expanding Special Ops sounds good on paper. The problem is that people who can do that are very rare and people who want to do it as a career rarer still. It goes beyond ordinary soldiering by an order of magnitude, even in the American Army where every General wears airborne wings and a Ranger tab. (An unofficial rite of passage, airborne training. In the 195o's a friend of my father's, a 33 year old doctor went for the training because he decided he wanted to be a general. Ultimately he was. Two stars.)

I think the gentleman who referred to a division was including the wounded, which now number close to three thousand, as well as the dead.

Speaking of Generals, did no one take the true meaning of Clark's candidacy? Or that pointed remark to Kerry, "Permission to come aboard , Sir. The Army is here!" Clark may not be universally loved, but he is a member of that tribe.

On another matter, Business Week does not blame the lack of jobs on outsourcing , which they say accounts for "only" 300,000 positions, but rather our superior productivity. Having covered industry since the days that numerically controlled machines were introduced, I have to admit they may have something there, but I also think that there is a lot of cost cutting that just goes too far. Try to find a retail clerk at a store these days. Home Depot now has a self checkout counter. That increases productivity only by imposing on the customer to do the work of the clerk. This is progress?

Sincerely, Francis Hamit

But the Spanish Election may change that?



Dr. Pournelle,

Since none of your other correspondents seem have deemed it worthy of comment, I will just say that this is the first time I have heard of Carbon Dioxide being blamed as a cause of Ozone Layer depletion.

Perhaps Mr. Sirota could enlighten us as to the chemistry behind his assertion? As a chemist myself, I suspect there isn't any.

Also, last I checked, the ozone "hole" was reducing, not increasing, but then - what do observations have to do with any of this?

Best regards,

Andrew Duffin


I have seen a number of e-mails lately confirming shipment or offering to sell things that are obviously illegal (childporn, heroin, stolen credit card numbers). Its my understanding that there are rival groups of spammers who are in league with the virus-writers that are turning unprotected PCs in to spam relays.

Such scum send out such illegal offers with addresses or links pointing to websites controlled by somebody they don't like to get them in trouble. And there may be retaliation resulting in another round of this garbage. Look for the term "Joe job" on Google.


Aha. Thanks.


Subject: Stem cells as baldness cure?

I suspect this will make some of the furor over stem cell research die down. 


I bet!


Subject: The Official Scorecard for Expensive Hardware Lobbing 

An interesting view of the history of space probes.

--Gary Pavek



Subject: Contradictions of Empire.

After hearing the constant refrain about how it was such a Good Thing that we were using Iraq as a honeypot to draw in foreign terrorists, allowing us to fight them in the streets of Baghdad rather than the streets of New York, this news about tightening up Iraq's border-controls doesn't seem to make much sense: 

I mean, wouldn't it be ideal if the borders of Iraq were completely unpoliced, the better to allow in the foreign terrorists in so that we can kill them?

Or is the oft-cited 'honeypot' scenario merely an after-the-fact attempt to turn lemons into lemonade?

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

Well I certainly have my theories on the subject. Thanks


Dr Pournelle,


“Why is [expelling all Muslims from Christian territories] not a possibility?”

It’s got nothing to do with free speech. Here’s three reasons why: -

(1) Because it’s an excellent way to make sure you freeze in the dark for a few decades while sufficient alternative sources of energy that are not Middle East dependent are brought on-stream.

(2) Their suicide bombers, far more numerous and far more determined, will get through anyway.

(3) Something like this has already been tried by Israel. Observe the result.

Jim Mangles

Well, I said it wasn't a possibility because I thought that obvious. But your specific points are not on target. (1) If we had a war that closed the sea lanes would would not freeze in the dark and we would not all die. We would lose a lot of luxuries, and have to go back to acting as if we were at war. "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without." Some of us remember World War II. And lived.

(2) Not proven, and not likely. The number of non-Muslim suicide bombers who would get past serious efforts to control the borders is not so large as all that.

(3) Israel has NOT tried it. They have not expelled their internal Arab population, nor have they really sealed their borders, and the placement of the fence shows they are not serious about that since including all the screwy settlements isn't the way to protect the bulk of the population.

Understand, I am not advocating a policy of expelling all Muslims from the US. I do wonder if it will not ultimately be a cost of Empire.


Subject: Next war - North Korea?

I sort of wish we'd finish Iraq, first:

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

Where's the sport in that?


Subject: Overclocking the brain

Pre-natal doses of choline may improve brain function. Literal overclocking? 

I wonder what the in utero proportions of choline are across various subgroups (e.g. do Ashkenazi and Asian mothers have more than other subgroups?)?

Steve Setzer

No idea. But it is all intriguing...


jerry, somthing a bit more entertaining, 

its a site that compares the relative sizes of SF ships to each other, and to contemorary objects...

usless, but fun.....

(according to this site, the startrek Enterprise, is only about as long as the Eiffel tower is tall....)

moose hunter









This week:


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Tuesday,  March 16, 2004

Begin with:

Subject: Heinlein Ship in Lego

I recently ran across this site that might interest you. Someone with way too much time on his hands has lovingly rendered the Gay Deceiver in great detail out of Lego. You can see it here: 

You can also, if so inclined, create a Lego model of yourself with the mini-mizer.

David Levinson


And a warning:

Dr. Pournelle:

A particularly well-done 'phishing' attempt using pages that look like AOL pages is documented here on the "Anti-Phishing" site (  ). The phishing pages are quite believable (pages are shown as graphic images in that link).

Although the phishing site is only available if you go directly to the site (I will not repeat the site name, but it was still active Tues afternoon), or if you "Google" for the AOL billing site, I predict that it won't be long until we see virus/spam trying to direct people to this site. Note that if the spam message is well-crafted and widespread, some people will go to the site and give away thier credit card information (two credit cards, actually). That will result in bogus charges on the credit cards, and the resultant identity theft problems.

And if (when) those emails start appearing, there doesn't have to be a virus payload to alert the anti-virus guys.

On the same site, they reference a "White Paper" from the US Dept of Justice about the increase in phishing attacks (  ) .

If a 'phisher' gets a 0.5% response rate, and can send out a million emails (not hard to do nowadays, and that response rate is easily achieved), that's 50,000 credit card numbers (or 100,000 , if everyone fills out the entire form).

The usual warnings apply ....

Rick Hellewell, Information Security,

A lucrative business.


The link to Eric Raymonds "rant" should be  ... in your #284 column, the slash after the 'org' has mysteriously disappeared in the link in your column.

...Rick Hellewell


Wonder of wonders, the French were opposed to the US because of the MONEY they stood to lose:

< >


I'm shocked...



Went to a grammar school fund raising auction last pm (my wife was an auction chairman) for the local Catholic grammar school. My children attend the school and I’d suggest that the school is excellent. We transferred my sons out of the local public school last year after Oregon’s measure 30 failed and funding for public school was cut. My oldest son was, last year, in one of the “best” local public schools. However, he was one of 38 students. At the new school he is one of 18 students in 5th grade. The new school is much more demanding, much more homework…he is working much harder. More classes including religion, physical ed, art, music, math, science, English, computer science, and Spanish. Of note, his grades, already excellent, have improved and his work habits are much better. Principal commented that enrollment has increased from 170 to almost 400.

I’d guess that the auction was attended by 200-300 families…the auction gathered close to $200000. A large percent of this was for scholarships for less affluent students to attend this school. This is a tiny community which isn’t all that affluent. The point of this…well…I was amazed by the willingness of a community to support education, when done correctly.

I suspect Roberta wouldn’t have been amazed. If I were a clearer thinker, I’d find a moral beyond that of people will pay for quality education for their children and for the children of others.

The tragedy is that the courts have imposed a system of school financing that decouples local districts from their schools. The result has been precisely what you expect it would be, with everyone scrambling after state money by filling the school with warm bodies (the only criterion for getting money) and no one coupling results with finances.

For a while the courts were even forbidding local PTA groups from raising money for local schools in addition to the state financing. Equality don't you know. Of course no legislature would have dared impose anything so ridiculous, but in our modern Washington Empire we no longer care much what legislatures think or do; Congress perhaps, but not state legislatures.

This is known as rule of law, but of course it isn't.

If you couple finances with local control, then at least some districts will couple finances to results. The teacher unions oppose that. Again the results were perfectly predictable and some did predict them.


From The Smoking Gun:

"The Utah woman charged with killing her unborn fetus by refusing an emergency Caesarean section took drugs during her pregnancy and was smoking cigarettes minutes before giving birth. So Melissa Rowland's questionable judgment may have been clouded by cocaine, pot, and booze:" 

------------------------------------------------------------------- Ken Mitchell Citrus Heights, CA k

------------- "France has neither winter, nor summer, nor morals. France is miserable because it is filled with Frenchmen, and Frenchmen are miserable because they live in France." -- Mark Twain


Subject: Somebody needs some time away from school

Electron Band Structure in Germanium, My Ass 


Hoo Haw!


Foreign leaders 

I wonder what 'foreign leaders' he is speaking of?

Leaders of North Korea, Iran, Syria, Red China maybe?

Brice Yokem Senior Programmer/Analyst

Beats me.

< Mr. Mangles replies:

Not bad. Middling, I’d say.  Cambridge University has 80.>

            You'd be wrong. It is not middling: it is the best.  Switzerland has a population of  7 million, the UK has a population of about 55 million.  Switzerland is, per capita,  the most scientifically productive nation on Earth,  measured by Nobel prizes. 
                 Gregory Cochran






This week:


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Dear Dr Pournelle, I heard on the car radio that Dr Pickering had died. My wife observed that only the NZ web sites were carrying it, so I went to the JPL site and found

< >

The man guest lectured at his old alma mater - my father's school, Wellington College - two years ago. He was well-known here, but not as much as he should have been. Engineers don't really count as celebrities.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator Dept. of Maths and Stats, Otago University PO. Box 56, Dunedin tel:64-3-4797739 NEW ZEALAND fax:64-3-4798427

I knew him, not well, and had dinner with him several times when I was more active in science reporting and he was still Director at JPL. A good man, easy to like, proud of his institution.


War Games: 

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


Subject: The Buford returns 

March 17, 2004: The U.S. Army has taken four M8 Armored Gun Systems out of storage and assigned them to the 82nd Airborne Division. Sometime described as an "airborne tank", the M8 project was cancelled in 1996 in order to use the money saved (over a billion dollars) for other uses (like paying for peacekeeping duty). The M8 was a 1980s project, whose purpose was to provide light infantry forces with a tracked vehicle, equipped with a 105mm tank gun, that could be dropped by parachute or delivered via C-130 transport. The M8 has a three man crew and can be fitted with two different sets of add-on armor. The basic M8 weighs 19.3 tons and has armor that will protect the crew from shell fragments and some bullets. Three tons of additional armor will provide protection from all bullets and some small caliber cannon shells. Add another 2.5 tons of armor (creating a 24.8 ton vehicle) provides protection cannon shells up to 30mm. The M8 looks like a tank, but it isn't. The M8 has an autoloader with 21 rounds, plus another nine rounds for reloading the autoloader. In practice, the M8 usually functions as self-propelled artillery system for light infantry. Missiles and air power are more likely to be used against enemy tanks and armored vehicles.

If the M8 had gone into mass production, each one bought would have cost about five million dollars. The army says it does not plan to resume development of the M8, it just needs some mobile artillery for the 82nd Airborne Division and the M8s were available. Cancelled weapons systems usually have working prototypes into storage in case the project is revived or, in this case, the weapon is actually needed. The new chief-of-staff of the army is said to be in favor of the M8, so putting the four prototypes to use might create enough positive feedback from the battlefield to get the M8 back in the procurement budget. The army originally wanted to buy 237 of them. The 25 ton version would be well protected against RPGs and would provide the kind of direct fire artillery support light infantry find very useful. At the moment, only tanks can provide this kind of support. But the 25 ton M8 can be flown to distant battlefields much more easily than the 65 ton M-1 tank. Development on the M8 has not stopped completely, there's now a version that carries a 155mm howitzer, whose development was paid for by the manufacturer, not the government.

Artillery: the last argument of kings...


Subject: Your duial-axis political analysis applied to dwarves/elves, pirates/nijas

Silly, but good for a lark sometimes.

John Bartley

Is nothing sacred?


Perhaps not:

Subject: Microwaving Big Bro's currency?

Greetings, sir. I can't recall if someone's already mentioned this on your site, but I found the discussion and related images intriguing: 


Tim Elliott


Subject: Spain and Bin Laden

Morning Jerry,

I knew I liked the Scots. Here's a great editorial on the Spanish Election: 




From Greg Cochran

Subject: Oil

Wed Mar 17, 2004 11:04 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices roared to fresh one-year highs on Wednesday with U.S. crude hitting $38 a barrel after another drop in already low gasoline supplies.


Subject: And the beat goes on . . . 

-- Roland Dobbins

Yes, that one had me worried. Dr. Jennifer Pournelle is all right so far.


Dr. Pournelle:

Walter S. Mossberg is the personal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I have found his columns to be well-written, and his product reviews are not the normal 'repackaged press release review'. And he refrains from being too 'techie' in his language.

Last week (3/11) his column stated that the computer security industry (providers of patches, anti-virus, firewall; not just Microsoft) should stop blaming the victims (the users) for all of the security problems of spam, viruses, etc.

He says that "Well, I have a word for these contemptuous techies [that blame the users]: Save your energy for solving the problem instead of blaming its victims. Mainstream users shouldn't have to be IT experts to operate their computers."

Column is here: 

As usual for Mr. Mossberg, well written and it should be read by techies and users alike. Well worth some cogitation.

Rick Hellewell, Information Security,



Hello Jerry,
A possible reason why the UN was not exactly hurrying to go to war with Iraq?

Paul Dickins, BSc MCP IT+

Non, je n'ai rien oublié - Lévis Bouliane
Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt - Virgil
There coming up the drive was the worst Catholic since Genghis Khan - Spike Milligan, philosopher
Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds . . . - Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Association Football:
Information Technology:



Subject: The joys of outsourcing.,4814,91085,00.html

--- Roland Dobbins


Dr. Pournelle,

I have found a couple of other viewpoints on the Spanish m-11 and on various topics including outsourcing overseas.

The first is a viewpoint on Dunnigan's strategypage website called:

TERRORISM: March 11 and "The Arrangement" 

It contains an enlightneing view of European allowance of Islamic radicalism in their own countries...

The second is Orson Scott Card's take on outsourcing and the current Presidential Campaign:

When Progress Stops Being Progress: 

Always thought provoking commentary.

I also got a copy of the children's version of Starswarm (with the pictures in it) for my younger son, he loved it!

Keep up the good work. -- Oliver Richter


On Wages:

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Your correspondent Greg French asks: "will American IT workers be willing to work for wages signifigantly lower than those offered before the bust, lower even than what they might have expected straight out of college?"

Well, we'd damned well better; and I say that as an unemployed programmer.

If we go back before the dot-com and Y2K bubbles -- let us say to 1994 -- apply to the then-prevailing wages a COLA plus a real increase of 2% (picking a wholly arbitrary number), and then ask, "Why should we work at less than THAT wage?", we'd be asking a legitimate question. It might have a legitimate answer, but I'd have to hear that answer to judge if it had any value. On the other hand, if it is asked, "Why can't a kid straight out of school, who's written five pages of HTML and a Java applet that ALMOST worked, get a six-figure salary like he could during the dot-com bubble?"...well, I suspect that the answer to THAT question can't be given in mixed company.

It has been noted that the primary problem with price stabilization plans is that the producer of the product (whether that product is soybeans, steel, or software) wants the "fair price" to be the highest price he ever got. That might be a good short-term strategy for enrichment, but it's a bad long-term strategies for keeping the sympathy of the electorate.

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

"Gold cannot always get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold" -- Niccolò Machiavelli

The problem isn't sustaining wages at boom levels, it's having jobs at middle class level rather than sustenance... Without a very large and reasonably stable middle class, democracy will not work.


Dr. Pournelle,

I have found acouple more interesting articles at about weather effects. It seems we still have a lot to learn...

The first, Climate Has a History of Fast Changes is: 

The second, Oceans Surface Could Have a Big Impact pon Air Quality is: 


-- Oliver Richter


Dear Sir, with a little difficulty I am re-reading " A Step Farther Out". The main difficulty is my paperback copy I've had for about 20 years is falling to pieces, I also need reading glasses now. Between re-reads I often use your book as a reference

guide for my own ideas and others I hear about. Your "survival with style" philosophy was a breath of fresh air when I first read it, and it must be with some amusement when you saw the year 2000 arrive with so many millions of people doing just that. I live in Brisbane Australia and I wish I was 30 years younger enjoying the wonderful optimism of today compared to the doom and gloom of my 20's. Maybe I just see better now after all. My dream is a man made island using ocean thermals for full power for hundreds of tourists, ample fresh water, aquaculture, vege gardens and even chickens. This is of course achievable right now. Thank you for helping me dream Eddy Hansen

I am working on the galleys for a new edition of Step Farther Out...


Several readers sent this:

Subject: 1871 comet starts the great fire of Chicago?

Hi Jerry,

New info gleaned by analyzing cometary orbits is believed to show that fragments of Biela's comet struck Lake Michigan and surrounding areas causing over 2000 deaths and much destruction by fire.

"The comet theory has been around — and most often discarded — since at least 1883, but Robert Wood, a retired McDonnell Douglas physicist, said never before has the orbital parameters of the rogue comet been taken into consideration. " What's important about these findings," Wood said, "is that they show you people can actually get killed from something from out of space."


"The defendant had the opportunity to object to the officers' search"

What I want to know is, what happens if you are pulled over, asked to give consent to a search, and say "No."? Every scenario that I can imagine ends up with with me sitting in the back of the squad car in cuffs while my car is 'strip searched'. What practical difference does it make to give or withhold consent?

I was once sleeping in my vehicle (a car converted into a camper) when a rapping on the window woke me up. Two men in sweat suits were shining flashlights into the car, stated that they were police, and demanding that I unlock the door. I asked to see some I.D. After the second or third round of this ("Open up!" May I see your I.D., please.") one of them lifted the edge of his sweatshirt and I saw a glint of metal. I assume it was a badge, but I didn't have my glasses on, he only flashed it for a moment, and I thought that badges are not considered I.D. anyway(?) I then made the mistake of reaching up to the dashboard to get my glasses, and the next thing I knew there was a gun pointed at me through the window glass. At this point, I realized that any question as to whether or not these were actually police officers became academic. I exited my vehicle and 'assumed the position.' I wasn't frisked, probably because I was dressed only in my underwear, but I was held at gun-point by one man, while the other one ransacked my car.

From today's vantage, I must conclude that they were genuine police officers, because I am alive, and nothing was stolen from my vehicle. I never found out who these men were or what they thought they were looking for. I couldn't describe them because I was as blind as any typical bookworm without my glasses. I was in the juristiction of L.A.P.D., but they never identified themselves as L.A.P.D., only as "police." In the wierd paths the mind can wander when under stress, I found myself miffed that (once they had satisfied themselves that I was not a Perpetrator or Suspect, but merely a Law Abiding Citizen), they didn't apologize, or even give me a "Have a nice day." Fortunately, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut at this point.

I try really hard to be cooperative, say "Yes sir, no sir", and not to carry anything that could be remotely considered contraband (though the TSA has taught us that ANYTHING can be considered contraband if the Law takes a notion to consider it as such). I like to consider myself a supporter of civilization, law & order, and all that, but... the only people whom have ever intentionally pointed loaded firearms at me were police, and they did it as I was going about my lawful daily activity. This colors my attitudes. So I try to fly under the radar. As Joanne Dow has pointed out, we're all criminals because the labyrinth of laws makes it impossible not to regularly trip up on something

I have no solutions. If there were only someway to make The Government, at all levels, obey its own rules (starting with the U.S. Constitution), I believe that the country would be much improved. But I don't see any political party, or any other power block, that has an interest in doing that.



On SCO and IBM

You said "I am astonished that this nonsense can continue as long as it has."

I think that IBM is explicitly NOT trying for early dismissal, and Judge Kimball and Magistrate Judge Wells are honoring IBM's intent to have the case tried thoroughly. Having been challenged by an upstart fifth-rate also-ran like SCO, IBM may be intending to grind SCO into powder, very slowly and painfully. For example, IBM countersued for breach of patent at least partly to remind everyone else in the industry that nobody owns more patents than IBM (and nobody owns more good lawyers).

IBM wants to make sure that nobody ever sees suing Big Blue as a viable business plan again. At least, that's what several groklaw-ers think.

Steve Setzer


Subject: wonderful photographs/commentary on post-war Japan 










CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, March 18, 2004

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Contributors to your salon often cite British newspaper reports, sometimes for what seems to be outrageously biased reporting. I'd like to make note about a difference between US newspapers and British newspapers for readers who may not be aware.

British newspapers make no attempt at unbiased reporting. The reporting by these papers is based on the newspaper's political stance. The liberal papers can read like union newsletters while the conservative papers report the news like US right-wing talk radio. There are also a few middle-of-the-road papers that are closer to the kind of reporting we see published in the US. Your readers should consider the source before allowing their blood pressure to spike. It would be like a Londoner outraged at reporting on the UK by the NY Post.

Their bias can be shocking to those of us in the US who are used to papers where the bias is more subtle. I advise folks in the Chaos Manor forum to keep this in mind before becoming too outraged at how British papers report on US actions.

Based on personal anecdotal evidence from my experience as a reporter/writer on several newspapers, magazines, and professional journalism associations, if you're not way left of center, you're usually considered to be a jackbooted thug willing to pillage the world for mega-corporations. Mention that you favor nuclear power and you're thought of as someone who would feed plutonium to under-privileged infants.

Pete Nofel



A couple of notes on Linux. Read your column and I think you may have missed a significant point. I use a version of Linux at home pretty consistently. It's based on Mandrake 9.3, but I use a Windowmaker GUI. The system is easy to use, pretty consistent and unlike Windows (any version), if something breaks, it's relatively easy to figure out what happened to fix it. That's the good news. The bad news is, trying to get ANYTHING to work initially can be at best trying and at worst a nightmare. Once working, an application generally works well and predictably, but getting it to work in the first place is usually an exercise in frustration. Invariably, there are all kinds of libraries, bits an pieces and who knows what that my particular distribution didn't provide. I almost always get the dreaded message about not being able to install because I need (insert long list of missing dependencies). I start to track down those dependencies and find that half of the files I need, in turn, need other files. Recently, I was trying to get a small program to work. Just an add-on that allow text rotation as part of an program. I ended up having to download and install over 50 files before all the dependencies were satisfied. It seemed that every file I downloaded in turn, needed other files to support it and many of those also needed other files, ad nausium. It's often just not worth it.

Until Linux distro makers can come up with some sort of consistent standard of what libraries and support files they will include and programmers write to those standards, this sort of frustration is likely to continue. You'd think that when someone releases an application that relies on some esoteric set of libraries or support files, they would include those files in their application's distribution, but that is seldom the case. There is often an attitude in the Linux community that if you want to do something, it's up to you to learn everything there is to know about how the thing works before you run it. This can be frustrating when all you want is to get the silly thing working.

I like Linux generally. It's easy to work with and a lot faster and less resource intensive than Windows. But until this issue is addressed, I'm not likely to give up my Windows installation.

Randy Powell

Just JoeUser



(NOTE: resent this message to include the link to the Sophos story. Apologies....Rick)

Dr. Pournelle:

News this morning of Bagel.Q (and subsequent variants that use similar procedures). Sophos (anti-virus company) says that:

"If a user opens the message - and their version of Microsoft Outlook has not been patched against a five-month old critical vulnerability - malicious code is automatically downloaded. Once installed, the worms halt a wide range of security applications, potentially opening up your computer to further virus or hacker attack. The worm will also attempt to spread via file-sharing networks and infect other executable files. " (Link to story is )

Note that you do *not* need to open an attachment for this one, you just have to preview or open the message on an un-patched system. (This vulnerability was closed by an Outlook patch several months ago.) Although this seems to apply to Outlook, it is not clear to me whether the same problem exists in web-based mail programs.

Windows update (at ) and Office Update (at ) is where to go for updates. The "Office Update" site works similar to Windows Update, it scans your computer for current version info, then presents you with a list of updates to install. Some of the updates require access to the Office CD that was used to install the program (an irritant, and not appropriate given the updates that should be installed).

The usual warnings now include ensuring MS-Office is updated.

Regards: Rick Hellewell, Information Security,




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  March 19, 2004

Note: I will not be able to check on many of the links below since I am on dialup access.

Subject: Burma-shaved.,0,1292393,print.story?coll=ny-top-headlines 

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



Just as the communicators that Captain Kirk carried down to alien planets in the 1960s version of the TV show foreshadowed a world with ubiquitous mobile telephones, the two-ounce badge central to the Vocera Communications System was inspired at least in part by the "com badges" that appeared on later versions of the show. Just as Captain Picard would do, Vocera badge wearers can touch the slim device they wear on their uniforms, say who they want to talk to and, assuming that person is wearing his badge, be connected.

The badge contains two chips, one a digital signal processor chip from Texas Instruments (nyse: TXN - news - people ), the other a fairly unremarkable wi-fi radio not terribly dissimilar from those found in any Wi-Fi networking card used in a laptop PC. The TI chip handles all the voice processing and the wi-fi radio transmits them up to a computer network.

That's where the real work takes place. Hitting the badge button and saying a name triggers a powerful server-based application that matches the name spoken with a database entry. It then locates that person on the network, activates their badges and starts the conversation, which takes place using Voice-Over-Internet Protocol or VOIP--meaning the voices are converted to bits and transmitted over a computer network.


===== -- John E. Bartley, III K7AAY telcom admin, PDX - Views mine. celdata cjb net - Handheld Cellular Data FAQ *This post quad-ROT13 encrypted. Reading it violates the DMCA.*



Here’s a recommendation for a simple piece of hardware that has helped us quite a bit in implementing hardware solutions. Many keyboards and mice come with PS2 to USB adapters, but they are typically vendor specific. This nifty little item is generic, and has bailed us out of two or three sticky situations, especially when we’ve needed to use a KVM switch to a computer that does not have PS2 ports.

Tracy Walters

I could use one of those now. I have plenty of ps/2 to USB adapters. Going the other way can be difficult.


The EU has apparently started a trade war with the US.

Udo Grebe (a game distributor here in the EU) describes it as follows: "Rate: 5% increasing by 1% every month till they can make an agreement with the USA or the economy crashes. That means in April the customs will be 6%, 7 % in May and so on up to a maximum of 17%. The European Union wishes to force the USA to accept the judgement of the World Trade Organization. According to that judgement the USA must remove subsidies for exports of US companies."

Know anything about this? -- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior.

Not a thing...


Anti-Vehicle Barrier!


"A new Department of Defense anti-vehicle barrier is tested by driving a 32 ton truck into it at a speed 80 kilometers an hour (50 mph). The truck got less than 24 inches beyond the barrier and was completely stopped."


Ed Hume


Subject: 1 in 7. 

-------- Roland Dobbins


Randy Powell wrote you with his observations on Linux. I have a few comments.

First, he had a bad experience installing a package with dependencies. A depended on B, but when he tried to install B it depended on C and D, and by the time he was done he had to install four dozen packages.

Hmmm. If only there were a database of packages, and a tool that automatically figured out all the dependencies, and you could just say "install A please" and it would say "now installing A and the four dozen packages it depends upon".

Well, such tools exist, and I encourage him to use one of them. My favorite distribution of GNU/Linux is Debian, and it uses a system called APT. Red Hat has a project something like Debian, but under their control, called Fedora; Fedora uses a system called Yum.

But Mr. Powell uses Mandrake; is there a tool for him? Yes; Mandrake uses a system called URPMI. 

Mr. Powell also wishes there were a "consistent standard of what libraries and support files [distributions] will include". There are several, and they are followed more often than not, but they don't solve his specific problem. If you want to run FileTwiddler 3.14, it needs TwiddleLibrary 2.72; it won't help if you have 2.71 or older, so it doesn't really matter whether there is a standard or not. Given the rapid pace of software development these days, it makes more sense to have an automated dependency management database system than to try to freeze a set of files to an unmoving target.

I always explain to people that the free software guys develop software the same way Microsoft does; it's just that with Microsoft, you never see anything for years, and then suddenly something appears, thoroughly tested (we hope). With free software, the same sort of development goes on, but it's all out in the open, and if you don't want to wait another year for the ultimate, polished, perfect version, you can use the rough-around-the-edges version today. With package dependency management systems, you no longer need to update in big jumps; instead of going from Red Hat 7.0 to Red Hat 8.0, you can just update whatever packages you want, as new versions appear.

But what if you are content with last year's software, and you prefer a more stable and well-tested set of software? That's why the Debian project has several branches. The "stable" branch is extremely stable and well-tested. I personally run the "unstable" branch, which gets new software every day, on my desktop computer; but my servers run the stable branch.

I would go so far as to claim that package management is one of the things that Linux distributions do *better* than Microsoft or Apple. Using one command, I can install a package and all the files it depends upon; and it's easy to configure a server with exactly the software I want, and nothing else. -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"








TOP +y


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Saturday, March 20, 2004


Jerry: Here's a blog from a high-tech trade show.

Example: "Swedish company, Softhouse, has come with a fun application where you can send a picture to their server by MMS and it then uses facial recognition to match your face with a celebrity. "







CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, March 21, 2004


Dr. Pournelle,

The security software "blackice defender" and other products made by the same company provided a backdoor for a destructive worm. Unfortunately for the owners of these computers and fortunately for the rest of us, the worm rapidly destroys data on the hard drive, preventing further spread of the worm as vulnerable computers get taken down one by one. 

I used blackice defender myself until I purchased a hardware router/firewall (dlink di-604/614) and I count myself lucky that I heeded warnings from many sources and did not rely on a purely software based solution.

If you or your readers run blackice defender or any other product by ISS, you should immediately disable or update the software. Here's a link that may help: 

Sean Long

I have long warned readers that NO SOFTWARE is reliable for protecting the machine it is running on. Software cannot reliably protect the machine it runs on. You are not reliably safe with firewall software running on the machine it protects. What I tell you three times is true.







Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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