Learning Virtual Machines; Is ISIS a Real Threat? PI Day! Sir Terry Pratchett, RIP

Chaos Manor View, Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday the Thirteenth falls on Friday this month.


Learning the joys of virtual XP, which works if you know how. Many years ago I wrote, in DOS Commercial Basic which then was sort of compiled, an accounting program. It produces books that look very like the books in second year Accounting textbooks, which is a level of accounting I understand quite well and is all the accounting an author needs; it’s also easily comprehended by IRS people, or was then. It’s simple to use.

Alas, my machines are now 64-bit. They won’t run 32 bit programs, much less the 16 bits used by CBASIC. However, Eric swapped Swan, a Windows 10 machine that worked well but can’t do the accounting program, bringing down Alien Artifact, a Windows 7 machine with a lot of memory and a fast CPU. Windows 7 has virtual XP. I got the virtual XP running, but I’m just learning it – and also learning how much better than XP Windows 7 was.

I won’t give a running account because it can’t possibly be that interesting to anyone but me. I can report that it seems to be running older programs once I figure out how. It’s made a bit more complex because this machine has a silicon C:/ drive, while most data is on the D:/ spinning metal drive. But only a bit.


pi day

Tomorrow morning, have a piece of pie at 9:26:54.

3-14-15 9:26:54

3.14 15  9 26 54



I have many notes telling me this, and of course it was in the papers:

Sir Terry Pratchett, R.I.P.

Dr. Pournelle,

I just saw this.



Terry was a friend and a fan. He had gone into survivalist mode when he read Lucifer’s Hammer, and came to the scenes where the survivors are discussing the old civilization. He said it made think, why be miserable when we have civilization. Better to try and keep it. After that he wrote at a prodigious pace. One day he was in Hollywood negotiating a movie, and came over for lunch. I showed him Wing Commander, he liked it, and I gave it to him as a present, remarking that this was a cheap way to slow the competition. He get addicted to it, but far from slowing his legendary output he produced even more. Wing Commander and its sequel Privateer were amusing interludes between the torrent of pages.

I have not seen him since his illness, because I have not been to Britain in many years. I fondly remember our last dinner in London. I wish we could repeat it. Our guest as Jack Cohen, and it was an experience worth repeating. Farewell, old friend. RIP


Is ISIS really a threat?

Kudos on your opposition to invading Iraq (there are still a FEW adults left in the world). It also seems to me that the deliberate destruction of the Libyan government may turn out be at least as bad a move – Gaddafi was no saint but under him Libya had the highest standard of living in Africa, he had been making nice with the US lately and he was no friend of Islamic extremism. Now we’ve blown Libya into a failed state and what has that gained us??
But as ugly as the ISIS people are, do they really threaten the United States? They have no forces with any strategic mobility, they can only attack the United States if we give them all tourist visas – perhaps we should simply say “no”? I mean, during WWII we didn’t let German and Japanese nationals move no questions asked to the United States, why should people living in countries today where hatred of the United States is endemic get better privileges?
I also point out that we’ve been (as you’ve said) playing “whack a mole” over their for some time, and to a great extent ISIS came about because we whacked some slightly less extreme extremists… I am skeptical that any amount of bombs or A10 strafing runs will be capable of pacifying chaos (at least with the quality of leadership we have now).
Perhaps a better strategy would be to wall off ISIS and let the crazies kill each other. If there is one thing our current military is very good at, it is destabilizing things: the second that ISIS looks like it is becoming a real coherent state capable of projecting power is the second that we turn it back into another Libya, Kosovo, Syria, etc.etc..

Very fair question. The short answer is yes. The Caliphate is definitely a threat to the US, the West, and really to all modern civilization, and it appeals to those who reject modern society. That is not what makes them a threat: it is that they appeal to many who are uneasy about the modern world; and they do not merely reject the world and withdraw from it, they are, and must be in the core of their beliefs, at war to the knife with all of who do not join them. They have shown that they can and do recruit intelligent and competent soldiers and engineers. They are capable of growing into a nation with modern weapons. They are implacable enemies, not just crazies. Better instability.



there is a key line in this article, not to be overlooked: “The Chinese understand that their next war will likely be in the Pacific, not mainland China.”

Some of the comments are amusing as well!

David Couvillon
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; 
Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; 
Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; 
Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; 
Chef de Hot Dog Excellance;  Avoider of Yard Work

And if we continue to drive Russia into their arms, it will be interesting.


March 12, 2015 11:53 am

Tech bubble 2.0: Is this time different?    Financial Times

Richard Waters in San Francisco

In a week marking the 15th anniversary of the dotcom bubble peak, there are plenty of reasons to argue that this tech boom is not like the last.

But that alone is not a good reason to sit back and enjoy the ride. While bubbles never recur in exactly the same way, some of the same forces are usually at work. In Silicon Valley, history is not repeating itself, but it is starting to rhyme.

The case for “this time it’s different” is easy to summarise. The share of economic activity conducted on digital platforms has grown enormously in a decade and a half. To take just two comparisons: the online audience numbers about 3bn, compared with little more than 400m in 2000. And spending on online advertising has grown from $8bn to $50bn in the US over the same period.

Sure, tech has risen back to a 19.9 per cent weighting in the S&P 500 index, up from about 15 per cent at the start of the decade. But, compared with about 35 per cent in 2000, that hardly looks a stretch (at least, in relative terms, the entire market may be overdue a correction).

This doesn’t mean there isn’t excess. The rising tide has lifted many boats: more than 80 start-ups have seen their valuations rise above $1bn. Privately, a partner in one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms admits that, while some of the $1bn companies in his firm’s portfolios justify the price tag, others clearly do not.

Last time, only a handful of dotcoms survived the bust to become industry leaders. There is every reason to believe the same will be the case with the latest crop of companies, as the network effects and winner-takes-all dynamics found in many corners of tech are felt.

Some of the behaviours of dotcom-era entrepreneurs are also repeating themselves, though in a different guise. In the late 1990s, for instance, many companies were built to flip: the race was on to float lossmaking start-ups at extravagant multiples before the music stopped.

This time around, many are being built to be sold to one of a handful of cash-rich acquirers — whether Google or Facebook in the consumer internet markets, or Oracle or SAP in enterprise software. In fast-growing fields such as artificial intelligence, backers of the more mature start-ups complain about the excess of early-stage venture capital flooding in, from investors hoping to sell out quickly to one of the giants.

This strategy will be profitable for some, but the universe of buyers is small. As before, the penalty of missing the exit window is likely to be high. A similar “same but different” effect is apparent in the way that booming tech investment is being used to fuel rapid user and revenue growth — even if the resulting businesses have weak economic foundations.

With valuations based on multiples of revenue, there’s ample incentive to race for growth, even at the cost of low or even negative gross margins. The many taxi apps and instant delivery services competing for attention, for example, are facing huge pressure to cut prices in the hope of outlasting the competition. If not across the board, then in the most competitive markets, this is resulting in hefty subsidisation of customers.


More than 80 start-ups have seen their valuations rise above this figure

Back in the dotcom boom, many companies used the wave of venture money to buy users. “Paying for eyeballs” by spending money on self-promotion was the not so well kept dirty secret. This cash eventually dried up, hitting companies such as Yahoo, which had soared on the advertising money, hard.

The 2015 equivalent of buying eyeballs is paying for app downloads: games companies and other start-ups pay to have their apps put in front of potential users, hoping to make money later from the free installs. This has become one of the most profitable parts of the mobile advertising business, buoying companies such as Facebook. But when the venture capital cycle turns and the advertising binge slows, which companies will take the biggest revenue hit?

At this stage, the collateral damage from a downturn would be considerably more limited than last time, given the smaller amounts invested and the far more substantial businesses that have been created. But the clamour among investors to get in on the latest Silicon Valley boom is rising to a crescendo. If this turns out to be the equivalent of 1996, with years of hard partying among investors still to come, then the after-effects could still be very unpleasant.

The Financial Times

I think it is different: technology is greatly increasing technology this time. It is true that price to earnings ratios are rising absurdly; but technology increases are rising steeply as well. But it is well to think hard on the subject.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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