I suppose the biggest news is LINUX: I got the Red Hat Applixware
package installed. Linux, for those who tuned in late, is an inexpensive (you can get it
free if you really want to) implementation of the UNIX operating system; being far more
efficient than Microsoft Windows or NT, it can run very fast on older hardware including
486 and even 386 systems. Red Hat is a company that sells (quite reasonably) an
implementation of Linux with installation software, and also sells "Applixware",
an office suite that runs under many Linux implementations including Red Hat, provided you
can figure out how to get it running. I managed to, and it looks pretty good.
Thats the good news. The bad news is that Linux, like UNIX, has a very steep
learning curvesome would call it a "learning wall"and just now there
are not many productivity applications programs for it. There are plenty of technical
editors, and the Linux operating system incorporates file handling utilities that you have
to get as separate products for Windows and Macintosh computers; but if all you want to do
is write letters, or even books, Linux may be doing it the hard way. However, APPLIXWARE
runs in X-Windows and looks a lot more like what Windows and Macintosh users are
The Applixware suite is similar in features and performance to early editions of
Microsoft Office. There are the essentials of a word processor and spreadsheet. I could
write books (or this column) and do taxes with this package. Having said that, let me
emphasize that if your goal is that kind of productivity, you will be much better off
getting a Mac with Office 98, or a Windows 95/98 system with Office 97.
You can also get Star Office, a pretty good office suite. Its free, and many like
it better than Applixware. See my web site www.jerrypournelle.com for where to look.
Finally, theres another alternative. Corel is making rapid strides in getting out
a shipping copy of WordPerfect for Linux. I have a late beta copy, and it works: that is,
its WordPerfect, which certainly is Good Enough for most jobs. Its used in my
church because its particularly good for making booklets.
At one time WordPerfect was practically required for legal work, and while Microsoft
Word long ago passed it in popularity, WordPerfect could and did do all the complex
documents that lawyers require. Corel will be shipping WordPerfect for Linux about the
time you read this.
Corel will also be shipping Linux hardware: computers with Red Hat Linux and
WordPerfect already installed. I dont have one yet, but Im told it wont
be long until I do. They wont be expensive, and if you thirst for Linux/UNIX that
may be the best way to get started, because the biggest problem with Linux is getting it
You may have mixed emotions about that news. Many Linux enthusiasts prefer to build
their own systems. I built Linette, my Linux box, for under $500, which is about half what
Corel will charge for theirs. Linette with a CYRIX MX 200 MHz chip is more computer than
Linux really needs: people are doing very well with older systems. Linux is efficient
enough that older 486 systems seem as fast in Linux as new Pentium 200 and better do in
Windows. Linux is fast and stable, getting mature, and runs on far cheaper hardware than
you need for Microsofts feature rich but very large programs.
The reason most Linux enthusiasts like building their own systems isnt so much
money as that they like playing with small computers. The Linux community reminds me a lot
of the early days of Z-80 systems running under CP/M (except that in those days UNIX was
the holy grail, the dream operating system we all wanted but thought wed never see
on a desktop).
Ill be writing about Linux including the new Corel systems in future columns. The
bottom line for now is that I was able to build a Linux system with new hardware for about
$500 (not including the monitor). While that took a significant investment in time, both
for system construction and installing the software, theres no better way to learn
about these little machines than to build them from scratch. Its not that hard.
Installing both Linux and Applixware wasnt particularly easy, but I did go about
it the hard way: that is, I just started in to see what would happen. You can get the
entire story on my web site, www.jerrypournelle.com if you really want the details.
You will also find several pages of references: many Linux experts sent me long letters of
highly specific advice, all extremely useful, as well as links to sites where I could have
learned more. That, in fact, is the moral of the story: getting started in Linux is a
little like painting furniture: the more preparation you put into it, the easier the job
and the better the finished product. UNIX is a complex operating system with hundreds of
very obscure commands, most not at all intuitive, and some highly destructive with no
safeguards. You arent going to learn it by reading this column. The good news,
though, is that any BYTE reader is more than capable of learning to use Linux/UNIX. There
is lots of help on line: start at my web site, follow some of the links, and youll
soon be in touch with real experts, many of whom are eager to help beginners. As I said,
its a little like the early Z-80 days.
Having learned Linux/UNIX, what can you do with it? Not much, if youre interested
in applications, and almost nothing at all if you like computer games. (I suppose there
are implementations of the old Adventure game and probably some of the other text games
like Zork, but there wont be much else). Where Linux boxes excel is as servers:
print servers, net servers, you name it, with Linux you can control highly complex
networks that include NT, Windows, and Macintosh machines as well as various other work
stations. The networking software is called Samba, and I will have more on that after I
have actually installed it. Linux capabilities grow almost weekly as the Linux community
writes and makes available new software, most of it free.
Linux boxes are also good development systems for software that doesnt need (or
can later be connected to) a graphical interface. Neural nets, simulations, complex
programs written in C or FORTRAN, run extremely fast on Linux, and the operating system is
stable: you dont have to worry that your system will crash during a long compile
operation (and the compile will be a lot faster, with better compilers than youre
likely to have for Windows.)
The bottom line here is that if youre purely interested in computer applications,
youre better off spending your study time learning applications. Get books like the
OReilly "Annoyances" series: Office 97 Annoyances, Outlook Annoyances,
Word 97 Annoyances, etc., as well as "How to" books on applications software.
However, if you have some interest in computer theory, networking, and the expanding
frontiers in the computer revolution, you will learn a lot from building a Linux box and
seeing what you can make Linux/UNIX do. If nothing else youll begin to understand
just how limited the Windows operating system can beas well as how easy it is to use
compared to the more efficient Linux/UNIX. Ease of use has a price. Most are willing to
The Second Software Revolution
Linux is a part of the Open Source Software movement, OSS for short. This had its start
in the old days of the ARPA net, when everyone passed source code around and people felt
free to make changes and additions. Probably the best known offshoot of that is Richard
Stallmans Free Software Foundation, which worked on writing a free version of UNIX
whose source code would be available. Meanwhile, a Finnish student named Linus Torvalds
wrote Linux, which works like UNIX but which he wrote from scratch, then gave away. It was
quickly adopted by a community of users who made great improvements, so that in a couple
of years, with hundreds of contributors, it evolved into a full featured and reliable
Open Source Software works this way: you can use the product as you choose, but if you
make any improvement to it, you must give the source code away as freely as you received
it. The result has been a revival of computer community interest. Microsoft has been
taking this quite seriously. For a commented Microsoft analysis of the OSS movement, see http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/halloween.html. This has comments by Eric S. Raymond, author of "The Cathedral and the
Bazaar," who isnt fond of Microsoft. Some of his comments seem a bit mean
spirited and a couple I think miss the point; still, he is always worth listening to. A
copy with no comments at all can be found at http://www.scripting.com/misc/halloweenMemo.html. The important thing to note is that Microsoft sees OSS as both viable and a
potential "revenue threat", and theyre probably right.
Most of us, though, see this as something wonderful. Its competition to
increasingly large and powerful companies like Microsoft and yet its a
movement anyone can join. The cost of admission is low the $500 Linux box I just
made would do nicely as a Linux development system and while the financial rewards
are small, there are many rewards other than financial.
The first computer revolution freed computer users from the central high priesthood who
kept big mainframes down in the basement and doled out time like sacred gold. Now we all
have on our desks machines more powerful than any the old dinosaur keepers guarded so
zealously. Then things got choked up. System Administrators, Network Administrators, MIS,
began to control the computers in the work place, while the price of admission to the
software fraternity grew and grew. A long time ago you could write a computer game in your
garage, and Tetris was actually done that way; now it takes a huge team of people to do a
Programming has become centralized, and only the professionals can get in the game.
Now I think I see the outlines of a second computer revolution. It has two roots:
first, because of Microsoft and others, computers became easy to use for many millions of
people. Gatess dream of "a computer on every desk and in every home and in
every classroom" has pretty well come to pass in the United States. The result has
been a dramatic fall in computer prices. Systems that used to cost a years salary
are now only a few hundred dollars, and even those prices are falling. It will not be long
before everyone in the civilized world can have a powerful computer for less than it costs
to smoke, and far less than it costs to play golf.
The second root is the Open Source Software movement, which lets anyone get into the
act, not only in trying to develop applications software, but system tools and even
systems software. Programming ability will become as widespread as, say, the ability to
read and enjoy a novelor read this column. Now that wont be the end of the big
software publishing firms, nor of the big development teams; but just as the best novels
arent written by committees, one suspects that the best software wont be
either. Once the tools are widely available, it will be more important to have some good
idea of what the computer should do, and how to make that easy for the user, than it will
to know how to put those ideas into code. There once were public stenographers because
people couldnt write although they might be able to dictate books. It will be thus
The new Microsoft NT 4 Service Pack 4 is out, and its definitely worth getting.
That may or may not be easy to do: I had a lot of trouble finding things on the Microsoft
web site, http://www.microsoft.com/ntserver/nts/downloads/recommended/NT4SvcPk4/default.asp . The problem was that my Netscape Version 4.01 browser
kept showing some of the Microsoft download pages as blank. That was fixed by having a
look with Internet Explorer 4, and later by upgrading my Netscape browser to the latest
version. It seems Microsoft uses some powerful new extensions on their site, and earlier
editions of Netscape dont understand them. If you use Netscape, particularly for
looking at Microsoft pages, be sure to keep it up to date.
That site will give you a 32 megabyte .exe file. Running that file upgrades your NT 4,
and also upgrades your Internet Explorer 4.0 to 4.01. Unfortunately, when you then reset
your machine, two things will happen. First, Internet Explorer 4.0 will reinstall itself;
and second, you will see (or at least I saw, and most everyone else Ive spoken to
had the same experience) a text message. The message will tell you that your operating
system has known Year 2000 problems, and to fix them you will have to go to the I386
section of your Service Pack 4 CD and run y2ksetup.exe. Of course if you downloaded the 32
megabyte upgrade file from the Microsoft site, you will not HAVE the Service Pack 4 CD. At
that point you have two choices:
You can order the CD from Microsoft, or you can go to
ftp://184.108.40.206/fixes/usa/nt40/ussp4/ and download a 76.4 megabyte file entitled
nt4y2k4i.exe. This will take hours to download. If you do get that 76 megabyte file, make
sure you have an additional 212 megabytes of disk space before you run it: thats
what it expands to. When the expansion is over you will have all the files that are on the
Service Pack 4 CD, and in fact what I did was burn a CDROM of the expanded files and have
done with it. When you run the y2ksetup.exe file, it spends a fair amount of time
trundling, and when you reset, your system is upgraded: you have the newest version of NT
4, and all the Year 2000 bugs are not completed.
Youre not done, though.
First, you will probably notice that your system is running slowly; in my case it was
as if someone had poured glue into my Compaq Dual Pentium 200 desktop workstation. (This
may not happen to everyone, but I have many reports of the system being hideously slow
after the upgrade). The cure for this is to make a good bit of empty disk space and run
DISKPEEPER, go to Advanced Tools, and set it to CHKDSK and DIRECTORY CONSOLIDATION. Now
shut down and restart.
CHKDSK will probably find disk errors and offer to repair them. Let it, and then let
Diskeeper do the directory consolidation. Plan on spending some time with this: it may
take an hour or more. Eventually, though, it will be done, and then your NT system will
run better than it ever has in your life. Disk operations are faster, and everything seems
a bit more crisp. Nt 4 Service Pack 4 is a definite improvement, and I have had no
problems with it whatsoever beyond having to use Diskeeper after installing it. I have
Diskeeper 4, but in fact I used 3. Both work fine. There is a review of Diskeeper 4 by
Robert Bruce Thompson on my web site.
Notice, though, you still have Internet Explorer 4.0, not 4.01, so now you need to go
back to the files you got from expanding the 76 megabyte file, find the MSIE401 directory,
enter that, go into the I386 subdirectory (there shouldnt be any others) and run
iesetup.exe. That will install Internet Explorer 4.01 and next time you reboot you will
certainly know it: youll now have an active desktop with some similarities to
Windows 98. There will be some rather useful little buttons in the tray (one launches
Explorer, another Outlook, and another hides all open windows so that you can see the
desktop). Your START program menu will work somewhat differently, with vertical rather
than horizontal scrolling if you have a big menu. There are other changes, none really
annoying and some quite useful. All told, provided you have a way to get the new Service
Pack, its worth installing.
In my case the call to my Internet Service Provider was local, and I started the
download just before we went off to dinner and the opera. It hadnt completed when we
got backafter midnight, it was a long opera and we had coffee with friends
afterwardsso I let it run all night. It was done when I came upstairs in the
morning, having taken about ten hours. Alas, while I use HeadLight Systems GetRight (www.headlightsw.com/ ) for downloads (and if you dont have that most useful tool, stop reading
this and go download it now!), which will resume a download where it left off if
theres a communications interruption during a download, the Microsoft web site
doesnt support resume operations. I find that incredible: it would cost Microsoft
almost nothing to set it up, and it would sure save a lot of frustration. Anyway, however
you get it, Service Pack 4 with the Year 2000 bugfix is a must for NT users; and so far I
like Internet Explorer 4.01 just fine.
There is a bug in Front Page that can
cause you to lose work if you dont know how to deal with it.
When you open Front Page it wants to connect to a web, and if you are connected to the
Internet when Front Page opens it knows this. If you later lose that connection, then go
to Front Page Editor and try to save your work, it will say "Cannot locate server on
socket 80" and refuse to save. If you switch to Front Page Explorer you get the same
result, and if you try to close Front Page Explorer it offers to put you back into Editor
so you can save; only, of course, that doesnt work. Worse: if you then try to EXPORT
your saved work, it looks as if you were successful, but you were not: the page still
isnt saved. Finally, if you dial up and reconnect to the web, it does no good: Front
Page Editor still wont let you save your work.
I found this out the hard way, and lost about half an hours work. I was so
furious I was ready to quit Front Page forever, when one of my readers told me a
workaround: leave Front Page Editor open, but close Front Page Explorer. FP Explorer will
offer to put you back into Editor to save. Refuse the offer: click "no" and let
Explorer close. Now go to FP Editor and try to save. Lo!, Front Page Explorer will open,
and your work will be saved.
I later found that if you open Front Page Explorer when you are not connected to the
web at all, you will never have this problem: you can later establish a connection and
Publish any work you have done, then break the connection, do more work, and it will save
just fine. You will only get the bug if you open FP Explorer when you are already
connected to the web; and since theres a way you can save your work in any case,
this is more an annoyance than a bug. It sure had me furious until I learned what to do
about it, though.
The other day Frys advertised an MSI MS-5169 ATX AL9 Mainboard and an AMD
K6-2/300 CPU with 3Dnow! and 100 MHz MMX &; AGP support for about $100. This was far
too good a deal to pass up, and I got there when the store opened.
I didnt have all the proper parts to build a new machine, so I had to make do.
First, the only case I had was an AT form factor. Fortunately, the only real difference
between the AT and ATX form factors is the punchout tin plate that covers the keyboard,
mouse, Serial, and USB ports. While its best to have that plate on there (because of
cooling air flow; I have never noticed any real electrical noise problems with computers
even running with the cover off), you dont have to have it. In our case we got an
ATX form factor cover plate, bolted that on to the serial and printer ports on the mother
board, then installed the board in the computer so that the plate snugged up against the
case. It worked fine.
My next problem was that the case had an AT power supply, and that has the wrong
connectors; you cant attach it to an ATX. PC Power and Cooling makes dual form
factor power supplies, but this wasnt one of them. However, I did have an older PC
Power and Cooling ATX power supply. By older I mean really older: this one has an on/off
switch on the back, and no way to connect it to one of those front panel pushbuttons. It
did have an ATX connector for the mother board, and it is the same size as the AT power
supply that was in the box, so we used it.
Connecting it up wasnt hard. The MSI documentation is excellent, written in good
English with clear diagrams. However, an ATX power system requires a normally open
(momentary contact) push button switch to turn it on. The big power switch on the back
will turn things OFF all right, but to get them back on you must make momentary contact
between two pins on the motherboard. I was about to give up for the night when I realized
something: the RESET button is a normally open momentary contact switch and if you
turn the power off you certainly dont need a RESET button. So we connected the reset
button to the power connect pins, and now we turn the machine on by pushing reset. Works
fine, and ought to confuse people who have no business playing with my systems.
I have several good STB video boards rated for a 100 MHz motherboard, but when we tried
to make the system work we got no video from any of them. Disabling the external cache
"fixed" the problem in the sense that we could now turn it on, but that has a
severe effect on performance. After some more fooling around it became clear that this MSI
Mainboard doesnt truly have 100 MHz cache memory.
That was a disappointment. However, I was anxious to try out this new AMD 3dNOW! chip,
so we set it to have the board speed at 66 MHz and used a multiplier of 4.5, so that the
overall CPU speed is still 300 MHz; and at this point its probably time to explain
whats going on.
Most Socket 7 motherboards run at 66 MHz. Modern motherboards are capable of running at
other speeds; the MS-5169 can be set for 50, 60, 66, 75, 83, 90, and 100 MHz. This is the
speed of the bus, and determines how fast the CPU can talk to its cache, and to a lesser
extent how fast it talks to the video card. I say to a lesser extent because most
benchmarks arent really measuring the PCI bus speed (or the AGP socket speed for
that matter) in a way that truly reflects how fast disk images are getting to the video
card. This isnt the place to do a benchmark criticism. The important thing to
remember is that benchmarks can find performance differences that look dramatic in charts,
but which you are not capable of seeing when you actually look at the display.
The CPU chip itself can run much faster than the bus speed. You set the internal chip
speed by setting the core/bus ratio. If the bus speed is 66 and the ratio is 3/2 then the
CPU speed is 100. If its 3/1 you get 200, and at 4.5/1 you get 300. I had intended
to set up a system with a bus speed of 100 and a muliplier of 3, which would give me a
100/300 system, but I ended up with a bus speed of 66 and a multiplier of 4.5. That makes
a 66/300 system. It has a CPU speed of 300, but once the CPU is done with its calculations
the data only moves out on the bus at 66. Is this good enough?
It depends on what youre doing. For nearly all computer work, including most
games, this 66/300 system is astonishingly fast. Except for some of the wilder fighter
plane simulators, I dont have any programs that can tell the difference between
66/300 and 100/300, and with the right video card Im not sure I see a difference
even with the jet fighter programs.
Eventually I will get another mother board and build up a 100/300 system. Im in
no hurry, because at 66/300 the system already runs like a dream. I ended up using an STB
Velocity 128 video board, which is still about the best price/performance bargain in the
industry; a Diamond Monster Sound board, quite elderly (over a year old); and a SOHO
10/100 Ethernet card connected to our 100 base t Ethernet. I have the new STB Velocity
4400 board, but it doesnt like the Aladdin chip set on the MSI motherboard.
Ill save it for a new system, probably built on an iWill board.
Once we had built the system, we made a startup disk on Winnie. Winnie is a 66/200
WinChip system running Windows 95 OSR2. To make a startup disk, exit to DOS, and format a
floppy with the /s/v options. Then copy over the fdisk and format programs.
Then I copied mscdex and the CDROM drivers for the Mitsubishi 24X CDROM, and found
Id forgotten how to set up a CDROM in DOS. Ten minutes with my old DOS books fixed
that, and I used the startup disk to bring up the new machine. The new machine has a
Seagate 9 gigabyte hard disk ($150 at a Frys sale; astonishing). The OSR2 startup
disk knows how to format that drive in FAT 32 (it has to be FAT 32; no other format would
recognize that huge partition). Once the disk was formatted we booted up, put a Windows 95
OSR2 CD in the CDROM drive, and copied all those files over to a folder called WIN95.
We installed Windows 95 in part because I have never got around to getting a stand
alone version of Windows 98; and I have found by experience that its easier to
install 95 first than it is to convince 98 that you really own Windows 95. Anyway, we
brought the system up in Windows 95, and of course the program asked us for a network name
for this machine. Alex was driving at the time, and since I hadnt thought of a name,
he typed in Eagle One.
That is probably not the name Id have chosen, but just as its bad luck to
change a ships name, its bad luck to change a computers name. They
resent it. So Eagle One he is.
The 95 installation was for test purposes only, but everything worked except the sound,
which was awful. The network came up instantly, so we were able to transfer utilities from
other machines over to this one. Next step was to copy the WIN 98 CDROM to
WINDOWS/OPTIONS/CABS (where you put it isnt vital, but I always copy to a folder
with that name so I can find it), and run WINDOWS 98 setup. That took less than an hour,
and everything went so smoothly it scared me.
One problem: the sound was still horrible. I went to the Diamond web site
its www.diamondmm.com, diamond.com is a different outfit entirely and found a new driver for
the Monster Sound Card. That took about 5 minutes to download and another minute to
install, and after that I had no sound problems.
What I have, then, is a fast not screaming but very fast general purpose
Windows 98 machine with 9 gigabytes of storage and a 100 MHz Ethernet connection which I
built for under $500 not including monitor and printer. There are few games it will not
play well. It handles dozens to hundreds of objects in games like Total Annihilation and
This Means War smoothly and without the glitches and jerks that you get with slower
systems. It runs cool, and so far all my torture tests have done nothing to hurt it.
I can also use standard memory in this box. Running at 100 MHz requires special (and
expensive) memory. I have more standard than PC 100 memory. Some day Ill do some
tests: are you really better off with a faster bus speed but less memory? You certainly
wont be if you keep a lot of windows open. Once you run out of memory and have to do
disk swaps the extra bus speed helps, but not enough.
I can also install SCSI boards and devices such as DVD, CD/R and CD/RW without
problems. Many people trying to run 100 MHz bus speeds have SCSI device problems. Some
report they cant get Adaptec SCSI boards to work at all. I expect that in a year or
so, 100 MHz mainboards will be common, and peripheral devices like SCSI will be built to
that standard; for the moment, though, if you want the additional performance of 100 MHz
bus speeds, you should be prepared for problems. Be sure to use only the very latest
device drivers, screw down your boards to get a tight connection, keep internal cables as
short as possible, and hope for the best; and if that fails, do what I did: run at 66/300.
I bet you wont notice the difference.
Im more impressed with
Windows 98 now than I was last month. This is largely because I have
Windows 98 under control now. The computer book of the month is David Karps WINDOWS
98 ANNOYANCES, an OReilly book. Believe me: if you work
with Windows 98, you must have this book. It explains a number of "features" in
Windows 98 that I thought were bugs. It tells you how to set things so they are or are not
like Windows 95. It explains your options and how to use them. Without this book Windows
98 is a mystery. With it you have a chance to take control. As you all know, I am fond of
OReilly books to begin with, but this one is outstandingly good. Highly recommended.
There are two books this month. The
first, ONCE A HERO by Elizabeth Moon, is a pretty standard space opera set in the world of
the "Herris Serrano Series" (Baen Books). The title character, Esmay Suiza, is
an aristocrat from a provincial planet who has joined the imperial space navy and shortly
after finds herself the sole surviving officer in command of a ship in battle, which she
wins, thereby saving an entire planet. That happens before the book begins: the novel is
about the consequences of having been a hero. Well worked out, over detailed in spots, but
still a page turner.
The second book is quite strange. Guy Gavriel Kay writes about the 5th
Century Byzantine Empire, but he doesnt call it that. SAILING TO SARANTIUM (Harper
Prism) takes place in a fantasy world; one with a history so close to our own that
sometimes only the names have been changed. That is, Sarantium is Constantinople, Rhodium
is Rome, Varena is Ravenna, and the geography is the Mediterranean world of Europe in the
5th Century. The story opens as Valerius, Count of the Excubitors, is raised to
the Imperial throne through the intrigues of his nephew Petrus. In due time Petrus becomes
emperor, and experiences the "Victory Riots." All of this happened in real
history, with Justin as Valerius, Justinian as Petrus, and the Nike Sedition as the famous
riots which nearly brought down Justinian and Theodora, the dancer he married who became
the most famous empress in Byzantine history. Shes called Aliana in this book.
Of course if you dont know all that, its still a whacking good story. Kay
has details on chariot racing which sure feel authentic. His major character is Crispin, a
master mosaic artist, and details of that art are important to the story. When Crispin
interacts with characters from history including Petrus (Justinian) and his general
Leontes (Belisarius), the characters are true to what history knows of their real world
counterparts. Details of the book sometimes get in the way the author cannot resist
the writers trick of making a scene important by saying "If Crispin had known
this history would have been different" but this is minor carping about a
story good enough to have kept me reading 400 and more pages in one sitting. If you like
historical fiction or heroic fantasy, you will like this book.
The game of the month is John Sauls Blackstone Chronicles, from Legend
(distributed by Mindscape). This is an adventure game set in a closed insane asylum:
ghosts talk to you, but since most of them were patients, some may not make a lot of
sense. The scenery is excellent, the music and sound are well done, and the mystery
isnt half bad. Of course I always did like the old adventure games, starting with
the original text Adventure and Zork games. This plays much faster, you dont have to
map any mazes, and the story line actually makes sense. The usual rules for these games
apply: talk to everyone you meet, take anything thats movable and go look for ways
to take things that are locked up, and keep looking for hidden doors. Open the game box
carefully so you can reseal it. After all, you can give it to a friend once youve
finished it, since like most adventure games theres no point in playing it once
youve solved all the puzzles.
The movie of the month is "What Dreams May Come," a retelling of the Orpheus
myth (the title is from one of the monologues in Shakespeares Hamlet). The plot is a
bit silly the writer seems to have read C. S. Lewiss THE GREAT DIVORCE and
missed the point but the scenery and special effects are wonderful. You can put up
with some corny dialogue for the pretty pictures and great fantasy sequences: this is a
beautiful film. Of course if you want beauty combined with a good plot and good dialogue,
go see "Elizabeth." Elizabeth is fairly accurate history, although I do not
think Walsingham poisoned Mary of Guise. Its beautiful too, but there arent
any special effects. And "What Dreams May Come" is paced fast enough that I
doubt youll be bored
Next month: more on how Linux is changing the computer world, a real 100/300 system,
and theres a lot of new software piling up.
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