Wednesday, September 24, 1998

This is the home page of Jerry Pournelle; I'll describe myself below. This site was until June 4, 1998 hosted on Earthlink; it is now at Darnell Gadberry's binmedia, about which I am sure he will have something to say on his own. Just at the moment this is a pretty exact copy of what was on Earthlink, but that will change soon enough.

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The main action here is VIEW, which is updated often and is the day book; MAIL, which I get from you; and Columns. However you can find pictures, discussions of space policy, pictures of the Administrator of NASA at Larry Niven's home looking at a cake made up to look like Mars, military policy, book reviews, and darned near anything else somewhere in here. There's also what's new which gives you some clues. You may like the recommendations page, which talks about computer equipment in use here. I don't update it as often as I should, but it's still interesting. I admit this place is a bit like the Adventure Game, with twisty little passages all different, and one day I may organize. Meanwhile, there is What's New, a Table of Contents, and the rest of this page to describe what's going on. More or less. I do suggest you read all of this page.

This site was created by Jerry Pournelle, science fiction writer, author (writers work; authors collect the rewards of writing), and {former} BYTE columnist, on April 10, 1997, revised as noted on the home page, and will always be a mixed bag. At the moment it is largely about computers and the future, but it also has some material on science fiction and space. Coming up is a lot more of that, along with sections on science fiction, science, the future of war and conflict, space, education, history and moral philosophy, the politics of freedom, and anything else I think of and have time for. I will also upload the first chapter or so of some of my books on the theory that if you read the beginning you'll be hooked and buy the book when it comes out in hardbound rather than waiting for the paperback.

About that BYTE column: I wrote the feature column in BYTE from shortly after the magazine was founded -- Carl Helmers and Virginia Londoner were still there when I started -- until CMP Publications bought the magazine and, without warning or notice, folded it in May 1998. The July issue was the last done by the old staff. I have more to say on that in another part of the web site, where I also discuss what I will probably do in future. We are hoping to keep something like BYTE alive, at least in spirit, and almost certainly keep Chaos Manor alive. To that end we have added new sections, The View From Chaos Manor, which is a computerish sort of journal, and in fact resembles the notes I used to keep for writing my column, and Chaos Manor Mail, which I update when I can; at the moment both View and Mail are updated daily.

From time to time we have special reports, mostly on computer matters.

We are also adding sections by:

Alexander Pournelle, a generalist like me but with more hard tech background: he does contract MIS work for a number of organizations as well as doing data recovery. His page is Alex's Page.

Eric Pobirs, onetime intern and now associate: Eric reads about twenty paper and uncountable webzine reports a week, and is about as wired in as you can get. He's also a games expert.

David Em, graphics expert, author of The Art of David Em and other works. His page is David's Page.

 All this happens Real Soon Now. We're dancing as fast as we can.

My other BIG NEWS is that Starswarm, my latest novel, is available. Check your local book store. Order several. We have wonderful reviews, lots of sales, and all looks very good indeed. Go buy a copy. It's billed as a juvenile, but adults like it too. If you want to buy it through Amazon Books, click on the title above.

WE INTERRUPT THIS ESSAY FOR AN ANNOUNCEMENT (October 17, 1997): new developments, as John C. Dvorak and I fire up our old idea of a Siskel-Ebert discussion web page. This will affect this site. (May 30, 1998) Alas, not just yet: the DEC/Compaq merger has delayed things. It will still happen. Whether it happens under MILLICENT with DEC is not so clear: Compaq may fold up the DEC Palo Alto Research Center which produced Millicent. Click here for more on that.

From time to time I may put up entire books which no longer have much commercial value, but which may be of interest to a limited audience. They will be more or less "Shareware" in that I will ask you to send a dollar or so to a post office box I keep. In most cases that money will go to co-authors, or their survivors.

We already have on line THE STRATEGY OF TECHNOLOGY by the late (and in my judgment great) Stefan T. Possony with me as the junior author. This was an influential book in its day, and still has some valuable lessons for those interested in modern warfare. It has been used off and on as a textbook at the Army and Air Force Academies and their War Colleges. It was also denounced by name by the Soviet military press. I can't say that annoyed either Dr. Possony or myself. The examples are all drawn from the Seventy Years War (the latter phase of that was known as The Cold War), but the principles remain the same.

There will also be comments on computers and equipment, including a list of the machinery I use and recommend, and warnings when I think such are justified. Incidentally, I know I am not infallible, and while I pretend to know everything for a living, I'm aware that it's not quite true. On the other hand, I get to play with a lot of equipment, and I get advice from a great number of people who really are experts; so while I may be off the mark once in a while, there is usually someone who knows more who will put me right.

For the moment this is a test site. It will probably ALWAYS be a test site. Oddly enough, some people have really hated it, and have sent me long messages about how awful it is. I can't think why. Perhaps the answer was at the end of their message and I didn't read it. I start to read all my mail--that comes with the job--but I don't have to finish it all. For those disappointed by the lack of whizbangs, I can only say I claim to be a wordsmith, not an artist. I suppose I could get David Em to help me, but he's got his own work to do. As time goes on I try out new tools, and some of them may allow me to insert whizbangs; but if I do I'll try to keep them on separate pages so those interested in words won't have to wait a week while things download. I remain of the opinion that the design of the World Wide Web was influenced by fiends who wanted to see how long grown intelligent humans would sit in front of a screen while absolutely nothing was happening.


Font size: I use BIG monitors, and sit at a distance. I am told that this looks just awful on small monitors, so in an effort to fix that I have reduced the font size a step. At the moment I am looking at this on an Armada laptop at 800 x 600 and it's not anything like as pretty as on my big monitors at home. So it goes.

A problem: Shift-control-k makes Word do small caps; I used that convention in Starswarm to indicate when Gwen is speaking to Kip. Unfortunately, that text becomes only lower case letters, not small caps, if the document is imported into Word 97 and converted to html. It gets worse. In WORD, if you substitute shift-control-a for shift-control-k you will convert all the text to ALL CAPS, but again, html does not see it that way! It still sees it as all lower-case letters! I had to go in and physically retype all of Gwen's speeches in BLOCK CAPITALS, and obviously I hit something wrong with the Underline function. I have now fixed that. Readers have since suggested that I simply use the html script to put text in all caps, then drop it down a font size, thus achieving the result of small caps. I wish I had thought of that before I did all the retyping. Over at the Tor Books site where they have some of Starswarm up they have not thought of that, nor did they retype. Oh. Well.

It's a lovely evening at the beach, and I want to go see where the terns are making camp for the night. Niven and I are down here finishing THE BURNING CITY, a heroic fantasy set 14,000 years ago just after Atlantis sank beneath the waves. The magic is going away. More another time.

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BLOCK CAPITALS: TOR Books has an excerpt from Starswarm on their web site. Alas, they did NOT go through and retype Gwen's lines, and thus Gwen talks in all lower case. In the book her lines will be set in small caps. I was one of the first science fiction authors to use font changes to indicate different actions: see OATH OF FEALTY by Niven and Pournelle as an example. Alas, html doesn't want to cooperate.

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