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R.I.P.: Free Brightmail

Brightmail, we hardly knew ye. I got notice last week that Brightmail’s free service is finito, as of the end of this month. Another effort to sell product by giving it away for private use goes away. That’s kind of a shame, because Brightmail did a decent job of filtering spam. I got one of my last Brightmail reports this afternoon, and it blocked 14 pieces of spam. Thanks guys. I’ll miss you.
So… I’ve got about three weeks to get something else going. The combo of Fetchmail, Procmail, and a nice anti-spam Procmail recipe on my Linux server ought to do the trick. I’ve done some reading up on it. Of course I’ll be letting you know how that goes. Configuring that stuff isn’t necessarily for the timid, but the price is right and many people report blocking about 95% of spam with their setups. Brightmail, by contrast, blocks about 70%.

Of course I’ll let you know how it goes.

So Dave, how do I use this site?

I’ve tried to make this look as much like the old one, but there are some new features here. Please give the Comments feature a look. If you’ve got something you want to say, just click Comments and write away. No registration required. Punch in your name, and if you want, your e-mail address and Web address. Spam-filter your e-mail address if you want. Or leave it out entirely. Use an assumed name if you want. I think my system logs an IP address somewhere, so don’t go posting death threats, but aside from that, comments can be anonymous. For privacy hounds, e-mail is a greater threat to your privacy than the Comments section. I can find an awful lot about you from your e-mail headers. (Not that I bother–who’s got time for that?)
So when should you e-mail me? If I’m not talking about what you want to talk about. I read all my mail, but I can’t always be timely about it. There are days when I leave here at 7 or 7:30 a.m. and then I don’t get home until after 9 p.m. On those days, the last thing I feel like doing is reading a ton of e-mail, so it sits while I fix something to eat or listen to music or read a book (or all three). I don’t read my personal mail from work. But I have been known to take a quick peek at the site from work during breaks or slow periods. I’ll read the comments and sometimes fire off a response.

Basically, I’m trying to encourage you to use the Comments section. It’s getting harder and harder to deal with all the e-mail. Comments will get a faster response from me, if they’re necessary. And it saves me the time of posting them, which is good. Lively topics can quickly bury me in e-mail; I’ve started to avoid such topics for exactly that reason. But I do like lively discussion, so this is a nice solution to that problem if people use it.

One last thing on Comments. Please keep it clean. I can’t imagine 11-year-olds being interested in the topics here, but I want the content to be appropriate for all ages. I know I’ve dropped an F-bomb here and there, especially really early on back on my original site whose contents are temporarily unavailable. I started to watch that after a schoolteacher commented about that. Greymatter can optionally filter words out. For the time being, I have that turned off. I’ll turn it on if I have to.

You’ll also notice a Karma rating. If you read something and really like it, click the little plus sign. If you hate it, click the minus sign. If you’re neutral or indifferent, leave it alone. It may be possible down the line to write a script that tallies up the karma and gives a “Best of” based on your votes. I haven’t looked into it yet, but I think I’d like that. Short-term, I look at that to see how I’m doing. If certain topics consistently get me negative votes, I’ll probably avoid them. If a topic gets tons of positive votes, I’ll probably head that direction some more. It’s just a quick, easy, anonymous way to give a little feedback.

The search engine works, but there isn’t much to search yet, obviously. Performance may lag once there are a lot of entries, but that’s curable. Down the line I can always throw more CPU at that problem. On the plus side, the search engine searches both my entries and my comments.

The site’s very unfinished, as you can see. I plan to add more features as I think of them. I’m open to ideas of course. This is a community.

Not sure what we’ll get back to tomorrow. I’ll come up with something.

My apologies to those whose e-mail I haven’t answered yet. I just haven’t been up to it. See Sunday’s post. Later this week, I hope, I’ll get caught up.

04/19/2001

Mailbag:

Taxes; Networking; NiCDs; Basics; Problem; Amusing; Upgrade

A useful hardware site I somehow never mentioned. I thought I had, then I spent an hour searching my own site for it and couldn’t find it. Bookmark The Red Hill Guide to Computer Hardware . Hard drive reviews, motherboard reviews–and we’re talking current hardware to golden oldies, from a straight-talking dealer that’s actually built PCs using these things, rather than a few hours’ impressions from a lab. Useful viewpoint. If you’re about to buy something off eBay, get these guys’ impressions of it first. If you’re looking for new hardware but want more than just a gamer’s impression, visit here first.

CPU prices. There are people who believe this won’t be the only price cut this month, but regardless of what happens, it’s a buyer’s market. Some of these chips are already selling for less than these prices (thanks to gray market dumping), but check out the OEM prices on CPUs:

AMD

Athlon
1.3 GHz: $265
1.2 GHz: $223
1.1 GHz: $201
1.0 GHz: $170
950 MHz: $143
900 MHz: $125

Duron
900 MHz: $99
850 MHz: $79
800 MHz: $65
750 MHz: $55

 
Intel
 
Pentium 4
1.7 GHz: $701
1.5 GHz: $519
1.4 GHz: $375
1.3 GHz: $268

Pentium III
1.0 GHz: $225
933 MHz: $193
866 MHz: $163
850 MHz: $163

Celeron
850 MHz: $138
800 MHz: $93
766 MHz: $79
733 MHz: $76
700 MHz: $73
667 MHz: $69
 
But supposedly, the 1.5 GHz P4 will be selling for $256 at the end of the month. Guess what that means? Intel will have to cut their lower-clocked chips to even lower levels, and since AMD has to compete on clock speed, they’ll have to follow. This may also force AMD’s hand to finally release a 1.5 GHz Athlon, which they’ve supposedly been ready to do for several weeks now. AMD would rather not sell that chip for $250, but they’ll have to price it comparably to Intel, and they’ll need that chip to keep their average selling price up.

It’s scary how much CPU $99 will get you. Remember, a year ago 1 GHz was the absolute state of the art. Today, you can be knocking at the door for just a Benjamin. But at the end of the month that Benjamin should get you even more.
LCD. Speaking of price wars, I read speculation yesterday that the average price of a 15″ LCD flat panel (equivalent to a 17″ CRT monitor) will be $449 by July. A 17-incher will hit the $1,000 mark. Pricing will remain low throughout most of the year, then possibly inch back up as demand for PCs, particularly laptops, starts climbing. I’m not certain we’ll see the rebound in demand at the end of the year some are predicting, however–an awful lot of PCs were bought the past couple of years due to Y2K fear more than anything else. It may be 2002, when those PCs bought in 1999 hit age 3, before we start seeing much of a rebound. I know none of my clients have any interest at all in buying PCs right now, and they’ll do absolutely anything to avoid doing it. I’m thinking if we retitled my book and put a “Squeeze another year out of your Pentium-200!” cover blurb on it, we’d have a best-seller.
Dumbest spam ever. Check this:
Removal instructions below.

I saw your listing on the internet.

I work for a company that specializes
in getting clients web sites listed
as close to the top of the major
search engines as possible.

Our fee is only $29.95 per month to
submit your site at least twice a
month to over 350 search engines
and directories.

To get started and put your web site
in the fast lane, call our toll free
number below.

Mike Bender
888-532-8842

To be removed call: 888-800-6339 X1377
I called the 888 number yesterday and got an answering machine. I’ll have to call again today. Maybe a few times.

Mailbag:

Taxes; Networking; NiCDs; Basics; Problem; Amusing; Upgrade

04/15/2001

The spam in my inbox says Minister Charles Simpson can make me a legally ordained minister in 48 hours for only $100.

Anyway… I don’t have much today. I just got back from church, and I’m off to hit the road. I’ll be back tomorrow.

I hope everyone had as good an Easter as I did.

04/04/2001

A great hardware site. I found this yesterday when I was searching in hopes of remembering a long-departed name of a hard drive manufacturer. The name I couldn’t put my finger on was Miniscribe. The great site, http://www.redhill.net.au/ig.html , is a hardware guide, written by an experienced Australian clone shop, that’s unusually straight-shooting. It’s the only mention I’ve seen on a hardware site of the Gigabyte 7IXE4, a low-end Duron/Athlon board that sells for about 80 bucks.

Especially interesting to me is the history. They discuss drives in detail, and though it’s hardly a complete memoir of every drive that was ever on the market, it hits the common ones. Want to know where Western Digital got its sterling (and not very deserved) reputation? Read on. I’m not so sure of their statement that Maxtor was bought out by Hyundai (Maxtor certainly never mentions that), but their history seems about as complete and accurate as any other I’ve seen, and it’s interesting to read the reviews of ancient hard drives. At least to me.

Motherboards and CPUs get a similar treatment. Good stuff.

Monitors. My NEC FE950 finally came in yesterday. It’s gorgeous, and takes up the same amount of desk space that early 17-inchers took. Mine looks like it got pretty banged up either in manufacturing or shipping though, so I’ll have to arrange an RMA. I hate to be picky, but after spending $400 on a monitor, I don’t want something with a beat-up case. It could be a cosmetic flaw, or it could be an indication that this monitor had an incident with a forklift. I’m not taking that chance.

The vendor will advance me a replacement, which is good. I’ll probably opt for that. I hope I don’t get nailed for shipping, but I suspect I probably will. Lesson learned: Order from Staples.

As for the monitor, I can’t tell much difference between it and a Trinitron. I’m not sure if it’s using a Mitsubishi DiamondTron tube or something of NEC’s design (NEC and Mitsubishi merged their monitor operations last year), but whatever it is, I like it. Fabulous monitor, and great value for the money. As far as I can tell, it’s indistinguishable from the FP series other than the FP’s higher maximum resolution, which isn’t comfortable for the monitor’s size anyway. The only fault I can find with this FE is what appears to be an incident with a forklift or some other heavy machinery.

Once again I should emphasize this point: never ever scrimp on a monitor. It might be tempting to get a no-name monitor so you can afford more memory or a faster CPU, but memory and CPU prices drop much faster than monitor prices, and they always have. Plus, their useful life is much shorter. A good monitor can outlive two or three computers, so in the long run, you save money with a premium monitor.

Why was I stumbling over the name Miniscribe? I was recalling my first-ever building of a PC. I was salvaging parts from a 286 with a blown power supply. I couldn’t get a replacement power supply because it was a Samsung PC, largely proprietary. The power supply had cooked itself because a poorly placed IDE cable totally blocked its vents, so it never had proper cooling. This was 1993, my first year of college. The PC was owned by my fraternity. We went and bought a barebones 386DX-25–just a motherboard in a case–and went to work. The video card and floppy drives and I/O cards moved without a hitch. But the Miniscribe 40-meg IDE drive gave us problems. I couldn’t get it to work, and I doubted I had much future building PCs. I took it into the shop, and they couldn’t make any sense of it either. Their most experienced tech remembered that Miniscribe had been bought out by Maxtor, so he called a contact at Maxtor. The drive turned out to be an 8-bit IDE drive that worked on some 286s but would never work in a 386 or better. They took the drive in trade for a used 40-meg IDE drive using the more conventional 16-bit interface and transferred the data for us. We got a couple of years out of that PC, though it was never a speed demon. But it was functional and cheap.

Of course I recovered from those early stumbles. Within a couple months I was selling PCs, and a couple of months after that I was working as a tech myself.

The wages of spam. And finally, I saw yesterday that Nasdaq suspended trading of PSInet and the company is considering bankruptcy. Excellent. During its not-troubled-enough life, PSInet was frequently accused of operating a safe harbor for spammers, and back in the days when I bothered to try tracking down spammers, I traced large percentages of it to PSInet.

I do not like green eggs and spam. I do not like them, Sam I am.

Hopefully this is the start of a trend. I’ve seen estimates that the traffic generated by spammers increases the costs you and I pay for Internet service by a full $2 per month. That’s just the infrastructure costs our ISPs have to bear and pass on to us. And of course it’s a huge waste of time.

03/30/2001

A big letdown. A lot of people (myself included) miss the days when you could build an SMP box on the cheap by getting an Abit BP6 motherboard and a pair of low-end Celerons. I read on Ace’s Hardware this week that Via’s C3 processor is SMP-capable. The C3 is a 733 MHz chip, derived from the Centaur WinChip 3 design, that plugs into Socket 370 and costs $54 in quantities of 1,000. Since a lot of places sell CPUs at or slightly below that cost and make their money on shipping, you can expect to buy it for under $60. The drawback with the C3 is weak floating point performance. For applications use that doesn’t make much difference, so for people like me who just want to multitask a bunch of productivity apps wicked fast, it would be nice.

But I was skeptical. Earlier Cyrix and Centaur CPUs (VIA now owns both design houses) didn’t support Intel’s APIC protocol for SMP due to patent problems. So Cyrix and AMD invented their own protocol, called OpenPIC, and prototype SMP chipsets existed but were never commercially released, probably due to lack of demand. AMD attempted to solve this problem by licensing the Alpha processor bus (and therefore its SMP architecture) for the Athlon/Duron and getting into the chipset business.

It was a Herculean labor for VIA to get the rights to use Intel’s P6 bus. I’d be shocked if they managed to wrestle SMP out of Intel as well. But if these rumors were true, it would have ushered in a whole new era of inexpensive SMP, albeit with a slightly limited audience due to the C3’s poor (but better than the AMD K6-2) gaming performance.

But VIA’s site made no mention of SMP. None of the reviews of the C3 or its predecessors mentioned SMP. Finally, I found confirmation of the truth on www.viahardware.com . The C3, in spite of photos of dual configurations originating at Cebit, doesn’t support APIC and therefore won’t do SMP. Bummer.

Want another letdown? OK. The C3 doesn’t do out-of-order execution like every other modern CPU (including even the Cyrix 6×86) does. That’s part of the reason why the C3 struggles to keep up with an equivalently-clocked Celeron, even if the Celeron is running on a 66 MHz FSB while the C3 runs on a 133 MHz FSB. For OOO, you’ll have to wait for the next revision of the processor, due later this year.

The lone drawing point, besides price, for the C3 is its cool operation and low power consumption. It can operate with just a heatsink, no fan. You could team it up with a fanless 135W power supply, a 4400 RPM hard drive (or a very quiet 5400 rpm drive), and an integrated motherboard to have a silent PC. You can’t do that with anything from AMD or Intel. So for quiet PCs, the C3 has an audience.

Hey, someone could take that chip, put it on a microATX board, and put it in a tiny squarish Lucite case with the CD-ROM drive up top, so you put the CDs in like toast in a toaster, and sell the computer on size, quietness, and looks alone. Oh, wait a minute. Someone already tried something like that.

You’ll also notice VIA is scrapping the Cyrix brand name, which is probably a good move. Cyrix chips weren’t bad; they weren’t ideal for 3D gaming but for everything else they were a fine chip. Cheap and fast. Unfortunately they were usually paired up with very cheap and very low-quality hardware (particularly cheap power supplies) and when the systems had problems, everyone blamed Cyrix. But my friends and I, pairing Cyrix CPUs up with Abit, Asus, and AOpen motherboards and Diamond video cards and Creative or Ensoniq sound cards, never had any problems whatsoever with the CPUs.

Discussion groups. I’ve often longed for the days of the old-style BBS. I never ran a BBS myself–in the golden age of BBSing, I was just a teenager, and a good BBS required a US Robotics dual standard modem, a 386, and a gigabyte hard drive, all of which could easily set you back $2,000.

The Internet has so many advantages to those BBSs. When you dialed in, it was very easy to spend an hour online. In the meantime, no one else could use the BBS. With 24 hours in a day, even with an average call length of 15 minutes, fewer than 100 people would get in, and that makes it hard to facilitate meaningful discussion. It happened, but unless the BBS was part of a network, the communities stayed small. The Internet doesn’t have those disadvantages. The line’s never busy (if you’ve got a decent ISP at least), so the community can be much larger.

The discussion groups facility on this site have always been very under-utilized. I think a grand total of four people have posted messages here. That’s largely my fault; I never configured the discussion area, nor did I ever get rid of that stupid skull and replace it with something intuitive (like, say, the word “Discuss…”). I started looking into configuring it, and lo and behold, it’s possible to create a nice discussion board with Manilla. The interface is a little different from UBBS, which seems to be what most of the popular discussion groups of today use, but it’s not bad.

Like most other online bulletin boards, you have to be a member to log in and post. There is no charge to be a member. Let me emphasize that. There is no charge to be a member! Understood? Excellent. There’s also no validation process, none of that other stuff. Manilla does maintain a database of members that I can look at. I’ve looked at it once. I just don’t have time to go snooping around there. I’m too busy to invade your privacy.

Non-members can read messages. Messages posted are indexed by this site’s search engine. It’s really nice.

To become a member, click Join Now to the left. It will ask for an e-mail address. That address is used for two things. If you forget your password, your password hint is mailed to that address. And optionally, you can get your daily (or more, if this board gets popular) dose of the Silicon Underground e-mailed to you. Probably most people will turn that option off. If you’re concerned about spam, or concerned about privacy, feed it a bogus e-mail address. Tell my site you’re billg@microsoft.com or something. I really don’t care. Honest. (A lot of Web robots seem to have problems navigating Manilla sites, so spam harvesters may find this site more trouble than it’s worth, but I can’t make any guarantees.) And if you want to use a handle, that’s fine too.

Discussion groups get their own calendar. When you click on March 29, 2001 in the calendar, you get that day’s messages, plus the rest from the previous week. If you just want to see just that day’s topics instead, click the link that says Chronological View, and it’ll switch. Sorry, I don’t know how to make that a preference that gets saved for you.

The advantages of a discussion group are many. First, this becomes more of a community and less something that’s all about me. When you want to have your say, you can just log in and respond and it’s instantly there. When you e-mail me, I won’t see it until I get home, and then I may or may not post it, depending on a number of factors. When you post, if someone else sees it first, they can respond. So if you’re having a problem and need a quick response, someone else may see it and respond before I get to it.

You’re still free to e-mail me of course, but I had this resource here and it’s really a shame I haven’t been using it. I’ll continue to respond to mail and have it posted, for those who prefer a more moderated discussion (a small few, if page reads are any indication).

You can get to the discussion groups at least two ways. You can click on the Discussion Groups link to the left. Or you can click the Discuss link at the bottom of a message.

Here’s hoping this will become a valuable resource.

03/19/2001

Another useful hidden utility. If you’ve never used Sysmon.exe, remember it. With Windows 98 and newer, you can use it to track CPU usage, memory usage, and disk throughput (usunted information, I always searched the Web. When I wanted useful information, I hit DejaNews. Sure, there was a lot of junk out there, but 50% of it was good stuff, and most of that never made it onto the Web. I never did find any useful information on the Asus SP97V motherboard on the Web, because the hardware sites weren’t into it. I found out what I wanted to know about it from DejaNews. When I wanted to know how to get Windows NT Workstation machines to authenticate against an OS/2 domain, I found out how on DejaNews. When I needed information about XTs and ATs for some insane reason, I hit DejaNews.

I spent a little time in the comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware hierarchy for old time’s sake yesterday. I’m sure I’ll get a ton of spam now because I probably didn’t spam-filter all of my e-mail addresses, but that’s OK. It was pretty fun. I’ll have to do it again someday soon. It’s the closest thing I can find to an old-style BBS that still exists and has a sizable community. The scary thing is, some of the old WWIVnet message boards had a bigger community than comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware seems to have. The questions I answered were hardly difficult ones, and some of them had been sitting for a couple of days, which never would have happened on WWIVnet. And I know WWIVnet wasn’t even the biggest of the BBS networks, it just happened to have a lock on the St. Louis market in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I wonder where all those wizards went?

I ought to install a text-based newsreader on my Linux box to give myself a more authentic atmosphere though. This stuff just doesn’t look right when it’s running in a GUI. Not to me at least–back when I was dialing up BBSs, nobody ever ran Windows. At the very least, it should be running in a terminal window. Hmm. Maybe next time…

Even if the community is smaller, Usenet does have one big advantage over the old-school BBS though: No busy signals.

03/12/2001

Mailbag:

Aimee Mann; Question; Viper770; Cheap PC; Shopper UK article

A better bootdisk. I was talking utilities with Dev Teelucksingh, and he mentioned his Better DOS Bootdisk page, which I’d somehow missed before. Basically he replaces certain MS-provided files with other files that take up less space or provide additional functionality. For example, he replaces the Oak CD-ROM driver MS uses with an Acer driver that only uses 5K of memory. If the Acer driver works with your CD-ROM drive (it works with most ATAPI drives, but not quite all), you’ve got more available memory for TSRs.

Check it out.

Getting mail under control. In my last correspondence with Jeremy Spencer, editor-in-chief at Computer Shopper UK, he referred to his overcrowded inbox, a disease from which I also suffer. But the article I’m working on right now is so much more interesting than writing mail filters, you know? Just like it was yesterday. And last week the Bible study I was working on was more interesting. The week before that, if I was working on an article, it was more interesting. If I wasn’t, then doing laundry and making soup and washing dishes was more interesting, or at least more pressing–it’s hard to get any work done when the dirty dishes become imperialistic and take over not only the dishwasher and the kitchen sink, but also the counter, the table, the living room, and my desk as well. So I try to confine them to the kitchen at least.

But yesterday the guilt became too much, because I knew I had e-mail from readers that I hadn’t responded to yet, some of which had been waiting a really long time. It wasn’t that I was putting it off, in most cases it was literally a matter of me not being able to find them. I had nearly 2,000 messages in my inbox, hundreds of them unread, and most of those unread messages unimportant (spam, business offers, reminders to myself I never deleted, threats–but not too many of those, surprisingly) but I couldn’t wade through them to get to the stuff that needed responses.

So I took some time to create some folders and some rules. Certain people who e-mail me multiple times a day get their own folders. Stuff from companies I do business with enough that their periodic mailings are only slightly annoying (read: they send me coupons that I sometimes use) get a folder, so I can ignore them except when I’m in the market for something–and I get to decide if I’m in the market.

When all was said and done, I’d whittled my inbox down to 983 messages total, and 64 of them unread. A quick scan of those showed they were ancient and not terribly important–recruiters (offering me a job that doesn’t match my qualifications for less than I’m already making isn’t a good way to keep my attention), spam, or stuff that slipped past another filter but the filter wasn’t really worth revising to catch it.

By then, I was starting to feel hungry, so I looked up. Ouch. Six o’clock? I started at 4! So I threw some eggplant cutlets in the oven and got back to it.

And I actually managed to answer all but one of them. Nice feeling.

And I tried an experiment last night. A week or so ago, Steve DeLassus and I were talking about my going vegetarian for Lent, and he mentioned how his wife gave up cola for Lent. Then he started talking about how corrosive cola is. I’d heard some of the things he told me, but not all of them. But come to think of it, people who collect cans always tell you to poke a couple of holes in the bottom of the can and drain the cola out–that way the can still looks unopened, but if you truly leave the can unopened, the cola will eat through it over the course of a couple of years.

He told me cola will dissolve a steak in a matter of days, and a nail in a couple more, and corrosion in a couple less. So as I was looking at a baked-on, caked-on casserole that I normally use to bake fish, I remembered I had a 2-liter of Pepsi sitting in my fridge from the last time I had people over. I very rarely drink cola, so it’s going to go to waste anyway, so why not? I put a large bowl in the middle of the casserole to displace the Pepsi, then I poured about a liter in.

I figure if cola can dissolve a steak, it can probably do something about baked-on grease too, though it might take a little longer. And one of the few things I remember from chemistry class is that acids won’t eat through glass.

If that doesn’t work I’m pretty sure a stronger acid would, but for some reason dumping a bunch of HCl into something, letting it sit, and then turning around and using it for cooking makes me queasy. I know I’ll wash it out, but still…

Mailbag:

Aimee Mann; Question; Viper770; Cheap PC; Shopper UK article

02/16/2001

As promised, the mail and my responses to it. We’ll start off with the dissenting points. My points are interspersed in the first message, then afterward with the rest, since those messages tend to be shorter.

Interestingly enough, neither of the dissenting views came from the States. One was from Britain, the other from Canada.

Chris Miller first:

Hi Dave

First of all I think you ABSOLUTELY should not have mentioned the IRA in this debate. There are few things that irritate British people more than Americans thinking they know about the Irish situation. And your analogy is flawed, anyway. The IRA and the UVF and the IFF and all the other republican and unionist terrorist organisations of which I’m sure you haven’t heard are political bodies. They have a political grievance and a political purpose. These aren’t people who walk into Starbucks and start shooting randomly. And most of their atrocities, whether in Ulster or on the British mainland, are not committed with guns.

Like I said, they don’t need guns. We have violent political movements in the United States as well. Eliminating guns won’t eliminate violence, whether the motive behind the violence is political or social. (And though I’m no expert on Ireland, I did take more classes on British and Irish history in college than I did US history–I’m more comfortable with that subject than I am with, say, the C or Pascal programming languages.)

I’m not talking about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals – they will obviously have them anyway. I’m talking about the various crazies and malcontents who have access to guns whenever they’re feeling particularly twitchy. Your man in McDonald’s wouldn’t be a threat at all in London or Marseille or Barcelona – he would just be shouting and moaning harmlessly, a threat to nothing but the atmosphere. And do you really believe that, even if he was armed, it would be best if everyone else was as well? So instead of one source of mortal danger, there was potential death flying every which way in the room? I have to say I wouldn’t feel a great deal safer faced with 20 gunmen, rather than one. I would suggest you don’t hear of these situations very often because they rarely happen.

Right. The crazies will resort to building bombs rather than using guns. But right now it’s easier to get a gun. If guns weren’t an option, some of the bombs will be duds, but frankly, I like my chances better against a crazy gunman than against a working bomb.

And you’re forgetting, that if I’m in McDonald’s with bullets flying, I’m not facing multiple gunmen. I’m facing one. The attacker is facing several. The other gunmen are aiming at the attacker, not at me, and they’re not spraying bullets around like you see in the movies. And if the attacker’s smart, his attention is now focused on the other guys with guns. If it isn’t, he’ll be face down in a pool of blood quickly.

More likely, he’s making his way for the door, because if there’s one thing a criminal hates, it’s a confrontation.

I agree that a blanket ban on handguns wouldn’t work in the US, but that’s only because Charlton Heston and all your other trigger-happy citizens wouldn’t stand for it. Also, the NRA isn’t the most powerful lobby group in the country just because people like rifle ranges. There is a serious amount of money in the arms business, and anyone who thinks Chuck and co. are simply defending a necessary constitutional right is just being naive.

You can make that argument for a good number of political causes, on the right or the left.

Your family and discipline tirade is interesting. So it’s wrong to deny people their religious beliefs, but yours are the right ones? That smacks more than a little of intolerance and hypocrisy. And call me an old Commie, but I believe there are certainly more important things than personal property. I suppose I’ll never convince an American of that though: it’s all about the Benjamins.

Except Christianity stole those moral standards from Judaism (as did Islam). Hinduism came up with it independently; Buddhism stole those standards from Hinduism. So we’ve just covered all the major world religions, so it’s hard to call that intolerant. The older religions that don’t tie religion to ethics aren’t affected one way or the other.

And as for my personal property examples, crimes fall into two categories: killing or injuring someone, and taking that person’s stuff.

I agree that the world would be a better place if people were nice to each other – I’m not an anarchist – but it’s impossible to think in moral absolutes. Your arguments are shot through with presuppositions, chief among which is that you are right and everybody else’s views are fatally flawed. You’re applying your own principles to everyone else. What’s right for one ain’t necessarily so for the other. You give yourself away by describing exactly what you were like at school. Well, there are many like you, and many more who were and are totally different. Someone isn’t inconsequential just because they aren’t like you. Their choices are valid. Hey, school sucks – just be thankful you got out of it what you did.

My reason for telling that story was to demonstrate that the difference between a law-abiding person and the perpetrator of a massacre can be subtle. I think I demonstrated that I have a few things in common with the people from Columbine. And one major difference.

But don’t stereotype me or jump to conclusions just because I was a bit of a loner. Some loners are that way because they don’t understand people and don’t like people who are different. I used to know a few people like that. I was a loner because I was shy, not because I thought I was right and everyone else was wrong.

And come on, Dave. If you ignore what you see as left-wing propaganda, why should I pay any more attention to this sort of conservative rhetoric?….

I didn’t say I ignore the media, nor did I call it left-wing propaganda. I just said it was incomplete. Tell the whole story and I’m happier. As it is, I have to read both sides of the supposed mainstream press: leftist rags like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and rightist rags like The Washington Times (which is much more conservative than I am), and then hopefully I’ll have some chance of seeing what’s going on. But neither side has much use for any story that doesn’t further their political agenda, so maybe in that regard they are propaganda-like.

Fortunately a dwindling number of people pay attention to it. And I never thought I’d hear myself say that, having been a journalism major.

I do ignore television news, but the superficiality and sensationalism and condescending nature of it offends me much more than the leftist agenda. (Plus the reception is lousy in this neighborhood and I don’t want to pay for cable.) But what else can you do with 22 minutes of camera time? But in these days of hundreds of channels, fewer and fewer are paying attention to that as well.

Some days I just don’t have the energy to sort it all out. So I go to the Kansas City Star, click on Sports, then go read about baseball. Scary. There was a time when baseball was the thing that set me off.

I hope you picked up the Maniacs references – I was actually listening to the “MTV Unplugged” album when I read your page. Spooky, eh?

Chris

Maybe a little. But they fit the mindset of the subject matter as well as any band I can think of. The subconscious mind at work…

From: Gary Mugford ( mugford@nospam.aztec-net.com )

David,

   I have a refeverence for others’ beliefs. You and I are on the opposite side of the theological fence, which means not a thing when it comes to talking about computers and baseball. When you write about subjects that don’t interest me, I still read it, because good writing is always worth reading. It’s not unknown to read an arguement I haven’t considered before and revise my opinion. But it’s rare.

   Like Chris, I come down on the anti-gun side. In the same way that bombing somebody is a detached way of killing, so it has become so for guns. The gang problem around the world (not just in the U.S.) took off when the over-supply of guns to an unfettered buying population in the U.S. started making gang warfare a gun battle rather than an in-your-face mano-a-mano fight. It takes a whole lot less courage to shoot somebody in a drive-by then to tangle with brass knuckles from two feet away.

   The historical need for guns in the U.S. is undeniable. But like buggy-whips and home butter-churns, they ceased long ago to be a need, but an homage to a bunch of far-sighted men who gathered together to form a new nation a couple hundred years (and change) ago. The problem with honouring their memory is the deification of these men as all-knowing, all-omniscient. There is a religious fervosity about these men that defies logic to we non-Americans.

   The right to bear arms is usually equivocated with the right to free speech and the freedom of religion as the pillars of the American way. But that vague description of the right to bear arms has been interpreted and re-interpreted down through the years by those that want it to mean what “THEY” want it to mean. By one definition, the right was to bear all the defensive weapons one could hold in their hands at one time. Another definition would include one’s right to own a tank and a nucleur arsenal. The true intent probably lies somewhere inbetween. But given the lack of farseer capabilities amongst these fine men, I suspect the intent was closer to the former than the then science fictional latter (science fiction still to be invented itself, some years into the future).

   You can argue the need of every citizen to bear arms. There are non-persuasive arguements for both sides. But the one arguement that should not be made is the constant harkening back to these men and their intentions and solomonic wisdom. They proved human by writing a constitution that required amendments to move closer to perfection. They acknowledged the righteousness of owning slaves and of treating women as property. They were flawed, but they knew it. So they attempted to create a changing constitution that would keep with the times and new provenances created there in. And they would be amused and horrified if they found out that hundreds of years later, their will and intent was being mis-used. If the law becomes outdated, change it. They took the English legal canon and did it. They expected their descendents to do the same.

   Which brings me around to the points of fact that you use to defend the status quo. The same reports that  gun crime in conceal-‘n-carry states has gone down, fails to quantify gun accidents, which I understand have risen proportinately. I won’t exchange one life for another.

   You also cite the impossibility of getting rid of the guns held by the criminals and that getting rid of guns will not get rid of all of the violence. So?  I’m reminded of the currently-running commercial featuring an old hero of mine, Bob Lanier. It’s the starfish story where a youngster hoisting stranded starfish back into the water is asked why he’s even bothering, when there’s thousands of them on the beach and he can’t help them all. “Helped that one,” comes the answer. As trite as it sounds, every journey DOES start with but a single step. To not try because of the enormity of the task, is ,,, well, un-American!

   Actually, I offer you the false logic website: http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/index.htm . I’m betting that several of your arguements fall into the trap of Fallacy of Distraction.  Nobody ever promised that getting rid of guns would get rid of all of the violence.  Gun control has very little to do with bomb-making loonies. Given the opportunity, they’d do both (and do). Massacres don’t occur every day, but accidental shootings do (last I read. I cannot cite source). Just what is the acceptable massacre rate? Harsh, but we are talking about guns.  Criminals, are not governed by laws, so no law written to limit their access is going to have massive effect. But it WILL CUT DOWN ON SUPPLY. And that supply will erode each time a gun-toting fiend gets caught. Innocent or not by law, the gun goes bye-bye. This is good.  And I continue to harp on accidental shootings. It’s a lot easier to recover from a bat to the backside then a gun shot in the gut. What was before, that is now outdated, archaraic and not needed, shuoldn’t continue to be the rule. We are EVOLVING!!!

   I also failed to see Chris’ letter as an attack on your religious beliefs.  Chris believes (I think) that art must show the innards and the borders of society. In showing the limits of behaviour, it helps define those limits. Great art can also show the depth of society (or the lack of it).

   Are we living in a world where ‘anything’ goes? Yeah, increasingly. Do I decry it and try to guide my little Paige through some of the muck I never had to encounter at her age, but she will have to? Sure, that’s what being an adult is. Do I live by a central set of morals largely identical to your own? Yes. I believe behaviourly-speaking much as you do. Do I subscribe to the precise set of religious rituals and trappings that you do? No. I believe that nobody past, present or future is perfect and all-knowing. That includes the framers of the Constitution and all that try to read their minds through the veil of the ages.

   I think Chris’ statements about John Ashcroft, which you have more knowledge of and a differing point of view, might have been what set you off. You have a favourable opinion. Chris reads statements and actions by Ashcroft and finds them differing to his point of view.  Without reviewing the complete canon of Ashcroft rulings, that have earned him a large following in Missouri, Chris has read about the selected instances where the new AG ruled or said things that Chris (and I) disagree with. Should we reserve opinion? Probably. Will we? Probably not. We are human. And if somebody says something we find disagreeable or hypocritical, we tend to focus in on that one single statement to the exclusion of other competing evidence. But I will grant you the humility of acknowledging that I might be wrong about the man.

   Ultimately, I think the sky is azure blue. You might think it’s cerulean blue. We’ll never prove the other right or wrong as to the shade. But we CAN agree that the sky is SOME shade of blue. So we try to live life right. And that’s a good thing.

   Regards, GM
Actually, in Missouri at this time of year, the sky’s usually gray. Especially this week.

I fail to see the point of banning weapons if it’s not to decrease violence, and my point wasn’t to distract, but to try to illustrate that even a law-abiding citizen can have the tendencies that cause one to, as we say in the States, go postal. You can teach me ethics, put a gun in my hand, and I’ll abide by the law. You can teach me ethics, ensure that I’ll never see a gun in my life, and I’ll abide by the law. But don’t teach me ethics, and I’m likely to do what I please with whatever I can get my hands on. Banning guns is a superficial argument at best, and it requires a great deal of effort. Better to focus that effort on fixing the real problem–otherwise, it’s like spending $300 to shoehorn old memory and an obsolescent CPU into a six-year-old Pentium, to use an example from earlier this week. It might make some people feel good, like they’ve done something, but it doesn’t address the true problem and it won’t work as a long-term solution because the fundamental problem is still there.

Gun accidents do happen, but they can be minimized through training. And we hear of far more fatalities due to car crashes than due to gun accidents. The solution to both problems is the same: better enforcement of existing laws, better training, and maybe tightening up restrictions a bit on who can get their mitts on one.

As for our reluctance to make major changes, it’s probably because though times change, the underlying principles don’t. A lot has changed since the days of Hammurabi, but our code of laws is more similar to his than it is different. Our Founding Fathers had roughly 5,750 years of history to look at. Are we so arrogant as to say that with a mere 250 more years’ perspective, we should change everything?

I don’t see the rest of the world doing that, or when they are, they’re copying another country whose success they envy.

Hmm. I guess we’re doing something right. That’s good to see. We’re not willing to throw away our history over one or two problems. There’s hope for us yet.

From: Michael Baker ( MBaker@nospam.BioLabinc.com )

Hello Dave,

Your post today (Feb 14th) really struck a nerve w/ me.  I pretty much feel the same way, and your response to Mr. Miller was articulate and well thought out.  I enjoyed reading it.  I have a few random thoughts of my own:

Blaming our society’s ills on guns or TV violence or other such pop-psychiatric poop is really just an excuse for people who don’t want to deal w/ their own problems.  Ultimately, the fault lies with ourselves.  However, I believe the media is responsible for the acceleration of the decay.  The media more than just left-leaning, it has completely fallen over.  We are bombarded w/ TV and paper news that is all essentially the same.  Many purport to a be a balanced source, but it’s not, and many people don’t see that.  Here in Atlanta, we have one paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Years ago they were separate organizations.  The Journal was the more liberal, while the Constitution was the conservative.  They merged, and for a while they kept their same “flavor”.  Now, the only difference is that one is delivered in the morning, and the other in the afternoon.  They both run the same stories and use the same writers.  I consider it to be a leftist newspaper.  This is rapidly turning into a rant.  I’ll move on to another topic.

“…That’s OK, they’re fun too when they’re winning trophies and doing good. Just don’t get in my way. Here’s the remote. Here’s a video game. Have fun. Don’t bother me. And the kids grow up with parents (or a parent) respecting no one but themselves, and they learn that behavior.”

My parents have a friend who is an elementary school (2nd grade, I believe) teacher.  My Mom and I had dinner w/ her recently.  She talked about how much more needy the kids are nowadays.  They don’t get any attention at home.  It makes teaching more difficult, because the teachers have to spend more time dealing w/ the childrens’ behavioral problems than teaching.  She’s not quite to retirement yet, but I think she’s ready for it.

“…Actually, he got it half right. The best thing a guy can be in this world is a beautiful little fool, or better yet, a big hulking fool. People like dumb, beautiful people, because they’re good to look at and they’re non-threatening.”

Lol!  That is just classic.  It’s so true.  I’m neither good looking or dumb, but I’m only slightly threatening. 🙂

So, coming back around again… It starts at home… How very true.

Again, thanks for the fine post.

Thank you. My mom was a teacher. She got tired of trying to tame students (and this was teaching at a Christian school, so you’d think their parents would be more likely to instill those ethics, but who knows?) so she got out of the classroom. She has fewer headaches and better pay at her new job.

I’m unwilling to blame the media for destroying our society, but it’s not helping. Unfortunately, getting a conservative to go to journalism school is nearly impossible. Getting the conservative through journalism school without changing majors, getting them to look for a job in journalism (it’s hard to find one), then getting them to take a job in journalism, getting them to keep a good post, and getting them to stay in the profession are harder and harder still. It’s frustrating because they pay’s terrible, the frustration super-high, and most conservatives aren’t very idealistic so they tend not to feel like they’re making a difference. If you’re not going to make a difference, might as well get a job that pays well. Or go to work for a conservative publication that leans just as hard to the right and is ultimately just as unreasonable. (The Washington Times infuriates me nearly as much as the ultraliberal St. Louis Post-Dispatch.) The result: a poorly balanced media.

From: Tom Gatermann ( tardis69@nospam.swbell.net )

Hey you know one thing about guns and those kids at Columbine is, that gun laws don’t work.  Those kids weren’t supposed to be able to get guns at all at their age. I don’t support gun laws myself as you know.  I wouldn’t own a gun personally at this juncture in my life, but I wouldn’t tell another law abiding citizen he/she couldn’t.
 
I also would have to say that your editor’s opinion of a Constitutional amendment being bull—- is way out there in Communist world!  Since when did constitutional amendments become a joke?  Especially one of main ones on the Bill of Rights!!!!  Isn’t that the kind of talk that the Amendments are supposed to protect us from?  Heck, we might as well start taxing tea again.

That’s precisely why a Constitutional amendment can only be overturned by a later amendment, or by changing judicial interpretation of it. The latter is more likely, but fortunately that’s a fairly slow process too and the political pendulum swings enough that the courts don’t swing too terribly badly.

I wouldn’t call that idea Communist, but it’s far too authoritarian for my comfort level. The Constitution protects that kind of talk, but gridlock protects us against it by making it difficult to make it anything more than talk (that’s what’s dangerous after all).

I don’t think new gun laws will make much difference because we don’t even enforce the ones we have. The evil John Ashcroft has said as much; he’s said he’ll enforce the ones on the books, which hasn’t happened for years. So maybe now we have a fighting chance of finding out whether gun laws work. It’s a good strategy I think.

 

From: J H Ricketson ( culam@nospam.sonic.net )

Dave –

Superb. You may have missed your calling. You perhaps should be a politician – except that is precluded because you are honest.

Or a pastor.

Even a practicing agnostic such as I find much of value in what you have to say. Please – post more of such thoughts as often as you feel called to do so. They are that precious thing: something that causes me to think, and review my thoughts. Very welcome in my world. There is more to our world than mere high tech. I think most, if not all, Daynoters, distinguish ourselves by this realization (as opposed to pure Tech such a Tom’s  MoBo, Ars Technica, etc.) Makes for interesting reading and a unique collective POV, IMO

Regards,

JHR

Politician? Except I can’t stand most politicians. John Ashcroft’s fine. Mel Hancock (former Missouri representative and gubernatorial candidate) is great, and actually fun to talk to. Jim Talent (another former Missouri representative and gubernatorial candidate, also mentioned for a possible cabinet position) is pretty personable and friendly, but not as much fun as Hancock. Todd Akin (who took Talent’s seat in the House) is great. Not as funny as Hancock, but that may be because he’s so much younger. Kit Bond (Missouri senator) is fine as long as you’re on his side. You don’t want to cross him. Kenny Hulshof (Missouri representative) is a pretty nice guy. But of the couple dozen politicians I’ve met, I think those six are the only ones I’d be willing to sit down and talk with at any length.

And as for being a pastor, the only thing worse than state politics is church politics. I haven’t written off that possibility (indeed, I’m honing my skills in case I need them), but I won’t act on it until I’m married and older. I’ve seen what happens to people my age who go into full-time ministry.

In the meantime, this stuff causes spikes in traffic, but the computer talk is what keeps people coming back so I’ll maintain my focus there.

Thanks for your thoughts, of course.

From: Bruce Edwards ( bruce@nospam.bruceedwards.com )

Hi Dave:

All I can see regarding your long piece referenced in the subject line is –

BRAVO

An excellent job – you hit the nail on the head.  Keep up the good work,

Sincerely,

Bruce
www.BruceEdwards.com

Thanks.

From: Sharon A. Black ( blacksa@nospam.missouri.edu )

I agree with so much of what you said in your post earlier in the week.  If kids grow up knowing that they’re not going to get away with unacceptable behavior at home, and that carries over into their schooling when they’re very young, it makes sense that it should carry over into their behavior as adults as well.  As I’ve always said, when it comes to correcting a child’s behavior, consistency is THE most important.  As you pointed out, making the correction on a timely basis is also important.   Maybe this whole line of thinking is a little simplistic, but  it does make an awful lot of sense. And I think that it’s pretty easy to look at young adults who are produtive and law-abiding, and see a common thread in the way they were raised. Problem is that today too many parents don’t want to be bothered disciplining–wait, I think “guiding” or “teaching” or “directing” would be better words for it–their children and they become irrate when anyone else tries.  (Why THAT happens is a whole other story.)  Then they make excuses for their child’s behavior then it becomes someone else’s fault and then the child’s misbehavior is justified.  So the next and the next and the next incidents are justified.  And children’s behavior keeps getting worse and worse.  Then we end up spending huge amounts of money to incarcerate them. When they do get out, in most cases, values and morals are no different (or at least not different in a positive way) and we start all over again.

Depressing, isn’t it?

Yes it is, Mom.

It’s a simplified view yes, but when you don’t get the little things right, they tend to explode in your face. And we see it over and over again. You saw it firsthand in the classroom.

Incarceration serves to protect citizens momentarily against criminals but doesn’t do a good job of rehabilitation, as a look at the criminal history of most of the felons on any given court docket show. When I was writing crime stories, the problem usually wasn’t finding a crook to write about–it was deciding who the crook with the longest and most horrifying track record might be so that story would get a better position in the paper. That’s the unfortunate result. Incarceration doesn’t work. Making it harder for them to get guns and drugs doesn’t work. Prevention used to work–when the prevention came from the home, and not from Washington, D.C.

And it’s far, far too late, so I’m calling it a night.

01/08/2001

An open letter to a spammer. I found this excerpt amusing from a message that slipped past Brightmail (I don’t know why I bothered to read it):

This is not a SPAM. You are receiving this because you are on a list of email addresses that I have bought. And you have opted to receive information about business oportunities. If you did not opt in to receive information on business opportunities then please accept our apology. To be REMOVED from this list simply reply with REMOVE as the subject. And you will NEVER receive another email from me.

Sorry, dude. If I didn’t solicit it, it’s spam. I guess I opted in the way most people do, by simply existing. But I can bet if I do respond, I’ll be opting in to a “known active” list that you’ll sell for even more money. I may never receive another message from you, but I’m sure I’ll get messages from 47 of your slimy customers, so no thanks.

SCSI on a budget. Well, I did it. I dug up an ancient Quantum Trailblazer 850 SCSI drive and connected it to my K6-2/350, which contains a Promise SCSI controller (it has an NCR chipset on it). I’m thinking I may install Mandrake 7.2 on it and give myself a crude dual boot by reversing IDE and SCSI in the boot order. An all-SCSI setup in Linux, even old SCSI drives, ought to be pretty nice. I’ve got a Lightning 365 drive around here too that I can pair up with it. Hmm. I could also add the ProDrive 52 LPS drive to the mix, but that’s big enough to hold /boot and not much else, so that’s getting a bit ridiculous. Sadly, that drive’s probably not worth the 5-10 watts of power it would consume anymore. But between the two bigger drives I have a gig of space, which is the minimum you want if you’re going to do much of anything useful with Linux.

The bigger drives actually aren’t as pathetic as they sound. They spin at 4500 RPM, and the Lightning has a 12 ms seek time. The Trailblazer has a 14 ms seek time, so it’s not quite as fast on the seeks, but the Trailblazer has a slightly higher platter density so for the long stretches it’ll be a little quicker.

Given their re-orderable command queue and ability to share the bus, I’d say they stand a chance of being OK. I’ll have to think about where to mount the 365–I want it to hold something used frequently so as to take advantage of having a second spindle, but it needs to be something that’s not going to grow much because 365 megs isn’t all that much space these days.

You can demonstrate command queue reordering by trying to use the drive for something else while defragmenting. The drive will hesitate much more noticeably than an IDE drive would, but the defrag is much less likely to be interrupted.

It’s been so long since I used SCSI drives extensively that I’d forgotten about their advantages.

Your own SCSI on a budget. I did a Web search over the weekend and found a number of places selling first-generation 10,000 RPM drives for under $100. Given the 3-year warranties they’re probably refurbs, but the price is right.

Working. I worked a rare Sunday yesterday, putting in a couple of hours’ worth of overtime. I think this is the second Sunday I’ve worked since finishing Optimizing Windows; I try not to do that as a general rule. I burn myself out if I don’t follow it.

Paying me time and a half to run around to a few dozen PCs and log on, then log back off in order to verify the re-wiring job works seems a waste of my skills and salary, but I do what I’m told. Quick, easy money.

Catching up on mail. I almost caught up this weekend. I think I have two or three messages left in my queue. One of them is really important, which is why it’s still in my queue. I didn’t have time to deal with it properly over the weekend. What’s Dave have up his sleeve? You’ll see. Stay tuned.

Speaking of Optimizing Windows I went ahead and put up an informational page which includes review excerpts, links to all known reviews on the Web, links to major booksellers, the ISBN number so you can have your local bookseller special-order it for you, links to chapters 2 and 10 online, and my own thoughts, looking back at it a year after publication, about why this book remains relevant in this fast-changing industry.