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12/28/2000

Mailbag: (I apologize for the error yesterday!)

VCache; Hacking setup

Sales of Optimizing Windows are surging. It’s been in the 3,000 range lately in sales rank at Amazon, which is much higher than it’s been in many months. The insane $7.50 asking price probably has something to do with it. Across the Big Pond, Amazon UK is sold out and has the book on order. Thanks to all who have ordered copies.

Linux experiments. I loaded up Mandrake 7.2 on my dual Celeron box yesterday. I’d forgotten how nice Linux can be compared to Windows: Here I was, recompiling a kernel, with a full KDE desktop running, and the system was using all of my 320 MB of RAM and not touching the swap space. That’s efficiency. I had a process monitor running, and no matter what I was doing, Linux was using just under 320 MB of RAM for something or another, adjusting its usage on the fly as my demands changed.

So, why was I recompiling a kernel? I wanted an all-Reiser setup, no ext2, for speed purposes, and Mandrake can’t do that out of the box. So I was compiling a kernel to include static ReiserFS support. Then I formatted a Reiser partition and copied the entire setup over to that new partition. But first I had to have a kernel that could speak Reiser from the get-go, which Mandrake’s provided kernel does not. Also, Mandrake’s kernel is Pentium-optimized, and I wanted i686 optimization since this is a Celeron system.

The process for getting an all-Reiser Mandrake setup isn’t too terribly hairy; I’ll probably do a writeup soon. I found some instructions for doing it with Red Hat 6.2, but they were either inaccurate or Mandrake changed some stuff. I was able to figure it out pretty easily, but then again, I was writing a book about Linux until recently so my opinion of the difficulty level probably doesn’t count. Copying 1.1 gigs of data over from the original ext2 filesystem over to the new Reiser filesystem takes a good bit of time though, especially if they reside on the same drive.

It’s pretty impressive how far Linux has come over the course of the past year. Mandrake 7 was good enough that I thought I might be able to get by without Windows. With Mandrake 7.2 I certainly could get by without it, except now I’m making my money off Windows so I won’t. But I could give my mom a Mandrake 7.2 box and she’d be happier with it than she is with the Mac she has at work. It would be far more stable, far faster, less expensive, and it can do everything she does with her Mac (read e-mail, browse the Web, and run WordPerfect). And its hardware use is certainly more prudent than Windows’ is. My dual Celeron-366 is a pretty good W2K box, but running Linux, especially with a custom kernel tuned to my hardware, it’s a really nice workstation. And it was cheap!

Christianity revisited. Hopefully yesterday’s post wasn’t universally read as criticism of Roman Catholicism as a whole. Many Lutherans are every bit as obsessed with traditionalism, hence my “Wait, therefore, for 15th-century Germans to come to you,” statement that I know will offend a number of people. (It’s good for them.)

There are dying churches in every denomination, sadly. And vibrant churches in all of them as well. Hopefully those who survive will be able to carry the torch when they need to.

Aimee Mann rarities. I have information from a reliable source that Aimee Mann’s first recording, Bark Along With the Young Snakes, released in 1982, is still available from the publisher, for $15, shipping included. You can contact him at eazyasabc@nospam.aka.com. (Remove the “nospam” from the address when e-mailing him.)

You bet I’ve already ordered my copy, though more for historical interest than anything else. She’s a much better songwriter at age 40 than she was at 22, but there’s a certain novelty to hearing her sing punk rock.

Sorry about yesterday’s mail. The file is nowhere to be found on this server. I’ll have to let Di know; hopefully it still exists somewhere on her computer.

Mailbag: (I apologize for the error yesterday!)

VCache; Hacking setup

12/24/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Last night, I sent myself hurtling 120 miles at 75 MPH to Columbia, Mo. My mom lives there, and my alma mater, the University of Missouri, is also there. Today, after morning services, I’m headed another 120 miles to Kansas City, where most of my mom’s family lives. I don’t get back there very often, so I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve got some stuff to write, but I’ll be late for services if I do, so it’ll have to wait.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: A loyal reader w/a technical question

Dear Dave: I have a few questions, well, maybe just one, related to your book.  When you do a clean install of W98SE on a partitioned drive, if you wipe C: (where W98 is), how do you get the other programs on the other drives to run again?  Especially if you’ve wiped all the .dll files and other important stuff?  Secondly, what’s a good and fast way not to have to reload all the programs again if you wipe & reinstall W98?  If I used Drive Image 4.0 or a tool like that (or maybe even Norton Ghost), how do you copy images of your drive back onto your computer?  Lastly, what’s the best way to optimize your ADSL/highspeed Internet connection?  I’ve been using this program called NetSuperSonic which is supposed to adjust certain registry settings in Windows to optimize it for broadband use.  It seems to work pretty good, but I was wondering if you would have some other suggestions.  That’s pretty much everything.  Oh yeah, are you going to come out with a new, updated book?  I don’t know, just thought that I would ask. That’s for writing the book; it’s been extremely helpful.

Cheers.

~~~~~

I think that’s actually more than one question, but that’s ok of course.

The idea of a clean install is to start over, which of course means reinstalling everything. Reinstalling everything takes time, of course, but the benefit is that you’re rid of all those old, no-longer-in-use DLLs and other leftovers that hang around after you uninstall programs. You’ve also got fresh copies of everything and a brand-new registry, which is good because registries get corrupt and so can DLLs and even programs. The result is a faster, more stable system.

But if you’ve lost the installation files for some of your programs, you’ve got a problem. You can use CleanSweep or Uninstaller to package up the program, DLLs, and its registry entries for re-installation, but be sure to test the package on another PC before you wipe, because these don’t always work.

Ghost or Drive Image aren’t a clean install per se, because they preserve everything. Generally the way I save and restore images is to a network drive, or in the case of a standalone PC, to an extra partition or, better yet, a second hard drive. You can also span an image to multiple Zip, Jaz, or Orb disks but that’s slower and more cumbersome. These programs are absolutely invaluable for disaster recovery, but as optimization tools in their own right, their benefit is very limited.

If NetSupersonic checks your MTU and adjusts it properly (many of those utilities don’t), that’s a great start. You can measure your speed by going to http://www.pcpitstop.com/internetcenter.asp, and they have some suggestions on the site for fixing sub-optimal perfomance. Ad-blocking software will speed you up as much as anything else you can do, and FastNet99 (mentioned in the book) is also useful by reducing the number of DNS lookups you have to do (I accomplished the same thing by connecting my DSL modem to a Linux box running its own DNS, which I then used to share my DSL out to my Windows PCs).

As for an updated book, I imagine not doing one would probably kill me. But publishers are understandably hesitant to do one right now, since no one seems to know what Microsoft will do next. Is Windows Me really the end? Is Windows 2000’s successor really going to be suitable for home use? When will Microsoft manage to deliver another OS? No publisher wants to invest tens of thousands of dollars in producing a book only to find out they guessed wrong. Once there are answers to those questions, it’ll be time to write a new book. In the meantime, I’m writing magazine articles (there’s very little new in the article at www.computershopper.co.uk this month; there are a couple of new tricks in the article for February, and the article for March is almost entirely new stuff) and posting new tricks to my own site as I find them or think of them. So the answer to your question is, “probably,” but I can’t give you any kind of time frame.

Hopefully that answers your questions. If not, feel free to write back.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: Drive Image Pt. 2
However, IF I were to reinstall everything, erase my game drive, utility drive, and C: drive, reinstall W98SE, all my programs, and THEN take an image of my C drive after my brand new clean install, theoretically I shouldn’t have to ever reinstall everything again (unless I add new programs or whatnot) because the image I have taken of my C drive will be a nice, squeaky clean one, right?

How do you spell “segway?” as in, linking two opposite ideas together?

Finally, do you think it’s worth picking up Norton Systemworks 2001 when I have 2000?

Thanx again.
~~~~~

You are correct about imaging a fresh install. That’s the way we handle systems at work (my job would be impossible otherwise, as many systems and as few techs as we have). It’s nice to be able to restore to pristine condition in 15 minutes instead of 6 hours.

The word segue is pronounced “Segway.” I think that’s the word you’re looking for.

The biggest new feature of Systemworks 2001 is Windows 2000 and Windows Me compatibility. If neither of those matter to you, stick with what you have.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “John Doucette” <jdoucett@nospam.gienow.com>
Subject: windows memory use

Hi Dave

We have several high end Pentiums at work running Windows 98. These PC’s have 512 MB of Ram and run what I am told is a very resource intensive C+ program. Now I have not myself touched these machines yet and likely won’t as what is not apparently broken they will not likely let me fix (some might say break).

Now no work was done to the best of my knowledge to try and tune these PC’s. They merely installed Ram and ran the program till performance seemed to hit the ceiling.

Now I have always thought that Windows 9x would not perform any better with more than 128 MB of Ram. I think that if given the opportunity I could down grade these PC’s to 128 MB of Ram, tune them and get the same performance.
I would then have Ram to use were it could be of value.

I am curious with all your Windows tuning experience and some programming knowledge if I am pissing in the wind, or if you think that the PC’s would likely run the C+ program well with less Ram.

John

~~~~~

If the program really needs that kind of memory, they have no business running it on 98. They should be running on NT. Win98 definitely gives diminishing returns after 128MB; you see some improvement but not much. I don’t remember what the maximum memory for 9x is; it may be 512 or it may be 768, but you’ll get to a point where if you don’t specify a limit in the vcache section of system.ini, Windows won’t boot because the disk cache can’t handle that much memory and will crash. That may be the ceiling they hit.

I seriously doubt that program runs demonstrably better in 512MB than it would in 128 with some optimization. I’d set some parameters on the disk cache, optimize the hard disk(s), cut everything possible out of startup, kill anything cutesie the PCs are running, and add the line ConservativeSwapFileUsage=1 to the [386Enh] section of system.ini. I’d also use 98lite’s IEradicator to pull IE if they don’t need a Web browser–that increases system performance across the board by a good 15-30 percent. If the program’s really a resource hog, I could justify 256, but really I’ve yet to see a Win9x PC that truly benefitted from having more than 96 MB of RAM. It just makes more sense to by a 128MB stick than a 64 and a 32.

I’d say take one of the PCs, make a Ghost image of it so you can bring it back to the original, then pull 384 megs and optimize the sucker. I’m betting it’d make a huge difference. (And I’d love to hear the results.)

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Edwards, Bruce
Subject: Internet Connection Sharing

Good morning Dave:

I posted this over on the hardwareguys.com forum about internet conneciton sharing, where you kindly gave me a suggestion that helped a lot.  🙂

———————–

Hi Dave and other interested persons/Linux gurus:

Your suggestion about the gateway was part of what I needed, thank you.  In addition to not having the gateway defined on my internal Windows 98 client, I also needed to put the DNS server IP addresses on the clients in the TCP/IP configuration.  I was assuming it would get the DNS info from the Sharethe net gateway, where the DNS server is also defined.  Silly me!  There looks like there is both good news and bad news.  First the good news:

Once I was able to get it working, on the same hardware as the Wingate solution, my aDSL performance doubled!  

From the DSLReport.com scan I received this:
TCP port 53 is OPEN

GRC.com reported all ports (scanned for) were closed.

With port 53 open, I will be running the Wingate solution until I get some feedback or more info about what to do.  There is probably some bad vulnerability somewhere.  I still have not looked through the SharetheNet information I have enough to know if I can turn that port off easily (easily for a Linux newbie that is).  I seem to remember that there probably is an init file with all the services defined which would probably be easy to turn this port off.  Since this whole thing runs from a floppy, the files are actually active on a ram disk.

Here is some SharetheNet Linux configuration information specific to my current gatewayPC, in case any of you Linux gurus out there would be willing to point out what I need to do:

http://bruceedwards.com/journal/001218a.htm#connect

I’ve probably put enough info there to make hackers very happy.  Oh well, I won’t be running SharetheNet in that configuration and will not run it at all unless I can determine that it is safe.  Any comments appreciated.

Thank you,

Bruce  🙂

~~~~~

Port 53 is DNS. I wouldn’t be too worried about it. The critical ports are blocked, and even if someone does somehow manage to get into your system, since the configuration is on a write-protected floppy all you have to do is reboot. And they won’t be able to do much on your internal network since you’re running Windows, and your Linux box doesn’t have Samba installed.
 
That information you posted is mostly hardware configuration data; I don’t think there’s anything useful there unless some exploit happens to be discovered for a particular driver (possible but not worth worrying about).
 
I thought I knew once how to block specific ports, but that’ll have to wait until tonight for me to dig.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “J H RICKETSON” <culam@nospam.sonic.net>
Subject: FDISK?

Dave –

Where did you get an FDISK that asks you if you want to do big partitions?  Mine (DOS 6.22) thinks an 8+ gig disk is plenty big enough for anyone and refuses to even consider anything larger – and a ~2 gig partition is all anyone will ever need. I need a more user-tolerant FDISK!

Regards,

JHR
~~~~~

Windows 95B, Windows 98, and Windows Me’s FDISKs all handle larger than 8 GB drives. Partition size is a function of filesystem. FAT16 is limited to 2 gigs, period. FAT32 can be several terabytes.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: Recycle Bins and Boxers

Is there any way that one can make one recycle bin in only one partitioned drive, and have all the junk from all the other drives go to that one recycle bin instead of having recycle bins for each and every drive?  And what do you think about one of your ministers of the House of Common wanting to pass a law that would indict a boxer if he inflicts serious injury on another boxer, or kills him?  I personally think that should be out of the hands of lawmakers, as both boxers realize the risk that they are taking when stepping into the ring.  The only exception that I can think of is if a boxer continues to pummel away at his opponent after the bell has rung, and he’s straddling his opponent’s waist, hammering away at his face.  Okay, that can be prosecuted, but not if everything else is completely fair.  Anyway, enough of that.  Thanx again.

~~~~~

I wish it were possible to consolidate the recycle bins, but I don’t believe it is. I’ve never seen any trick to do that. The Mac does that, so I guess I could say get a Mac, but that feature isn’t worth the trouble and expense of switching platforms.

I’m not British, so I haven’t heard of that proposed law, but that’s ridiculous. When you’re playing sports, you’re at constant risk of injury. It’s a risk you take. And with what professional athletes make (at least in the States), that’s fair. Most professional athletes in the States should be set for life after just a five-year career, if they handle their money wisely (most don’t).

Baseball’s considered one of the safer sports, but there’s been one instance of a player killed when he was hit by a pitch (Carl Mays, sometime in the 1920s, I think). There’ve been countless career-ending injuries due to being hit by a pitch or a line drive. It’s up to the officials of the sport to ensure that players are sportsmanlike and don’t take cheap shots, not the government.

Then again, the United States has a much more laissez-faire government than most countries, and I’ve always tended to flutter between the libertarian and conservative points of view so I’m even more laissez-faire than the average U.S. lawmaker.

12/22/2000

AMD, part II. Intel will have its work cut out for it when Micron releases its Mamba chipset for the Athlon and Duron. Micron noticed a great waste of space in its Samurai chipset, so they decided to turn the wasted silicon into 8 MB of high-speed, low-latency L3 cache. Intel wouldn’t license the P6 bus to Micron, so Micron went to AMD, who of course welcomed them with open arms.

The Mamba is expected to perform 15% faster than the AMD 760. Unfortunately, I know nothing about expected release dates.

And what of AMD’s great hope for the Duron, the VIA KM133? Horrendous 2D performance holds it back. While it has the memory bandwidth of the earlier KT133 and KX133 and offers decent 3D performance, its 2D performance seriously lags behind the SiS 730–and SiS video isn’t exactly renowned for performance. In other words, the reason the Savage series flopped as a standalone card remains. Intel’s integrated chipsets put up better numbers overall, so if AMD’s going to beat Intel in this space, it’s going to have to be on price.

The new Musicmatch Jukebox. I normally don’t pay any attention to this app, but I caught a review of it and it includes a compelling new feature. It’s optional, and most privacy activists will hate it, but that’s why you can turn it off. For me, it’s the draw.

Tell it your favorite artist, and it streams stuff that other people who like the same thing like. I punch in Aimee Mann (who else?) and it responds by playing a set of Aimee Mann, Moby, Abra Moore, and Lou Reed. Nice. The next set was David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Blur. And none of the tracks was the artist’s best-known song.

For me, the whole point of radio is to discover new stuff. I love my music (I’ve got a modest-sized collection of nearly 200 CDs), but radio has become so repetitive and it’s really hard for a quality artist like Aimee Mann to get any radio play. And when she does get play, it’s “Voices Carry” (her smash 1985 hit with her band, ‘Til Tuesday), or if a station is especially progressive, her Oscar-nominated “Save Me.” About once a year, you might hear one of her minor hits like “I Should Have Known” or “That’s Just What You Are” or “Red Vines.” The problem is, she doesn’t have the promotional engine behind her to give radio stations much of anything in return for playing her stuff (short of the occasional concert ticket, but she doesn’t tour much). So we get the same ‘N Sync and The Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion and Elton John songs over and over and over. Nothing new about that.

Sometimes a good station does come around, but when you hear a new song, good luck finding out anything about it because the DJ usually doesn’t say (except for the songs everyone already knows). When a song is playing, MusicMatch optionally brings up a browser window with album info, a review, a listing of the most popular tracks off the album. And in some cases, you can download a free track off the album. And–unlike radio–if you don’t like a track, you can skip it!

You can also choose from a list of 18 preset stations, and you can tell it to mix selections from the stations. So if you yearn for the days when AOR stations mixed in a dash of alternative music, you can approximate it by mixing Classic Rock, Hard Rock, and Adult Alternative (since that’s what they now call most of the stuff that was considered alternative in 1992).

The other nice thing is it’ll favor the artists whose MP3s you rip using the program in the 18 preset stations. So presumably if I rip a lot of Badfinger and Cars (I still have trouble calling The Cars classic rock) tunes, if I click on the Classic Rock station I’ll hear something other than a constant barrage of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Rush (which, as far as I can tell, is all that anyone listened to in the ’70s). Sounds good to me.

This, I think, is a killer application for the Internet. Musicmatch is at www.musicmatch.com.

Spam. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. At least the phrase “boost the reliability of ordinary Windows 3.x…to nearly the level of Windows NT or 2000” gave me a chuckle.

Ignore these chumps.

Dear Windows User,

Now you can boost the reliability of ordinary Windows 3.x, 95 and 98 to nearly the level of Windows NT or 2000, Microsoft’s professional and industrial version of Windows.

The new WinFix 4.3 is a very effective way to improve the reliability of Windows, because it makes Windows fault-tolerant and self-repairing. And WinFix is very safe, because it operates completely independent of Windows.

http://www.backtoday.com/comph to find out more about WinFix, the safest, most effective way to keep you working, by keeping your PC working non-stop.

Arlen Dixon, CEO
Westwood Software Marketing

This announcement is being sent to PC users who asked to be kept informed about new developments in Windows(tm) technology. To be removed from our mailing list, go to the Email-us page. OR To be removed mailto:remove@backtoday.com?Subject=REMOVE

12/20/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

A failed review of McAfee Utilities 2000. I was going to write about the successor to Nuts & Bolts, the utilities suite that could have been so good, except parts of it were so bad. It was never second-best of the three I looked at in Optimizing Windows. It was sometimes the best in a particular category, and often the worst. I was hoping the new version would fix some of the shortcomings–add the launch acceleration features of Speed Disk, Fix-It, and Windows Defrag to DiskMinder and it would be the best of the bunch when configured properly.

It’s bloated. While Fix-It is clean and simple and NU is getting there, McAfee still insists on throwing in the kitchen sink and a hair dryer. Never mind that’s a particularly  dangerous combination. You can’t de-select some of the kitchen sink or hair dryer features either. Worse yet, the installer missed installing at least one critical DLL, so it doesn’t run. At first I figured it was incompatible with Windows Me, so I tried installing it on a 98SE system. It had the same problems there too–and this was a fresh install, with no special trickery. So I can’t tell you how good the good parts are because I don’t know.

I should probably look into getting a retail copy of it, because it’s presumably more polished (I sure hope so–imagine not even being able to install something, but not being able to return it!) but I’m less than hopeful. The reasons are obvious, I hope.

You can download an evaluation copy at www.mcafee.com , but I really can’t recommend you do. Check out Norton Utilities 2001 instead. You can get an evaluation copy of it at www.symantec.com .

Time for a new system. A friend and I are spec’ing out a system for another friend. We’re having fun spending someone else’s money. So far, we’ve managed to run up a $10,092 tab, but my friend was slacking. For one, he forgot the second 21″ NEC flat-panel display and TNT2-based PCI video card. We want him to be able to watch IrfanView slide shows on his second monitor while he plays Quake full-screen. (IrfanView doesn’t require the greatest of available cards, but we want like manufacturers since that works better for multi-head displays. And never mind that Tim doesn’t play Quake.) And he went with a TNT2 card for the main display. What’s up with that? Why would they make $400 64 MB GeForce 2 Ultra cards otherwise, except for Tim to buy them? But I approved a PCI-based TNT2 for the secondary display because I didn’t want to look too extravagent.

So we’re not done yet.

He’s been sending me specs and I’ve been telling him what’s wrong with them. I’d be great in upper-level management.

I’ve even got a Plan B. If what we come up with is too much, I’ll admit to Tim that The Gator’s being too extravagent. “Yeah, he insisted on putting a second floppy drive in there, in case you needed to copy disks. ‘Who copies disks?’ I asked him, but he insisted. So I humored him. You and me, we both know you can copy disks with a single floppy drive. So we’ll nix that drive, cut the bill by 15 bucks and everything’s perfect. There. Now THAT is a practical system.”

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dan Bowman
Subject: RE: Whaddayadoin?
Yeah, there are some issues here. …and you are one of the voices of your generation, like it or not. Speaking of that, when you can, please take a look at the story I linked from the ETP site on Sunday, the one about smoking and the ads. Is her take on the ads valid? Are you qualified to answer? http://www.thegardencafe.com/2000_12_10_arc.shtml#1615885
 
Thanks; just looking out for my kids’ futures. I may have to take them by a morgue.
 
dan
~~~~~

Sorry for that aside.
 
Am I qualified to answer? Who knows. Does it sound accurate to me? You bet. I haven’t seen that ad, but it’d strike me as morbid, maybe funny. It sure doesn’t sound effective to me. Wouldn’t stop me from smoking. The stat that 1 cigarette cuts your life expectancy by 7 minutes helped, but that’s just me. I’ve smoked three cigars in my life. Cigars are worse for you, I know. But fear is a terrible motivator, when someone else is trying to scare you. Internal fear is a great motivator, but nobody thinks smoking will make them a failure.
 
Maybe the financial aspect could be effective. What will a year’s worth of cigarettes buy? I don’t know the answer to that question. But if smoking versus not smoking is the difference between driving a Ford Escort and something with some prestige to it, that’ll get some people’s attention. Not everyone’s. I see my peers thinking more about money than they used to. That may just be a coming-of-age thing.
 
I think honesty is just the best way, regardless of the other approaches used. Respect and honesty. Not that I’m an expert, but when my dad sat me down and talked to me like someone he respected and said, “This is what’s bad about marijuana,” and on down the line through each drug, I listened to him. (Tobacco may or may not have been included. Alcohol was not. I learned what was bad about alcohol from watching him. Some people can pick things up that way. Others won’t.)

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Jan Swijsen” <qjsw@nospam.oce.nl>
Subject: Re: strings

Hey, I won’t out-do you every time. Just every time I can.

In Computer Shopper, the subtitles and section headings are worth a laugh too. Their editors add a personal touch without giving the impression of doing self promotion. In fact Computer Shopper and PC Plus (also a good one) are the only mags that I buy these days.
~~~~~

I’ve noticed that. I know Chris Ward-Johnson recommends PC Plus; when Shopper approached me about doing the “Optimise Your PC” series I noticed
they were published by the same outfit so I asked him his opinion of both magazines.

When I showed a copy of the article to a marketing guru I work with, he asked me where “those guys” were when I wrote Optimizing Windows. (“Why
didn’t you have those guys design your cover, and that ‘Try David Farquhar’s tips for pepping up your PC’ phrase should have been on it! Right on the front!”) That’s not the O’Reilly way, but I bet it sure would sell…

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dan Bowman
Subject: Whaddayadoin?

Trying to take the heat off Pournelle or something?????
 
I didn’t see a slavish devotion to The One True Penguin Path in that post<g>.
 
dan

~~~~~

There is no One True Penguin Path. If someone tries to create one, then they’ve just totally destroyed the entire purpose. Not that they haven’t already. That “slavish devotion” you mention says a lot. Linux is supposed to be about freedom, not slavery. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with paying for intellectual property. The people who think otherwise have traded one form of slavery for a much more vicious form. I see absolutely no difference between total, blind devotion to Linux and total, blind devotion to Microsoft. None. Not at all. If you reach that point, you desperately need to go find religion.
 
And if people disagree with that, good. I would love to hear a reasoned argument why total, blind devotion to Linux is a good thing and people should do it, because I sure can’t figure out why on my own.
~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Håkan Waara” <hwaara@nospam.chello.se>
Subject: editthispage

Hey, great site!

How did you change the <body> attributes on your Manila site? I can’t see any way to do that from the “advanced” preferences..

Thanks.
~~~~~

Thanks!

I don’t think I changed the body attributes; I specify the font for the
daily posts (you’ll notice occasionally I miss), so I get a mixture of Times
and Verdana.

You can define a body tag in your cascading style sheet to accomplish that,
I think. I know standard HTML pretty well but I never bothered to get
comfortable with either XML or CSS. But maybe one of my other readers will pipe in.

12/12/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Mailbag time. I had things to say, but after cranking out the first 700+ words for my next magazine article in a span of a couple of hours (it was slow going), I’ll just let the audience determine my direction.

First, Chris Miller, whose mail has stirred up so much activity around here of late (and that’s a good thing).

Hi Dave

A quick response to my critic John Braue who questioned my use of the phrase “bending the rules for the greater good” and then (perhaps inadvertantly) appeared to compare Lincoln and Roosevelt to Hitler and Stalin. I take the point to some extent, but in a way, John, you have answered your own criticism by adding the proviso “and indeed, smash [the rules] all to pieces”. Of course there is a difference between “bending” and “smashing” rules.

Regardless, it is problematic and ultimately futile to make the comparison – and not only because of history, as Lincoln’s reforms led the US out of the age of slavery and FDR’s New Deal arguably saved the nation, while Hitler and Stalin led their countries to turmoil, war and near-destruction. The main difference is that, while all were originally placed in power by the people, the US presidents, unlike their European counterparts, remained accountable to the people. If the people didn’t like Abe’s and FDR’s policies, they could simply vote them out. And, of course, neither was defeated in an election; both died in office.

Thanks for your comments about Shopper, Dave, and I hope we continue to do a good job with our new design in place. I also hope we can continue to celebrate (if that’s the word) the cultural differences between our countries and, indeed, all the English-speaking nations.

A note on usage: both ‘-ise’ and ‘-ize’ endings are acceptable in British English, although misguided UK traditionalists insist on ‘-ise’ as they see ‘-ize’ as ‘American’. In fact, it is British in origin. Of course, reactionary xenophobic fools never let facts get in the way of a complaint. We use ‘-ise’ and avoid ‘-ize’ in an attempt to be consistent, but it could just as easily be the other way round.

I’m aware that the names of pop bands function as plural here and singular over there, which is a strange one. Perhaps it’s because so many of our early pop groups had ‘plural’ names (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks etc) and it has stuck. Having said that, the great 60s and 70s US soul bands usually followed the same pattern (the Supremes, the Temptations etc). Would you, then, say, “The Spice Girls is one of the most successful female bands of all time”?

No, you would probably say “The Spice Girls is terrible” if you are a Joy Division fan…

All the best
Chris

There is a difference between the likes of FDR and Lincoln and the likes of Hitler and Stalin, certainly. Neither FDR nor Lincoln attempted to disrupt the due process of elections and thus remained accountable, yes. Nor did either kill their political opponents. I have a real problem with FDR trying to pack the Supreme Court to make some of his blatantly unconstitutional policies stick, and while the New Deal made the people feel better, World War II had much more to do with pulling the United States (and the world) out of the Depression.

Both men, however, walked a dangerous line. They had the integrity to walk it without stepping too far out of bounds. Hitler and Stalin were the closest things the 20th Century ever saw to the embodiment of pure evil; I believe that the idea that some things are absolute–these things you always do, no matter what, and these things over here you never do, no matter what–can help serve to keep men like them in check.

Even more so, providing a safe environment for your political enemies is a must, and that’s something the United States has lost sight of. To hear our politicians speak, today’s opponents are just a notch or two away from a Hitler or a Stalin, and the stakes of winning and losing are growing ever higher. If we reach the point of persecution due to election results, then it’s time to really seriously think about getting out of here. And I say that in all seriousness.

And come on: You and I are, from what I can gather, politically more distant than Bush and Gore. But we’re civil towards one another and even work together. Difference of opinion is a good thing. If you and I know that, why can’t they?

When we lose sight of that idea, then we slide down a very slippery slope. We had a somewhat similar situation to this many, many years ago, when Aaron Burr more or less murdered Alexander Hamilton. Fortunately for the United States, other men in Burr’s party recognized him for what he really was after this sad incident, and Burr’s political career came to a rapid close. I don’t know if the political parties of today have that kind of restraint–we’ll start to see later this week–and I think that fear is the reason why the names Hitler and Stalin come up.

As for Shopper, I’m mostly thrilled to see there’s still a staff somewhere that gives a rip about producing a quality computer magazine. I see things in Shopper that I haven’t seen anywhere in a U.S. magazine since the late, great Compute folded in the early ’90s. So when I find something good, I feel obligated to say something about it. It’s just too bad it’s so #$%! expensive to ship it across the Atlantic.

And as for the language, your question of “The Spice Girls is” vs. “The Spice Girls are” would raise a major debate in the editorial office. Chances are, “is” would win out, as the band is a singular entity, but it sure sounds illiterate, even to my American ears. So I cracked out Working With Words, the best practical guide I can find to US English grammar, and the way I read it, yes, the singular is correct, but sounds so bad that you should write around it, e.g. “One of the most successful female bands of all time is The Spice Girls,” or “A great example of a terrible band is The Spice Girls.” Because, let’s face it, “The Spice Girls is terrible” sounds like it should be followed by, “Hank Williams Jr. kicks #*%!” No wonder you think we’re all cowboys over here…

An interesting passage from Working With Words, page 28:

The jury was unanimous. But The jury were split. (Sounds odd, but you can’t always trust your ear when it comes to traditional grammar. To avoid the obvious ugliness of The jury were split, it it possible to add the word members after jury, or, better yet, to substitute the word jurors.)

I’m trying to figure out if it should bother me that I’m amused by this…

This doesn’t really need any comment, other than the observation that a popular t-shirt in the crowd I ran around with when Dubya’s dad was running against Bill Clinton read, “Tanned, Rested and Ready: Nixon ’92.”

From: Dave Wootten

WE NEED A RICHARD NIXON

(to the tune of “We Need a Little Christmas” from “Mame”)
(with apologies to Jerry Herman)
 

Throw out the lawsuits;
Decide the vote before the market falls again.
Fill in the winner,
I may be rushing things,
But close the ballot box now!

For we need a Richard Nixon
Right this very minute,
Before a re-count kicks in,
And nobody will win it

Yes, we need a Richard Nixon
Right this very minute.
The ballot cards are getting blurry,
The nation, Dick, is in a hurry.

So calm down Dade County:
You had the biggest string of lies I’ve ever seen.
Fill up the courtroom;
It’s time we Gored-whom-ever, steals the vote from us now.

For I’ve grown a little meaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
All this on my shoulder,

And I need a little angel
Telling me “I-told-ya”
Need a Richard Nixon now.
 

Call off the hand counts:
If you demand counts – you are, losing anyway;
Stop the election,
But Leave-her-man, it’s four weeks
Past Election Day now!
 
But we need a Richard Nixon
Right this very minute,
Bush and Gore are losin’
No matter how they “spin” it.

Yes, we need a Richard Nixon
Right this very minute.
Electors might just have to scurry
Or this might go down to a jury.

So tone down the media:
Or they’ll concede ya’ – lost it – on Election Day
Slice up the precincts:
It’s time we hung some neo-politician right now!

For we don’t need Thomas Brokaw,
Don’t need Daniel Rather,
Don’t need Peter Jennings,
Spewing out their blather.

And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”
Need a Richard Nixon now.

Need a Richard Nixon now.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: David_Blodgett@doh.state.fl.us
Subject: >8GB Hard Drives
I just read today’s post and say your problem getting 8.4GB HD to work.  I almost hesitated to mention this, but do you have the latest BIOS for your motherboards?  As I’m sure you know, in the past we’ve gone though many hard drive BIOS limitations, first around 500+ MB, then 2GB and most recently just over 8GB.  Even a year old MB that has not had a BIOS update might have problems with the bigger drives.

Also, if you’re dual booting, make sure the partitions that could be active for booting an os are totally with in the first 8GB.  Most MS os’s have problems if the boot partition (or system partition for NT) crosses that line.  I believe Win2000 is not affected by this, but I could be wrong (I’ve seen NT blow up).

Good Luck, and I love the site

David J Blodgett
~~~~~

I have very recent BIOSes in all of them (I had a problem with the latest BIOS on one board so I went back one revision). Can’t check right now for the very latest because my ISP’s having problems. The BIOS is always the first thing I suspect.
 
The drive does work, for the most part–I can see all of it. But the BIOS is reporting a 500-meg drive, and some utilities see the contradiction and squawk about it, as they probably should. Then some of them refuse to work, as they probably shouldn’t.
 
Thanks for the warning on the OS. I generally install each OS on a dedicated 2 GB partition, then put apps and data on separate partitions. By that design, I’m not too likely to go past that 8 GB. I think that’s less of an issue with Windows 98 and on, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. I might as well test it while I’ve got a system torn down to that level so I can say with authority. (This is a Windows 9x-oriented article anyway, but I might as well throw NT and 2K into the mix if I still have the space.)
 
I’m glad you enjoy the site. Thanks!
~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Jan Swijsen” <qjsw@nospam.oce.nl>
Subject: strings

DF>Strings are good for guitars, not computers.
<g>And I thought that Perl was fantastic with strings.

 

DF>Computer Shopper is every bit as well-designed.
<g>Not just well-designed. It packs loads of between the lines hinted humour. Real British.  American mags are way to ‘business’ oriented, there is no fun in them.

~~~~~

I should know better than to make puns with you watching; you’ll come in and out-do me every time. Though a non-programmer will get mine…

I was talking with Di (my sister) about writing for a British magazine, and I mentioned the stereotypes. Americans tend to think of the British as overly stuffy and formal; the British, from what I can tell, think we’re all cowboys. Shopper’s definitely not overly stuffy and formal (unlike US computer mags, none of which I bother to pay for anymore and I’ve been trying to let my InfoWorld subscription lapse for well over a year and THEY WON’T LET ME!), which blows that stereotype, and in my upcoming article I talk about listening to the British New Wave bands Joy Division and A Flock of Seagulls, which should establish me as something other than a cowboy.

I noticed their humor in the selection of the art for this upcoming article.  I probably laughed for five minutes after I saw it in PDF form.
~~~~~~~~~~

12/08/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

It’s my birthday today. Birthdays cease being a big deal at some point; maybe after age 21 (though the big deal about my 21st wasn’t my age; I had a program for my C class due at midnight–all I remember is it involved linked lists, I hate linked lists, and the only good thing you could say about my program was it did compile–and I had copy editing and Irish history finals the next day). I’m going out tonight; last night I ate out and went to a concert, so I guess I’m treating myself right in spite of this not being a big deal.

I realized at one point a few weeks ago that I’d accomplished everything I’d set out to do by age 25, though not always in the way or quantity I’d hoped. That’s a nice realization to come to. Hopefully I’ll have similarly nice things to say about my second quarter-century.

I spent yesterday continuing my dual-boot experiments. For some reason, all of my motherboards want to think my >8.4-gig drives are half-gig jobs. I don’t get it. They’re all reasonably new; but even my year-old Abit BP6 is doing it. Normally not a problem, but some utilities software yells “out of bounds!” when it sees it. Using a UDMA-66 controller solves the problem (the BP6 has an HP366 controller built in, and I have Promise Ultra-66 I keep around), but that alerts me to another problem: XOSL doesn’t want to work with either controller for some reason. I e-mailed the author about that; I know I’m not the only one who uses these things because a lot of people buy the line that they need a UDMA-66 or UDMA-100 controller if they buy such a hard drive. I’m hoping he’s got a workaround of some sort.

I’m hoping I can find a solution before deadline; otherwise the 98/Me dual-boot article will have problems. I can give my editor a different article–there’s certainly a lot about Windows optimization I’ve left unsaid in the seven pages I’ve written so far–but seeing as he specifically asked me to investigate this, I’ll feel bad if I don’t deliver something, or if I deliver something with significant strings attached. Strings are good for guitars, not computers.

And a good question. Someone asked me today about something that I interpreted to be about the build-to-order strategy of PCs, a strategy which Dell and Gateway have ridden to such great success. I held them up as examples that work, and Apple as an example that right now isn’t. They have 11 weeks’ worth of unsold inventory built up at the moment and expect to bleed cash again this quarter. I guess the lesson there is that having huge databases to analyze can help, and computerization of the ordering process can help you buy exactly what you need right when you need it, but computers are no better than humans at predicting the future. I.T. won’t solve all of a business’ problems.

I have no idea if that’s what she was looking for in an answer, but I think that bit about IT not solving all problems is something not everyone gets yet. Computers solve a lot of problems. They also raise expectations greatly, and they (and we) don’t always live up to them.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “John W. Braue, III” <braue@nospam.ratsnest.win.net>
Subject: For the Greater Good
In your daynotes for 6 December 2000, you quote Chris Miller as saying:  “Lawbreaking is relative. Your greatest presidents, Lincoln and Roosevelt, bent the rules for the greater good[…]”.

Didn’t Hitler and Stalin bend (and, indeed smash all to pieces) rules for the greater good?  What they proclaimed to be the greater good, of course, but it’s difficult to hold a reasoned discussion when the tanks are bearing down on one…

If the U.S. is a democracy, then let us acknowledge , as Mark Bridgers wrote, that the law is the Will of the People (with, granted, a certain time lag), and that opposing it by demonstrations and civil disobedience, even for a “greater good”, is itself Undemocratic and, _ipso facto_, evil (how many people would be willing, in this day and age. to deny the truth of _vox populi, vox Dei_?).  If it is a republic, then let us acknowledge that the law is indeed the law, and then breaking it and getting away with it does not justify either that action or future repetitions of it.  And, if the U.S. neither, let us can all of this election foolishness, and get down to the serious business of coups, revolutions, and civil wars to determine which _caudillo_, machine pistol in hand, is going to enforce his vision of the “greater good”.

John W. Braue, III

~~~~~

Well, I didn’t want to think of it in exactly those terms, but yes, they did.

The best time to make a decision is usually not when we’re caught up in the moment, as that leads to haste. I find myself agreeing with what you say and not really having anything to add.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Gary Mugford
Subject: My script and Bless the Sound Card

Dave,

“The guys over at Junkbusters have a different solution. Make ’em sweat. They’ve even got a script with questions to ask. Visit them if you’re sick of the bother.
“Print it out, then keep it by the phone. And when you pick up the phone and get that tell-tale delay, followed by an unfamiliar voice who mispronounces your name, pounce. “Is this a telemarketing call?” (That question weeds out the other annoying phone calls, like Chrysler and MCI Worldcom calling up because of billing problems–sorry, you’ve gotta deal with those on your own.) If the answer is yes, then keep going. “Could you tell me your full name please? And a phone number, area code first?” And they’ve got 12 other questions, where those came from.”

For years, I’ve had the dickens to try and talk family members OUT of talking with telemarketers. My mom used to get involved in the talk, apologize profusely for declining and then be mad upon hanging up. I gave her a copy of my script to use:

“I’m sorry, I must interrupt you. We do not accept over-the-phone solicitation. Please feel free to mail us literature. Thank you very kindly for calling, good-bye.” THEN HANG UP. She wouldn’t use it.

This works pretty well, except for the ones that DID manage to get mom to send them something. Long after the parental units were retired and moved down to the Lake, I would still get phone calls at their number. I finally went to the trouble to record the little speechlet and put the file on the toolbar to press whenever I got ONE of THOSE phone calls. Now, it’s answer the phone, realize what’s happening, double-click and hold the phone DIRECTLY over my speaker and then hang-up.

GM

~~~~~

That approach works too. The Junkbusters solution is legally binding in the States, though I’m sure Canadian laws are different so up north your approach is probably at least as good.

Of course, if I were to take your approach and I happened to be listening to some doom-and-gloom Sisters of Mercy or Joy Division when the call happened, that’d make some nice background–serenade them with some music that’s definitely an acquired taste while they get my schpiel.

Another suggestion I’ve heard was to put them on hold for five minutes, then come back on and sing showtunes very badly until they hang up.
~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Michal Kaznowski” <michalkaznowski@nospam.yahoo.com>

Subject: Re[2]: DPMI error while zipping windows

Hello Dave,

Monday, December 04, 2000, 3:06:44 PM, you wrote:

DF> Try downloading this. Put the executable files from this archive into the same directory as your Info-Zip executables. Let me know ASAP if that doesn’t fix it. (This is as painful as some Linux programs’ installations!)

Done.  It will probably work when I have mastered the syntax.  At the moment after running the csdpmi executables I get

ZIP I/O error no such file or directory

with your command line. I have also tried making a windows.zip file for zip to write to.

(MSDOS mode cd to C:zip run cwsdpmi etc then your command line)

DF> Thanks for your encouraging words on Optimizing Windows.

You have a nice line in understatement.  My brother, who is computer tech support for the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, tells me it is the best reference book he has ever used!

DF>  Unfortunately, O’Reilly cancelled the Linux book, so for now I’m just writing Windows optimization articles for Computer Shopper UK and taking a few months off from book writing while I decide what to do next.

There is an air of Linux taking off here in the UK and just recently {I have been looking for some time) two magazines have appeared catering for Linux use.

Linux Format (Future Publishing) www.linuxformat.co.uk

and Linux Magazine www.linux-magazine.co.uk

as well as the coverage in PCPlus also Future Publishing.

Maybe a series of articles in one or other could be the backbone of your Linux book on the back of the terrific reviews your Optimizing Windows had.

All the best,

Michal Kaznowski

(PS My kids thought the arch was terrific this summer – but I felt awful queasy up there).

~~~~~

What command line are you using? I seem to recall there was a typesetting error on one of the Zip commands in the book, though I can’t remember which one at this point.

I’m very much enjoying working with Computer Shopper UK, which I’ve hopefully expressed to the right people. I think they’ve done an outstanding job on my “Optimise Your PC” series, and I still sound American, even after translating my spellings to the British form. I’m trying to remember it so they’ll have to make fewer changes with the next one.

I’m not sure when I was last up in the Arch–it must have been 10 years ago. The slight sway in the wind always made me think the thing was about to topple over, though it’s survived minor earthquakes without damage so that’s ridiculous. I also remember it being pretty cramped.

12/05/2000

The Asus A7V motherboard and Unix. I’ve been seeing a lot of search engine hits with phrases containing “Asus A7V” and various Unix bretheren (NetBSD and Linux, most recently). I know exactly what posting is turning up under that query–the dream system of a few weeks back.

Is there something weird about the A7V and the BSDs and Linux that people should know about? Installation difficulties? Or are people just trying to confirm compatibility?

Any of you intrepid searchers care to comment? I have to admit, you’ve got me curious.

When replying to reader mail, remember that we spam-filter the addresses. I insert the word “nospam” into the address somewhere, in order to prevent this site from being a bonanza of e-mail addresses for spammers. You can reply by clicking their link, but remove the “nospam.” in their e-mail address before hitting your Send button.

I like reader mail because it builds community, but I hate spam and don’t want that penalty for readers who participate.

I used to keep a trap for spambots on the page, but this is more effective. Though maybe I should set a trap again. Depends on how vindictive I feel, I guess.

Disable your screen saver before playing DOS games inside Windows. I forgot to mention this little tidbit in Optimizing Windows, and I also forgot to mention it in my upcoming Computer Shopper UK article, which is about getting cantankerous DOS games running, even under the reputedly DOS-unfriendly Windows Me.

The games will run, but if you’re sitting there thinking for a long time and your screen saver kicks in at the wrong moment, your system may freeze. Doesn’t seem to happen all that often, but it happened to me yesterday when I was playing The Secret of Monkey Island (I’d forgotten how much I love that game).

That game also makes me feel old. I first played it on a CGA system. Needless to say, it looks a lot better in VGA.

My standard screen saver advice. Screen savers are generally a bad idea anyway, because most screen savers do more harm than good these days. In the days of low refresh rates, images could burn into the screen’s phosphers if the screen sat idle for too long. The high-refresh monitors made since 1994 or so are largely immune to this. But people continue to use screen savers out of the mistaken belief that they’re good for your computer, or because of tradition, or because they look cool.

The more colors a monitor has to display in rapid succession, the more likely it is to deterriorate quickly. The easiest color for your monitor to display is black, because all the guns are off. Keep a rapidly changing image up on the screen, and your monitor actually ends up working harder. As does your CPU–the 3D screen savers make your CPU work harder than Word and Excel and Outlook do. Combined. This increases heat and electrical usage, two things that businesses tend to worry about a lot. They buy green PCs, then keep their energy-saving features from ever truly kicking in (other than spinning down the disk, the savings of which is negligible) by not banning screen savers. Yet they think they’re being all eco-friendly.

Case point: one of the PCs I use at work was first used by a contractor we let go back in March after he’d been there about a year. He had every gimmicky blinky obnoxious screen saver out there, and he used them, leaving the monitor on all the time. The monitor still works, but the color is all messed up. The color quality on my ancient NEC MultiSync 3FGe at home is much, much, much better than on this two-year-old Micron-branded monitor.

If you want to treat your monitor right, use the Blank Screen screen saver or another blanker. And don’t fret if you have to disable it from time to time.

12/04/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

I’d forgotten how many telemarketing phone calls you get during the day. Blimey or something! How are you supposed to get anything done?

I had a classmate who used to mess with them. “You want to sell me windows? My house doesn’t have any windows, you see, because it’s a cardboard box. Sure, you can get phone service to a cardboard box. You can get cable TV too. I thought about a mini-dish but I’m not so sure my walls could handle the weight.”

He really enjoyed the roofing people, because he could tell them, in all honesty, “I don’t have a roof.” Hey, when you live in an apartment building, if you’re not on the top floor, you don’t.

The guys over at Junkbusters have a different solution. Make ’em sweat. They’ve even got a script with questions to ask. Visit them at www.junkbusters.com/ht/en/telemarketing.html if you’re sick of the bother.

Print it out, then keep it by the phone. And when you pick up the phone and get that tell-tale delay, followed by an unfamiliar voice who mispronounces your name, pounce. “Is this a telemarketing call?” (That question weeds out the other annoying phone calls, like Chrysler and MCI Worldcom calling up because of billing problems–sorry, you’ve gotta deal with those on your own.) If the answer is yes, then keep going. ” Could you tell me your full name please? And a phone number, area code first?” And they’ve got 12 other questions, where those came from.

I’m vacationing in beautiful Mehlville, Mo. as I write. Before you get too excited, I live in Mehlville. (It’s a St. Louis suburb.) My boss’ boss e-mailed me a while back and said, “Go on vacation!” so I did. Gives me a chance to catch up around the place–there’s a lot I’ve been neglecting.

Plus it gives me a chance to work on that last article for Shopper UK.

I’ve been reading Guts, the business strategy book by former Chrysler #2 man Robert Lutz. Lutz was the driving force (or a major driving force) behind all of Chrysler’s bold experiments in the 1990s before Daimler-Benz swallowed them. Interesting reading for anyone interested in business or the auto industry, though I’d have liked to see more of a memoir from him. Lutz didn’t graduate high school until age 22. How do you go from graduating high school at 22 to No. 2 man at Forbes’ 1997 Company of the Year? No matter how successful you are, there are lessons to learn from this guy. Obviously there’s more to him than an MBA, a stint in the Marines, and an interest in cars, and I want to know what that is.

I’m guessing there’ll be more later. No idea when. I’ve got a really hairy question from an Optimizing Windows reader to figure out.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Rodrigo Zamora” <rzam@nospam.cox-internet.com>
Subject: Sound Blaster Value
From what I have read the SB Value is exactly the same thing as the more expensive models except that it does not include the daughter card which has extra connections.  And it obviously didn’t have the LiveDrive which only comes with the Platinum.  However, this is not an issue since you can purchase these devices as add-on upgrades either from Creative or clones from another company.

The newer Values came with a Digital output which the older versions did not have.  In fact, it appears that even the AC3 Dolby Digital feature supported in the newer 5.1 seems to be only a  software (driver) update.  In other words, it seems that ANY SB Live! can do AC3 support with the right driver.

By the way, where did you hear that the Values have been discontinued? Creative still sells them on their site.

Rodrigo Zamora

~~~~~

The Value is a slightly different card, see http://www.byte.com/feature/BYT19991020S0006, and also http://alive.singnet.com.sg/features/products/. The main difference seems to be the quality of jacks used; when doing voice recognition or recording, you’ll notice the difference. Chances are you’ll notice a difference in output quality as well, though I haven’t tried the two cards side-by-side myself to confirm. They do use the same chipset, and some of the Value cards seem to have digital output capability, while others don’t. (My Live! MP3+ makes even a cheap pair of desktop speakers sound really good; connected to a stereo it’s nothing short of awesome.)

I’m pretty sure that I read in the Dragon NaturallySpeaking forums that the Value was discontinued and replaced by the MP3+ and Gamer (the difference in those cards is the software bundle). And the Value, though listed on Creative’s site, is out of stock there. I did find the card over at www.mwave.com priced at $47.

So for some uses, there’s little difference and the Value may be a way to save $40. But I will say the software that comes with the MP3+ is definitely worth the extra money if it’s at all useful to you.

I found a third-party daughtercard, at www.hoontech.com; any idea who makes the LiveDrive clone? Creative’s is pretty pricey; if the clone is less expensive, I’m sure there’s a huge market for it.

Thanks.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Gary Mugford” <mugford@nospam.aztec-net.com>

Subject: This and that

Dave,

   I actually saw, on the shelf for the first time, your book at Chapters, Friday. Still full price. Bought it anyway as a Christmas present. Worked wonders for my tech guy’s appreciation of his software guy, if you know what I mean. I’m sure it’ll be appreciated by its intended recipient, too.

   Dirty333 crashed rather spectacularly last week. It’s been a week of getting Tookie up and running to take its place. (segue to explain the names: The machine was an Win95B AMD K6-333. There was a famous player in the Canadian Football League named Jim Young, nicknamed Dirty 33.  I’m a lapsed jock journalist. Tookie’s a Win2K machine born in 2000). I lost a day’s worth of work to the crash and four days re-installing everything and getting the settings just so. All in all, I’m happy about the move, save for the switch over to a modern Logitech keyboard from the old 84-key keyboards that I’ve used since forever. Just why the hell is that damned capslock key STILL being put there long after the alternative for emphasis became font and style changes, rather than capping? Not to start a holy war, however.

   On the other hand, as a disinterested third party, I still have some reservations about the American election just past. I have no quarrel with the basic concept that a lot of people voted for an agenda they prefer. I do have a problem with some people who voted AGAINST one candidate or the other, as that’s an incredibly stupid way to cut your nose off. Better to waste the ballot, then to do that (I’ve probably wasted half the ballots I’ve ever cast, because nobody earned my vote. And to make it obvious, I would mark off EVERY box). But it seems a lot of people voted against Gore. And I think that had a part to play in the Bush victory.

   We don’t directly vote for Prime Minister in Canada. So, I’m never put to the task of deciding I like my local guy and hate his leader, or vice-versa. I’ve got no choice. And so, apparently, did you [G]. One’s supposed to be a ding-dong (my one meeting was pleasant, brief and non-opinion-forming) and the other was so stupid, he blew an easy victory by wanting to be his own man. One’s supposed to be a leader, but has never been anything more than a figurehead, except when he was losing money looking for oil in Texas, while the other was a very active partner in running the country (and the back room). The nitwit Nader was right in one respect, both of them were the same guy with slightly different accents.

   The difference was in the political apparatus behind them. That’s all. Bush will be a one-term president, as his father was. And the family failure to not keep promises will be his undoing. That it was the gridlock in Washington that will have forced him into recanting, will be forgotten in ’04. Gore will also go the way of the Quayle and nibble away at the fringes. Whether Gephardt or Kerry or whoever runs, they will beat Bush. They will be repeating the winning mantra of the ’90s, “It’s the economy, stupid!” And the American populace, longing for the good old ’90s will march to the polls and reverse the error of 2000.

   As far as Florida is concerned, it’s hard to see how either side can pretend to the moral high ground. The Democrats actually put in WRITING how to deny overseas ballots. And Gore’s supposed to be the bright one, right? But that was balanced by the Republicans delaying legal recounts, going to court first, arranging for out-of-town ‘ordinary folk’ to show up repeatedly to exercise their fully-paid for First Amendment rights and they repeatedly made mistakes over-reaching whatever was in their grasp at the moment.  The election day-after cabinet posing was designed to fool the umpire, but there was no umpire. The citing of Nixon’s consession to Kennedy despite Daley’s dad’s malfeasance in Illinois overlooked the fact the state’s electoral votes didn’t affect the outcome one way or the other. Calling the hand count tabulators all kinds of names, including suggesting illegalities when monitors from both sides were there, was assinine. Arguing against standards for assessing a questionable vote that were no less forgiving than that of the Texas law signed by Bush was the equivalent of Gore’s absentee ballot crushing screwup. But the rallying cry in ’02 will be the Republican refusal to recount the whole state and after-the-fact attempt to squash the recounts that DID take place.

   Even I could run that PR campaign. “Make it clear to the Republicans, your vote DOES count… this time!”

   So, on behalf of all Canadians, we say to you Americans, “Thanks for the entertainment! [G]”

   Regards, Gary
  ~~~~~

Thanks for the purchase! I’ve yet to see the book in a store myself. Of course it won’t sell if people can’t find it… O’Reilly needs to get it into stores before they have any right to complain about its lack of sales. Sandy McMurray’s review and the subsequent run on the book up north should have said something, I would think.

You just gave me an idea on machine names, and how to remember their IP addresses. This computer’s name is George Brett, and it’s 192.168.0.5; this one’s Mike Sweeney at 192.168.0.29. Problem is, I don’t know that there are five Royals whose uniform numbers I remember quickly, and do I really want to name my gateway after Buddy Biancalana or Rey Sanchez? But I’ll definitely name the Packard Bell I deny owning (I didn’t buy it new!) after Johnny Damon since he’s being the biggest putz since Jose Offerman. He deserves to have a piece-o’-junk computer named after him.

As for intelligence in U.S. politics, Gore’s supposedly the brighter one, but I remember seeing a video clip where he and the esteemed Mr. Clinton were touring Monticello, and Gore pointed to a picture on a wall and asked, “Who’s that?” The tour guide replied, “Well, that’s George Washington…”

I’ve never met a flunkie who didn’t recognize Washington (his face is all over the place, after all, including the one-dollar bill and the quarter, so you can’t spend money without seeing him occasionally), let alone any intelligent person who’s been in the United States more than a week.

General consensus is that Dan Quayle is smarter than both of them.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “James Cooley” <c_closet@nospam.dnai.com>
Subject: Yer Mom’s Great!

Dave,

Ah, your mom is great! Has Jerry Pournelle seen this? Would make a splendid addition to his stumping against ADD in the classroom.

As a computer repair guy myself I have a motto to share: “Focus on the solution, not the problem.” Regards,

Jim
~~~~~

Thanks.

I’m sure there’s not much room on Jerry Pournelle’s reading list for my site. Of course, with psych being one of his PhDs, he’s certainly qualified to talk on the subject.

Hasn’t Jerry said before that he probably would have been diagnosed as ADD in his youth, and in reality his “problem” was that he was better-read than a lot of his teachers and was just plain bored and unchallenged? (I’m doubly fortunate in that regard; I’m not as bright as Jerry and my teachers always bent the rules and let me work above my grade level to make sure I was adequately challenged.)

Good motto, especially if you remember that the easiest solution often involves cable connections and system logs.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Michal Kaznowski” <michalkaznowski@nospam.yahoo.com> Subject: DPMI error while zipping windows

Hello David,

If you have the time, might you be able to point me to the easiest solution of a problem I have been having when using info-zip to zip a windows installation.

I get:

load Error no DPMI – Get csdpmi*b.zip

I am aware that Protected mode is required, but what is the easiest way of obtaining this.  I am mostly using 98SE (And Slackware 7.0 and SuSE) to install for friends, family and some that pay(!) and would prepare boot disc just to be able to run zip and unzip on the backup as described on page 201/2 of your guide to life and computers.

Your book is a raving success with my friends (what few I have as I like computers) and numerous copies have been purchased.  We are all looking forward to your definitive guide on a version of Linux so that we can all use it without the pain we have at present

-Best regards, Michal                         

~~~~~

Try downloading ftp://ftp.simtel.net/pub/simtelnet/gnu/djgpp/v2misc/csdpmi5b.zip. Put the executable files from this archive into the same directory as your Info-Zip executables. Let me know ASAP if that doesn’t fix it. (This is as painful as some Linux programs’ installations!)

Thanks for your encouraging words on Optimizing Windows. Unfortunately, O’Reilly cancelled the Linux book, so for now I’m just writing Windows optimization articles for Computer Shopper UK and taking a few months off from book writing while I decide what to do next.

~~~~~~~~~~

 

12/02/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Optimizing Windows is half price at Amazon.com. I questioned whether that might mean we’re nearing the end of the line, but that seems not to be the case. The paperback edition of Robert Lutz’s business book about the transformation of Chrysler in the late 1980s, Guts, is also half-price. I know that book’s not going out of print yet. So Amazon must be running some kind of holiday promotion on paperbacks.

What’s Optimizing Windows all about? My premise is that no PC built in the last three years or so is truly obsolete. You’ve got a pile of resources there, and Windows probably isn’t using them wisely. I argue that you need to make your computer work smarter, before you make it work harder, and I show you how. (Contrary to what one person asked me, it’s not a book about bird feeders.)

For $12.47, you can definitely squeeze another year out of that old clunker (or add some more zip to your new hot rod). This is the book I needed but couldn’t find when I was faced with the challenge of managing a fleet of three-year-old PCs, well past obsolesence, but with no funds to replace them. The three-year-old PCs of today are much better than they were in 1997.

So if you’ve been waiting to pick up Optimizing Windows, this is a good time to do it.

That’s enough attempt at marketing for one day. Well, wait, one more thing. Here’s a review by popular Canadian syndicated columnist Sandy McMurray.

Presidential questions. Chris Miller, the production editor at Computer Shopper UK, wrote in with some questions that really made me sit down and think about the election. I think this bears repeating and I have little else to say, so here goes.

Incidentally… isn’t it worth campaigning for electoral justice when (a) it’s looking like the candidate with more votes will lose, (b) there’s the distinct whiff of corruption in Jeb’s Florida, and (c) the man you say should win is a murderer of innocent men and the mentally disabled?

Just a thought, I’m sure they know what they’re doing
Regards
Chris

To which I responded:

I’m sure we’re giving you plenty of laughs across the Big Pond with our election. My reaction to your questions…
 
a. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It doesn’t happen often–the other time was in 1888, when Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison despite winning the popular vote. The United States is a republic, not a true democracy. George W. Bush did win the larger number of states, and a much larger geographic area. Al Gore’s support is very much concentrated along each coast and mostly in metropolitan areas. There’s no question that Bush could have won the popular vote. But politicians care about electoral votes, rather than the popular vote, and adjust their game plan accordingly. (Both candidates garnered far more votes than Bill Clinton ever did.)
 
b. There are questionable acts in Florida from both sides. Statisticians have questioned the likelihood of Gore gaining the number of votes he has. It’s very easy to steal a close election, and both parties have done it before in the past. This is the first time a presidential election has been this closely contested, however. There’ve been opportunities in the past–Gerald Ford in 1976 and Richard Nixon in 1960 are the most notable recent examples. For various reasons, they didn’t contest. Republicans filling out missing information on requests for absentee ballots (not, as widely reported, on the ballots themselves–that didn’t happen) is questionable, but even Gore himself said every vote should be counted. (I think he really means “every vote for me should be counted,” but that’s not what he said, and no one ever put Al Gore in charge of this election. We’re a republic, not a dictatorship.)
 
But the alleged “mob” Gore speaks of was about 30 well-dressed people whose lone demand was that the press be let in to observe recounting procedures. If everything going on behind those doors was free and clear, why were they afraid to let the press in? Why did they feel the need to try to paint this group of protesters as a mob?
 
Meanwhile, there was a case, not widely reported, in Washington of a Gore supporter punching a 13-year-old boy in the stomach for carrying an anti-Gore sign. No one in the group of Gore supporters pointed out the perpetrator to police.
 
c. The death penalty is one of the few protections citizens have against cruel and unusual crimes. Not all states have it. Bush is more of a death penalty hawk than some governors, but the citizens of Texas were the ones who put that law on the books. Bush is simply the final appeal for criminals who have been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He’s not the jury, he’s not the executioner, nor is he the judge who does the sentencing.
 
But I think my greatest lament is there was a time when the two major presidential candidates and parties trusted one another enough to politely step aside and transfer power. They did not truly believe that the other party, or at least one politician, could destroy the country in 2, 4, or 6 years (be they a representative, president, or senator). History has proven that. We have plenty of infamous presidents who were caught breaking the law or doing (or trying to do) things of questionable legality under the Constitution: Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Grant, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton… None of them destroyed the country. Some of them changed it very dramatically. But Harding may have been the most corrupt of the bunch (at least his administration was), and no one’s ever heard of him today.
 
The president has more power than the Queen, certainly, but the president is a figurehead. Without Congressional support, they can’t do much of anything. The overwhelming majority of US citizens know that, and would rather see this election resolved quickly than to see the fight go on. Gore’s support is eroding by the day, if not by the hour.
 
I believe Gore is mostly interested in being president, and gives indications he seems to believe the presidency is his birthright. The best thing for him to do would have been to go home, then run again in four years. He got more votes this year than Bill Clinton did either time he ran (as did Bush). Usually, a losing presidential candidate’s career is over, but not always. Richard Nixon ran again in 1968 after losing a close (but not this close) race in 1960, and won. Grover Cleveland won the presidency in 1884, lost his 1888 re-election bid (but won the popular vote–a parallel Gore should have noticed), then won four years later when he ran again. Gore probably stood a better chance of defeating Bush in 2004 than any other Democrat would, with the possible exception of Dick Gephardt, who won’t run anyway until he gets his chance to be Speaker of the House. The US economy isn’t likely to sustain its current levels because our booming economy is largely due to people spending more than they make and racking up debt and that has to slow down, and it won’t be Bush’s fault, but he’ll take the fall, so the same thing that happened to his dad could very easily happen to him. Gore should have cut his losses and gone home, especially once this election reached the point where there was no legal precedent to overturn it.
 
These are my thoughts, based on the year and a half or so I spent as a part-time political reporter, in addition to what I’ve picked up from friends who are political activists (both conservative and liberal), and from my knowledge of US history (a subject on which most USers are woefully deficient). I’m certainly more conservative than Gore, and that colors my opinion, but eight years of Clinton have proven to me that my history teachers were right–even given eight years in office, no president is likely to destory this country. There is no historical precedence for it. Now, if we are now on a slippery slope after a century of mostly questionable presidents, maybe one will be able to in the near future. I know Bush won’t destroy us and I’m pretty sure Gore couldn’t either, at least not with a Republican-controlled or evenly divided Congress.
 
Discussions have been posted. Click the skull below, or click here.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Tom Brill” <tbrill@nospam.orofino-id.com>
Subject: good modems

Love your column. Ordered your book. Last Friday you mentioned that Zoom had a quality modem. Do you remember the model? Is it true that all external modems are non Win-modems?
Thanks, Tom
~~~~~

Thanks much!
The Zoom 2920 was the internal PCI controller-based modem I was referring to. I’ve had great luck with Lucent-based modems and Zoom is one of the few remaining reputable modem manufacturers out there.
Zoom has a nice configurator at http://www.zoom.com/modemsna.html where you can find a modem to meet your needs. To avoid getting a Winmodem, specify Unix or Linux compatibility, even if you intend to use it with Windows, and look for the words “controller based”–most modem makers will tout that as a feature these days and throw in buzzwords like “performance” and “enhanced” and “speed.”
US Robotics has a chart at http://www.usrobotics.com/products/home/compare-home.asp that serves a similar purpose. The consumer-oriented US Robotics Performance Pro modem (3CP5610A) also looks good. Not sure if USR is still developing and using their own chipsets or if they’ve gone to Lucent and Rockwell chipsets as a cost-saving measure.
I know of no external Winmodems, but they’re not a technical impossibility. I doubt we’ll ever see serial (RS-232) Winmodems, but USB Winmodems would be less of a surprise. I know of none, and it kind of defeats the purpose, but the words “no external modems are Winmodems” make me nervous. If you want to be really safe now and in the future, look for DOS and Linux compatibility even if you’re buying an external.
Thanks again.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: Al Hedstrom
Subject: The Optimizing Book

Dave –
 
Yes, Amazon has it on sale, but they make up for it on their shipping.  I did a comparison for final cost with shipping and tax and BookPool is still cheaper (by 30 cents).
 
Just thought you’d like to know.
 
BTW, I think your notes today were excellent.  I’ve followed your column for a few years now, but your comments on American politics were right on the money. 
 
Al Hedstrom
http://dadspcchronicles.editthispage.com
~~~~~
Figures. I hate it when companies lower their prices but then jack their shipping rates up to compensate. Especially when it ruins my marketing schpiel. In my day, I’ll tell you, people were honest and didn’t do things like–oh. Wait a minute. I’m 25. This is my day. Were people ever honest?
 
I guess the workaround is to order $100 worth of stuff so you can get the free shipping. Or order from Bookpool.
 
And thanks for the compliments on my soapboxing, both here and on your site. In response to your comments there, back when I was writing for newspapers, you know what editors did when I tried to write like that? They’d sprinkle their agenda into it, so I looked like a left-wing nut by the time the thing was finished. Of course, it was my name on it, not theirs. So I had to turn into a right-wing nut in the hopes that they’d miss a couple of right-wing nuggets and we’d have a somewhat balanced perspective. So I started writing about technology, in hopes that it’d all sail over the editors’ heads and they’d leave it alone. They found ways to mess that up too. So I said screw it, I’ll get a job fixing computers instead because at least it pays better.
 
And that’s why I don’t stop talking about Shopper UK. An editor’s job is to make sure the reporter/writer did his/her job and that the story doesn’t break any laws. But there aren’t many of those out there.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Bruce Edwards” <Bruce@nospam.BruceEdwards.com>
Subject: The Election

Hi Dave:
 
Enjoyed reading your journal today and appreciate your political view point. Another item some folks seem to forget (and I have not read the Texas statutes to verify this, but this is what has been reported) is that the governor of Texas can not stay an execution permanently or pardon someone condemned to die.  What he can do is give them a 30 day reprieve.  That, of course, does not change the valid point that the execution of those guilty of terrible crimes should  be done in the most solemn manner.
 
On a slightly different but related subject – if you find the time, I’d really appreciate your critique of my online journal and your comments on any of the topics discussed if they interest you.  I’ve been mostly thinking about the election lately and that really shows in the last four weeks or so but there are other topics addressed.
 
Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I look forward to your continued journal updates.
 
Sincerely,
Bruce
 
Bruce W. Edwards www.BruceEdwards.com/journal
~~~~~
Thanks. I’ll try to head your direction. I’m not the most well-traveled Daynoter due to my infamous wrists, but I’ll see what I can do. Not sure when I’ll fire off something like Saturday’s or Friday’s again (I
thought Friday’s late update was the better piece, which shows what I know), but I try to make it worth everyone’s while to come around.
 
Thanks again.

Make a Power Mac 7200 feel like a G4

I’m all over the place today. So fasten your seat belts. We’re going for a ride.

How do you make a Power Mac 7200/120 feel like a G4? Install vintage software on it. We’re dumping some old Power Macs at work, but since they’ve recycled some of the software licenses (and lost most of the rest), the only legal thing to do is to wipe the drives, install the now-free Mac OS 7.5.5 on it, and perhaps another free package or two. I went ahead and threw in WordPerfect 3.5, which Corel has made available free of charge. The systems boot in 45 seconds (even less if I defrag the drives and then run DiskWarrior) and WP loads in 7-9.

I hear System 6.0.8 on an SE/30 running programs like WriteNow is even nicer. From what I remember of using such a machine in 1992-93, it’s probably true. Memories fade and tales grow taller with time, but I remember that SE/30 was just about the fastest computer I ever used. It didn’t multitask, but then again, the PCs of the time didn’t multitask well. In those days if you wanted real multitasking, you had to get a Unix workstation or an Amiga.

In those days I used the SE/30 at school and had an Amiga 2000 at home. The SE/30 was definitely faster, but the Amiga let me multitask, and I abused the privelige. It’s arguable which machine made me more productive, as much as it pains me to admit.

I’ve also heard arguments that the SE/30 makes you more creative. That’s absolutely not universal. Having strong emotions about the tools you’re using certainly helps–and that can go either way. Intense hatred is as inspiring as intense love. Why do you think we hear so many love songs and love-gone-wrong songs? It might be more inspiring. I find it much easier to write angry angst-ridden punk or self-loathing goth (the two extremes of love gone wrong songs) than to write worship music, which, face it, is basically love songs to God.

I think a 1.2 GHz Athlon with a 15,000 RPM SCSI drive and 256 megs of RAM would make me more creative, but mostly because it wouldn’t stand in my way or slow me down.

And a stolen insight. I was talking and praying with another church member Wednesday night. He’s a psychology PhD, brilliant mind. We talked about work, and he was talking about a couple of his more extreme cases, and at one point, remembering what my own mind can do sometimes, I asked, “Is anyone normal?” Then he let loose with a pearl of wisdom.

Don’t focus on the disorder. Focus on the order, the things that work right.

Like my creative bursts! They’re usually accompanied by a mood swing. Focus on the creativity, good stuff happens. Focus on the mood swing, bad stuff happens.

We do this in other stuff. Nobody cares that the x86 is quite possibly the worst CPU architecture mankind ever foisted on itself. Trust me, it’s awful. I can program every other chip I’ve tried. OK, so me not being able to program something doesn’t make it awful, so let me state that another way. I can program other architectures. They’re easy, so they’re awesome. Not the x86. But the x86 has so much software for it–because programmers gave up and just decided to write in high-level languages–so no one cares how awful it is.

Nobody seems to care that the Mac never had preemptive multitasking or memory protection because it looks cool and makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you use it. It’s got that cuteness factor that people go ga-ga over.

Why is it we give these stupid machines the benefit of the doubt, but not each other? I don’t get it.

~~~~~~~~~~
From: “James Cooley” <c_closet@nospam.dnai.com>

Subject: S3 ViRGE 325

Dave,

Enjoy your column and read it daily. You refered to the above video card and I wanted to share your enthusiasm. I also wanted to point out that I use the driver at www.s3.com (try http://208.202.167.131/DRVVIEW.HTM for a direct link)instead of the huge Diamond drivers or the generic Win98 driver.

Regards,

Jim

~~~~~

Thanks. Yes, I also downloaded the S3 reference drivers for comparison; for now I’m just letting the Microsoft-supplied drivers do the job. I’ll
probably switch it this weekend though. S3 and Diamond definitely know their chipset and card better than Microsoft does.

I’ve always been impressed with Diamond’s cards; too bad their days as a prominent graphics card maker are pretty much over. I’m sure Guillemot’s video cards are fine, but Diamond was familiar.