Email to Brian Bilbrey

BPB Grafitti for Week from November 1 to November 7, 1999

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This is about computers, Linux, camping, games, fishing, software development, books and testing... the world around us. I have a weird viewpoint from a warped perspective. If you like that, cool.
Page Highlights
Not half bad...,   Seto on Linux,   Drownin' in mail,   Windows 2K Certification,   Digital "Divide",   Wasn't that fun,   Svenson on a roll,   Later Thursday,   TGIF,   Progress,   Microsoft Ruling...,   More MS,   Quickies,   Thanks, Tom,   Fiction & Hilarity,   Weather & Links,   Geisha, .sig,   John of Gaunt

MONDAY November 1, 1999

Not half bad... this 4 day work week thingy. Now if only I would relax a little instead of mucking with the computer all the day long. Huh? OK, so I slept in a little bit, then had some coffee and read the paper... Well, I was updating now. I just used a "feature" of Bluefish which dumped the last 10 minutes of work in the hopper - let me see if I can find the text...

[bilbrey]$ strings core | less

Nope, nothing there. Well, at least I have another feature to investigate and fix or report. So here we go, from memory. Interesting thing in the news (aside from the tragedy of the Egypt Air flight)... The Y2K Bonus, or some such moniker. The premise is that people will hoard some cash, and after the day, with the power still on, the water still flowing, instead of re-depositing their cash, people will spend. This will turn January, which is normally a month of retail hell, into quite a good month, economically speaking. Quite a theory, and about as worthless as every other prediction of events and behaviour on or about the turn of the calendar. We have a unique situation, no historical equivalent, and mob psychology... Hari Seldon, where are you???

We, the residents of Sunnyvale, California, have another opportunity to exercise our franchise tomorrow. A small local vote, a few council seats up for grabs and a bond measure for the junior colleges of the area, DeAnza and Foothill. Most of these local votes draw a tiny percentage of the eligible population. I generally belong to the category of can't complain if you don't vote. I love to complain ... <grin>

On to the mailbag. Bo rings in with a couple, the first on Amaya, which was one of my topic's yesterday, then on Bluefish...

Strange, that you sould have experienced such problems with Amaya. 
The double-click for a link is configurable, BTW -- one can run 
single-click mode instead; default is dc to simplify editing by 
allowing click-placement of cursor on link text. (Aolpress by 
comparison automatcally disables link-following if any text is 
previously selected, alternatively if you click a link with Ctrl).

I'll have to dl the Linux version and compare. Later, however. Have a 
lot of work to try and do just now.
When I first encountered tear-off menus, it was under 
Geneva/Neodesk on Atari ST running GEMDOS, like about 10 years 
ago. What comes round, comes round again. It's a nifty enough 
feature, windowing a menu so that it floats nearby, but I suppose it 
got forgotten when floating toolbars were introduced. (Can you 
imagine what MS would have done with adaptive tear-off menus? 
Animated, yet. Would look like a morphing dance of windows -- GUI 
by Picasso...)

/ Bo
"Bo Leuf" <>
Leuf fc3 Consultancy

Thanks for the feedback on both this and Amaya. I understand from Marcia that tear-off menus have been a feature under Solaris and its windowing environments all along. But I like it. And I cringe at the thought of Clippy spawning multitudes of tear-away menus in that environment. Shades of the Sorcerer's Apprentice. And then of course you would get the dreaded "System running low on virtual memory, close some applications." All you have running is Word in 128M of RAM!

On reading Dan Seto's entry for last Friday, I sent him an email which ended with "Clearly it is still a YMMV product. But I have not been fooled, and I am happy." But then again, that I am happy with Linux is probably apparent to all and sundry. I ain't a fan of religious wars in general.

Good morning Brian!

Thanks for the email. I will have a reply up on my site in about 10 minutes
or so [here]. I'm glad you are happy with Linux and I never implied that you or
anyone else was fooled. I guess what I was saying was that if anyone was
fooled, it was me in thinking that Linux apps and Linux were ready for prime
time as a desktop operating system. I don't thinks its ready for that yet.
But I sincerely hope that it will be soon.

As for your own situation, if it works for you great! Keep on keeping on (do
I date myself which such old phrases?).



And as such, I am going to bow out on this one. Dan's experiences with Linux have apparently been less than fortunate, and I shall not attempt to change his mind with facts, figures, hopes or rhetoric. If he is happy with his operating environment, bully for him. He can even send me .doc files - I'll open and read with StarOffice, feeling safe that a macrovirus won't eat my data and system files. :)

Then, Bo rings in again with this (leaving me laughing) -

> Thanks for the feedback on both this and Amaya.

Interesting stuff, e-postage is cheap, and delivery is fast.

> Marcia that tear-off menus have been a feature under Solaris and it's
> windowing environments all along.

"... I called the rep and complained that my menus were all torn off 
and I couldn't stick them back on, but he just laughed at me..."

> thought of Clippy spawning multitudes of tear-away menus in that

Couldn't be worse than a cluster of Outlook notes... Then again... On 
the other hand, have you ever had a drop-down list come off and fall 
all over your number keys? It's so embarrassing.

> you would get the dreaded "System running low on virtual memory, close
> some applications." All you have running is Notepad!

Funny that, how a Windows system seems only to have *virtual 
memory*, and never enough of that. The whole point of virtual was to 
obliviate arbitrary constraints, right?

/ Bo
"Bo Leuf" <>
Leuf fc3 Consultancy

And I am changing the background color again, since it hurts my eyes, Right here and now, Wolf. Thanks to Dan for the thumbs-up on voting, and to Bob for letting me know that I share a city with Buffy (a famous activist, fighting involuntary blood donation). Oh, wait Bob... Was that SunnyVALE or SunnyDALE???

Then Svenson jumps into the fray, with the following :

We had the end of the first millennium, going from 999 to 1000. All
computer crashed, taking contemporary history with them, and it took
almost a thousand years before we evolved back to computerdom.
I could be wrong.
And about a hundred million years back (give or take a few) there was
the first great computer crash going from 100M to 99M years past. The
Dinosaur computers couldn't handle that and turned belly up taking the
whole eco-system with them.
I could be wrong again.

And don't trust Hari Seldon, he will be using computers as well. His
large scale predictions will be all right but it will not save the
Imperial period from barbarism.

And that Mr. Mule - he seemed like such a nice little man... Did I say little? Sorry, I'm sure I meant to say vertically challenged.

I have been hard at work these past hours, and I think it is time to put down the keyboard, step away from the monitor and call it a day. Sheesh - and I didn't even "go to work" today. Sigh. Thanks for all the interesting feedback on a variety of topics today folks. The interplay of minds is fun. Good night.

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TUESDAY November 2, 1999

I look around me, and cannily determine that even though this is Tuesday, it most certainly isn't Belgium. Sigh. My hopes once again had risen to no purpose. Good morning, all. The topic is drowning in mail. 50 messages in the last 8 hours. Turn your back on the computer and see what happens?

Dr. Pournelle, Jesse Berst (of ZD Anchordesk), Netscape news, and a Qcad mailing list message land in the top level, along with 5 junk mails that my filters did not auto-delete. Time to refresh those rules. Undocumented Tips of the Day, from PC Computing, which I generally regard with the junk mail, but usually have a gander at, just in case, are now reporting in with tips for Windows2K, a product that isn't going to ship for 3 or more months. Is the beta community really that large?

(29) messages in Linux-Admin... Win98 clients, Linux server running Samba... ah, a sendmail answer I was waiting for - how to set up (really, I mean to disable) relaying in sendmail, so that this box can't be used as a spam relay and misdirection point. Thank you, Glynn. The du command to report directory contents by size - I once had known that and forgotten. Cool. Then there's a whole passel (sp?) of stuff over in SVLUG, but I gotta hit the road, Jack. Have a lovely day, I may catch up with a little more mid-dayish. Who knows?

Well, hi there. You are looking (metaphorically) at the guy that Syroid hates. Why, you might ask? Well, Gateway, in their infinite wisdom, has chosen to replace our dead, 2 year old, 17" monitor, with a refurbished 19" (18" viewable) tube... <SEG>. You know, I didn't know that there were that many unprintable, non-alphanumeric characters in the ASCII set - I never learned that much from George Carlin <grin>. Nice tube.

But what about Windows 2K certification, you ask? That was how I inveigled you into coming down here. I was reading in PC week that the hoops that ISV's have to put their products through to get the package Certified Win2K Compliant are just a tad on the strenuous side. Strenuous to the point that the only package that currently has certification is an OCR package from (I think) Omni (?). The article didn't mention whether any MS products have passed the certification, which by the way is only locked in for Pro. Server specifications for certification apparently aren't due until mid-December. I am going to snag that article at work, and get some more details. The upshot is that while packages may not get the certified sticker on the box, between many and most will run fine on W2K, according to the article. We shall see. Burn All Gifs

On the subject of Burn All GIFs Day, a couple of items on the menu. First, things you (should) already know. Unisys owns the patent on the compression algorithm that is used in creating GIF image files. Unisys, with 3 years left on its patent, is using its legal department as a profit center to strong arm websites into paying a $5000 / site / year fee for use of gif images created by software which isn't licensed to create GIF images. This is a dramatic turnaround when Unisys had previously granted permission for "free" and open source software to use the compression method free of charge (for about the last 10 years, I think), and now they want to collect from the sites!?!

Wheeze, chuf, sorry about that... go to the Burn All GIF's site, and read about it for yourself. Burn All GIF's Day is this upcoming Friday, November 5, 1999. By this time, we hope that you will have no more GIF images on your site. Show Unisys that they can't give with one hand, create a standard, then take away with the other. gif2png is software which you can use for converting your GIF images to PNG format. You can also read more about the PNG format here.

Of course, if you use all purchased shrinkwrap software, such as the Adobe products, to create GIF images, then you are legal. Of course, you may have to prove to Unisys that you created all of your images with legal software...

Found the following on Svenson's site, and then mailed him the bit after...

> I intended to do some Linux but first I will finish the book I am reading.

Why would you believe that you can have the luxury of reading a book (a book!) while the rest of us struggle so with Linux. I remember books. Made of dead trees, weren't they. Primitive precursor to web pages? I am sure it was something like that... sigh. So you like reading dead treeware, do you? Curled up in a comfy chair, I suppose. I don't believe you can get RSIs from dead trees, can you, my lad. Stiff upper lip and back to the keyboard. No whining now...

One thing I am glad about is that we are coming into the season I like best, the season where the Grinch Who Stole Christmas really shines. Bah Humbug.

Brian Bilbrey (was Ebenezer Scrooge in a former life)

Also, some poor misguided soul has decided it was a good idea to spam the KDE, Linux-Admin and RedHat-List mailing lists with a get paid to surf message. I sent him the following missive:

Are you seriously confused, spamming a mailing list of this sort? There are places where the spam might be welcomed, tolerated or reviled, but when you spam this community, you run the risk of pissing off people who actually *do* know how to wipe your harddrive from whereever they are.

Silly, silly person.

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WEDNESDAY November 3, 1999

Mornin' all. Back and forth with Doucette about when to post, and with Belend about bad science in Armageddon. But what seems to have me inspired is something that, for a slow tech day, Jesse Berst appears to be playing Chicken Little about - the so-called "Digital Divide" Personally, I am more worried about idiot Texas lawyers taking down the whole industry with frivilous lawsuits (5 more filed Sunday night, by the legal team that took on Toshiba). However, the Berst topic of the day is one with a little meat, and I shall address it shortly, after my drive to work, and the first cuppa joe. See you in a little bit.

Then I sent a message to Matt about a couple-o-topics, starting off with "Happy Thursday", which he quickly called me on...

> Ummm... it's Wednesday. Not Thursday. But have a happy Thursday, anyway,
> when it comes.

...before the first cup of coffee, with my watch a day ahead due to an 
inadvertent click while resetting on Sunday, unnoticed 'til now, and 
last night both Doucette and Farquhar had wednesday up already.  
That's enough to make it Thursday in my book.  And the way I heard it, 
the difference was that gerbils have more white meat on them.  Go figure.

Really, don't ask. Oh. Somehow, ZDNet calls it four lawsuits, against defendent companies HP, Compaq, NEC Packard-Bell and e-Machines. I saw yesterday that NEC was also subject to separate suit for it's chip operations... sigh.

The Digital Divide. Bob Thompson addressed this issue in large extent a couple or three weeks ago, you will have to do a search on his site to come up with it. Now it turns up (again), on ZD Anchordesk, as the shrill Jesse Berst yammers on about the social costs of not wiring the pig farmers of America. Honestly. You may not be able to get DSL or T1 access in Podunk for a few more years, but at least you can get a PC for a couple hundred bucks after the discount for the dialup service from AOhelL or Plodigy or Mindsprung or another of those providers. 2 years ago, Bobby Rae couldn't even have afforded the computer. A lot of progress has been made - all in the private sector. Those that see the writing on the wall, and make the effort, can be connected. It is (Bob said this much more eloquently than I) not my responsibility to feed, clothe or provide internet connectivity to someone. I may choose to do something along those lines, by working with Habitat for Humanity, or helping to wire up a school, or donating old computers to non-profit organizations. But I should not be forced into it by legislative fiat.

This was another form of WTF for the files, Tom. WTF in this case is Wasn't that funny. Before I left this morning, promising an update shortly thereafter, I ftp'd the current file up to a public server where I can retrieve it from at work. Off to work I merrily go. (OK, merrily is perhaps an inappropriate word to use in this circumstance, but...) Once at work, I ftp the file down to my workstation, open up CoolCat, finished writing the update I built (sorta) in my head on the drive over. Open ftp, send the file back up to the public server. (no, I don't have either telnet or ftp running as a standard service on my box, open to the outer world - too many hacks on those services). I go to ssh into Lcow and, bang - no connection. WTF (Wasn't that Funny???). After rebuilding the services list and reconfiguring the machine last night around the new monitor, I thought I would blow my uptime results, and restarted the machine. (Old windows habit, I shall get over it, I promise). Actually, I called telinit with an odd parameter, and didn't know just how to bring the machine out of its funk. So, on rebooting, I neglected to run the script which I use to start ssh. Sigh. So, all day I agonize. Not really. I got my work done. Sorry the post didn't come up as promised - it was written, just invisible.

A quick scan of the other Daynoter's. Sheesh, I have never been able to figure out why someone doesn't walk softly and talk nice to Jerry Pournelle. He has too many readers to blithely brush off, much less be silly or rude with. Admittedly, no one should be "treated" like that, but a public, trusted figure double not so, neh?... more in a mo... This just in from Dan Seto -

Hey Brian!

Just two quick notes. And you don't need to publish this email if you don't
want to.

1. The link to Habitat for Humanity came out reading as:

It should probably be just the part?

2. Speaking just for myself, and not making any kind of value judgment
against anyone, I would just note that I am a Christian. And that Genesis
Chapter 4, verse 9 said; "Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Where is Abel your
brother?' He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" RSV.

While I totally agree with you that we should not be taxed just so that
everyone has internet access (which is pure nonsense). I would respectfully
disagree with anyone who says that we should not be taxed to feed the
starving, or clothe the naked...Because as a Christian, yes, I am my
brother's keeper.

In a perfect world, everyone would do what is right on their own and
government would not need to get involved (because when it does it screws
things up royally). But this is hardly a perfect world...



Actually, I find in the source that I left off the http:// part, which says, in effect, go look elsewhere, cause the source ain't here. Leaving that off said "find hanging off my source tree". Thanks.


Like I said in my post - What I choose to do to help others is my business, not the governments. This is why I vote NO on bond measures, and in many cases vote NO on politicians. I was raised a catholic, and have mostly recovered from that - with a good (I think) sense of what you mean when you say that you, or someone else behaves as a christian. Behaviour is all, you see. Saying you are a thing, and behaving in like manner are two rather different beasties, you see.

Therefore you shan't see or hear me talking about "behaving as a christian", but you may see me doing good. I won't pass out bibles or preach on a street corner, and I won't give five bucks to the guy on the corner who says he needs a place to sleep tonight, when I know he is gonna get loaded instead. (I know, I been there, and right lucky I was to survive, much less have the necessary brain cells to string words together in a reasonably coherent manner (debatable, I know :))).

Governments, that is to say, politicians, speak with forked tongues. The dollars you vote to go to homeless shelters go elsewhere, because no one will vote to have those shelters in their neighborhood, and will do their utmost to drive them out if they can. There are programs that work, and I approve of those - especially the newer one's, which tie time-constrained welfare benefits to functional job training and if you screw up, you're out. "Oh, your kids??? Well, they are off to foster care, since you couldn't care enough to finish what you started." Of course, as a fairly new and effective program, it will take about a year to become bureaucratized to the point of [dollars in] = [beancounters hired].

Yeah it's tough. I am not sure the race can be saved, or even that it should. I just do my bit, smile and move on to the next thing - trying to help where I will, and grudgingly doing what I must (in terms of taxes and such) to stay out of jail ('tho as Tom noted, sometimes even that sounds good). On the other hand, maybe all of this is just figments of my imagination... nope, even I ain't this ill in the head. Sigh.

Sorry to be so upbeat, people. I will try to tone down my enthusiasm just a little bit. Oh, more on the Burn All GIF's front - has put up a .GIF policy page, which I thought made for interesting reading. Meantime, Bob has brought home a new puppy, Tom is printing jokes my lovely Marcia has sent him and Bo is lamenting hard drive space gone to the dust bunnies. Shawn and Ronda are celebrating her birthday, Svenson is talking about cockroaches (aaacckk) and John's page - well you saw that last night :). Dr. Keyboard is still filling us in on the blank spots of his Italian getaway (and aren't I jealous, yes I am), Matt continues his debate with me on the relative merits of both Viking methods and the culinary facets of gerbils vs. hamsters, Dave is headed into radio heaven, and just maybe Steve is going to jump in the deep end of the Linux pool with the rest of us. It's nice to see a few more people step away from the doughboy that Microsoft set up in that abandoned lot - too much broken glass over there - easy to get cut.

Well, how was that for a link-filled fast tour of the Daynoter's? I won't do that too often, because y'all are intelligent beings and know how to find interesting stuff on your own. Anyway, have a nice evening - I have taken enough of your time for now. Who knows, I may be back later.

Interesting bit on Earth, the snowball, over at New Scientist. The article discusses a fairly new and controversial theory that glaciation was fully global, as recently as 700 million years ago. I like stuff like that, makes for fascinating reading (But then, I have been known to read physics text books for "pleasure"). OK, off to the cooking and HI shows. G'night.

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THURSDAY November 4, 1999

Who needs to write - I have these two from Svenson, first regarding my harangue to him about the luxuries of reading dead treeware, then...

What Luxury do you mean.

Now look, you don't want to pay taxes but you want to help people out there
when you can. That is fine. Now how do you do that? Go out and put dollar
bill (no not gates, just bills!) directly in their pockets?
I want to help people. One of the people I want to help happens to write
books. What is the best way to help? Get it?

Reading books is not Luxury.

And now I read on OrbDesign : (But then, I have been known to read physics
text books for "pleasure").
That is for PLEASURE. and you accuse me of Luxury. Come on now.

Subject:   Hamster.
Date:  Thu, 04 Nov 1999 10:30:34 +0000

I knew the Americans were culinary underdeveloped, but serving hamsters
with white wine and a mushroom sauce?
Ts ts ts.

It should be obvious you serve them with grilled mushrooms, filled with
an onion and parsley paste. And of course you provide a strong blond
beer such like a Trapist grade 8.

We don't have gerbils in Belgium (Europe?) so that could be used in a
true American dish but I doubt that the Chardonnay fits in well with it.

Well, the good news is that I am not American as such, but Northern Californian, and thus prone to all sorts of strange and contradictory behaviour. Well, I am, anyway, so it's just as well I live here. Don't generalize from me to others - it isn't fair to them - I was raised on Tom Lehrer and Monty Python...

Meantime - I have to get to work. Hope that you all have a lovely day, (Yes, Dan - I started the SSH daemon, and I also put the startup in /etc/rc.d/rc.local so that spontaneous brain farts on my part don't kick me in the butt, like yesterday).

I found a cute link in the day-old bin over at Slashdot - this leads to a humorous story on the site. I had to have a chuckle, and then another. This is a good thing, because what seemed to feel for the last day or two just like excessive anxiety... has resolved itself into a case of mild flu. Ick, so I am home early, mucking about on the machine here, doing a little surfing, etc. Maybe I will actually read the manual for Bluefish, the tool I use to edit the HTML you read.

Oh, of course, keep your eyes peeled for any rulings on DOJ vs. Microsoft. Tomorrow isn't just a Friday, it may be a ruling day. We shall see. What do I want to have happen? Well, how about for all the money they make, Microsoft... publishes software tools that work, that are simple enough in scope and design that they have a hope of working right before there are 3 or 4 service packs. I don't think that's too much to ask. What do I believe will happen? Irrelevant. I don't know enough law, or enough about lawyers and the insides of Judge Jackson's mind to begin to guess. That said, I think that DOJ plus the states proved enough of their case that Jackson is liable to rule against Microsoft. The kicker is going to be what remedies are mandated in round two of the ruling, later.

Last week, Jerry had a lawyer write in, all worried about the impression of lawyers that Jerry leaves in people's minds when he (Jerry) writes bad about the sleaze buckets (Oh, sorry, "lawyers") who brought suit, and took Toshiba to the cleaners. I wonder that the same person hasn't written in to defend this scum of the earth (Oh, sorry, "lawyers") as they file the same frivolous crap on 4 other firms. Are you laughing yet, Dr. K? American lawyers, posing as a government, pass laws which allow American lawyers to sue large firms who haven't caused harm for vast sums of money. Now had they caused harm, I could see it. If the lawyers had filed suit to get the problem fixed, charging their usurous fees, and the company fixed the problems and paid the lawyers, I guess I wouldn't mind much. But to instigate a contingency case, followed by four more... leads to lots of lawyer jokes involving cement, sharks, rats and other assorted vermin (sorry about the redundancy).

Hey, can we file a class action suit on the lawyers, for taking actions which needlessly cost consumers and businesses world wide huge (let me say this as well as Michael Palin) hhhuuuuuuggggeeee tracts of land.... oh, sorry, money! Please?

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FRIDAY November 5, 1999

Happy Friday, peoples. I am feeling a little better this AM. I prefer that. Along with business turning up at work, my boss turned up with a postive review (which are given infrequently and irregularly) and a decent bump in the ol' paycheck. That is nice. The mailbag was almost empty this morning, among them somebody wanting to sell me online access to a vast quantity of pictures to the Erotic Exotic Ball. Gee, thanks! NOT! I actually don't mind hitting the delete button, often just based on the subject and sender line, without even viewing the message. I worry that badly designed filters (by me) will send mail off into lala land. Worry actually may be too strong a word.

Marcia is off to work, and I suppose that I should be too. Let me see...

[bilbrey]$ ps -ax | grep sshd
1468 ?    S    0:04 /usr/local/sbin/sshd

Cool - everything is as it should be, with the last access on the site being some 10 minutes ago, so the httpd is running fine. Check you later.

Hello, BOC Group. I enjoy checking out the sites that drop in on me, and seeing what it is that people do. Well, since there are 35K people employed by BOC, I can't tell who is visiting, but HI, all the same. What else is new? Yahoo expects the MS ruling today... I believe them, don't you? The NASDAQ exchange is posting some awesome numbers this AM - +38 now, down from +44 earlier this morning.

Progress has been made. It is November 5, 1999. It is Burn All GIFs day. I have finished the conversion of the corporate site, to a GIF-free zone. Multiple file search and replace tools on CoolCat made that EASY.

Anybody out there have DVD on their computer? Well, it hasn't been a very useful tool, if you wanted to run Linux, because no one had developed any drivers for the Open Source OS yet. So, some developer decided to be a little proactive, and see if he could do a driver on his own... and succeeded in reverse-engineering a driver, incidentally breaking the copy-protection encryption. This has some noses seriously bent out of shape with the studios, and the relevant industry standards group. Here is a link to a ZDNet story on the topic, and Slashdot notes that the programmer has had his site taken offline by his ISP, claiming copyright conflicts. Should be interesting over the next couple of weeks, as a whole batch of movies were slated for release for the upcoming celebratory buying season, now jeopardized by the potential for movie piracy. Stay tuned. Break's over.

TechWeb Today is going to be carrying live coverage by Pournelle, Schindler and others regarding Judge Jackson's Findings of Facts in the cases between 19 states and the DOJ vs. Microsoft. Stay tuned. Oh, and sorry - the DSL was down. Sigh. Can I have an OC-48 for Christmas, please?

Over on Yahoo, they have the text of the Findings of Fact (here). In summary, the Judge finds that Microsoft enjoys monopoly power (well, who doesn't <g>). Well, duh. I would have to agree with various pundits (and myself, what a change) that Microsoft has generally practiced very sharp and potentially dubious business. However, it is entirely possible that the industry is as large as it is because of the behemoth that became Microsoft. Wrangling over standards near to killed Unix 15 years ago. Microsoft was crowned king of the day by IBM, which was promptly kicked down the front steps when it was realized that IBM sold razor handles, Microsoft sold blades. Not very good blades, mind you, but a mightly lot of them, so that all the corporate data drones could look alike, with identical cuts on their foreheads (Nah, not from using metaphorical blades, silly. From banging their heads on the monitor in frustration as an early version of Excel would quickly and quietly eat most of a day's work!)

What are the options, as Jerry was referring to during his bits in the Techweb 'cast? Mac? I know there are people doing good work on them every day, and... but my gut (and those colors) tell me I am looking at a toy. Now a G4 with YellowDog Linux (a munitions grade computer, with an industrial grade OS... stop it - I am drooling on the keyboard again). So. Linux. I probably couldn't convince my office to use Linux, especially since the prime application, Visual Manufacturing, doesn't (appear to) have any clients for Linux. I could probably convert them based on the rest of the applications, since Linux uses underpowered hardware so much more efficiently than Windows does. People have been known to BSOD several times a week, running too many instances of Outlook (Yea, I told them to click on the docked window, but they keep opening new instances instead, then scream when it dies). Actually, thank you. MS provides a living to so many... :)

I had a nice chat with Tom this evening, who resents that Marcia didn't flash over quickly enough when he called, so he had to talk to the message center thingy. Apparently Tom doesn't like message center thingies. And as some have noted from going there directly, or via Bob Thompson's place, Dave Farquhar is going to be a force beholden unto no one, once he feels better. I understand and agree with his sentiments. (PS - when this week is history, so is that link, so look back for this date, 11/05/1999 in Dave's past views).

It would appear that most of us survived the week, though we lost Walter Payton, Greg Moore, the crew and passengers of EgyptAir Flight 990, countless others that didn't make the front page here or elsewhere... Rest In Peace. Nah, I ain't down, I always try to look on the bright side of life [cue music] . Have a nice Friday evening - I shall catch you up on the weekend, on a weekend pace and schedule (British pronunciation, puhlease).

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SATURDAY November 6, 1999

Mornin' all. There is, needless to say, a veritable glut of information on the Findings of Fact issued by Judge Jackson last night. So, if you're interested in that, go find it - ZDNet has masses of articles on the topic. Jerry Pournelle has a very lucid essay on the topic, on the View page containing Friday 11/5.

Meantime, lost in the news over the first of the MS rulings, Burn All Gif's Day has come and gone - and the gathering apparently happened in Brisbane, just as the analysis of the FoF was beginning in ernest - talk about swamped in the news... I can't find a single post-event reference. sigh. There is a good article on Atlantic Unbound (the online presence of The Atlantic) regarding the event. To quote from the article (© 1999 by The Atlantic Monthly Company) :

Burn All GIFs Day may be the first time in human history that
anyone has ever thought it worthwhile to stage an organized
political protest, even a small one, over a mathematical algorithm.

Other that all of that, I am having a slow start to the day. Have a good one. I will rejoin you later.

I have been catching up with the other Daynotes sites, and just finished reading what Tom wrote for Friday 11/5. I do like it when we make each other think just a little bit. I sent him the following...

Good post for Friday. I like the occasional bits where our (daynoter's) writing makes me step back and think about deeper (or at least less shallow, not at all the same thing) issues. Why we do what we do, as writers, as individuals, as spouses, friends, partners, employees etc. All the roles we live and play that multiply out to make us individuals - that is what shines through as I read the daynotes. The writings aren't as crafted as a magazine article or a book. They are a snapshot, often technical, sometimes political, usually intensely personal in one way or another, of our lives in motion on this weird *wired* ball.

Perhaps it is easy to consider the time as wasted - certainly there are times when I look back and say to myself "Self, why did you write that drivel when you could have been paying attention to your wife?" HID (Hell, I Dunno). But in a overall tense, fast paced world, a little catharsis is a good thing (once read as "confession is good for the soul"). I don't write "for" you, or for anyone specifically out there.

This is my soap box, that is yours. We moved those soap boxes figuratively close together by cross-linking our sites, and you moved them closer still with the site. I regard this as a good thing. We seem (most times) to be a group of like-minded individuals, who agree to disagree on some issues, without taking our disagreement to heart, or to extremes. Clearly, there are readers out there who like what is written by the gang (I know I do, except sometimes for my own). Why this is so is unimportant. That I keep writing, I usually attribute to my own motives. However, these busy days, I sometimes write for everyone else, when I couldn't be bothered to write for myself. I regard that as a "Good Thing", too.

Thanks, Tom.

And then there's the new article about the brand new Linux "distributor", LinuxOne. You may remember that I noted a week or so ago that this was being regarded by the local Linux groups as a rather shady sort of operation, needing some investigation. The investigation is done (for the moment), and the article documents that. Written by Rick Moen and Eileen Cohen. (Disclaimer - Rick is an e-aquaintance).

First, the hilarity. While I have been busy slaving over a hot keyboard, a revolution's been a-brewin'. I have been party to the conferences, and thought that all was sweetness and light, good humour and all that, what? Then up pops Syroid, going public with the whole thing. Whoa, there, big fella - Chris is on the other side of the world, he can't defend himself - he's sated on foi gras and good vino - sleeping as soundly as only a member of the Empire upon which The Sun Never (used to) Set can. Give him a chance to redeem himself. There's... oh wait, you're right, given the newfound popularity of the WWF (aka Big Time Wrestling, really, we aren't scripted, really), we should tear into each other, I suppose. Sigh. So be it. Tell you what, I will play the hyena who comes in at the end of every Attenborough film, and cleans up the scraps, OK?

While all of this has been going on, I have been working on some fiction. Actually, I have been working on fiction for about the last 25 years or so. Nope, nothing published. Never mind about that, my lad. I tore them up, burned the scraps, ate the ashes, and buried the crap in a hidden location. Don't ask. But this particular novel has been rolling around on my mind for a number of years now, and as I was cranking on the text again this afternoon, a short short just outside the main action jumped out of my finger tips. You will probably laugh at me, but that's alright. I don't mind. Give it a read if you have a mind to, and let me know how it is, so I can wear a hair shirt over the welts. It is here.

Posting fiction for others to read (particularly others like us) is an
incredibly brave thing to do. I'll read it when I get a moment.

Robert Bruce Thompson

I thank Bob for his confidence <grin>, and remind you all that it isn't the disappointment that the bear doesn't dance well, it is the wonder that the bear dances at all. And, thank you, Dan Bowman. Kind words.

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SUNDAY November 7, 1999

I sit here just at 06:35, with the room lit orange with one of the most brilliant special effects sunrises I have seen in a long time. The sky is filled with medium low clouds sweeping in from the westish. They are being spectacularly underlit by the sun (some very bright light source, consistent with a yellowish type G2 star at about 150 million kilometers, as a Fair Witness might say). They say the weather is developing cloudy, with rain by late afternoon and through tomorrow. We shall see, one can only hope. In the meantime the wind is whipping the trees against the window, sporadically. This makes me jump when it hasn't happened for a while. Now old Sol himself has temporarily broken through the clouds, making this text much harder to read. Not for long though, not for long.

Now, since there is a discussion going on over the local LUG mailing list, let's talk about links. We start with the command . The listing begins as follows (from the FSF man page for LN(1)) :


ln - make links between files
Create a link to the specified Target with optional LINK_NAME. If there is more than one TARGET, the last argument must be a directory; create links in DIRECTORY toe each TARGET. Create hard links by default, symbolic links with --symbolic. When creating hard links, each TARGET must exist.

It all sounds trickier than it really is, although someone last night wrote "links blow the minds of NT users." The premise is really quite simple. Let us cast this in the example of an application code which you have installed in your system. The app installs, very politely, in its own sub directory structure, not affecting the kernel or OS services in any way (no DLLs, you see, although there are equivalents to DLLs, as we will find at some later time).

Excuse me a moment. Time to close that blind, and pour another cuppa. Anyway, here's an easy comparative - consider soft (or symbolic) links to be the equivalent of shortcuts. That is, they are entities, distinct unto themselves, which point at the TARGET file, and show you the path to TARGET. Now, like shortcuts, symlinks point at the TARGET, may cross partition boundries, don't give any useful information about the TARGET besides its location, and may be orphaned on deletion of the TARGET, etc.

Under Linux you may get some information about the TARGET, permissions for instance. for instance, in my /usr/local/bin directory, I have a link called acroread. The listing generated by ls -l | grep acro is as follows:

lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 32 Sep 15 18:47 acroread -> /usr/local/Acrobat4/bin/acroread

This shows us that we are looking at a link (the 'l' at the beginning of the permissions string). The other permissions in this view are relatively useless - just a pass-through to the permissions of the TARGET. The owner and group for this symlink are both root, it is of size 32 bytes (exactly the size required to hold the path for the TARGET), date and time of the creation of the link, the name of the link, and the path/TARGET string. Now, here is the listing yielded by ls -lL | grep acro, where the 'L' dereferences the symlink:

-rwxr-xr-x   1 1852     users        8690 Jul 10 18:14 acroread

Please note that both are executed from the directory in which the link resides. However, now we see information about the TARGET, its actual permissions and information.

Now let's look at hard links. There is a bit of information that we didn't discuss on the ls lines... you see that number immediately following the permission string - in both cases it is '1' (one). That basiically says 'I link to one place in the file system.' When you are looking at a directory listing, this number shows the number of entries in the directory (including '.' and '..'). However, when you are looking at files with hard links... well, let me show you. I have created in my home directory a file called seven. I have created a hard link to seven thusly ln seven seven.1 and a symlink to seven like so ln -s seven seven.2. Here are the results of a ls -l seven* command :

-rw-r--r--   2 bilbrey  users          64 Nov  7 07:54 seven
-rw-r--r--   2 bilbrey  users          64 Nov  7 07:54 seven.1
lrwxrwxrwx   1 bilbrey  users           5 Nov  7 08:05 seven.2 -> seven

Now, you will note that both seven and seven.1 appear as "normal" files, and that the symlink seven.2 points to seven. The difference here is in that number following the permission string. Note that both seven, and seven.1 have a '2' in that location. This means that two different hard links exist, pointing to the same location (or inode) in the file system. The disadvantages of hard links are that they can't cross partition boundries, and you can't tell the location of the source file that the hard link points to. You can see, from the listing, that a filename, when created, is really just the first hard link created to a location on the disk. If I now delete the original seven, the listing looks like this...

-rw-r--r--   1 bilbrey  users          64 Nov  7 07:54 seven.1
lrwxrwxrwx   1 bilbrey  users           5 Nov  7 08:05 seven.2 -> seven

You will see two key things. First, seven.1 still exists, and points to a location on disk which is still 64 bytes in size. Disk memory is not freed until all the hard links that point to a location are removed. Second, we have stranded seven.2, that is, it points to a filename no longer in existance, and attempts to access it yields a No such file or directory message. Thus endeth the Sunday lesson.

First, I have finally finished Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden. This is a superbly written piece. Most of the story covers the years of 1932 to 1948, and are intricately concerned with the life of the geisha in the district of Gion. With superior attention to detail, this book reveals and enriches the role and the reality of the geisha. The book leaves me wanting to know more about the times and the culture. I find that the hallmark of a good book - it leaves me wanting to learn more.

Now to the signature of the moment...

SETI@Home:  Finally a *good* way to impress Jodie Foster

Grinning enough to enjoy even the incoming rain. Don Henley's hits disc, Actual Miles, is in the cup holder, The Garden Of Allah the next song up. I am now off to pick up the .pdf version of Thinking in C++, Volume 1, by Bruce Eckel. Online will have to do until the publication date.

Update on Svenson... his normal site is not accepting updates. He can, however, be found here - Got it?

I also note that although I have made a couple of updates to this page, during the day, I never updated the time, since the second iteration this morning, until now. Sorry. Meantime, I am working briefly from the start of Thinking in C++, Vol. 1. I put it down for a while to work on other things, but want to refresh the C and C++ stuff in my head before I dive into Perl headlong. Good music for this type of work : Vivaldi.

I take a little break to do some research on a project for that young Canadian fella, Syroid. All of a sudden like, I come across a bit of the Bard in my head, and that prompted me to search for a reference to one of my favorite excerpts from the plays. I found this site, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (hosted at MIT). I delve to find the following speech, delivered by John of Gaunt unto the Duke of York, in Richard II. I leave you with this to close out our week. See you Monday.

       Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
       And thus expiring do foretell of him:
       His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
       For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
       Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
       He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
       With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
       Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
       Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
       This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
       This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
       This other Eden, demi-paradise,
       This fortress built by Nature for herself
       Against infection and the hand of war,
       This happy breed of men, this little world,
       This precious stone set in the silver sea,
       Which serves it in the office of a wall,
       Or as a moat defensive to a house,
       Against the envy of less happier lands,
       This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
       This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
       Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
       Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
       For Christian service and true chivalry,
       As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
       Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
       This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
       Dear for her reputation through the world,
       Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
       Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
       England, bound in with the triumphant sea
       Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
       Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
       With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
       That England, that was wont to conquer others,
       Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
       Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
       How happy then were my ensuing death!

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