Dr. Jerry Pournelle

Email Me

Why not subscribe now?

Chaos Manor Subscribe Now

Useful Link(s)...


Hosting by

Powered by Apache

Computing At Chaos Manor:
The Mailbag

Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2008 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

March 3, 2008

We continue the discussion of converting to the Mac. There is some disturbing news:

Subject: Office 2004 and 2008 - cannot safely have both

Hi Jerry,

You can't safely have both Office 2004 and 2008 on the Mac. The installer will want to remove your 2004 install - let it run, and then if it (like mine) actually failed to delete the application, drag the office 2004 folder to the trash before running 2008. Leaving it there may cause unexpected results (Microsoft's words, not mine).

2004 is badly out of date and is compiled only for the PowerPC. 2008 has been stable since I upgraded. The only things that you lose are VBA and Excel Macros. If you need those, or Visio, run Office 2003 or 2007 in a Virtual Machine.

On another note, neither version plays well with Spaces (the multiple virtual desktops in Leopard). Always run Office apps in Space 1, and don't drag/drop them around. A patch is supposed to fix this problem (even on the Mac, Microsoft can't follow standards).



I haven't tried this yet, but it's disturbing. On the Vista machine Office 2007 and Office 2003 coexist nicely, and files go from one to the other and to Office 2004 on the Mac without problems. At least Word documents do, and that's my principle use for Office.

Peter Glaskowsky adds:

I have both Office 2004 and 2008 on my machine. It hasn't caused any problems, except when some document associated with one of the Office 2004 applications opens that rather than the Office 2008 application I wanted.

I did this just so I could fall back to Office 2004 if I needed to, but I haven't found any reason to do that, so I'll likely remove Office 2004 pretty soon.

. png

I will install Office 2008 on the Mac sometime this week, so this will be in some part of the March column. We will see what happens, and I will probably then uninstall Office 2004. Thanks.

Subject: Things to listen to


As to your health, I join the multitude of your supporters who wish you most well and appreciate your continuing to make the effort to post.

During this period of fuzzy eyes and little strength, you may want to check out iTunes U. On the iTunes store they have a fairly large number of lectures from some 37 universities (Abilene to Yale). Many diverse topics are available from chemistry to religion. Some are from guest lecturers and some actual classes. There's bound to be something in which you might find your interest sparked. Of course it's free (as in beer).

All my best,

Everett Harper

I really need to look into this. Thanks. I'll probably do that as part of installing the new iPhone. Everything seems to take a bit longer now, but I continue to get more done than many, so that will have to do.

Thanks for the kind words.

Subject: Printer Setup Repair

By the by, I understand that Real Soon Now there will be a Leopard version of Printer Setup Repair. The Tiger version was a decent product for squashing stubborn Mac printer bugs. See: http://www.fixamac.net/software/psr5/index.php

Steve Belknap

Well, I was able to connect to the printer by getting its IP Address and manually inserting that, and the connection seems to be holding, so I guess all is well. It's a mere inconvenience. It would be nice if they fixed it, but it's not vital.

The failure of the VMware instance of XP to see any computers on my network is a different matter. Further reports in the column.

On upgrading your older Mac:

Subject: Leopard

Good morning Dr. Pournelle,

I've recently installed leopard on my mac mini and thought you might want to know how it went, since you own a PPC powerbook. It is a little slower, but you wouldn't notice it much. Time Machine is what it's cracked up to be, found out the hard way last week when the original Toshiba 80gb disk packed up. Used Time Machine to back up to a Seagate ST9160821A 160gb drive, worked as advertised. The 5400 RPM spindle speed makes up for the more extensive system and its speed is quite acceptable. The difficulty of working on PPC mins is overrated, physical drive swap was done in 30 minutes with a pocket knife, KD Tools gasket scraper and #s 0 & 1 phillips screwdrivers.

Tim Harness.

I intend to take Ariadne, the PowerBook, over to the Apple Store and get the upgrade, but once again things are a bit hectic here. I still love Ariadne — but we are also contemplating a MacBook Pro. And I lust for the MacBook Air. It looks like the computer you would have with you. Like the camera you have with you is the one that gets the pictures.

But rationally I suppose it will have to be the MacBook Pro with Ariadne as a secondary or perhaps to be kept up in the Monk's Cell as a Word engine for writing fiction.

Subject: Mac

I run a number of applications to help with debugging problems. These live quietly in high numbered spaces, and I switch to them if something funny happens. Currently, these include:

1. Terminal (provides access to the UNIX command line; if necessary, I can command a reboot from here)

2. Console (showing all messages)

3. Activity Monitor (with all processes displayed)

I run Windows XP (using Boot Camp) mostly to play games, and I wish it had similar functionality.

"The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened."
Harry Erwin, PhD

I have been told about SPACES, which is a series of desktops built into Mac OS X, and it looks very good. Once again I am trying to get the Mac stable and useful before I take flyers with new items, but it looks good indeed. Thanks.

On Blu-Ray drives.

First, from long time friend and associate Marty Winston:

Subject: RE: February 2008 Column Part 4

I spoke to a contact in the adult film industry - he has been shooting in HD for years, but until November, was only able to get duplication houses for HD-DVD to handle his content - his titles are now out in Blu-Ray as well. During that period, he shared with me that he tested every Blu-Ray deck and playback device he could find. He told me that most are terrible and will frustrate consumers: they take forever to boot, significant time to change modes and cost too much. He did say that the one Blu-Ray player that appeared the most nimble and capable was also the least expensive: Sony Playstation 3. Even if you never play a game, he said, it's today's best choice out there for a player.

Recorders are another matter - burning is not trivial - you need new versions of most software to reliably support it & dance a fast two-step to make sure your software update stays in sync with the burner firmware updates. Four-figure pricing is not uncommon; I don't see that getting broadly available at consumer-reasonable prices until mid-2009.

Marty Winston

Thanks! And from another old friend and Mac Expert:

Dear Jerry:

Leo Laporte and others on TWIT have said more than once that the very best Blu-Ray player you can buy today is Sony's PlayStation 3. It has, unlike most, an easy and automatic upgrade path thru the Ethernet port. I don't have one, know nothing but what I've heard or read online, but a good start might be to give Leo a call and ask him about it.

As for your Mac WoW problem it's new to me. Did you have it before the 10.5.2 update? I've not been on my iMac for WoW since the update, but up until last week have never had that issue.

A "trick" on the Mac is to always install the "combo" updates, not the point updates that come thru by running Software Update. In the case of 10.5.2 the combo is well over 300MBs compared to the point update at about 180MB.

The large combo updates are cumulative: they reinstall all previous updates as well as the new one. This often avoids odd issues from popping up after a point update install.

The true "Mac geek way" of updating is to first run Onyx, Cocktail, or similar maintenance program set to delete all log and cache files as well as repairing permissions, then disconnect all external devices except keyboard and mouse and only then apply the latest Combo Update, and then finally after reboot repair permissions once again. This is "belt & suspenders" and I usually just stick to installing the combo update with no problems. But in your case, with the odd sound crash in WoW, I would go back and re-install 10.5.2 Combo and graphics as outlined like a true "Mac geek."

I hope this helps. Speaking of WoW my Pally seems to be "stuck" at 52; he's neat, but it takes a ton of time to level him. I did a fresh roll a few weeks ago of a gnome rogue (engineering & mining) who is already a level 56 (as of last night). Rogues are incredibly powerful and survivable, and level faster than any other class in the game (and I've played them all except Shaman). If the time comes when you want to start a new alt think rogue; gnome is good because they have a racial engineering buff and engineering is great for a rogue: dynamite plus poisons plus a mithril or arcanite dragonling trinket that will fight for you for one minute makes you one tough dude, the meanest melee fighter in the game in fact. Most one-on-one fights with mobs at my level or below are over in less than 5 seconds, for example. And it takes at least 3 at once at my level or above to beat me (which is when you pop a flash powder, disappear, and run away!). Once you roll rogue I don't think you'll go back to any other class as a main.

All the best -


I did talk to Leo and others, and the conclusion seems to be that if you want Blu-Ray get a Playstation 3. I'll say that in the column.

I have acquired Onyx and run that and I have not had the crazy WOW crash since, so perhaps that did it.

Incidentally, my WOW Paladin is now 62. It takes a while to level solo. I have a good and understanding guild that helps me out — they know who I really am — and lets me stay in although I don't contribute much. But given my hours, I only play WOW when I am out of creative energy and that usually means late at night or at very odd hours indeed.

Alas, for some reason I don't care to be a rogue. I have found the Night Elf Hunter to be close to the Ranger, which was a favorite character of mine on EQ, and I have had fun with a human warrior. But Paladin is my favorite and I think I play it well.

Boot Camp, Windows XP, VMWare Fusion

Dr. Pournelle, Saw on Chaos Manor Reviews that you're planning to install Windows XP, via Boot Camp, on your Mac. I just did that last weekend. (One year old iMac, upgraded to 10.5.2 from 10.4.something) It took most of the day.

If everything had worked properly it would have taken only a couple of hours. My Tale of (Some) Woe follows:

First, since I am generally paranoid concerning things like this, I did a full backup using Time Machine, and checked to ensure that all the vital data that wasn't backed up to DVD was backed up by Time Machine. It was.

Start Boot Camp Assistant, tell it to create an 8gb (far too small, I know) partition for Windows. It trundles away for a while, presumably defragging the hard drive. Then a message comes up on the screen, in several languages, telling me to restart the machine using the power button. This is the first time I've seen this particular message.

That's because the message is the Mac version of the Kernel Panic, or (in Windows terms) Blue Screen of Death. Yes, Boot Camp crashed my Mac.

Restart, run Disk Utility which informs me that there are Problems with the disk. Unsurprising, as the system crashed while partitioning was going on. So I restarted with the Leopard DVD in the DVD drive, rna Disk Utility, and told it to fix the disk. The problem was that the size available on the disk, and the size reported, were different.

Rerun Boot Camp Assistant. Tell it to try a 16 gb partition. Same result...

Hit the Apple website, spelunk around the forums, and discover that this is a Known Issue, for which there is no easy solution. Some Macs, not all, won't repartition. Mainly ones which, like mine, started as OS X 10.4 and were later upgraded to 10.5 (so you may not have this problem.)

So I once again restart off of the Leopard DVD and use the partitioner on the DVD to repartition the hard drive. This, of course, destroys all the data on the drive (well, not really, but you need special tools to get at it...)

Then, looking around the menus on the Leopard DVD I see "Restore from Time Machine Backup". Tell it to do that. It asks where the Time Machine backup to restore from is, trundles away for a couple of minutes calculating how much disk space is needed, and stops. It doesn't ask where to restore to. So I back all the way out of the restore program, restart it, and this time it works. I tell it to restore to the first partition.

After the restore I bring up the Mac. Everything seems to work at first. Until I open up the Mail program. All the folders are there, but no mail is in them. Open up finder and the messages are in the folders on the disk. Double click on a message and it opens up in Mail. But Mail won't see the messages on the disk. So I tell Mail to import the messages from the Mail folder on the Time Machine disk and all is well.

Then I try to open up a document in NeoOffice. It won't open. Apparently there's a permissions problem. An hour's looking around shows that some, but not all, of the files in the Documents folder were restored with their permissions improperly set. This is, probably, the problem that Mail had. So I fix all the permissions (good thing I know the command line, else I would've been off to the Apple store, iMac in hand, for help) via "chmod -r a+rwx".

Why Time Machine couldn't do that I don't know.

So now I have successfully partitioned my iMac. Now it's time to install Windows XP Pro.

Start Boot Camp Assistant, which sees the FAT32 partition and lets me Start Installing Windows. XP installs properly. Has issues with the Airport Extreme Base Station. It knows that a password is required to logon to the network, but provides no place to enter the password. Arrgh.

So I configure Boot Camp to always boot OS X, install the Apple drivers, and restart. OS X comes up and I start VMware Fusion. Which sees the XP install and lets me create a virtual machine using that. Start XP. XP sees the network connection provided by VMware, authenticates itself with Microsoft, and now I have XP running in a window on the Mac. Install all the VMware drivers, reboot XP (without rebooting the Mac!), and it runs beautifully. No apparent performance hit from running in a VMware machine. The first Windows I've had on a machine at home (I was a Linux guy for years) since 2000, when I removed Win98b.

I'm already running KUbuntu Linux in a VM, but from a vm file rather than a partition on the hard drive. Weekend after next (next weekend is skiing in West Virginia) I'm going to do this all over again, but create a larger XP partition and add a Linux partition.

Some notes: I use a FAT32 partition because Mac, Linux, and Windows can all read and write to FAT32. Only Windows can safely write to NTFS. There's a decent Ext2 (Linux) file system driver for the Mac, and one for XP, so once I have Linux set up properly I'll be able to move files across all three OS's.

So far the only software that's given the Mac problems is software written by Apple. Time Machine almost worked correctly, and the failures are easy to recover from <i>if you know the command line</i>. If you don't know the command line then Time Machine can ruin your day. So beware.

If Boot Camp Assistant had worked as well as Partition Magic worked several years ago then it would've been great. It didn't but, again, extensive Linux experience made it easy for me to get the job done.

I know you know this but I'll tell you anyway. Before you start mucking about with the partition tables, back up everything. Make sure it's backed up. Be prepared for Things to Go Wrong.

And who knows, maybe Boot Camp Assistant will work properly for you.

Have fun!

Kit Case

I had no problem installing Boot Camp at all. The secret is in printing out the instructions from the Mac and following them carefully. This is in the column.

Running XP under VMware has been a different proposition, and we don't have proper networking yet.

Mac Software Suggestion

Hi Jerry - as always, you and your family are in our prayers. Get well and healthy soon. :)

Now that you have finally moved to using a modern day Mac, I would like to suggest you investigate this little editor. I think you will quite enjoy it, though I do understand Word is what you use for income producing work. Still, Scrivener is something I think you might really enjoy.


I have been using Scrivener for most of my writing tasks lately, and it had totally changed the way I view writing. The list, for me is pretty big:

(1) My different writing tasks are easy to organize into projects; and the projects contain not only the text, but any online research I have done. Web pages, PDF's, e-mails, pics, scans and a bunch of other kinds of documents. Right there, out of my way until I need them, but I don't have to go fire up a web browser or anything else to see what I need. This is utterly wonderful for me when I am writing white papers, proposals, or non-fiction articles. I've even found myself dusting off fiction writing, though in my case, probably not for publication. Just some stories that keep bouncing around inside my skull. :)

(2) The Corkboard View. This sounds silly, but the way I learned to compose complex documents was with 3x5 index cards and big old corkboard. This is what initially attracted me to the editor, because when you move the cards around, all the associated chapters, sections, scenes and such move too. And it is multi-layered; you can have a corkboard for the entire project, one for each chapter, and even one for each scene if you wish.

(3) It saves like crazy, and when you delete something, it keeps it around in the program's very own trashcan until you empty the trashcan. Not the Mac's trash either, one within the program. It will happily keep deleted stuff forever if you wish. Also, you can export backup copies of any project to another disk or to a ZIP file.

(4) It builds documents, and then exports easily to Word for final format touchups, or export into other formats.

(5) It's cheap. :)

I have found editors similar to Scrivener on Windows, but none with the clean feel and the confidence it won't go about loosing any of my work.

I think you might really like it. Should take about 30 minutes to download, install, run the tutorial, and bring in a Word document to play with.



I get a lot of software suggestions, and I'll try to look into most of them. Scrivener has been recommended to me by many old friends.

Old friend and fellow SF writer Holly Lisle says

Hi, Jerry,

I heard from mutual friend Jim Woosley about your health. My medical skills are too far out of date to offer anything of use or substance to you save my best wishes for a full recovery. You have those.

Reading through your site trying to find out the details, however, I discovered that you made the switch from Windows to Mac. I made the same switch myself a few years ago, and if there's anything in the way of recommendations on software for specific purposes, or anything else that I can offer in that regard, just let me know. Right out of the gate, I'll point you in the direction of Scrivener as the finest and most intuitive piece of plotting/writing software I have ever used, bar none.

If there is anything I can do to return the help you gave me, please let me know.


Thanks. I have downloaded it and I will try it out thoroughly once I get established on the Mac.

Subject: MakeVM and Jerry on YouTube

Dear Jerry,

Playing with VM's is much fun and let's you, in my case, run your old Borland C 4.5 compiler and your MS-DOS programs again. It is amazing to see how fast the old Windows environments run. Much faster than they ran 10 years ago! I have a bunch of old hard disks; remains from my old machines I had to throw away.

I found the program MakeVM (link) that let you copy a hard disk to MS Virtual PC, VMWare and Parallels. I connected the IDE-HD with an USB-IDE converter cable to the computer were the MakeVM program was installed Unfortunately two out of three hard disks could not be started again. The electronics were defect. I was long convinced that Hard disks could stand aging better than floppies and CD's. Maybe the platter can but the electronics can't.

After some disappointments I was able to clone my old server that ran under W2000 and it is running now as a virtual machine in VPC2007. Next project is to copy my old /Schneider with its own DOS/Windows environment but he had to be dug out. I hope that HD survived.

I am still a fan of MS VPC2007 because it is simple. It is running now on my VISTA Ultimate PC and I installed all OS's from DOS 6 to Vista business and Ubuntu. They can run, all together, smoothly on my dual-core machine with 4GB memory. W95, W98, Me, W2000, XP and vista can all be found in my network. Incredible.

By the way: Have you seen yourself on YouTube?

Tom Snyder Interviews Durk Pearson and Jerry Pournelle

All the best, Ed

Ed Nieuwenhuys
The Netherlands

I've seen the Snyder show YouTube. Durk and I were much younger then. Of course he was 15 years younger than me and everyone thought we were the same age...

Thanks for the suggestions.

And on a continuing theme:


"Microsoft chops Vista retail prices"


"In what may be an unprecedented decision, Microsoft said Thursday that it plans to lower the retail prices for several flavors of Windows Vista."


"We probably got the pricing mix wrong"



IMO too little, too late, and still a non-starter for a lot of people if it means also having to buy a new computer.

And, more on that stuff that was in the WSJ earlier:

"Microsoft e-mails reveal Intel pressure over Vista"


"We really botched this" -- Jim Allchin

And they're choking on their own dogfood:

"Microsoft e-mails detail Vista woes"


Wow. What an odd coincidence that the price drop is announced in the same timeframe. They must be smirking ear to ear in Cupertino.

From where I sit (increasingly on the outside, not having written a line of code in several years), it's looking like the only people with a *need* to go with/stay with Windows are those who depend on vertical market apps written for that platform, and those who write code to run on it. For "typical end-users" -- faced with the need to buy a new computer, thanks to MS cutting off support for OS versions that will run on their existing computers -- it's going to be very tempting to go with either Apple, or -- should a truly usable implementation arrive -- Linux.

Being told that you *must* buy a new OS *and* a new *computer* to run it, because they're going to *push* your existing "investment" into obsolescence -- well, that's not a real big "customer loyalty generator" IMO.

What are they thinking? Knocking a few bucks off the price -- still maintaining a confusing list of Vista "flavors" -- still planning on cutting off 2K/XP support (leaving users at the mercy of the teeming masses of skript-kiddiez, criminals, and foreign adversaries) -- and still requiring more iron than the *existing* OSs need -- and this is a way to engender warm cuddlies from the customers?

Or is it just a simple case of, "If they won't do what we ask, we'll just *make* them obey us"? Gee, *that* always works. Sheesh.


Does this need much comment? Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad, according to Euripides. That appears to be happening here.

Leading us to:

Subject: Maybe Linux is ready for aunt Minnie now. Or very soon.

Okay I have used Linux for a long time. I decided to try the latest Ubuntu just to see how it worked plus I needed to do a new install anyway.

Okay I am shocked. I have gone through the joy of not having X work correctly and just about every other mess you can have with Linux. I have also had the joy of tracking down missing drivers for Windows but that is another story.

Okay I put in the Ubuntu CD and started the install. I got a live desktop with an icon to start the install. Well this is interesting. I start the install and answer a few simple questions about my timezone and my language and the install does it's work. While the install is going I still have a live desktop!

This is cool! I can surf the net while the system installs nice. I do the reboot and I get my desktop.

Okay here is where the problems tend to start but not this time. My screen is set to the correct resolution and the monitor is detected it looks prefect. I check and it is using the free nVidia driver so it lacks 3d acceleration but other than that it looks just great. I run the updates and that goes just fine and then I go to tools and click on the restricted driver manager. It asks if I want to us the nvidia closed source driver and I do. It installs and I restart and wait to fix what is wrong....

It restarts and everything is just perfect! Yes Ubuntu should ask at install time if you want to use one of the "restricted" drivers. I fear that the politics of Linux prevent this but maybe that will change. Okay well the desktop is working just fine so what is next? I go and click on the drive icon and I have access to my Windows partition. Good next step is I go and try and watch a video.

This is the other place that you tend to need to jump through hoops. I click on the video and get a message that Ubuntu doesn't know how to play this video. It asks if I would like it to search for the correct codec to play the video. Well I don't think that this will work but I figure I would take the easy root first. It gives me three options and a star rating. I click the one with most stars and wait. The video plays! Not only that but the sound works and it looks and sounds great!

I then go to add programs. I add some of my favorite programs and they all install with no problem. I go to my network and search for computers. For some reason my Windows boxes have had problems finding my wife's Windows machine. It tends to work eventually but it takes a little fiddling to make it work. Ubuntu finds her computer and her shared drives with no effort at all!

Yes I am shocked. I have installed many Linux and Windows systems over the last few years. Ubuntu was as close to pain free as I have ever seen. Was it perfect? No. There was one glitch. Flash. The version of Flash in the Ubuntu repositories has issues. I don't know what they are but it doesn't work. I tried GNASH which is the free open source Flash replacement from the GNU project.

It worked when I went to Youtube and played some videos it looked terrible. Not shocking since it is still in alpha. I checked the Wiki and found that others had the same problem with Flash. The solution was to uninstall and then download and install from the Macromedia website. I did that and all was well. That was the one place that I thought aunt Minnie would have to call for help. But with that glitch gone it would be as close to painless as I can imagine.

Ubuntu has shocked me. It really is a great desktop that right now is almost to the Apple level of "just works". The only glitch I had was getting Flash working. I hope that the Ubuntu team will fix that soon. Imagine an almost painless install on a PC that was built by an end-user.

My goodness how far we have come. Oh and it fast with "only" one gigabyte of ram and an Athlon X2-4400. Not cutting edge but not a dog. I stress tested it by trans coding some videos to make a DVD while I watched a different video, and surfed the net. It took a while to make the DVD image but the rest of the user-interface was fast and responsive. I would be that it would be very usable on a much slower machine.

I hope your health is improving and have fun with the new Mac. They are nice system.


I completely agree that Linux has come a long way, and given Microsoft's drift into bureaucracy and hatred of their customers this is a Good Thing. I do not think Linux is ready for Aunt Minnie unless she has a very clever nephew, but Robert Bruce Thompson says he has established a number of Aunt Minnie's with Linux and doesn't have to spend time in maintenance.

So we are moving fast, and I encourage readers who have got this far to give Ubunto a chance.

I'll do that too. Real Soon Now. But for the moment my plate is pretty full....

And that should do for this week....