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.

August 15, 2008

We begin with corrections and comments on the August opening column:

A comment on Sunday's column:


The correct title for Under Secretary Jay Cohen is "Under Secretary for Science and Technology" not "Research and Development," and the title of the organization here is the "Science & Technology Directorate, Department of Homeland Security."

Also, that stack of stuff under my arms in Peter's photo is copies of our new publication, "Science & Technology for a Safer Nation," which I handed out to the panelists and interested attendees; you can get a PDF copy here. The booklet is designed to describe what the Science & Technology Directorate is and does to the public, to the other DHS components, and to Capitol Hill; to that end, it focuses on the most important aspects of our mission, organization, strategy, etc. You will find on Page 8 of the 40-page booklet a 1/2 page description of the Directorate's interaction with Sigma, acknowledgement of the significance placed on that interaction, and an attestation for the booklet's final statement that the Directorate "will not want for imagination or initiative or agility as we work to ensure a safer nation and world."

Chris Christopher
CAPT Chris Christopher, USN (Ret.)
Conference Director
Corporate Communications Division
Science & Technology Directorate, Department of Homeland Security

Thanks. I got this after deadline time, alas.

Good News: The Sky is not falling

Eric Pobirs says


As anyone who read the paper has realized, the claims of Vista security being completely and irreparably broken were gross sensationalism and not in line with the author's own conclusions.


This is the consensus I have from many sources, and it is not entirely surprising.

Eric Pobirs also says:

About Rick's adventure in hard drive upgrading:

If you do any amount of hard drive upgrade or recovery work, I highly, highly recommend getting one of the numerous USB adapters that let you connect virtually any IDE/ATA drive, parallel and serial, both 3.5" and 2.5", made in the last fifteen years or so. These run anywhere from $15 to $30 and are worth every penny if you need to deal with bare drives more than twice a year.

An example: http://shop1.frys.com/product/5625211

Some pretty good cloning and other utility software is now bundled with Seagate/Maxtor drives. They rebrand it as MaxBlast or SeaTools but it is really the Acronis TrueImage product in a licensed form. They don't seem to care if you use it with other brands. I picked up a Fujitsu 120GB laptop recently on special for $50 but it didn't come with any software. The MaxBlast/Acronis cloner worked just fine, expanding the main partition to use all of the additional space on the new drive.


Dr. Ed Hume is an old friend. He says in panic:

Do NOT move your family jewels to My Documents


Do NOT move your writing projects to a folder inside My Documents. When (not if) your OS bites the dust, everything related to the user operating the OS - everything inside My Documents - will get blown away.

Repeat, do not trust MS with your family jewels. Yes, they have their own reasons to put user-related stuff under My Documents. But their reasons are not your reasons.

I speak from experience here; and what an unlovely experience it was.


I hadn't been keen to do it anyway. And I have not done it. Perhaps it is worth finding more information. And my backup system remains: I copy everything important to a whole bunch of places using batch files with XCOPY xxx /e/s/d/y commands.


Thanks so much for the column preview. It did lead to one issue (in the Rush Limbaugh sense). I am about 90% switched from a PC to a Mac. I still use a PC at the university and I am not going to contest that. We have two great IT support people who get run crazy by the students and professors. So I just buy them lunch, get them coffee, stay out of their way, and have everyone else puzzled why my projects get done first, even when they are bottom priority.

My issue is saving your Word document. What am I missing about searching through a folder tree to find the correct folder? Why am I forced to save the document to a top-level folder named Documents, then go to Finder after the document is saved to move it to the correct sub-folder. I like to put your stuff into a folder that in Windows lingo is /Documents/Jerry Pournelle/ . If I have missed something, just slap me and tell me the correct way.

Keep up the great work.

Dave Short

With XP I never had any problems using Microsoft Desktop Search. VISTA search works differently, and you have to tell it to index files that are not part of the Microsoft Approved Hierarchy; at least that seems to be the case. I really would prefer the old Desktop Search operating under Vista, and I am experimenting with installing that XP program in Vista. I have the computer power to allow indexing of everything.

Upgrading a Laptop Hard Drive

Hi Dr. Pournelle

I just read Rick Hellewell's account of upgrading the hard drive in his T42 laptop. I have upgraded countless hard drives both in laptops and desktops, and have found Ghost to be an excellent product for this task. I'm not sure why Rick found it so cumbersome. I'm running an older version (2004) and so maybe my copy is just more straightforward. In any case, one of the new features that they have added to HDClone (even in the free version) that Ghost also does it allowing you to upsize the partition size as you upgrade, avoiding the whole split drive issue.

Glenn Hunt

My experiences with Ghost have all been quite positive.

And a startling revelation:

MicroSoft books XP sales as Vista

This explains some of the unbelievable numbers coming out of Redmond about Vista.


HP sells systems with XP preinstalled (but with Vista in the box) and MicroSoft books it as a Vista sale.



I can believe this, but as the hardware gets better, Vista is preferable to XP for both security and user experience. It does take getting used to. I won't upgrade my older XP machines to Vista, but I will probably put Vista on any new machines I build or acquire.

Probably. We are experimenting with Windows Server 2008 now. First it will be installed as a server, then I will try it as a work station.

I'll report in the column.

Marty Winston on Backup:


In the early days, a backup meant saving everything to a second floppy. The industry evolved until we could save everything to a second internal or external hard drive - never mind that we weren't - most backup software today still can't copy open files - and a lot of it uses arcane file formats that can make restores all but impossible.

But assuming you could get some magical software to do what it should, our needs for what it should do have changed.

· A primary backup should be a complete file system doppelganger, ready to boot and run in place of the main system whenever required.

· A secondary backup system should involve a group of file-type vault drives: one for photos, one for music, one for videos, one for Office-like documents and databases

· These days, we also need a secondary vault for each of our handheld devices: one for the PDA or cell handset with music, video, photos & ringtones formatted to its specs, one for each different media player, etc.

Both primary and secondary vaults should be on appropriately named external drives (to keep them out of range of the various library scanners) and the software that automates their population and upkeep needs to be set to deal only with drive names, never with drive letters (since these are arbitrarily assigned by Windows). The source media libraries for each of the target-specific secondary vaults should all be populated with the highest possible quality encoding of those media; free to inexpensive transcoders make quick work of putting the right format file where it belongs.


Compact (and other) fluorescent lamps have mercury in them, as we all know, and pose some hazards when disposed. LEDs are also manufactures with toxic elements, not the least of which is arsenic. OLEDs are organic and can be printed onto paper-thin plastic sheets, but the brighter they get, the shorter their life expectancy (about the same as a fluorescent).

But lighting is on the output end of the energy grid – wind and solar and tides and fuel cells and biomass are among the alternatives on the generation side – but nobody wants to be only able to watch TV when the sun is shining and the wind blowing. In modest individual installations, closed fuel cell systems or rechargeable batteries may help buffer occasional sources into more consistently dependable sources, but that doesn't scale up well to the level of the grid itself. Hugely massive flywheels in kinetic storage systems are the past half century's only consistent producer; they're widely used in keeping critical manufacturing plants going at least long enough to get local generators turned on, and to that end tend to be integrated in the system. Think of something the size of multiple diesel locomotives.

Marty Winston

A Handy Tool Tip


I don't know if you have ever used the answers.com tool One Click Answers


I use this a lot when I am reading through articles on the internet and I come across a word or phrase that I do not understand. Today I used it on your site for the words Lycurgus and Fimbulwinter. Your erudite correspondents make this tool very useful so that when I encounter a word I do not know all I have do is to hold down the ALT key and click on the word and the definition pops up on the screen. This saves me from going to another site and pasting in the unknown word.

You might find it useful.


Bill Billings
VP of Technology
Radiosophy LLC

Kindle and .mobi files



Actually, once you have the .mobi copy, you merely email it to yourself (myusername@kindle.com ) and it appears on your Kindle; and you still have the .mobi copy to use as you see fit. Thanks. I'll have to set this up so I can read on my iPhone.

Alternatively, simply connecting the Kindle via USB to a PC mounts both the Kindle internal storage, as well as the SD card (if present). Then simply copying the .mobi (or ,prc files – as they download from the TOR site) to the Documents folders on the Kindle or its memory card makes them available for reading on the Kindle.

I must say that the Kindle gets more addictive every day. It certainly has its quirks but one quickly gets used to them.

As you say, 'good enough – and it'll get better'!


I find I am increasingly fond of my Kindle.

Mac guru and enthusiast Tim Loeb reports:

New ASUS Eee PC 1000

Dear Jerry:

I'm writing on some real competition for Apple's MacBook Air, the new ASUS Eee PC 1000. Guess what? It's even smaller! And pretty full-featured, with a usable keyboard, 10 inch LCD screen, and decent performance too - for a LOT less money ($699 from Amazon).

I got the model with the SSD hard drives (there are 2: an 8GB + 32GB) with Xandros Linux standard. That OS didn't last long - it reminded me entirely too much of Microsoft's BoB (enuf said?). With a little effort I was able to install Windows XP Home on the 8GB C: drive and haven't looked back. Very thoughtfully (and because they sell a model that comes with an 80GB magnetic hard drive that comes with XP by default) ASUS includes a XP driver and utility CD which gets all the hardware up and running, including the 1.3 megapixel camera.

I won't go on; if you'd like a full review just ask. Will this machine replace the MacBook Air in my affections? Probably not: the Air has a much better & larger screen and keyboard, and better performance (the ASUS uses a 1.6Ghz Atom CPU). But there are two things the ASUS offers that the Air can't match: small size (it's only about two thirds as big!) and battery life: with everything running I get a real 5.5 hours, and with bluetooth and wifi shut off it's more like 7. So for a pretty usable system to tuck under your arm and use all day without bringing along a charger it's a good choice. Add the price difference and it offers real value in comparison to the Air.

Hope this finds you well,


I carry the Mac Book Air anywhere I carry a brief case, and writing on the Air is about as convenient as working with my desktop; the keyboard is neat, and for what I do on a laptop the Air is nigh onto perfect. It is a bit large, and does require me to carry a brief case.

And I think we would all appreciate a full report.