Dr. Jerry Pournelle

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The Mailbag

Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
www.jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2009 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

July 31, 2009

Vista 32 and 64 on the MacBook Pro

Jerry,

A customer was having problems with one of my USB device drivers on Vista. Therefore I needed Vista 32 and Vista 64 systems to test against and to run Win Bag, the Microsoft kernel debugger. I have been using Laptops for target systems lately. They are small and not too expensive. I have a recent Lenovo T500 Thinkpad that would seem to be perfect.

I acquired two new hard disks for the T500 and went looking for the Lenovo restore CD's/DVD's. You see, I run XP on my Windows machines, I have not cared much for Vista in the past. Turns out I did not have Vista restore CD's only XP. So I called IBM in Atlanta and requested them. No problem they said, except we can only send you Vista 32 CD's. You did not purchase Vista 64. Why? License problems. They recommended that I use the standard Vista 64 retail install DVD and then use system update to get all of their ThinkPad unique drivers and software.

While I waited for the Vista 32 recovery disks to arrive, I went to work on Vista 64. I have an MSDN subscription, a very good investment for Windows developers, and I downloaded and burned a Vista 64 DVD. After about 30 minutes the ThinkPad with one of the new hard drives was running Vista 64. However, video was in VGA compatibility mode, there was no Ethernet, Wireless, and many other drivers were missing. I used another machine and a zip drive to download the system update utility and Ethernet driver and used "Sneakernet" to install them on the T500. I then had network connectivity on the T500 and could run system update.

So far, so good. Then the fun began. After many reboots, a few blue screens of death and about a day, all of the drivers were still not installed. Yikes!

At the end of the day, I recalled that Vista 32 or 64 will install on a bare hard disk on Apple machines. This is because Vista is EFI boot aware which is the boot environment apple uses. Of course, Vista does not contain drivers for the Apple hardware ether, but Apple, provides all of their drivers and other systems software on a Windows partition on their OSX install DVD's.

Next morning, I opened up my MacBook Pro (the one with the easily accessible hard disk) and installed a fresh 500GB WD drive. Inserted the Vista 64 DVD, went and had a cup of coffee, and came back to find a running Vista 64 system minus all of the device drivers for the MacBook Pro. I inserted the OSX install DVD, auto run ran, and in about 10 minutes I had a fully functional Vista 64 installation with all of the Mac hardware supported! Another hard disk and about an hour later, I had Vista 32 running.

To be fair, Microsoft update then ran for several hours on each system and installed 88 updates! However, their were no blue screens of death, no interaction problems etc. All I had to do was let it run on each machine while I did something else.

So Apple supports Windows on their hardware better than Lenovo does.

Phil Tharp
Vreelin Eng. Inc.

A fascinating story. That didn't used to be the case, but since Lenovo became a Chinese company, some of the driver research and development seems to have slowed. IBM is now pretty well out of the PC business, while Apple's share is growing.

Apple hardware is premium priced, but you get a lot for that premium.


Monitor failures as per column 348

Jerry,

Strangely enough my monitor died this week as well. Samsung Syncmaster 17 made in September 1996. Got it when windows 95 first came out ( and yes, I got it on those 16 or so 3 1/2" diskettes, and had to get a drive as well). Win95 went, along with Win98, and Win98SE, as well as Win2K, and the ( second replacement now) machine runs XP Pro. It is my work machine, and thus never gets turned off unless power is out for more than 3 hours. After the scheduled cut on this Tuesday evening I turned the monitor back on, the first time it had been off for over a year now. It flashed over once ( as it had been doing ever since new, reason why it was never turned off) and then failed to come on again.

I actually debated repairing it, as that is part of what I do in machinery maintenance, but it was easier to go into my storeroom and get a replacement, though sadly 14 inches. I have a good stock of them, as the company occasionally upgraded by buying a complete bundle with monitor, as these could be cheaper. Repair would not have been worth it on the old one, as Samsung sadly does not provide any spare parts after 2 years for most items, although they do make good products.

Sad to say the LCD monitors will not make 13 years of operation, as the lamps will fail after 2 years of use in most cases, and replacement will probably be uneconomic with labour costs added in, as the lamps themselves are rather generic, and are available for a price. Stripping down the monitor to replace will be the biggest cost, almost the price of a new one in most cases. I forsee myself having a largish stock of dud LCD units in a few years. At least they are easier to store.

Best wishes, and continued good health and recovery.

Sean Beukes

Durban
South Africa

I still have a couple of large bottles that work; I'll probably replace one of them when it dies. I don't really need the other one. My experiences with the Acer H243H 23" remain quite favorable. It's fast, the text looks very good, and with Windows Vista large fonts and 1920 x 1080 resolution everything is very readable. I'm sure there are many other good 23" flat screen monitors - I bought this at a sale at Fry's. Monitors have pretty well become commodity goods, I think.

I'm still not convinced that I know what to do with the extra real estate. I was happy enough with a "square" 19" monitor, but a 19" "widescreen" is far less readable and useful. If you're replacing a "square" bottle or flat screen, I think you will find that 22" is minimum and 23" better. Of course my eyes aren't what they used to be.

Bottom line is that the Acer is better than good enough for what I do, and I'm getting another to set up as the monitor at Niven's work station in Chaos Manor.


Monitors that 'die' (LCD monitors)

Jerry,

With regards to your recent spate of monitor problems.

I have had occasions where one of my two 22" LCD monitors would not display anything. Turning it off and on again would do nothing, the Display Properties dialog in Windows XP would 'see' the second monitor, but it couldn't be accessed. Swapping cables from the video card (two DVI connectors), resulted in the Working monitor -still working- and the failed one still failed.

But if I put the 'failed' monitor into Test mode by holding down some combination of front panel buttons, I could get test screens (colours etc) so the hardware itself seemed ok, it just wasn't getting a signal.

It was weird that Power Cycling (by pressing the power button at the front) wouldn't change the situation).

Then I -eventually- unplugged the monitor from the power supply (yanking out the power cord from the back of the unit), and when I plugged the power back in and turned the monitor on, it was fine.

This has happened more than once with this particular monitor.

I realize you're talking about CRT monitors, but still, it could be worth while yanking the power cord and retrying.

BTW, I now use a 32" Sony Bravia HDTV (1920 * 1080) as my main monitor, it's jaw droppingly great for games like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes, and works admirably for normal stuff as well (although I tend to do my email/web/spreadsheets on the second "small" 22" monitor). I did a great deal of research, the Sony monitor has 'square' subpixels, and at standard distances from the user (18" to 2') you don't perceive the individual pixels/subpixels -- other 'cheaper' TV's use oddly shaped subpixels (the Red/Green/Blue might be lozenge shaped, or even sickle shaped), this results in horrible text representations. Just thought I'd let you know how grin-inducing -large- LCD monitors are.

David Andrew
Clayton Canberra, Australia.

Thanks for the account. My 19" LaCie was my first high quality flat screen, and I loved it; alas, it was well and truly dead, and nothing I can do will get anything on the screen at all, so it has gone to the recyclers.

I have found the 23" monitor quite satisfactory - I can't really imagine having a 32" screen here! But my Acer does operate at 1920 x 1080, and I like that resolution a lot. Text looks really good.


Windows and Monitors

Jerry,

I think you will find this entry on text and fonts from the Windows 7 team very informative.

[MSDN Blog Link]

Dean Peters

And indeed it is. Thanks. I'll be installing Win 7 shortly; the final is available on the Microsoft Developer Network.


Re: The Google Grab

Actually, we might be thinking about this all wrong.

By all reports, the US Copyright Office is hopelessly swamped; even if nothing new were registered at all, starting today, it would still take them multiple YEARS to work through their current in-box.

So maybe what Google is doing, here, is declaring that they are assuming the role of the copyright office--in the sense that if you can find it in Google Books then it isn't copyrighted. (Because if it were, then the rightsholder would fill out the "please remove this" form and it would be gone, right?) This seems like a de-facto version of the "regular short-term renewal" that many have proposed for copyright; rightsholders must know exactly what they have the rights to, and it's incumbent on the rightsholder to contact the registration office and define the status of their copyright.

I see two potential problems, though:

1) This only works if there's only ONE "private copyright office". If Yahoo! starts doing YahooDocs, and Bing starts doing BingDocs, and Scribd starts doing ScribdDocs, then we're right back where we started--with a potentially-infinite number of locations where copyrighted works might be posted with an "opt-out" permission scheme.

2) It also requires a simple, clear, rapid process for getting your works removed. (From the sound of things, Google hasn't got this yet.)

Mike Powers

I confess I still have no reliable advice for authors on what to do about the Google Grab; at the moment it doesn't look as if anything will be implemented. Doing nothing - which is pretty well the same as opting in - is the easiest course of action, and may bring in a bit of money for old BYTE columns and such like that got scanned in by the Google sweep.

For science non-fiction writers in general the value of past work is pretty small. My series on America's Looming Energy Crisis for American Legion Magazine in the 70's and 80's was prophetic (and I made a bit of money buying $14 oil futures by taking my own advice in those articles), but few to none would pay to read those articles now, and no publisher will pay for the rights to them. The Google payment is about as much as I can get anywhere; of course each article must be claimed and it's about 5 minutes work per each. Making the claims as been onerous; but it's a pretty good return on time invested, or would be if there were any return. So far no one has gotten any money (with the probable exception of "my" lawyers who seem to have got some of Google's early settlement payments - they come first, of course, before the "clients").

To be fair, Google's intention is to make knowledge available to everyone. That conflicts with copyright. When the copyright owner is known and available there's no real problem: the copyright owner can negotiate or not. The big problem comes when there's a copyright but no one knows who owns it. Google decided to plunge ahead and scan in essentially everything. The Google "vision" is given by Engineering Director Dan Clancy in an interview here. http://www.mediabistro.com/baynewser/google_book_settlement/

That "vision" has many good qualities, but it also includes a number of assumptions about the future of publishing. Certainly the whole nature or publishing, including the role of books stores and "physical" books will change drastically in the years to come. The pace of that change isn't so easily predicted, but we've already seen the near collapse of the paperback book distribution system.

The Google Settlement creates a registry of orphaned works; that's good; but it makes Google the compulsory agent for those who opt in, and Google is charging a very high agency fee. It's a better deal than nothing for authors, but it's not a very good deal. The Authors Guild decided to go along, probably on the theory that this was the best they could get; litigation is expensive. Some author associations have advised opting in. Others advise opting out. SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) is drafting a critique of the agreement.

The government continues to investigate, and the courts haven't decided what to do. This matter won't go away; the orphan copyright problem is real. Google decided to cut the Gordian knot. Their intentions may have been good, but it turned out that hornets had nested inside the knot.


Francis Hamit has another view:

Dear Jerry:

I am opting out of the Google Settlement. I checked and found that they had already copied my MFA thesis and my current book, both of which have registered copyrights. These are not orphan works and the whole orphan work controversy strikes me as a scam to grab everything they can. Registration is supposed to be public notice of ownership and a big "hands off" sign. As you pointed out, the current law makes it almost impossible to mount a lawsuit for infringement.

I am also very disappointed in the University of Iowa, which last year agreed to keep MFA thesis's from being electronically reproduced and distributed. There was a big controversy about this in March, 2008. It did not stop Google. Neither did the fact that I have sued two copyright infringers and won both cases. They are trying the steamroller this settlement and subvert the law for their own commercial advantage. I am hopeful that someone in Congress will wake up and hold some hearings about this.

Sincerely,

Francis Hamit

My own PhD thesis seems to have been Googled in. I don't know whether to be angry or grateful: I ought to write a readable book on the subject matter (the Pournelle Axes) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pournelle_chart . The purpose of my dissertation was to satisfy my Committee, and I wasn't interested in readability: I had a big promotion in the aerospace industry hanging on getting the degree formalized. On the other hand, there have been many commentaries on it, such as the above, and this one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_spectrum

I do believe the orphan copyright problem to be larger than you think, but then I did about 30 anthologies at one time, and inability to clear rights on old stories prevented inclusion of some good ones.

Alternate views were given at a panel discussion. [Linked here]

One notable quote:

James Gleick, a science writer and author of Faster, explained further:

"Opting out is something that an author should do if he or she first of all wants to sue Google and second of all doesn't want his or her book ever to turn up in a Google search. If you want your book to be invisible to the community of people who search in Google, then you would want to opt out. I don't believe that that author exists."

My conclusion remains: at the moment I will do nothing while I wait to see what the courts will actually do.


A warning about NOD32 (based on bitter experience)

Dear Jerry,

A couple of months ago I installed NOD32 on my Vista Home laptop. After it was installed, within 30 seconds of trying to access the Internet, whether by web page or by email, I would get the Blue Screen of Death. I spent weeks trying to find what had happened, until I finally ran across a web page (using another computer) that described my exact problem and attributing it to NOD32 (the latest version, which at the time was 4.something). When I removed NOD32 (and rewplaced it with Avira, which was recommended by the Windows Secrets newsletter), the problem went away and did not return. At the time, ESET would not acknowledge any such problem, much less that they were the (apparent) cause. Just a word of warning...

Leslie Rubinstein

I tried NOD32 several years ago. I had no problems with it, but it annoyed me with nags and I was unable to tame it. I generally don't bother with an anti-virus program running all the time, but I do periodically scan the systems from DVD-based scanners.


OneCare Firewall

Jerry,

What you're looking for is:

Change Settings... Configure Firewall... Change Location. This is a button that toggles between "Home or Work" and "Public Place".

(Rather unusual type of button operation I think).

Regards,

Rob Megarrity

I eventually found this, and it works - here. I have yet to connect to the wireless at the beach house although everyone else (including my iPhone) was able to do so. Somehow the IBM/Lenovo wireless manager and Windows XP wireless just don't get along. I solve the problem at the beach with an Ethernet cable...


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

A few months ago, I reread your fascinating book A STEP FARTHER OUT with admiration and frustration. Admiration because so much of what you collected in that book is still relevant. Frustration because so LITTLE has been done about many of the things you advocated in that book. Things like space travel, off Earth colonization, and nuclear power.

Finally, I decided to actually DO something. I obtained a copy of A STEP FARTHER OUT and sent it as a gift to Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. I did this because I liked what I read of him in magazines such as NATIONAL REVIEW, and the comments of people from that state who have talked to me about Mr. Jindal. He SEEMS to be both a sound conservative and far more imaginative than too many other GOP pols.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that Governor Jindal will be so inspired by A STEP FARTHER he will actually try to ACT on some of your proposals if he is ever in a position to do so.

Sincerely,

Sean M. Brooks

Thank you very much. We can hope that this works.


Jerry,

Are you still looking for a new tablet pc? The 2go convertible classmate PC is 3 lbs, 8.9" screen. Base model is $499 and of course you'd probably want to spend $25 on amazon.com or newegg.com to bump the ram to 2GB...

[CTL Link]

Basically it's one of the little netbooks, but in tablet form with a nifty handle. I assume this was a response to the OLPC effort, but after using both an OLPC and a netbook, this thing could actually travel with you and be quite useful.

Netbook impressions:

I was frustrated enough with getting PDFs on my kindle that instead of waiting for the new kindle that knows how to display PDF files, I bought an ASUS 901HA netbook, 8.9" form factor. It works great, exactly as expected. I upgraded to 2GB of memory right away. It bogs down even with some simple java games but overall it is exactly what I wanted, a tiny but full featured computer running any OS I want. If keyboard size is an issue then there are plenty of 10" screen netbooks and even some 8.9" screen netbooks in the 10" chassis that have a little bigger keyboard. I wanted portability over almost every other consideration, with battery life a close second place. The 901HA gets a "real" 4 to 5 hours of use with wireless on and screen at max brightness, and I found on amazon and ebay a whole bunch of aftermarket high capacity batteries that, although heavy and bulky, can more than double battery capacity.

The 1.5 generation (atom cpu and 1024x600 screens) netbooks generally cost less than a kindle2, far less than a kindle DX, display PDF files just fine, and unlike my kindle2 can go straight to the project Gutenberg site for all the free e-books I could ever want. Take THAT Amazon, pbbbbthhhthththhth. I'm not going to dump my kindle2 since it really does read e-books better than anything else, but when I travel I will have both the netbook and kindle with me, and I am fairly sure that the netbook will get more use (except when my wife takes it from me).

Sean

That Classmate looks very good in the advertisements, but I haven't seen one - I don't get to the shows much now, but I think I should return, at least to CES. The real question would be if it can work with OneNote. A TabletPC plus OneNote will change your life. I'll try to find out before the next column.

In my case, LisaBetta, my HP-Compaq Tablet PC, still works and quite well. She's a little slow with Outlook, but she works, and I've taken to using her when I need OneNote.

Now Apple is about to come up with a Tablet, and I will wait to see how that goes. My conversion from Windows to Apple is sort of intermittent: Windows 7 looks to have solved just about all the problems I had with Vista. On the other hand I like Apple. The big problem is mail. At the moment all my communications are done on an Intel Core 2 Quad system that does it efficiently and well, and I'm very used to it and to Outlook. I use the IBM ThinkPad for a portable. My home system runs Outlook 2007 and the ThinkPad runs Outlook 2003, and they are quite compatible so I have no trouble switching from one to the other (I copy the Outlook folder where I keep all the pst's from one machine to the other, and when away I use a 100 Gig Seagate USB book drive to back up that folder).

I will certainly have a look at the new Apple tablets when they are available.


You wrote "And despite many people trying to teach me proper ways to use Vista search, I enormously prefer the old XP search window when all I want to do is find a file. "

You should try Everything:

http://www.voidtools.com/

I've never seen anything like it.

--
Dr. Paul J. Camp
Spelman College

And I'll do that, Real Soon Now. Actually, I seem to have mastered Vista search, and my next learning experience will be Windows 7, so it may be a while. Thanks again.


Clouds vs. Hard Drives -

One user - at least one CPU

To which I'll add

One document, at least two storage locations.

Save early, save often.

Save on different disks.

And after watching the Hurricane bear down on my house Save in multiple geographical locations.

The "cloud" is a great place for storing one copy of a document. But I'd always have a local backup - which is then backed up along with my other important files to a location somewhere at least 100 miles away.

My personal strategy is to email important documents from my yahoo account to my gmail account. As long as I can access either yahoo or gmail I can get a copy of the document.

Jim Coffey

One User - one CPU was I think the first of Pournelle's Laws, proclaimed in about 1980. I later modified it to One User, at least one CPU.

I'm still old fashioned enough to carry a Seagate 100 gigabyte USB drive for backup storage rather than rely on the cloud. Perhaps I'll change on that, but so far I haven't been tempted.


Tab Mix Plus and Firefox 3.5

Dear Jerry,

If you upgrade to Firefox 3.5, the released version of Tab Mix Plus is incompatible with Firefox 3.5. There is a pre-release version that is compatible and seems to work quite well thus far. However, you should save the session before upgrading Firefox, as when I installed the pre-release version after the upgrade, it did not find my tabs from the previous shutdown, but an older set. Installing the pre-release version prior to upgrading Firefox won't work, as it is apparently incompatible with earlier versions of Firefox.

The pre-release version is available from the developer's website:

http://tmp.garyr.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9864

If you are concerned about the legitimacy of this site (I was!), it can be gotten to from the main Tab Mix Plus page:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1122

Hopefully I've done something silly so _YOU_ didn't have to, for a change. ;)

Cheers,

Rod Schaffter

Thanks. I have used it, and it works just fine.