Dr. Jerry Pournelle

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Computing At Chaos Manor:
The Mailbag

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

August 24, 2009

You Have Discovered Why the EU Decided to Discipline Microsoft

Jerry Stated: "One moral of this story is that before you do ANYTHING having to do with Microsoft, make sure that your default browser is Internet Explorer. If you don't, you will probably regret it."

Microsoft has some of the most talented programmers on the planet.

Microsoft appears to be capable of making their products work well with Internet Explorer. In my opinion, If Microsoft wanted their products to work well with Firefox, Chrome, and Opera ... they know how to define specifications so that these other browsers will work well.

I am not slandering Microsoft or their programmers. They have a very complicated code base.

From what I have heard - there are many companies that testified in Europe with stories about how they made their product work well with an "official final release version" of the next version of Microsoft Windows ... and then when the Windows actually shipped the competing product no longer worked.

Jim

Perhaps so. On the other hand, where do you stop? Does Microsoft have an obligation to make everything work with, say, Joe's Buggy Browser written by a couple of Cal Tech students and used by hundreds and hundreds of their friends? My experience has been that if I am going to do anything having to do with Microsoft - that is, updates and changes to the operating system itself - it is wise to do that in Internet Explorer, and I do that. Otherwise I tend to use Firefox, largely because I am used to it.

The European sanctions were because Microsoft has Internet Explorer pre-installed, and doesn't come with Opera installed. It's no great trick to install Firefox; I wouldn't know about Opera because I gave up on it a long time ago, finding Firefox preferable.

I still prefer Firefox to the latest Internet Explorer, mostly because of the applications. That could change. But they both work, except that I prefer IE for update downloads.


Some thoughts about Firefox

Jerry:

Out of curiosity, I checked to see if there is a way in Firefox to disable update notifications. I found this page at Mozilla:

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Software_Update:Testing

There are a set of "app.config." settings on the "about:config" page which might do the trick for you.

I'm constantly starting and stopping Firefox, and rarely have more than four tabs open at one time, so I don't encounter the problems you do with unplanned shutdowns. Have you considered bookmarking all of your open tabs as extra insurance? You can do that (at least, on the Mac, which I'm using) by right-clicking on a tab and selecting "Bookmark All Tabs" down at the bottom.

You could then, at need, select the bookmark folder and click on "Open All in Tabs" to restore everything. I've opened up to 24 tabs that way, with warnings about how it might "slow down Firefox" while it's happening.

Hope this helps. As always, I greatly enjoy reading your web sites, and am glad to see you're doing well. I had a very weird bout of the "flu" about a week before N1H1 suddenly showed up in the news last spring, so am wondering if I've already experienced it. It certainly was unlike anything else I'd ever gone through, with a beginning phase involving a moderately high fever, followed after a day's hiatus by serious intestinal upset. I still can't stand the thought of eating a chicken salad sandwich, previously one of my favorites.

Regards,

Bob Shepard

I've tried all the various configurations, but Firefox continues to insist on asking me about updates. It's not a big problem.

As to bookmarking tabs, of course that would work, but my whole reason for using Firefox tabs as a kind of "to be read" list is that it's convenient, and even with the update insisting it's still more convenient than making an actual list. Perhaps I complain too much.


Firefox update

Hi Jerry,

In Chaos Manor Reviews you mentioned that Firebox's updates are intrusive. Probably a dumb question but why don't you just turn Update off? It's easy to do & you can turn it back on anytime you want. Love your site, please don't change anything. Besides, I would rather you devote your copious free time to finishing Mamelukes.

John Parrish

I don't turn off the automatic updates because I don't dare. Some of those updates are critical. I don't care to have any of my machines join the zombie army. I'd rather put up with the update nags. I'm becoming more certain that I complain too much about this.


Re. Computing At Chaos Manor: August 13, 2009 - Windows Lacks Features

Jerry,

Sorry to hear you're not well and hope you get better soon.

I was surprised by the EU-bashing comments in this column and felt the need to react. I suspect I will not be the only one.

Now I realize that "big government" is less popular in the US than in Europe but I find it ironic that you begin your column bemoaning the current economic woes which many attribute to a lack of adequate government control of financial institutions and then go on to complain about an area where controls _are_ being applied - and not just by the EU but also by the US, Japan etc.

The fact that Microsoft are forced to jump through various regulatory hurdles is really their own doing after having been found guilty in the past of abusing their monoply position in the desktop OS space by many jurisdictions. As far as browsers go I would argue that this intervention has actually benefited consumers - Internet Explorer (V.8) has only recently become competive again by responding to the threat and innovations from competitors such as Opera (pop-up blocking, speed dial), Firefox (quick search), Safari, Chrome (speed) et al. So if you like IE8 - thank the spurring on from competition!

As for DVD burning being missing from Windows I think the same applies to Macs doesn't it? My knowledge is somewhat outdated but the last time I looked you still needed a 3rd party package like Toast do do anything useful with CD/DVDs on Macs. Most retail PCs with Windows will have CD/DVD burning software provided by the manufacturer and retail CD/DVD Drives are normally also packaged with burning software.

Regards,
Andrew
Amsterdam, Holland

Eric Pobirs replied:

Please. This has far less to do with the ridiculous rulings against Microsoft than with a government intervening in a market to choose winners and losers. If non-Microsoft browsers attract users, that alone is more than sufficient to drive Microsoft to restart IE development. Firefox gained major market and motivated Microsoft to pursue active browser development long before this latest bit of governmental coercion. how did most of those downloads of Firefox for Windows happen? By going to the site in Internet Explorer. Requiring an OS with no browser, as several parties demanded, just because many people are content with what comes with the system out of the box, is like demanding a track star have a few toes amputated just to even things up a little. It doesn't benefit the spectators or anyone else but some inadequate competitors.

As mentioned before, Firefox got a billion downloads without requiring anyone to ship it with their OS. Why is any government intervention needed? The market worked. I don't see what the EU is doing as an improvement for anyone but those with a stake in Opera.

Considering that the economics woes of the US are being felt just as urgently in Europe, the UK, and elsewhere, it hardly seems likely a lack of governmental regulation is to blame. In fact, an excellent case can be made that the primary culprit was governmental policies. This is detailed in Thomas Sowell's 'The Housing Boom and Bust' and by Peter Wallison in this ReasonTV video: http://www.reason.tv/video/show/626.html

The problems described by Sowell and Wallison have been repeated in variants forms by much of the developed world's governments.

DVD burning has been a feature of Macs for many OS generations. Apple is free to bundle software with each of their machines that would have the whiners screaming bloody murder if Microsoft were to do the same. The iLife package is heavily touted in any conversation weighing the strengths of each platform.

This is no better than the worst abuses of Affirmative Action. It's one thing to demand a fair chance at the market. It's another thing entirely to demand the competition be handicapped because some thought they had an unfair advantage in the past. Governments shouldn't deal in revenge.

--- Eric


New iPhone Note app

Hi Jerry,

Hope this email finds you well.

I was going through the App Store yesterday and I came across a Note App that I thought may be of interest to you as a fellow inveterate note taker.

Have a look at AWESOME NOTE from some developer named BRID - I bought it and like it quite a bit (I have been using YouNote for sometime)

Best Regards....

Richard Hakala

Thanks. I have installed it, and yes, I like it a lot.


Death of Word -- Comment

Personally, I found that Word peaked with the 2003 version; I never have managed to comfortably adapt to the ribbon interface of Word 2007, and I think it is really too bad that Microsoft didn't provide some kind of backward compatibility. Since you are moving to the Mac, however, I would suggest iWork Pages as a worthy replacement; it has "just enough" functionality for virtually anything I need to do and still will reliably read Word 2003 and 2007 file formats .

Best wishes,

--- Larry
Lawrence Keyes

I have never had any problems with compatibility of Word 2007 and Word 2003; you do have to make sure you save anything you originate in 2007 in the compatibility format, but once you do that, it stays in that format.

Niven uses 2003 and has no temptation to change to 2007. We routinely work on our own, then I compare and merge his version and mine into a new master. Both are saved in 2003 formats, and I have no problems opening both and doing the comparisons, then saving the result, all in the 2003 format.

I have mixed emotions about the 2007 ribbon. I have now used both versions enough that I don't really have any problems finding the menu items, and I will say that 2007 is more logical and consistent. I also wish that the 2007 designers had left some of the 2003 items where they used to be while adding them in the "more logical place".

As to the Mac version of Word, I find the lack of macros nearly intolerable, and that has been one of the major reasons for dragging my feet on changing over.


ImgBurn

I use this too. It's great for anything you don't have to author.

You don't seem to have run into it yet, but ImgBurn also has one major advantage over Nero. I have a copy of Nero 7 that I don't use much any more. It works fine for single layer disks but the problem comes with dual layer. It seems that Nero simply ignores the layer break in the image and places the break wherever it damn well pleases. This results in a disk with two breaks (as if there were three layers). Or something like that. I'm guessing since I don't have the equipment to really find out what is going on. But at any rate, this has resulted in some disks that will not read on all systems in my house. Some are more picky about layer breaks than others and actually try to find the nonexistent third layer. Since it isn't there the disk fails. On other systems (I would say smarter ones), a layer break that doesn't lead anywhere is ignored and the entire disk is readable.

It took me forever to figure out what was going on. But as it happens, ImgBurn does not have this problem. Every disk I have made with it is readable in all systems in my house. That's important.

--
Dr. Paul J. Camp
Spelman College
Department of Physics
Atlanta, GA

Thanks. I hadn't realized that was a problem in Nero. I do find ImgBurn easy to use, and It Just Works. I was a big fan of Nero when it first came out, but I began to tire of its featuritis, which became terminal for me a few years ago.


I received this last week:

Sitemap File missing - http://www.chaosmanorreviews.com

As I was on http://www.chaosmanorreviews.com this morning, I was unable to locate a "Google Sitemap file" on your website.

I am not referring to a regular "site map" for people to visit online, but rather to a protocol called "Google Sitemap file" which helps Google to read and index your website overall content. I advise you to visit us online where we explain clearly what is a "Google Sitemap file" and what you need to do to get one: [[ Link removed ]]

A Google Sitemap file would capture all the crucial information about your website, thus facilitating the crawling and indexing process for Google.

Google & Yahoo recommend that you get a Sitemap file. I invite you to call me at +1 (202)-NNN-NNNN to discus how can we can help you almost overnight to get set up with your Google Sitemap file.

I am looking forward to our conversation.
Xxx web site

I sent a copy to my advisors, and got this (not unexpected) answer from Rick Hellewell:

From Google Webmaster Help:

"Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover. In its simplest terms, a XML Sitemap--usually called Sitemap, with a capital S--is a list of the pages on your website. Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google's normal crawling process."

I think that since most of your pages have references to other pages, you don't really need to create a sitemap file. It can be a bit involved, especially on a large site such as yours.

Google probably "knows" most of your pages. You could do a Google search with a parameter including "site:jerrypournelle.com", then do an advanced search to limit the date range if you wish. But the results should show almost all of your pages.

You could use some of the Google Webmaster Tools to see when they last "crawled" your pages, but I suspect Google visits daily. (You could also look in your stats to see when Google's searchbot last visited.)

Although some sites might benefit from a sitemap, I am not sure that it would be that beneficial for you.

And the message you got was just someone trolling for business. Their 'work' would cost you, and I don't think it would be that beneficial for you.

...Rick...

As I said, not unexpected.


Linux/Ubuntu Use Limits

Dear Jerry

As a very low level geek and long-time small computer user, I have explored various flavors of Linux and am currently working with Ubuntu. I like it a lot.

I am not adept at the command line use of the system but Gnome works very well indeed. I, and a number of folks I know/work with, could go over completely to Ubuntu with Open Office except that we are tied into accounting software that apparently can run only on Windows. I think as close to a killer application as could be developed for Ubuntu would be to convince Sage Software (Peachtree Accounting) and/or Intuit (Quckbooks and Quicken) to develop packages that would run reliably on a Linux operating system.

Access to reasonably priced and reliable operating system and software platform would be a boon to many small businesses and non-profits.

Phil Munck

I encourage all those who have the time and even a slight inclination to play about with Linux, and Ubuntu is a great way to start. I have also been impressed with the performance of the latest Red Hat with Gnome as I saw it on Joe Zeff's fairly standard laptop; indeed, it was in many ways indistinguishable in operation from Windows XP, but was fast and crisp.

I do not believe that Linux is the system for Aunt Minnie unless she has reasonable access to a guru. That said, it's becoming a lot easier to achieve, if not guru status, a capability to handle nearly all problems while making on-line connections with people who can take care of everything else.

Meanwhile, the number of applications that will run on Linux increases almost exponentially. If Microsoft went out of business tomorrow, many of us could survive: it would be inconvenient but not fatal. Of course that won't happen.