Dr. Jerry Pournelle

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Mailbag for July 24, 2006
Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2006 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

July 24, 2006


On this page [link], you wrote:

Note that the iMac doesn't come with any instructions on how to add memory, but there are plenty of illustrated step by step tutorials, such as [this one], available on the Internet. It's not particularly tricky.

Alas, the URL is for the first generation of iMacs, 8 years ago. They were a pain in the butt. So were the iMacs that had the very adjustable arm for the LCD. However, the link below relates to current iMacs which are a different story: [Core Duo Ram Installation]


Don't mention my name on this but I was told by a neighbor who is involved with fibre at AT&T that matching Verizon's now 50 Mbit FiOS system is in the works. http://www.verizon.com/fios I'll let you imagine what a home user might use that bandwidth for. Obviously an awful lot of re-wiring with fibre would be needed to roll that out. New home developments are being built with fibre is some places.

One guess--I have a tuner for HDTV 1080i over the air and its reporting 19Mbits per second on those stations. Some of that bandwidth may be in use for secondary channels. Cable systems currently compress those signals. (I suspect satellite does too but I don't have a dish to know for sure.)


AT&T is also now providing a wireless gateway that combines DSL modem, 4 Ethernet ports and 802.11b/g in one box. I oversaw one being installed for a friend who isn't tech savvy and its a nice piece of hardware. Tech was able to do initial configuration wirelessly. I had her pay for AT&T to install it and I'm glad I did. Tech found weirdness in demarc box and in-wall wiring that would have caused a self install to not work. He spent two hours plus and he knows what he's doing. Getting it to work without scheduling another service call is worth it.

Tech was late because some bozo scheduled AT&T to install DSL at a new location hours BEFORE another AT&T tech was scheduled to install the phone line the DSL was to be on. Even if clueless homeowner didn't know better, AT&T should have had the right hand talk to the left and prevent such nonsense.


And I saw Pirates last night. I timed it at 2:20 from start till beginning of credits. At which point I quite urgently needed to visit mens room. It could have been a bit shorter.

[Name withheld]

Pirates was certainly long! But it's worth waiting for the interminable credit roll to end. Of course you can run for the rest room during the credit roll and be back well in time.

Thanks for the update.


Hi Jerry,

I have been a reader of your Chaos Manor columns in Byte for longer than I can remember (probably back to whenever you started them). When you reported that Byte had not renewed your contract, I just could not believe it. Sometimes I'd like to be able to take over the CMP "empire" and fire all the brass with no severance.

Anyway, back to the reason for this email. Even though I am already a subscriber, I assign my first subscription to your personal website (www.jerrypournelle.com) . I have, today, purchased another subscription to cover the Chaos Manor Reviews. I don't think it's right for you to make all of that available for free. Perhaps you should make a secondary subscription button for Chaos Manor Reviews so that people who feel as I do can make subscriptions for both.

I enjoy reading your postings and your columns. I know that without income, those columns probably won't get written and I don't want to see them stop.

As a side note, perhaps one day, you could write something about what real Science Fiction is and what it isn't. I'm always ranting to my wife about the Science Fiction channel and how they should change their name to the Horror Channel since that's 90% of what they broadcast. It offends me that mindless drivel like Horror always seems to be lumped together with Science Fiction. There is, of course, always the exception. The movie Alien was good Sci Fi as well as a horror story. But I always approached it as Sci Fi first and horror second. Aliens was more of a Sci Fi action movie with less "horror" moments. Alien 3 was IMHO just complete rubbish.

Thanks for many years of interesting reading,

Bruce Lewis

Just about every science fiction convention has a panel on "What is REAL science fiction," and every one of them comes to a different conclusion, providing they have any conclusion at all.

Thanks for the kind words.



You recently posted this:

"I managed about 700 words in the monk's cell today. That's a few less than I aim for. Four pages is 1,000 words, and four pages a day is three books in a year (with time off for holidays and such). I told that to David Drake once. He thought about it for a moment, then went home and quit his day job.

He's been a full time writer ever since."

Although I've never tried it, I'm sure that 1,000 well written words a day, day after a day, is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Your comment does leave me curious about the economics of fiction writing. If one were disciplined enough to do 1,000 words per day, and had the necessary creativity and skill at story telling, just how well would those 3 books have to sell for one to earn a comfortable living (lets say comfortable = $120K/year)?

CP, Connecticut

The average advance for a science fiction novel by a new or unknown writer will be about $5,000. For mid-list writers who remain reasonably popular this will rise to perhaps $20,000, but it may take years to get to that level.

Writing a best-seller will change your life.

As to how well they have to sell, paperback royalties are under 10% rising to 10% if you sell well and have a good agent. Hardbound royalties start at 10% but can be tied to sales and best-seller status. Royalties in the fiction world are a percentage of the cover price. Advances are generally set at what the book is expected to earn in a couple of years.

You should be able to make your own calculations from there. There are authors who make more than $120,000 a year, but there aren't many. Most earn perhaps a third of that if they are lucky. Again, writing a best seller can change all that dramatically, but being a science fiction writer is not usually a path to great riches, and 120K is great riches to most writers of any genre.


Morning Jerry,

Just read your latest column on AT&T & Net Neutrality, and one the whole, I'm not worried about it. In most areas, there are at least three broadband options: cable, DSL, and cellular modem (slower than the other two). Shortly we should also have 802.16 wireless (likely delivered long-haul over power lines). In order for any one of the four to move to an extortion model (which is what it is), all four would have to. If there is one that remains 'neutral' then customers will migrate towards that provider (perhaps even with Amazon/eBay/Google rebates?). It's no different than the airline industry - even a fortress hub airline can't raise prices much above the discount carriers at the same airport - at some point the price/performance curves cross.

Yet again the free market saves us from universal Armageddon.



And there are many who think that any legislation of "net neutrality" is itself an unwarranted interference in the free market.

Of course the telephone company was a regulated public utility because it was seen to be a "natural monopoly." Cable has often been thought to be a "natural monopoly." As technology advances, though, the "monopoly" over high speed connectivity may disappear.

To Be Continued...