Dr. Jerry Pournelle

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Computing At Chaos Manor

Mailbag for August 14, 2006
Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2006 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

August 14, 2006

I will let this letter stand for several dozen asking much the same thing:

Subject: Your Column in Byte.com

I have not seen any posting of your column since June 26th.

Are you still writing for Byte? I sent a feedback email about the middle of July to the editors in general, but have not received any response. Your column is one of the main reasons I subscribe to Byte. If necessary I will switch my subscription to your website, since you have one of the most common sense approaches to software and equipment of anyone I have ever read.

Thank you for all your columns that you have already done.

Rod Fain

Apparently BYTE hasn't posted a farewell after 30 years of columns. Alas. As of July 1, I no longer send columns to BYTE, because they declined to renew my contract, and their offer wasn't enough to justify the work required to keep it up. CMP publications own non-exclusive rights to publish the columns sent prior to July, 2006. So do I, and I will have most of those columns archived here, beginning with this year and adding previous years as time and resources permit. We will also have David Em's materials here, and we hope to have a monthly contribution from David, but that will depend on subscriptions.

I am continuing here the Computing at Chaos Manor: The User's Column that Byte used to carry. Like The View From Chaos Manor, this is paid for by voluntary subscription on the "public radio" model: if you think it's worth your time to read, you are asked to subscribe. It's the same subscription here or to Chaos Manor; that is, if you subscribed to either you have a subscription to both. Click here to learn how to subscribe. It's quite easy.

And tell your friends.

Firefox Sessions Restored:

I had a problem with Firefox: each time I installed a revision, I lost all the links I had preserved, and it came up blank. I received a bunch of mail about this, but here's what fixed the problem:

Subject: - Firefox session restore - this will help you

Jerry read your piece on Firefox, your problem is that you're running Crash Recovery and Session Manager.

These days everyone runs Tab Mix Plus which provides crash recovery, session management, undo closed tab and a bunch of other really nice features all in one extension so they play nicely together, you need to go download it. It's easy to find, it's in the list of most popular extensions. Note that before installing Tab Mix Plus you should uninstall Session Manager and Crash Recovery so you don't have multiple extensions trying to manage your sessions.

I've included a few relevant 'options' screen shots, and a settings file (TMPpref.txt) which can be imported so your setup is like mine as a starting point.

[Omitted here]

Here are some of the options I have set:

It also has an 'undo close tab' function, whereby right clicking on any tab and choosing 'undo close tab' will let you choose from a list of the last 25 (adjustable, it's the parameter mentioned above) tabs you closed, and recover it.

These are just a few of the settings, I recommend you look through the options, it will be readily apparent what most of them do, I haven't found need to change any I wasn't sure of.

After installing this you'll never look back.



I have chosen somewhat different options, including a small (x) in each tab, but I have had no problems with Firefox since installing Tab Mix Plus. Thanks for telling me about it! I continue to recommend Firefox, and Tab Mix Plus is the right extension. Be sure to uninstall Crash Recovery and Session Manager.

For some reason I had a bit of trouble installing Tab Mix Plus, but I am not sure what caused them, and it only took persistence to get it working properly. Thanks for the tip.

Subject: Re: The WiFi exploit and Mac Announcements

The second part, the 'Blue Pill' demo was extremely important in the same way as the WiFi exploit because it is so far reaching. Not so much a Windows exploit as an AMD virtualization exploit and potentially an Intel exploit, too.

Part of the presentation touched on another recent column issue, that of 'what'll we do with all of this power?' Being able to do away with paging thanks to massive amounts of RAM would be sweet, and if it closes an avenue of attack, all the better. It would be interesting to compare the power usage for very large (by current desktop standards) memory installations vs. using the hard drive for virtual memory. If MRAM densities got high enough and cheap enough the difference would be huge but I wonder where it is with current RAM types. Could a 'greener' PC also be better in other ways?

Eric Pobirs

Greener is cool. In several ways.

Bob Thompson reminds me that:

The Blue Pill demo may have been debunked. See this link. I don't know much about this, but the guy doing the debunking (Anthony Liguori of the Xen project) seems to be credible.

I must confess that I don't know enough about this to offer an opinion. I wasn't at the conference, and thus didn't get any impressions about those who made the demonstration, or talk to skeptics. I am sure there will be more on this story, and we'll follow it for you; meanwhile, the moral of the story remains obvious: be careful out there, and don't assume that any system is automatically safe just because it isn't running Windows. You may be sure that we do not know all the exploits, and that there are plenty of people looking for them.

Subject: you might like to try


You mentioned NoteTab Pro. I used to use that, now I use this - it's gorgeous (especially for html, the embedded "html tidy" is almost magic)

SPad editor

The universal freeware editor is for you if you need to:

There is no complex install process, editor PSPad is ready to work immediately, without requiring customization. The editor supports many file types and languages, with syntax highlighting. There are macros, clip files and templates to automate repetitive activities. An integrated HEX Editor, Project support, FTP Client, Macro Recorder, File Search/Replace, Code Explorer, code page conversion, are just some of the many possibilities that PSPad can offer you.

Editor PSPad was tested in the Softpedia labs and Softpedia guarantees that PSPad editor is 100% FREE, which means it is a freeware product (both for personal and commercial use) that does not contain any form of malware, including but not limited to: spyware, viruses, trojans and backdoors.

Dvorah Weisman

Thanks! I have tried that utility, and I like it a lot. I still have a lot of files in NoteTab Pro, and it's very good too, but PSPad goes on my list of permanent things to install on every machine.

Subject: What to do with more CPU power


Regarding your recent discussion on how we might put more CPU power to use, and if we really need more CPU than we have available now:

One area where we could make good use of more (and more and more) CPU power is in applications that involve pattern recognition. Some examples:

Another major area where more CPU power would probably be good is in user interfaces:

Finally, to get an idea of what real CPU power might do, take a look at the computers in James P. Hogan's books, particularly Zorac in The Gentle Giants of Ganymede and VISAR in Giants' Star (and pay attention to the virtual reality system in that VISAR enables as well).


Karen Parker

And of course there's always GWEN, the AI in my novel STARSWARM. As Eric observed, though, what we mostly get is migration from supercomputer to desktop; we don't see a lot of work on what can't be done at any price.

This is an open topic. With luck there will be enough for a whole column on coming attractions.

Subject: The computer book this week is ...

I opened my latest box from Amazon just last night and it had two copies of Python in a Nutshell, one each for my wife and me. You are spot on with both of your recommendations. Those two books together are essential parts of my programming toolkit.

Scott Kitterman

And many others. If you don't have PYTHON you ought to try it.

Subject: Spybot vs. AdAware


I have NEVER had a hit on Spybot when running AdAware first; the reverse has never been true. So I'm just running AdAware (backed by AOL Spyware Protection and Norton).

PS connected to INTEL updating my wireless sdriver this morning. Not sure if the vulnerability exploit is addressed in this update set.


That is pretty much my experience. Indeed, I have never had either AdAware or Spybot find anything other than cookies that Microsoft Anti-Spyware (now Microsoft Defender) didn't find.

Marty Winston is unique in the Public Relations field. He takes the trouble to find out what his press contacts are doing and doesn't waste our time with irrelevant junk. He also comments on columns. Long time readers may recall that he was Tandy's expert who taught Isaac Asimov to use a computer for writing ...

Subject: RE: Chaos Manor August 2006 Part One

WINDOWS UPDATE sometimes determines what you have installed by reading the registry, and as you're well aware (since you have some Symantec software still running), many programs are less than thorough about removing their old registry information when you remove or update or upgrade them. I suspect that's what snagged you (it has me).

DRIVE BACKUPS can indeed be painful, but right now, you should try Acronis True Image. Their Home Edition - good enough for most people - is not the one I would recommend for you. I'll suggest the Workstation Edition, including the Universal Restore (alternate iron) add-on. These can do both image and file-by-file backups, can back up open files in either mode, can do incremental backups, can do roll-back restores, and I think will please you. With the Universal Restore, if you decide to replace a system with a failed drive with a whole new system (or migrate one), no sweat. To date, only the Home Edition is available in stores (the others have been direct/download only), but with Vista coming, the Workstation plus Universal Restore kit is being packaged as "Acronis Plan B - Your Backup Plan) and will be on retailer shelves before Vista arrives (and is Vista-compatible).

WINDOWS ONE CARE depends on (and integrates if present) a free MS download, Windows Defender, for adware & spyware scans; I do wish they would include a banner blocker.

BACKUP POWER can be a major concern, but the absolutely safest route is to work primarily with a notebook, and plug that into a UPS.

Martin Winston

Thanks. I'll try Acronis and let people know.

To Be Continued...