Dr. Jerry Pournelle

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Mailbag for August 21, 2006
Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2006 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

August 21, 2006

This was a very busy week - see the column. We also had a mixed bag of mail.

Subject: Mac report in Last week's Column


Apparently no word on any possibility of a Mac-driven tablet. That would be interesting....


Yes, that is interesting, isn't it? As multiple CPU systems become common - see this week's column - I expect Apple to take a larger part of the high end user (including gamer) market, and they have a good opportunity to make gains in the Tablet market. I remain convinced that Tablet-enabled PC market share will grow as people realize their potential, and with the power of multiple-core systems I expect that much sooner than most suppose.

Now two notes on one theme:

Subject: Methinks you disparage okra unfairly

"Indeed. The TSA is a show, and the show must go on, but it does little good. Anyone who would take such a job would eat okra."

Few veggies are as good (or as unhealthy) as fresh fried okra.

Buy it from a restaurant (not the nasty stuff in the freezer case at a grocery store) that does a good job of frying seafood.

If they can fry seafood well, then they'll have a good batter on their okra as well.


John Harlow, President BravePoint


Subject: Okra


You wrote, "Anyone who would take such a job would eat okra."

You should specify, "boiled okra." The fried version is not too bad (and not nearly as visually putting-off).



I accept the correction. Indeed, there is a place in this world for boiled okra in genuine gumbo. My father used to say "he would eat okra" as a general term to disparage poor taste, and I see I haven't entirely escaped the habit.

Subject: Gratuitous Eye Candy

I'm reading your latest column, and going through the quote from Peter N. Glaskowsky. He states that the animation of a file being restored is "perhaps the first application-level appearance of a 3D user interface that is not merely gratuitous eye candy." Personally, I disagree. The restoration could just as well be done without the animation, and would almost certainly go faster. The 3D effect is there simply and solely to entertain the user while it happens, and if that's not gratuitous eye candy, I don't know what is.

Joe Zeff
The only problem with trouble-shooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back.

I see your point, but I am not sure I agree. Vista, for example, uses animations in a meaningful way to tell you what's going on. And, if one has surplus CPU cycles, what's wrong with eye candy anyway?

Peter Glaskowsky adds:

The interesting thing isn't just that the versions of the window are shown in 3D, but that they fly back and forth in a way that helps draw the eye's attention to changes between one version and the next. It leverages the feature in the human brain that detects differences, the same feature that makes flip-book animation work. I can't imagine there's any way to do this faster, because the windows are moving about as fast as any monitor can refresh. Hardware acceleration makes the 3D effect essentially free, so why not do it that way?

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Subject: "new" IBM laptop

Dr. Pournelle,

From your column... It's funny that you think of your T42P as "new" even though it's one of your older systems. I feel the EXACT same way about my IBM T41P. It's coming up on 3 years now and I can't think of a single reason why I could possibly want to replace it. Upgrade maybe, because their new ultra-slim optical drive is far more talented than the mere cd/rw that came with my computer, and a 2ghz dothan cpu would drop right in to replace the original 1.7ghz cpu, but those are fairly pricy upgrades that aren't really necessary.

IBM (now Lenovo) makes some fine laptops and there is a very real reason why IT professionals pay a bit extra to get one. Except for a few vain users, it has nothing to do with image and everything to do with performance and reliability.

In the last 15 years, I've owned exactly 3 laptops. My first was a quality ZEOS 16 mhz 386. I used it for 4 years and replaced it only when I decided I couldn't stand running win95 on a 640x480 32 grayscale screen. My brother used that laptop with win95 for an additional 4 years. My second was a top-end Micron XKE Pentium 266 MMX, and although it was rather slow at the end, it lasted 6 years and could even run WINXP in a pinch. The cdrom drive was what finally quit working on the Micron. I expect to get a good 6 years out of my T41P, and the computer that will replace it probably isn't more than a vague engineering concept at this point.


Having been down at the beach all week using the IBM as my only system, I can say I am in complete agreement. Details in this week's column, but this machine has done all the work my LANBOY Tower used to do when I lugged that down here. Highly recommended.

Subject: NOTE ON: 2006 August Column Part Two


The way I compute is that I carry around whatever Apple's fastest current laptop and when I am at any of my three main residences I boot Apple's fastest desktop machine off the laptop (in Mac "Target Disk Mode"--the laptop appears to be a bootable external FireWire hard disk), for the fastest PC experience possible.

I have the very latest G5 PowerMac here in Del Mar, and it has 2 Ethernet ports, so your correspondent is mistaken about this being new in the Mac Pro. (However, I know that the previous 2.7GHz dual-processor (the very latest G5 is a 2.5GHz "quad" (dual dual-core)) only had 1 Ethernet port.

JIM Woodhill

What do I need so much compute power for? Eudora 6.2.3 and Microsoft Word! And I can't *wait* to get faster machines!

To Be Continued...