Dr. Jerry Pournelle

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The Mailbag

Mailbag for January 22, 2007
Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2007 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

January 22, 2007

There are five weeks this month, and I am in San Jose at a Convention this weekend. This will be a light week for mail.

Peter Glaskowsky long ago joined the TabletPC plus OneNote revolution - they can change your life - and uses a tablet routinely in his work. He was, after all, a Newton user long after Apple stopped making the Newton, and even talked me into buying one, which I got just before real TabletPC's came out. He comments on Dan Spisak's iPhone special report http://www.chaosmanorreviews.com/open_archives/ds_20070116.php :

Alas, the iPhone isn't capable of handwriting recognition, since it can't use a stylus. Or so I'm told.

Regarding the FCC, HSDPA wouldn't make much of a difference, but phones are still required to be tested in their entirety, and that hasn't been done yet.

It's also possible the phone uses chips that aren't in production yet.

I just took a call from EE Times asking if I'd heard what microprocessor is in there. I have no idea, and I asked a few people at CES; nobody knew. There is no PowerPC or x86 chip on the market now that would be suitable. I think it's more likely that Apple ported Mac OS X to ARM, the dominant smartphone platform, but even so, there's a new ARM-based smartphone processor announced every month or two.

I think you're right that the phone will use a Leopard-derived OS, for resolution independence as well as the possibility of kernel issues that inevitably arise when you do a port to a new processor architecture. I wouldn't want to be porting Tiger to ARM independently of Leopard development.

Regarding trademark: Apple's position is that Cisco has an iPhone trademark for VOIP phones, and Apple has an iPhone trademark for cellphones. No doubt it's at least partly just a negotiating position, but since there have been multiple trademarks on iPhone over the years, Cisco's in a tough position. It can't assert its trademark too broadly without conceding that it's infringing other iPhone trademarks.

Finally, I thought I saw a slot on the side of the phone during the presentation? Could be the SIM slot, or that could be elsewhere. I assume there will be some kind of support for a memory card. There just about has to be.

. png (From Tokyo)

A blast from the past:


Just a reminder :)


(and more places -- a hit on the title below as a literal using Yahoo's search engine generates 3900 hits...)

Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal

[ A letter to the editor of Datamation, volume 29 number 7, July 1983. I've long ago lost my dog-eared photocopy, but I believe this was written (and is copyright) by Ed Post, Tektronix, Wilsonville OR USA<snip> ]


Heh. Indeed.

I firmly believe that if Pascal-derived structured languages had caught on - as they nearly did when DOD devised Ada, but that got sidetracked into featuritis - we would all be better off. Computers and compilers are a lot better at catching errors than programmers, and debugging before compiling is a lot more efficient in the long run than bug hunting after the program is supposedly finished.

"Belkin and D-Link sell small pocketable routers that can be carried in your laptop case; get one of those and put it between you and the hotel's high speed Ethernet connection."

That's good advice. However I have found a problem that's really annoying with the Linksys Product (called the TravelRouter) and a friend of mine who has the same one. They work great as firewalls and for "sharing" a hotel connection between multiple laptops, like when my son and I go someplace, he can use wireless and I can use a wired connection and it works great.

Except, the flat Ethernet cable that comes with the thing seems to really dislike some laptop Ethernet connections. You get incredibly slow (not gone, but not working right) connectivity through, with some machines. I found that carrying a short CAT-5e cable with me to replace that one with, or using one of the little APC "spring-retract" Ethernet cables, works perfectly.

I wouldn't have mentioned it except that happened to 2 people on the same trip to CES (me and a friend of mine), with the exact same equipment (but different laptops). Its really hard to imagine *the cable might not work* when you have a bad internet connection.

Anyway, fair warning on that.

Thanks for the site and the info!

Joe Pistritto

Since I have always carried a regular Cat 5 Cable I never noticed! Thanks.

Subject: re Eric Pobirs' CES Report and CD emagnetization


Listening to music via a sound reproduction system could be termed a psychoacoustic experience. In some cases this may be as much psycho as acoustic. If that is the case then, spending several thousand dollars for a device to demagnetize your CDs prior to listening to them may well improve the listening experience for the listener who spent the $.

Who are we to say that it doesn't sound better to the purchaser even if we can detect no difference.

Bob Holmes

Perhaps. A difference to be a difference must make a difference sometimes to someone; perhaps in this case. But I can certainly think of better uses for that kind of money...

Subject: Possible Solution to Your Acrobat Reader Woes

I've been using FoxItReader to view PDFs for some time. It loads much faster than Acrobat Reader, and allows me to annotate a PDF (really handy for filling out things like tax forms) and print it out with or without the annotations:

[ Foxit Reader Intro ]

They've recently released a new version, so that link might not work very well. Here's another:

[ Another Foxit link ]

Maybe it'll work out as well for you as it did for me.

Monty J. Harder (mjharder AT DELETE_IF_YOU_ARE_HUMAN gmail DOT com)

Thanks. I eventually will have to come to some solution to this.

Hi, Jerry,

My PC died yesterday, so I took the opportunity to go Mac, in the form of a MacBook (not Pro), one step up from the base model. After one day, I'm in love all over again. Haven't felt this way about a computer since my Apple IIGS.

A few observations:

At first, web browsing was unbearably slow. After some fussing, I discovered that the Mac and my old D-Link DI-604 router were having trouble communicating. Updating the router's firmware didn't help.

With the Mac's firewall software turned on and set to ignore unauthorized queries from outside, the system passed the Gibson Research port sniffing test with a perfect TruStealth score while connected directly to the cable modem.

With the PC so far gone that I couldn't even restore the OS from the original CDs, even though the HD is undamaged, I plugged the PC display into the Mac using a miniDVI-to-VGA adapter. It came up as a seamless horizontal extension of the built-in display. You can even stretch a single window across both screens. There's an option that mirrors the built-in display to the external, which would be great for presentations. At the moment, I have Mail showing on the Mac and Chaos Manor on the external. So easy, and kind to aging eyes.

I no longer have any need for Windows, so I'm going to give a friend anything worth salvaging. For a few bucks, I can hook the existing HD up to the Mac with an IDE-to-USB adapter and transfer my data. With a salvaged power supply, it will then serve for backup and extra storage.


Bill Dooley

Score another for the Mac OS. I've seen Peter's Intel Mac in action here in San Jose, and I like it a lot.

And now that he's back in the States, Peter Glaskowsky reports:

Subject: The iPod's even more perfect storm

So Apple sold 21.6 million iPods in the last calendar quarter of last year, up from 14,043,000 units in the year-before quarter.

It looks like the dire predictions of "Peak iPod" we have seen were far wrong.

This comes on top of Apple selling 500 million songs, most of 50 million TV shows, and 1.3 million feature films through the iTunes music store during the period between September 12, 2006 and January 9, 2007.

It took Apple two years to sell the first 500 million songs, seven months to sell the next 500 million and about seven more for the next 500 million, and now just four months for the most recent 500-million-song increment.

This data should finally put to rest the notion that iTunes music sales are declining.

Music with DRM is not merely popular, its popularity is growing rapidly... at least when it's Apple's DRM.

. png

Assuming the government doesn't shut Apple down for doing odd things with stock options, Apple has become a major player. Of course the only people the government is protecting are stockholders, and the Apple stock options kept the company going at a time when its future was doubtful, and thus made those stockholders rich (as well as saving their investments) but rules are rules and even stupid rules must be obeyed. Ordnung!