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The Mailbag

Mailbag for June 18, 2007
Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2007 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

June 18, 2007

I am at the beach house trying to get some work done on Mamelukes. The mail keeps coming in...

Subject: Outlook performance


I saw this knowledge base article about Outlook 2007 performance issues and remember that you have suggested having some issues with outlook "freezes".

If my memory is wrong, sorry to waste your time. I hope the trip to the beach house makes you feel better.


John Riches

Actually, I have yet to get Outlook 2007 working; it's installed on Vista machines, and I suspect that Vista is the problem, but I can't get Outlook 2007 to connect to my ISP or indeed to any Internet source. My suspicion is that since my ISP doesn't have a "valid" security certificate Vista simply gives up trying to connect, but I can't be sure.

My slowdown problems with piggy old Outlook are with Outlook 2003, and it still freezes up when it's downloading mail. Changing the settings on a dual processor system so that Outlook only gets to use one processor keeps Outlook from freezing anything else.

Rich Heimlich has a tale:

Recall that after the malware/virus situation on my son's system, the second drive magically vanished. Well, even though the system is coming up entirely clean it happened again yesterday. He booted and the OS claimed the drive was there but "inactive".

This time the same process didn't bring it back that did last time so we decided to wipe it and start fresh. My son recalled that I had a free copy of Vista sitting here and wanted to try it out. In a few weeks I'll be upgrading my entire system and he'll be getting the one I have now so we'd be doing this all over again. The thinking was that we'd both get to try it out for a bit to see what it's like even if we don't keep it around.

That didn't last. I put the disk in and booted. The installer came up and chugged along for a long time. Then it reached the first input screen where it asked about the most basic language and hardware questions. More chugging and then it came to the product key screen. I put that in and it chugged some more and then reported: /*'*Windows cannot open the required file E:\Sources\install.wim. The file may be corrupt or missing. Make sure all files required for installation are available and restart the installation./*".

*Nothing I could do would change this. I searched online and it's not a bad disc. The file is there and it's fine. Most are saying this happens when Vista doesn't like the drive you have. Irony abounds as this is the new Pioneer DVD drive that was mentioned here. Go figure.

So, I now have a system that's in a non-usable state. Should I just install XP and be done with it or find a way to install Vista for the experience? I can get to a prompt. Perhaps from there I can go to C: or D: and install it there and then run its setup. I had wanted to wipe those drives during install if that was still even an option.


Dan Spisak said:

I find it interesting you're having trouble, yet I've been running Vista Ultimate since November 2006 with hardly any problems worth mentioning. I'm becoming convinced that my trouble free run results from using an Intel motherboard and ATI video card. I've got a slightly older Pioneer IDE drive DVR-111D that works perfect.

I should also mention that Vista Ultimate runs just fine on my MacBook Pro on the Boot Camp partition I made for it. It also works well in VMware Fusion as well.

Another worthwhile test I would do is to burn a bootable CD of the memtest86+ utility and see if the disc finds any memory problems on that system.

So not sure where to go from here.

-Dan S.

Rick Hellewell added:

There's some info in a Google search that this was caused by a bad 'burn' of a Vista RC copy, either done by MS or by the end user.

Some comments are that if the CD was burned by the user, they should re-burn at 1x speed. Or copy the files to D drive and install from there. Many complaints about this problem were related to beta/RC versions, though, so that may not apply to your situation.

Some complaints about failures on dual core systems.

But the entries that I looked at were mainly related to beta/RC versions of Vista.



But Bob Thompson says:

> Some comments are that if the CD was burned by the user, they should re-burn at 1x speed. Or copy the files to D drive and install from there.

That's really bad advice from a presumably anonymous source. Any recent burner and disc is likely to give really terrible results at 1X burning speed, if indeed it even supports 1X burns.

It's been several years since I did detailed burning tests with CDs, but IIRC most of the burners I tested and most of the discs rated for 48X to 52X burns gave the best scan results when burned at 24X or 32X. The scan results at 40X, 48X, or 52X were generally marginally worse than the 24X or 32X burns, but the very slow burns were absolutely terrible.

A year or so, I burned through several 100-disc spindles of various brands of DVD+R discs. The Verbatim 16X discs were the best in overall quality, and I burned about 200 of them in various drives at all supported speeds and then did detailed surface scans with PlexTools. Discs burned at 8X were consistently the best quality, much better than pressed discs. Those burned at 12X or 16X had maybe twice as many errors on average (but still had a tenth or less the error rates of a pressed DVD). Those burned at 4X or slower were absolute crap, with error rates as high as or higher than pressed discs.

That pretty much held true in relative terms, although with different absolute error rates, across all burners and all types of media I tested.

Note that one sometimes encounters anomalous results with a particular type of disc or model of burner. For example, one burner/disc combination might give excellent CD burning results at 24X and 32X, very good results at 16X, 20X, 48X, and 52X, but terrible at 40X. And a firmware update may improve results at a new optimum speed, but degrade results at the former optimum speed. It's always best to do detailed tests with the particular burner and type of discs to determine the optimum burning settings.

Robert Bruce Thompson

Which is pretty definitive on that subject, and the main reason I included this conversation in today's mailbag. And after all that, we got this:

Turns out it was the disc so no need for more worry. Vista is installed on that system now. The funny thing is my son is loving it, though it's all new now and he hasn't tried to run any game yet. He just loves all the gadgets and personalization stuff.

Rich Heimlich

There are several morals to this story. One is that some people find Vista worth the effort, although we'll wait to hear from Rich on the final results. Another is that if you are going to upgrade from XP to Vista, be sure you have a good copy of the boot disk. That may sound trivial, but it's not: something similar happened to me back in Beta days, and I had no idea the boot disk I had made was bad.

After my recent book signing at Walter Reed I got this:

Subj: Military Medicine: no good deed unpunished


>>[T]the army has raised the standards for battlefield medicine so high, that leaked internal reports, about how to make it even better, make it sound like there's a medical disaster. The results say otherwise, with the ratio of dead to wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan is approaching one killed for every ten wounded. This is a dramatic increase from Vietnam, where it was one in five. ... Not being faced with a flood of casualties, the Medical Corps has been able to focus on bottlenecks and problems in the system, and work out the details. But as the medical officials went looking for the bottlenecks and problems, they exposed themselves to accusations of incompetence, or worse, for compiling lists of things that need work. It's another example of no good deed going unpunished.<<

The piece also says the current software system is based on Windows 2000. Upgrading to XP is inhibited because the system is so mission-critical and works so well that it's heavily used.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Before the Second Gulf War began I tried to warn those planning the event that modern military medicine had improved enormously since Viet Nam and even since Gulf War I, and the logistics people needed to be prepared for fewer dead and more critically injured; it stands to reason that if you raise the number saved you are doing so by saving those who would previously have died, which is to say, those more seriously wounded. This implies more resources needed to care for them, from dustoff to life pension; and the mechanisms need to be started before the war.

Some medical corps people listened, but no senior planners gave any sign of listening to me or to the medical people. I am not claiming any great predictive ability here: this is merely common sense and ought to have been clear to everyone involved in logistics planning. Apparently it was not clear to the senior planners (civilian and military) in the Pentagon since there were no budget requests for beefing up the medical corps, nor have there been any reflections in the estimates for the total cost of the war, including pensions and Veterans Administration clerical costs. Of course the estimates of the cost of the war were ludicrously low to begin with.

On Faststone

Subject: Question about Faststone Image Resizer

Hi Jerry,

Hope you are recovering well from your trip out East. Summer illnesses are no fun. Of course, neither are winter, spring, or fall illnesses, but I always thought being sick in the summer time really sucked.

I had a question for you. Have you ever reviewed or used a series of products from a company called Faststone? They make freeware for photo applications - image viewers, image screen capture, image resizing, etc. If you have not looked at their products, I would recommend you Google Faststone Image Resizer and look at that application at least. I know you are busy with your book writing, but when you get an hour or two free, try it out. It won't take more than that much time to evaluate it.

I regularly have used Irfanview, Adobe Elements, Adobe PS2, and various other products but this one is by far and away the best image manipulation application I have found. Simple and yet powerful. It is especially good at batch processing lots of files (converting from large megapixel files to specific pixel dimensions such as 1600 by 1200 pixels for screen viewing or 1800 x 1200 for 4x6 prints). The way the application handles tabbed windows and dialogue boxes is intuitive and easy to learn/use. I like software that doesn't require a learning curve. I just started it up and it just worked. If it has help files or tutorials, I wouldn't know, since I never had a need for them.

My wife and I just returned from our first (and probably only due to cost) Hawaii vacation (18 days and hundreds of digital pictures). I processed nearly all of them using Faststone Image Resizer (2 hours work that normally would have taken days). What a great trip and the pictures will provide plenty of good memories over the years.

I have no affiliation with the company; I just appreciate great software. If you try it, my prediction is it will become an orchid come this January. :-)


Chris Burns

Thanks. I fear I have never heard of Faststone and given my schedule the past couple of weeks I have had no chance to look it up. Perhaps some of the readers can tell us more.

Continuing last week's discussion of Joost, security expert Rick Hellewell said:

Subject: Joost concern?

As soon as I figured out that it was file-sharing (like BitTorrent), I "just said no". Although BitTorrent might be useful for some, it is too easy to misconfigure file sharing so that private files are shared.


Eric Pobirs replies:

Only in the same sense it is too easy to decide to run one's car off the side of a mountain road into a deep crevasse. Actually, that would be far easier than unintentionally placing unintended files in a torrent.

The behavior of BitTorrent, when implemented as intended, shouldn't be confused with spyware delivery systems like Kazaa. In just about every torrent client I've examined it's very straightforward to pick a specific directory where all of the downloading and uploading happens, and I've never seen a BitTorrent client that would try to upload anything that wasn't a part of the torrent specification. To cause something on your machine to be uploaded you would have to create a new torrent or join one with matching files. This is very unlikely to occur by accident. You can even have two torrents that create identically named directories whose files co-exist. So long as the torrents aren't trying simultaneously own the same files they'll just stick to themselves and ignore the other files in the directory.

This handy when you have a torrent that is subject to updates, such as scans of an ongoing comic book series. Say there are 30 issues and you have the first 20. Then someone creates a torrent with all 30 issues but you only want those you are lacking. If the directory and files match up, it'll recognize them and only download the portion you need to complete the lot.

More recent clients allow for individual files of a torrent to be downloaded but if the filenames are kept consistent it's far more convenient to just have the directory already on your system automatically gain additional files.


I have used BitTorrent on both XP and Vista (well, early Beta Vista) systems without any problems. I had not seen a couple of the episodes of the ROME TV series (failed to record them; we subscribed to HBO; I recommend the programs) and I used BitTorrent to collect the ones I hadn't seen; this was back before I found a way to buy a copy of the series.

I had no trouble with BitTorrent at all. It didn't seem to tie up my machine. I have never tried to use it on a machine that's running Outlook, though, nor do I think I would want to.