Dr. Jerry Pournelle

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Computing At Chaos Manor:
January 23, 2007

The User's Column, January, 2007
Column 318, part 4
Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2007 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

Continued from last week

Winning furries
Finalists and winners at the Further Confusion 2007 costume competition, San Jose 2007. The whole convention is filled with people in furry costumes in the halls and room parties; it's a bit like being a participant in an enchanted world. (Picture taken with the Kodak EasyShare V570 dual lens, which I carry everywhere.) [View larger]

I'm writing this from the Guest of Honor suite in the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose. In a few minutes I'll go downstairs to discuss my upcoming books, particularly Inferno 2, and generally promote my fiction works. Silicon Valley has long been kind to me. I recall in the early 1980's Niven and I were here on an authors' death march (aka book signing: eleven cities in seven days). At most book signings Niven fans far outnumbered mine, but when the limousine that took us from San Francisco arrived at the Town and Country book store there was a line through the book store, out into the parking lot, and halfway around the block. While most carried copies of Lucifer's Hammer, by far the majority also had copies of BYTE magazine to be signed. I haven't let Niven forget that after twenty-five years.

Further Confusion is a Furry Convention, and if you don't know what that is, here's an illustration from the costume competition. Traditionally the guests of honor are the competition judges, but this year they decided to use professional costumers as judges. I was a bit miffed at first, but seeing just how good the novices are the thought of choosing a best in the journeyman, master, and professional categories was entirely daunting, and I was glad to be able to sit back and enjoy the show.



This letter says it all:

I'd give the largest onion I could find to Microsoft for the Delayed Write Failure, but frankly, I no longer care. Mac OS X just works.

- Robert


And another reader nomination:

A great big, stinky red onion to Nero. Burning Rom went from version 5 "best program, ever!" to 6 "meh" to 7 "get this pestilence off my machine!".

Your Iron Law of Bureaucracy, in action. I find myself using an outdated machine for burning media. The older software just works so much better. They should have quit, while they were Ahead.

I can agree about 75%. Nero Burning Rom is still the program I use when I need to make a CD or DVD ROM, but I curse the complexities every time I have to use it. I continue to recommend the program, but I wish they had done a better job of separating it into parts and worked on the interface for each. I can use Nero for audio editing, but I never do, and all the new “features” chew into the reasons I recommended Nero from the first time I saw it many years ago. Marketing people always want more features added to an older product. This is a mistake. Better to bring out an entirely new product and keep the old stand by as cash cows; at least it's better for the users.

So I can't quite agree with my reader, but I know how he feels.


There is universal enthusiasm for the new Intel Based MacBook Pro and iMacs, but Apple hasn't entirely reformed. Apple wants QuickTime to be the standard animation software for both Windows and Apple systems when browsing the web, and they have long provided a free download of QuickTime to achieve that purpose.

They still do, but they make it difficult to find how to get the latest QuickTime without also installing iTunes, which includes a browser for the iTunes Music Store. If you go to a web page that needs the new QuickTime there will be an link to a place where you can get a free copy of QuickTime; but there will be no way to get QuickTime without iTunes.

It is possible to get QuickTime by itself. If you go to the main Apple web site you can get QuickTime by itself; but you have to know that and do it. Before I found out you can get QuickTime without iTunes I had a large onion reserved for Apple.

I have no need whatever for these iTunes things on my Windows machines. I don't feel the need to be entertained wherever I go, and I use my iPods for other purposes (lecture and audio books, mostly). I have never bought a song on line in my life and I don't think I am likely to.

It is to Apple's advantage to have QuickTime universally available. Apple has my thanks for developing QuickTime and making it available, but making it look as if you must get iTunes as well isn't good. Have a small pearl onion.

More Orchids

I held off with this Orchid nomination in hopes of trying the combination myself, but I never managed it, and rather than let this fall through the cracks I present it here:

Orchid - Fujitsu ScanSnap and DevonTHINK Pro Office

Okay, this is complicated. Either product alone (Fujitsu ScanSnap or DevonTHINK Office Pro for the Mac) is worthy of an orchid, in my opinion. But with the latest version of DevonTHINK, they work together synergistically to change my life.

Basically, this is the first approach to a paperless office that actually works.

You drop documents -- anything from a ticket stub to a 50-page report -- into the ScanSnap and press one button. It *quickly* scans both sides and feeds a resultant PDF to DevonTHINK. DevonTHINK licenses the ReadIRIS OCR engine, so it *quickly* recognizes the text with extraordinary accuracy, and adds that as an invisible layer to the PDF image. Then it's all stored in DevonTHINK's artificial-intelligence database.

So you wind up with

(1) a high-quality PDF that can be printed out later, in case you need it, so you can shred the original document,

(2) a searchable text layer so you can find text *inside* those documents (not just human-generated metadata), and

(3) Artificial intelligence links so, when you're looking at a scanned document on-screen, you can click on "See Also" and get an astonishingly good guess at other documents which might be relevant.

This changes the world. It certainly changed my life. And it's the first thing (after thousands of dollars in experimentation) that's actually making a dent in the drifts of paper filling my version of Chaos Manor.

And -- bonus! -- not only do I get to throw away all that paper, but I get to carry it all with me, invisibly and weightlessly, on my MacBook Pro hard disk. So if I'm in a hotel and need to know the amount of the last water bill at home (okay, I'm stretching for an example, but you get the point), I can pull it up instantly.

When you get your Mac, buy each of these. You won't be sorry.

[ Amazon link to the ScanSnap ]

(I hear there is a newer version S500M, but it's very comparable.)

Plus this link to DevonTHINK.


Thanks. I intend to do that. I have seen Peter Glaskowsky's Core 2 Duo Mac this weekend, and it sure looks like the thing to have. This looks like a great addition.

  Canon M600 MFP

Chaos Manor Associate Rick Hellewell says

Our family has been digging into our boxes of photos, using many of them to create scrapbooks of family pictures. Since we didn't want to destroy any originals, we needed a good way to scan and copy them. We started out with a Visioneer flatbed scanner, and printing on one of the older HP Deskjet printers we had. Scanning with the Visioneer was problematic (driver and software problems), and printing on an older lower-resolution printer didn't give us the results we wanted.

After a bit of research, we got a Canon M600 Multi-Function Printer (MFP). Scanner, printer, fax, color printer and more, with a small color LCD to view scanned pictures before printing, and memory card slots. We don't use all of the capabilities of the printer; it's biggest use is to scan and print pictures.

The quality of the printed pictures on photo paper is excellent, comparable to what you get from your local photofinisher. Scanning is quite easy and fast. It has separate ink tanks, so using up one color doesn't require replacing the whole ink cartridge (individual colors are about $15).

We are very pleased with this printer; it has gotten a well-deserved Orchid in our house. Anyone who is considering an MFP would be well-pleased with the Canon M600. Retail cost is $199, we found it at the local Best Buy for $169 (last December). Recommended.

Upgrading Your Lenovo Laptop Memory

It is literally easier to install more memory in your Lenovo laptop than it is to describe doing that. Go to the Kingston (or Crucial) web site, locate the memory card you need for the model number you have, and when it comes it won't take five minutes to do the job.

As to why, if you are like me and keep about a hundred Firefox tab windows open, you will find that eats enough memory that the 500 mb that came with your laptop won't be enough. I have added a new 1 GB memory card to the IBM/Lenovo t42p and that speeds things up handily. I no longer have to close every other application before I run large games, or have several picture-laden documents open.

And that is literally all there was to it.

Laptop and RAM Laptop and RAM - 2 Laptop and RAM - 3
Setting up. It's easy to remove the little memory cover plate if you use precision screwdrivers. The Kingston memory is ready to install; I put it on anti-static foam just to be sure. It's been cold in Los Angeles, and dry, ideal conditions for static zap. I show two new memory cards, but you can only install one. [View larger] You push out on the little spring clips, and the old memory pops up. One memory card is permanently mounted. [View larger] Push the new memory down until the clips hold it flat. We're now ready to replace the cover plate. [View larger]

Next week we have book reviews, any orchids I have forgotten, and more on life with Vista. Dan Spisak has a new Intel based Mac, and I am about to order mine, so more on those. January has five Tuesdays, so each of these segments is a bit shorter than usual.