Ephemerides

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 2 October

Funny things, names. Most people manage to misspell all three of mine. Jonathan gets an extra h after the o, the second a gets converted to an o. Sometimes both. My middle name, Philip often gains an extra l. My last name's the best though. Sturm becomes Strum, Stone, Storm, or even on one occasion Straughan in a newspaper article. And yes, I did spell my names out for the journalist who wrote the piece.

Today has been a busy one, working on a new website. News on this later in the week. 

The Lunix Shop piece was well received. Thanks to everyone who wrote.

Thought for the day:

Every time we start thinking we're the centre of the universe, the universe turns around and says with a slightly distracted air, "I'm sorry. What'd you say your name was again?"

Margaret Maron (Bootlegger's Daughter)


Tuesday 3 October

I am an adopted Tasmanian. When I arrived here in 1970, I felt at home for the first time since leaving UKland in 1965. Most people when they hear of Tasmania either confuse it with Tanzania in Africa, or think of the cartoon character, the Tasmanian Devil. In fact the Tasmanian Devil does exist, but bears no resemblance to the cartoon. Here's an official virtual tour.

Tasmania is an out of the way place. It is an island off the south east coast of mainland Australia, but don't look for it in the stylised logo used for the Olympics. The logo used in the previous Australian Olympiad in 1954 also omitted Tasmania. Perhaps this is because the population approximates to the number of people who attended the Woodstock Festival shortly before I arrived. And the population is actually declining slightly! Not because Tasmanians don't know how to reproduce, mind you. Their enthusiasm for the mechanics needed to continue the species is unbounded! Little wonder that I fell in love with the place at the age of 20.

Small has both a downside and an upside. Obviously, the upside counts more than the downside for me; I'm still here. But I am going to talk a little about one of the downside aspects today. I have tried to buy a Mac five times! 

When I realised that I had outgrown my Tandy 200 laptop, I went hunting for a new personal computer. I had several friends who gave me two contradictory sets of advice: buy a Mac and buy a PC. So I set out to observe my friends' use of their computers. 

It was almost immediately obvious that the Mac was a machine for getting the job done with a minimum of fuss. My PC using friends seemed to spend lots of time faddle-farting about persuading their machines to behave. 

In the south of Tasmania there is only one Apple dealer, so that's where I went. When I enquired about purchasing a Mac, the salesman asked what I wanted a computer for. Excellent start. I told him "mainly word processing". Whereupon he declared that what I needed was an Amstrad PC with a CGA screen. For those of you new to computing, this was the model of Amstrad that had a hard disk that fell to pieces 30 seconds following the expiration of warranty. CGA was a very low resolution graphics interface guaranteed to send you blind. No matter how hard I tried, the salesman refused to listen to my need for a Mac.

I bought a PC, but not from this dude. 

My next attempt to buy a Mac was from a 2nd hand dealer. He specialised in renovated Macs and made them look different by spray painting the cases matt black. He also replaced the CPU with an accelerator and charged more than the equivalent new Mac with the same CPU as the accelerator. Since Macs with accelerators are noticeably less stable than ones with the intended CPU, I declined to buy.

My third attempt at purchasing a Mac occurred when a local computer store became a franchise of a major chain. The chain included Macs, so I went to the local store expecting to be able to buy one. The store owner explained that he had to forego the Mac part of the deal as the store I first went to had an exclusive arrangement with Apple to be the only dealer in town.

The original Apple dealership changed its name, so I went along armed with the precise specification of the Mac I wanted, software and so forth. "Yes, sir, we will be in touch with a quote shortly". Shortly has turned into six years. I only reminded them of the promised quote for a month or so before giving up.

My fifth attempt was through one of my PC using friends who by now had a business of his own, selling and repairing PCs. John has a peculiar loathing for Macs having worked for a company that had him repair them. There was a special tool for opening the case of the original all-in-one Macs and John's boss was too tight to buy one. So John had to send the client to get a cup of coffee and while the client was out of the room open the Mac with the following technique.  First place the Mac face down on the floor. The bring your arms out as wide apart as possible. Then thump each side of the case as hard as possible while simultaneously lifting the back part of the case from the rest of the machine. This procedure was sufficiently noisy and alarming to require the client to be as far away from their precious machine as possible.

On with the story. John applied to become an Apple dealer providing he did not have to see or touch the Mac at any time. He would accept delivery, and apart from telling me it had arrived, would refuse to acknowledge that it existed. He is still waiting for approval five years later.

Some have asked why I didn't buy mail order from the mainland. The reason for that is a friend ordered a PC mail order and boasted prolifically about how much money he had saved. What he didn't publicise was the cost of the airline ticket when he had to travel to the mainland and threatened to smash the kneecaps of the dealer with a baseball bat if the computer wasn't delivered immediately.

My MacEnvy was eventually ameliorated by the release of Windows 95 and all but eliminated by NT4 workstation. These days I use Win2k and tend to feel sorry for Mac users stuck with an increasingly geriatric operating system. Mostly I seem to be able to get my work done efficiently and my faddle-farting is largely confined to my forays into LinuxLand. 

Thought for the day:

"Tasmania is the testicle of the nation [Australia]. It infuses it with vim and vigour. What a pity there aren't two of them!"

Tim Bowden -- Broadcaster, writer, raconteur and a native Tasmanian


Wednesday 4 October

Space travel nuts will find this interesting: Orbiting spacecraft turns out to be food for aggressive mold.

From Paul Thurrot's newsletter:

"MICROSOFT BAILS OUT COREL WITH $135 MILLION STOCK PURCHASE

In a move reminiscent of its 1997 $150 million Apple bailout, Microsoft surprised the high-tech world late yesterday by announcing a similar deal with besieged Corel, which has been floundering lately on the edge of bankruptcy. Under terms of a new strategic alliance between the two companies, Microsoft has purchased $135 million worth of Corel stock. In return, Corel will work with Microsoft to develop the .NET initiative and participate in trade shows, product launches, and other events. Corel recently moved into Microsoft territory by offering a rival OS based on Linux, and the company also ported its WordPerfect Office suite and CorelDRAW products to Linux. But an attempt earlier in the year to become a "Linux powerhouse" failed, and Corel has fallen on hard times. Corel maintains, however, that the Microsoft alliance won't affect its Linux products."

<Sarcastic mode on> The Evil Empire ruthlessly suppressing competitors yet again? <sarcastic mode off>


I have had a long association with publishing. I suspect that this is because I believe that poor communication is at the root of many human problems. Not only do I like to communicate, I like to help others communicate their ideas.

Much of my early experience with computers was with Macs. Putting together a magazine with a computer was a real thrill compared to the old days of manual paste-up, dry transfer lettering etc.  That first foray was called Basics and was devoted to organic gardening, homesteading and self-sufficiency; issues dear to the heart of all involved. But for the editor, it was a step along the way to realising a dream.

Leatherwood was a large, high quality, glossy magazine with the somewhat pretentious subtitle "Tasmania's Journal of Discovery". It was extremely well received and won an award within the first 12 months. Sadly, the Australian magazine market has more titles per capita than anywhere else (largely due to dumping from the US) and profitability was a major issue. After spawning offspring in two other Australian states, the company went bust. 

Even though it wasn't a financial success, Leatherwood inspired people to look at their community through fresh eyes. We are so often blind and deaf to what goes on around us in our communities. Example:

Renee Geyer was singing "Heading in the Right Direction" on the radio in the local post office as Nerelle Paige walked in to collect her mail. "That's one of my husband's songs," she says to the postmaster. "It can't be. That's a huge hit record," says the postmaster. Nerelle attempts to sing along with it, but has forgotten most of the words. This increases Tony the postmaster's scepticism. "What the heck," says Nerelle, "That's probably why I married a lyricist."

While Leatherwood magazine only ever reached a few thousand people, the Internet allows us to reach millions at a fraction of the production cost. So mixing the original vision of Leatherwood with discussions I had with Warlock a few months ago, I have been working on a project to give netizens the opportunity to savour my local community. It's called Franklin & Friends and will go live around the end of this month.

Web page design is vastly different to print. I am finding the lack of control over page appearance very trying. The difference between the rival web browsers is frustrating. The pages I create look different in Netscape on Linux than they do in Netscape on Windows and different again in Internet Explorer. Someone reading these pages even uses Opera.

Currently, I'm using FrontPage 2000 to create these pages. If anyone has any suggestions for a better tool, or improvements I can make to my pages, I will be truly grateful. 

mailto:jpsturm@sturmsoft.com

Thought for the day:

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust


Thursday 5 October

Short shrift today. I am off to the state capital, Hobart to meet with friends and do a little business.

The weather has ameliorated at last; the sun is shining, the swallows are swallowing and the Forest Ravens are still here. Usually they have departed by the time the swallows arrive. Must be more weather on the way. This will be the latest spring garden for years :-(

Thought for the day:

Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.

Ed Cunningham


Friday 6 October

There's a website devoted to garnering support from Apple to release OSX for the x86 platform.

What Every American Should Know About Copyright is an interesting read.

As is Napster will live or die by 'fair use'

I just downloaded Netscape 6 latest preview and it's looking very nice. Interestingly it sees the background on http://www.sturmsoft.com/franklinfriends/chameleon/richard_clements.htm and the bolded text on the sturmsoft home page. How about you Netscape users shift over to NS 6  and save me some of these headaches I'm having with Navigator 4.7?

And speaking of headaches, I drank rather more than was good for me yesterday. Time to light the fire and get some fresh asparagus and broccoli from the garden for tea. Roasted pork chops and potatoes with rosemary. And a hair of the dog. 

Opera has downloaded at last and it too appears to display my pages as I envision them. It appears Netscape 4.7 is the odd man out.

Thought for the day:

Eat, drink and be merry... For tomorrow we die.

Epicurus


Saturday 7 October

One of yesterday's jobs was recreating a poster authored in MS Word using CorelDRAW! Of course I did not have all of the fonts used and it took a while. DRAW! comes with over a thousand professional quality fonts. The poster was to be printed to a fast, high speed colour laser/photocopier. I know the bureau having done troubleshooting there before. They use PCs for authoring and the output devices are Océ. I have had font issues with them before so I exported the finished file as a TIFF. No font info required! They told the client that they can't print TIFFs, only PDFs!

They use PageMaker 6.5, various versions of CorelDRAW! and MS Publisher and Word. And they don't know how to print a TIFF. Looks like I'll have to do it for them. Sending the file to a Mac bureau is even worse, "Because PC files give Macs viruses".

About a year ago I started writing a booklet on prepping files for printing at these insta-print shops. I like to write in simple language and communicate clearly which is why the booklet is so long delayed. There are a lot of issues that prevent "what you see is what you get" from working. While the computer revolution has made document creation a lot simpler, there are still too many underlying complications to prevent simply taking a file to a bureau and outputting useable copy.

Of course the Adobe PDF format is one way around many of these problems. It's been a while since I used Acrobat Distiller, but I do not have fond memories of the last time. Following the recommended procedure with PageMaker 6.0, I created a PostScript file to Distil. Distiller complained that it was not an Adobe PostScript file! I know I got around the problem, but for the life of me I cannot remember how. Perhaps it's time to upgrade to PageMaker 6.5.

When I am outputting to film, I send native files to a really first class bureau in Sydney called Lynos. Most bureaus only accept PS files which means you can't have any changes made after the files have been received. For the semi-amateur like me, it is useful for the bureau to be able to make any changes required to have the work output properly. Unlike many bureaus, they are both PC and Mac and don't treat PC users like shit.

One of my clients tells me that when she mentions to prospective publishers that her first book was self-published, their faces fall. When she shows them the book we created, they smile and say: "but this was published professionally!" 

Thought for the day:

People say Microsoft payed $14,000,000 for using the Rolling Stones song "Start Me Up" in their commercials. This is wrong. Microsoft payed $14,000,000 for only a part of the song. For instance, they didn't use the line "You'll make a grown man cry".


Sunday 8 October

Testing beta software is very much a part of being a geek. The problem is of course that unreleased software often has bugs that can have unwanted effects on the computer to which it's installed. That's why I like VMWare. The VM in VMWare refers to Virtual Machine. It allows the creation of a virtualised computer inside the computer it resides on including a virtualised Phoenix BIOS and ASUS NIC. To be effective, it requires plenty of RAM since the RAM you choose to allocate to the VM is no longer available to the host. Having 256 MB allows me to run several VMs and network them. Much more convenient switching between windows than separate physical machines.

VMWare can run your VMs from a virtualised disk that dynamically allocates disk space as it changes (you set an upper limit), or a native partition. Virtual disks appear as a folder/directory on your hard disk, making backing up and restoring OSs very fast and easy.

The individual VMs do not run particularly fast, but on my 700 MHz AMD K7 they are more than acceptable, even for some games. There are versions for Linux and NT/Win2k and a 30 day timeout demo is available. The student/hobbyist version sells for $US99 and is a bargain compared to running several physical machines. 

A piece on song writer Garry Paige is now up on the Franklin & Friends website. I have known Garry for several years now and it's a source of some bewilderment that we can't remember meeting before finding each other in Franklin. We have many mutual friends and acquaintances in the music industry, both living and dead. If you like surf music, there are two MP3 sound clips, Bondi Beach Blue and Surfing the Web. I'm hoping a proposed recording session with a once famous musician results in an album we can sell direct to the public. 

Updated prices from my hardware supplier just arrived. The 700 MHz AMD cpu I purchased in April is now down to $A332.20 from the $A595.00 I paid back in April. If I was buying now, I'd be getting the $A239.00 Duron. The 256 MB of RAM was $A522.00 and is now $539.00, not enough to offset the depreciation on the cpu. Mmmm! Might be time to buy another 128 MB stick for the server. It's going to need 256 MB to run Small Business Server 2000 when it's released. WinME is $A192.50 OEM full version. That makes the vastly superior Win2k Pro a bargain at $A215.00.

While I'm on the subject of operating systems, I might try once more to install OS/2 Warp. My old 100 MHz 486 has returned from its temporary home. The 32 MB of RAM in that cost $A2,000 and so did the ATI mach 32 with 4 MB of VRAM. 

GROWING GOOD CORN

James Bender, in his book, How to Talk Well (New York: McGraw-Hill Book

Co., Inc., 1994) relates the story of a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

"How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked.

"Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves. So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

Thought for the day:

We've heard that a million monkeys at a keyboard could produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.

Robert Wilensky


 

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