Ephemerides

A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

A Sturm's Eye View, Guaranteed Free of Harmful, or Potentially Harmful Chemicals -- but Watch Out for the Ideas! Some of them are Contagious!

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 5 March 2001

The afternoon was hot and sunny, and the high school English class was restive as the teacher tried to interest them in discussing the assigned book. In exasperation he asked, "Has no-one here ever had a vicarious experience with a novel?"

A girl at the back of the class answered, "No, but I once had a novel experience with the vicar!"

-oOo-

Tonight sees the return of the real pompous git to ABC Television. Stuart Littlemore will be presenting his new show on current issues and since "Phoenix" has already been taken, the show is called Littlemore. I predict that due to ABC budgetary constraints it will eventually be renamed to Littleless. Let's hope that his new show makes up for his removal from Media Watch several years ago.

Thought for the day:

We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him.

Michel Eyquem De Montaigne


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Tuesday 6 March 2001

An email came from my ISP, Dingo Blue:

Dear Customer

dingo blue automatically disconnects internet sessions where more than one session is in progress simultaneously on the same account.

A session initiated using your User ID and password was recently disconnected due to simultaneous connections.

It is dingo blue's practice to disconnect the oldest session where simultaneous sessions are detected. In this case, the disconnected session started at Mon Mar 5 06:11:25 2001 and the dialled number was (03) 6210 1755.

This policy protects you from fraudulent use of your dingo blue internet account and helps dingo blue to provide all our customers with the most efficient internet service available. We suggest that you change your password if simultaneous sessions have occurred without your knowledge.

You can change your password at: <http://www.dingoblue.com.au/Support_internet.asp> by clicking on the "Changing Your Password" link.

Yours faithfully dingo blue

Usually, I stay connected for days at a time. In the last few days, I can recall you disconnecting me a couple of times. You say that disconnecting me when someone else logs in with my username and password is to protect me from fraudulent use. I'm sorry, but that makes no sense at all to me! Leaving my connection running 24 hours a day so that no-one else can log on with my username and password would be far more effective.

It may interest you to know that only people in your organisation and myself know my password, so any fraudulent attempt to use my account is coming from your organisation. From that I would assume that any change to my password would be known to the same personnel.

I await their reply with bated breath.

-oOo-

Today will see the last of the wall frames of The House of Steel in place. Hopefully it will then take only a day or two to complete the nogging and blocking of floor joists. Then it's onto roof purlins. Happily, a neighbour is lending us the second long extension ladder we will need to haul them into place.

Thought for the day:

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.

Benjamin Franklin


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Wednesday 7 March 2001

A reply from DingoBlue:

Hi Jonathan,

Thank you for contacting us with your enquiry.

That's fantastic that you are able to stay connected for days on end. However, our proceedure still stands for disconnecting mutliple connections under the same username. The reason why is because we do have accounts which are unpaid. This is vital, so that we can stop any fraudulent cases by logging on as them, and changing the password. If you would like to continue to stay online for long hours, I would highly suggested changing your password and keeping this secure. Our system does not have access to your changed password via http://k9.dingoblue.com.au due to the privacy act.

In the meantime, if you have any further questions please email us back. Alternatively, you can contact 1300 55 14 55 to personally talk to a customer solutions consultant.

Regards, Ballina

Mysterious! You need to be able to log on with my username and password to prevent fraud, but the privacy act prevents you accessing my password?

-oOo-

Thomas is getting 128 MB of KingMax RAM for his birthday. I noticed he hardly ever uses Win98 these days and Win2k likes 256 MB of RAM. At 40% of the cost this time last year, it's a bargain. He recently replaced his TNT2 video card with a GeForce, so that was out for a gift. It's his sixteenth birthday -- now why does that make me feel old?

It's my birthday next month. What I'd like is for us to celebrate it in The House of Steel, but I can't see it being finished in time. We put the big steel beam in over where the French window is to go and it was easier than expected. Not too easy -- it weighs a lot. The balance of the day was me strapping the tops of studs (luckily I have a head for heights) and Fran and Thomas doing noggins between the studs and blocking between the floor joists. The pace should pick up now the framing is complete. It used as much scantling as three or four small houses would!

Thought for the day:

Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths.

Goethe


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Thursday 8 March 2001

I received an offer of 15% off the latest CorelDRAW! Suite in the mail. A few seconds thought were enough for me to decline the offer despite some sympathy for the financial plight of the creators of my all-time favourite graphics apps. I've been using CorelDRAW! since version 2 and in the early days its utility increased dramatically with each release. After a couple of upgrades, like many Corel users, I learnt to wait a while until the many bugs that came with a new release were let out. With version 6 I started to get royally pissed off as it never did become stable.

A friend gave me a copy of version 7 as I was pissed off enough not to spend my hard earned on the upgrade. To my surprise it was the most stable version to date so I promptly sent Corel the money for the upgrade. Version 8 was given to me at a Microsoft Technical briefing (along with Corel Word Perfect Suite 8) -- strange for a MS Technical Briefing, but then this is Tasmania!

Version 9 was lent me so I could train some end users, but it was hopelessly unstable. The updater works under Win98, but not under Win2k, so there was no way I was going to buy it. There were some new things to like under version 9, but not enough to make me want software that crashed frequently!

Then I purchased Corel Linux. This was the all time worst software I ever purchased in my whole life! Complete and utter unmitigated garbage.

So the question in my mind that was so quickly answered was: "Do I want to spend $A566 for some software that probably won't include much meaningful extra functionality, is likely to be unstable and remain so even after waiting for months for bug fixes?" A no-brainer really!

And will have the same response for Microsoft's latest offerings. From all reports the next version of Office is being rushed out of the door despite the bug reports from the beta testers and I have bad memories of Office 97. Even after its service packs it never became as stable as the Office 2000 beta! As for Whistler, what can an OS offer me that I need but don't already have in Win2k Pro? It's stable and runs all of my productivity software without missing a beat.

The money I'm saving from not upgrading my software is enough to buy spares for the machines I don't feel the need to upgrade either. That's a strange feeling after years of continually lusting after the latest and greatest. Looking at the prices for computer parts, it seems like an ideal time to buy those spares as it seems that I'm not the only one feeling this way.

-oOo-

I used to pick apples every autumn to supplement my income. At first, picking from the top of the ladder engendered feelings of vertigo, but familiarity breeds contempt and falling from a height of 8 - 10 feet became just one of the hazards of the job. Not completely trivial -- falling on your back, a bag with 20 kg of apples in it certainly knocks the wind out of you!

This week saw me working on The House of Steel at twice the height of apple tree ladders. A height from which a fall means broken bones or worse. So I was tying the top of the ladder to the house frame to prevent it slipping while I nailed the steel strapping that ties studs to the top plate. When I was nearing the top of one climb, the ladder started to slip, so I climbed back down as fast as I could. Now I'm digging a hole for the bottom of the ladder so it can't slip.

Thought for the day:

I'm not afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.

Woody Allen


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Friday 9 March 2001

I was planning on going to the city today, but ended up going much earlier than I expected.

Thought for the day:

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

Thomas Hardy


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Saturday 10 March 2001

Yippeeeeeeeeee! It's raining! Water falling from the sky into our water tanks!

-oOo-

Yesterday, I had planned to stroll leisurely down to the highway and catch the bus to Hobart. Fran phoned and said he needed to get over to Mornington to purchase a part for the ailing nail-gun. So, I elected to accompany him, not only saving the bus fare, but also we enjoy each other's company.

The place that sells spare parts for Semco nail guns (Tas Fasteners) also had for sale a woodworker's vice and an engineer's vice. Shortly, The House of Steel will have a workbench for such useful objects, so I enquired as to price. The engineer's vice was on sale and I ended up spending half what I had expected.

Then it was on to the first reason for my going to Hobart -- purchasing some much needed nuts and bolts. I had purchased several metres of threaded rod from Gormat back in December, but they could supply only 3 metres less than I required. As it turned out, I ended up not needing that 3 metres of rod and I told the assistant we no longer required it. He rudely suggested that if I expected a credit, I should have asked for that back in December! I told him he could keep it as a Christmas present if he wanted and I'd shop elsewhere. When he calculated the cost of what I was purchasing, I ended up with $A1.10 from the till. Despite their lower prices, I will not be shopping there again!

My main purpose for the trip to the city was to visit my friend Niels who is departing for the mainland for several months. Garry, who Niels and I mentored into the computer industry provided a superb quiche for lunch and Fran listened with interest to our conversation about computer security issues, firewalls and trojans. The new Internet legislation passed in South Australia has us worried as several of the other states have promised to follow suit.

Niels gave me a parting present of several kilos of adhesive useful for The House of Steel uncovered in the shed while transferring his computer repair business to Garry.

Mid afternoon was declared beer o'clock and I hied off to the Vic Tav. Jack Potter was back from a stint on the mainland and was surprised to learn that Commodore 64 emulation (1, 2, 3) was available for his PC. He informed me that he has several hundred C64 game disks still and that Elite was probably the best computer game of all time. Getting the software transferred from 5.25" floppies might be problematical, so I suggested he might try Underdogs or Abandonware. They give access to games no longer commercially available, or links to sites that sell old stuff that does get resurrected.

-oOo-

Svenson writes:

> A height from which a fall means broken bones or worse. .... Now I'm digging a hole for the bottom of the ladder ....

So that when you fall ... they only have to cover up the hole ? <g>

-- Svenson.

Mail at work : qjsw@oce.nl, or call : (Oce HQ)-4727 Mail at home : sjon@svenson.com

The hole I dig to prevent the ladder slipping is far too small for one as corpulent as me. And I suspect that the impact crater would also be too small <g>

Chris Ward-Johnson writes:

"Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths"

Or helicopters.

Regards

Chris Ward-Johnson Dr Keyboard - Computing Answers You Can Understand http://www.drkeyboard.net Chateau Keyboard - Computing at the Eating Edge http://www.chateaukeyboard.com Magic Mouse - Computer Books for Children Even Grown-ups Can Understand http://www.magic-mouse.com

Or clouds, or eagles, or angels, or pigs with wings...

Thought for the day:

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today I have finished two bags of crisps and a bottle of chardonnay. I feel better already!

Unknown


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Sunday 11 March 2001

My Linux Adventure looks set to continue; I've sent off a cheque for SuSE 7.1 Professional (and O'Reilly's Using Samba). While this set me back considerably more than MS Small Business Server 2000 probably would have, the same is not true for my clients. My recollection is that I paid MS $A20 for SBS 4.5 with 6 Client Access Licenses, but the retail price is closer to $A2,000. SuSE 7.1 Pro cost me $A120, a bit of a surprise really since software usually costs considerably more in Australia than in the US. I've ordered from Cetus Technology.

Another surprise is that SuSE 7.1 supports my Adaptec 1505 SCSI adapter. As well as Internet connection sharing, my server is used to burn CDs with a 4x SCSI CD burner. Hackers note, the shared files on my server are all downloads from the Internet and so not worth the bother.

I suspect I'll have a lot more to write about this when the parcel arrives and I find time to install and configure SuSE. My main motivation is to have a secure server OS that is reasonably easy to maintain. I doubt that I'll replace Win2k/Office 2k on my desktop any time soon -- with Linux or WinXP.

I expect it'll be a bit like the old days of DOS. Lots to learn and a lot more fun to be had. When I first learnt about computer viruses, I renamed COMMAND.COM to TITSUP.COM and edited MSDOS.SYS to run TITSUP.COM instead of the usual command processor. Viruses could then infect COMMAND.COM without causing me any grief at all. Similarly,  CONFIG.SYS became FARTYPAN.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT became AUTOEROT.BAT. To stymie boot viruses, all my floppy disks were treated with a program by Claude Almer called BOOTPAST.EXE that passed the boot sequence to the hard disk automatically when you forgot and left a disk in the floppy drive.

By the time I was using Windows 3.11 full time, I had edited the start message from "Starting MSDOS..." to "Starting Windows." Editing critical Windows system files was less fruitful as the system was a lot more complex. A tiny change in one place was likely to bring the whole house of cards crashing down and require a clean reinstall... slow when it was all on floppies. But there was some enlightening reading to be had when you looked at the raw code. Some of it was text for error messages. Yes, there was a warning about possible incompatibility with DR DOS, but there were others about particular Intel processors -- some of the early steppings of the 386 would not allow Windows to run. Other messages were probably not meant to be seen. Like the references to the HPFS file system.

By the time Windows 95 was released I had lost interest in such things. By and large, my apps and the OS ran reliably enough I didn't need to spend so much time under the hood. And that was even more so when I received the beta of Win NT 4. Getting a small network to run reliably was more about hardware than software and having learnt the main things I needed to know, I guess part of my mind went to sleep.

Now there are so many issues arising with security and the network is the Internet it's woken up again. Surprisingly, it's not the risk to my data that is doing this, but security of communications that had me smelling the coffee. I can remember the old days of FidoNet. Way back when, it was only academics and big business that had access to the Internet. FidoNet was a method for BBSs (bulletin boards) to transfer messages to each other overnight over POTS (plain old telephone service). A friend who ran one of those BBSs recalled being shut out of FidoNet due to someone at the node above his taking offence at some of his content. It took only a few hours to find another point of entry to FidoNet and we users were none the wiser. It occurs to me that FidoNet was much more secure than the Internet!

Thought for the day:

The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything or nothing.

Lady Nancy Astor


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2001

evoted to the village where the author lives: its culture, inhabitants, and more.

The DayNotes Gang for more daily musings on Life, the Universe and Things Computerish.

Jonathan Sturm 2001