Ephemerides

A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

Who is that fat bastard? 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 11 March 2002

When I built The House of Steel, I included Cat 5e cabling to the guest bedroom and The Great Hall adjacent to the dining table. My antique laptop is a Toshiba Satellite Pro 400CS and came equipped with a Xircom credit card PCMCIA NIC. When I first acquired it, I successfully connected to the network using the thin Ethernet adapter, but using UTP did not work. Over the weekend just past. one of our guests spent a lot of time playing Myst on the machine, but didn't need access to the network, or Internet. However, SWMBO's eyes lit up when she realised that she could do a bit of typing in the comfort of The Great Hall.

I plugged a fly lead from the laptop to the wall socket and a fly lead from the hub to the wall socket in the guest bedroom/temporary office. The light on the hub was lit and the light on the Xircom UTP adapter lit, but there was no communication. Swapping out the UTP fly leads made no difference. My first attempt to plug the fly lead from the hub into the laptop was also a failure. For a while, I was led astray by the fact that the light on the UTP adapter went out when I changed the NIC to UTP rather than auto detect in the Network Settings.

Never one to say die, it occurred to me to change from thin Ethernet to UTP while the machine was running directly connected to the hub. This worked. All subsequent attempts have worked. On two occasions, I must not have put the fly leads in correctly! However, the Cat5e cabling inside the wall from the guest bedroom/office to The Great Hall is faulty.

I also managed to spend an inordinate amount of time with Thomas attempting to set up a BBS he wrote. I have been corresponding with several people who have an interest in natural theology -- Christian Deism. To make this easier, I offered to set up a BBS so we could discuss our ideas without needing to track email addresses. Thomas has a fairly complete BBS written in PHP and I asked American Web Hosting to enable it on my web, which they promptly did. After an hour of bum and head scratching, Thomas realised that we were trying to run a PHP 4 application under PHP 3!

Thought for the day:

It seems to me that the god that is commonly worshipped in civilized countries is not at all divine, though he bears a divine name, but is the overwhelming authority and respectability of mankind combined. Men reverence one another, not yet God.

Henry David Thoreau

Current Listening

Pink Floyd -- Umma Gumma


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Tuesday 12 March 2002

A frustrating day attempting to implement the PHP BBS. We couldn't connect to the MySQL database. Our web hosting service is in the US and their available time coincides with my son Thomas's sleeping and college time. Saturday here is Friday there, so we will have to wait until then.

Thought for the day:

Until we can manage TIME, we can manage nothing else.

Peter F. Drucker

Current Listening

Jethro Tull -- Living in the Past 


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Thursday 14 March 2002

Like many, I find Microsoft's change in direction more and more irritating. Rather than just moan about it, I continue to investigate ways to break free of their clutches. The most recent such foray involved a really close look at Adobe FrameMaker. Not that Adobe conduct themselves any better!

When I commenced serious word processing, my favourite tool was Borland's Sprint, a flexible and powerful tool that allowed heavy customisation of the way it did things through a powerful macro language. In truth, Sprint consisted of a set of editable macros, such as one might expect from a company that specialised in computer languages. Microsoft Word didn't tempt me until version two for Windows and I succumbed completely. I read proportional type far quicker than monospaced type.

Rather than rehash the history of the word processing tools I have used, let's look at the first  big issue that faced me in a conversion to FrameMaker -- price. FrameMaker 6 Standard costs $A2,275, some $A1,326 more than MS Office Standard. However, for any document requiring superb layout and typography, I use PageMaker -- current cost $A1,345 -- so if FrameMaker's capabilities replaced those of Word/PageMaker, the cost saving becomes the princely sum of $A19. One might argue that Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint represent more worth more than $A19.

Starting with the positive aspects I found in FrameMaker, being able to leave the formatting dialog boxes open on-screen a pleasure. It reminded me very much of Lotus Word ProFrameMaker's flexibility of numbering options greatly exceed those of Word as well as behaving more reliably. But then I tend to use PageMaker to overcome these quirks in Word. FrameMaker offered me very little more than PageMaker.

Getting to the nitty-gritty, FrameMaker makes just as poor a tool for word processing as does PageMaker. Essentials missing from FrameMaker 6 include:

While I could live without one, or maybe two of these ingredients, taken together they mean FrameMaker 6 would make an inadequate replacement for my favoured combination of Word and PageMaker. Not that I intend giving up. When I lay my hands on a recent copy of Ventura, a product I enjoyed using some years ago, I will cast my pompous eye over that for a few days.

Thought for the day:

Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind.

Marston Bates

Current Listening

Joni Mitchell -- Hejira


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Friday 15 March 2002

The world we inhabit appears to work by rules set down by Aristotle a couple of thousand years ago. Things either are, or they are not -- true, or false. The blending of Aristotelian thinking with Christianity ultimately resulted in the development of what we now call scientific thought. (See Margaret Wertheimer's Pearly Gates of Cyberspace for an excellent exposition on this theme).

Isaac Newton, arguably one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, believed that the behaviour of light could only result from particles. Christian Huygens lost his battle to have light accepted as a wave phenomenon. In the twentieth century, Quantum physics showed both beliefs equally wrong/correct [delete whichever seems inapplicable]. Light exists as neither a wave, nor a particle until an experimenter collapses the wave function resulting in the revelation of either a wave or a particle.

The interdependence of reality between experimenter and the object of the experiment, many find disturbing. A couple of millennia believing in the dichotomy of subjective things and objective things, reality and unreality no longer seems to apply. Several attempts to reconcile Quantum reality with Classical reality have resulted in equally disturbing conundrums. Science relies on belief in the universality of its rules and needing two sets dependent on which aspect of reality under consideration applies contradicts that belief.

Classical reality describes the world of the normal senses. Quantum reality describes the world beyond, or outside our senses. No one has ever seen a photon, electron, or neutron. We deduce their existence from measurements made by instruments and the language of mathematics. Some particles, such as electrons and protons, make their presence known by making vapour trails in a bubble chamber. Photons do not, putting them even further away from our senses.

Nothing new here for the Sufis and other mystics who always made the claim that the universe went beyond what we could sense directly. While science has gradually abrogated more and more of religious explanation of the world around us, it has ended up confirming the claims of many spiritual thinkers of the past. Rather than displacing spiritual thought, it becomes ever more closely entwined. 

I find equally amusing the Creationists' denial of science and the scientists' denial of spirituality. It reminds me very much of the argument about eggs in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

Thought for the day:

Getting rid of a delusion makes us wiser than getting hold of a truth.

Ludwig Borne

Current Listening

Kraftwerk -- Radioactivity


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Saturday 16 March 2002

Despite my general liking for Windows 2000 as a stable and useful OS, I experience one persistent intermittent annoyance. Several letters in the display, lower case m, a and e,  become mangled as in this picture:

font corruption

I found three ways to overcome this problem, a system restart, or changing the display properties from Windows Standard to Windows Classic, or changing the screen resolution, but clicking the No button when asked if I want to keep the new resolution. This latter also clears a problem with the I-beam cursor where it gains a shadow some 5 mm or so below.

Sometimes the problem will reoccur within hours of a restart, sometimes many days will pass before it arises yet again. Reinstalling the OS makes no difference and installing the latest drivers for my Matrox G400 makes no difference. Nor has installing the latest VIA drivers -- it's a Slot A system using the ASUS K7V motherboard. Several searches of the Internet have failed to turn up anything useful. I suspect a hardware problem, but whether the motherboard causes it, or the video adapter, I wouldn't have a clue.

Another annoyance that only arose a week ago. Updating my website using the FTP built into FrontPage goes very slowly, partially due to FrontPage insisting on copying the unchanged files in the _private folder. Using Win2k's FTP to copy only the changed file(s) generally saves a lot of time. However, Win2k's FTP no longer automatically connects me to my website: ftp://ftp.sturmsoft.com, it insists on attempting to connect to ftp://myusername@ftp.sturmsoft.com and the session terminates. Then I have to change the address in the address box to connect.

Small annoyances, but an answer to those who believe that my general lack of problems with my system is down to a pretence on my part.

Thought for the day:

Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don't have brains enough to be honest.

Benjamin Franklin

Current Listening

Marc Bolan -- Solid Gold, Rapid Action


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Sunday 17 March 2002

Yesterday, I decided to test some alternative browsers and started off with Opera 6. It makes for a nice enough browsing experience, but let me down when I downloaded the latest Mozilla. Part way through the download, the connection to my ISP dropped out. While Opera's download dialog box has a resume button, this was greyed out so I restarted the DL. When the file transfer finished, I executed the file in the designated folder, but it crashed with an error. Then I noticed the file size was 10% of expectation! The DL had terminated at 80%! Looking in Opera's file cache, I found the complete Mozilla file and it installed without drama.

Neither browser offers anything compelling for me compared to IE 5.0 at this point in time. Mysteriously, Opera displayed only some links on one of my favourite pages, Mark Zimmerman's ^Zhurnal. In both Mozilla and IE, the essay titles display as a link to a Wiki page where you can add comments, but Opera does not. The pages on the Wiki show the following message under IE, but not Opera, or Mozilla: "While this site's content is fully accessible to any browser or Internet device, its visual layout and styling are specified using CSS. This text indicates that your browser isn't fully W3C/CSS compliant, or has CSS turned off. These pages render better in a browser that properly supports W3C web standards." I'll put up with a lesser degree of compliance in return for seeing all the links a page author intends.

-oOo-

I removed all the myrtle boards I could from the bedroom in the cottage, leaving a number trapped between the wardrobe I constructed 15 years ago and the wall framing. Cutting them out with a pad-saw seemed daunting, so today I purchased an ArborTech blade for my angle grinder. This useful wheel with teeth shaped like those on a chainsaw makes wood cutting and carving far less labour intensive. A better tool for this job would have been their TuffCut blade, but the local hardware store did not have one in stock. The ArborTech site also describes the wet sanding technique to achieve a superb oil finish that Marguerite used on the King Billy Pine table in The Great Hall.

Thought for the day:

The consuming desire of most human beings is deliberately to plant their whole life in the hands of some other person. I would describe this method of searching for happiness as immature. Development of character consists solely in moving toward self-sufficiency.

Quentin Crisp

Current Listening

David Munrow -- The Art of David Munrow


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2002

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Jonathan Sturm 2002