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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 8 July 2002
Last Thursday, The Git was noodling around Tom's Hardware and other places to get up to date on matters hardware. One place where opinion is strong and interesting is Emulators Inc. Darek Mihocka is one of those rarest of species, a machine code programmer. While what The Git knows about machine code programming would likely fill a library, or three, he does know enough to realise that machine code programmers have to get awfully close to understanding what actually goes on inside CPUs in order to weave their magic.
In October last year, Darek was quoting Tom with approval:
"its lackluster memory performance impacts Pentium 4 so badly, that it makes AMD's Athlon an even more attractive solution than it already is... I personally would consider everyone as close to crazy if he should choose Pentium 4 plus i845 and PC133 SDRAM."
Today, the situation has changed drastically:
"Those with the short attention spans apparently did not bother to read the fine print in my writing and see some ominous warning signs that I was pointing at last year. i.e., that it was within Intel's grasp to catch up to and overtake AMD in the CPU battle if they so chose, and that AMD was doing dumb things to hurt itself. Dumb advertising. Not making some improvements. Not delivering product.
How poetic then that Intel should reclaim the lead from AMD just around April Fool's Day. When we and other web sites broke the news, AMD users couldn't believe it. I was accused of posting an April Fool's Joke! Even received threats from some idiots if I did not remove the "joke". But it's no joke. The AMD Athlon (whether you call it the MP, XP, 4, Palamino, Thunderbird, etc) has lost its lead. Big time."
Darek goes on to explain:
"And here is the news that even surprised me when I tested the system. While Intel has been pouring all of its marketing money in the Pentium 4, it HAS done what I predicted in October they would do, which is to release faster versions of the Pentium III. In January, nobody noticed (even I missed it) when Intel quietly shipped the 1.4 GHz Pentium III-S with 512K of L2 cache. I've got a couple of these chips now running with a dual processor board, and even at 1.4 GHz, the chip in some cases beats the Athlon XP 1800."
The full story: Pentium 4: Round 4 -- Pentium 4 hammers the Athlon XP here. The section on dual-processors is well worth reading, too. Darek is a dual-processor advocate, but he points out a few things that I had not hitherto suspected -- such as a loss of memory bandwidth. Since The Git values his memory bandwidth highly, he has decided for the time being at least, to continue multi-tasking with multiple machines.
Thought for the day:
It seemed that each time we would become proficient at a given task there would be a change made for no apparent reason. It sometimes appeared that changes were made simply because sufficient time had elapsed since the last change. And then our efforts would begin again from the beginning.
Count Basie -- Basie Jam
Tuesday 9 July 2002
The Git is inordinately fond of fine tea. Not for him the humble teabag that produces a drink closely resembling iron filings steeped in hydrochloric acid! The Git drinks his very weak, no milk, no sugar.
For many years, he thought that the deteriorating flavour of Jacksons of Picadilly and Twinings was due to his deteriorating taste buds. Not so! Some years since, he discovered Jeffersons Tea Shop in Hobart where varietal teas are the go and Sikkim Estate Darjeeling became his firm favourite -- interspersed with the occasional pot of Lapsang Souchong and Russian Caravan. Varietal teas are the tea equivalent of vintage wines -- all the material comes from one tea estate.
Since The Git travels to Hobart rarely these days, it was with some alarum that he discovered we were due to run out of tea before the next trip to Hobart. SWMBO brought home a box of tea bags and it was with considerable trepidation that The Git plonked what always reminds him of a certain feminine hygiene product into a mug of boiling water. Much to his surprise, Dilmah tea bags are almost as good as the finest Sikkim Estate! He is now determined on trying their loose leaf tea.
It is such a joy to find excellence in this world of increasing commoditisation and mediocrity!
Thought for the day:
To really enjoy the better things in life, one must first have experienced the things they are better than.
Indelible Murtceps -- Warts Up Your Nose
Wednesday 10 July 2002
The Git has almost enough bits to turn the old 486 DX-100 into a useful machine for a poverty-stricken friend. What's missing is the 32 MB of 72 pin FPM RAM. If any of my readers have some 16 MB SIMMS they don't expect to ever need again, we would be eternally grateful.
Naturally, smoking adversely affects human fertility, as it does everything else in the world of epidemiology, but now, thanks to valuable research at King's College London, added to it are such things as beer, soya and vegetables.
Researchers at the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop have been aware of this for some time and its Contraceptive Advice Department has been recommending bathing the genitalia in soy sauce or draught real ale as a normal part of foreplay, though there is a strong faction who favour bottled Guinness, and the academic dispute rages into the night.
Things can get out of hand, however. Celia Spume of Neasden relates that she named her youngest Cider "on account of I reached for the wrong bottle in the moment of passion." Mrs Glenda Pustule of West Grinstead reports that she and her husband started out on ordinary mild soy sauce, but soon graduated to the strong stuff. She adds "Then, before we knew where we were, it was the full king prawn chop suey with a side dish of water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. I don't know where it will all end."
Dr Gertrude Narwhale, Reader in Contraceptive Gastronomy at the University, says "There is no need for feelings of guilt about such practices. Variety is the spice of life and a little seasoning is quite harmless. In fact, I always recommend taking a large pinch of salt with the products of such research."
The Gentoo Linux ISO was downloading nicely through GetRight when, at 98% complete, the connection to my ISP (iPrimus) dropped out as it does every four hours. Despite having successfully resumed on three previous occasions, this time it insisted the download was not resumable! I do miss DingoBlue and almost 24/7 connection.
Rather than download Open Office 1.0 for Windows and Linux, I purchased the July edition of Australian Personal Computer as both are on the cover CDs. I installed the Windows version on my Win2k workstation and set to using the HTML editor initially. It didn't have the preferred Emphasis and Strong tag alternatives to Italic and Bold, so it struck immediately.
I launched the word processor, Writer, and wrote a few hundred words. While it allows me to set the spellchecker to Australian spelling, this merely disables the US spellchecker and AutoCorrect. Das Boot! You will write only Amerikan Englisch! When I attempted to open an Excel spreadsheet with Calc, it crashed, taking Writer and the document I had started with it. The spreadsheet consists of nothing special -- just a table and a chart -- no macros or complex formulae. Attempting to launch Writer and open the lost document did not succeed. So far, no good!
I had expected, and hoped for better than this. Since this is the core of Star Office 6.0, I imagine that my $A200 would not purchase me much in the way of stability. Come on guys! I want to promote you in competition with The Evil Empire, but you have to do better than this! Maybe the Linux version will fare better.
Another maybe is for IBM to start promoting OS/2 Warp. maybe even making applying FixPacks a little easier! IBM's preferred method is for you to make lots of little floppy disks from the diskette images! Shades of CorelDRAW! circa version 3 or 4! Fortunately, Alex Taylor has produced a toolkit found here to allow making the images on CD and a couple of useful Rexx scripts to automate applying FixPacks.
Flipping through Australian Personal Computer reminded me why I stopped purchasing it. The editorial is close to indistinguishable from the advertising. And it's all badly out of date. At least I got EditStudio 2 on the cover CD. More on this later.
Thought for the day:
My mom used to say: "you can't have fun all the time", and I said: "why not? Why the fuck can't I have fun all the time?"
Spectrum -- Part One
Friday 12 July 2002
Too bust to write today, so here's some interesting stuff from this week's reading:
THE INTERNET DEBACLE - AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW by Janis Ian
The NARAS people were a bit more pushy. They told me downloads were "destroying sales", "ruining the music industry", and "costing you money".
Costing me money? I don't pretend to be an expert on intellectual property law, but I do know one thing. If a music industry executive claims I should agree with their agenda because it will make me more money, I put my hand on my wallet... and check it after they leave, just to make sure nothing's missing.
Am I suspicious of all this hysteria? You bet. Do I think the issue has been badly handled? Absolutely. Am I concerned about losing friends, opportunities, my 10th Grammy nomination by publishing this article? Yeah. I am. But sometimes things are just wrong, and when they're that wrong, they have to be addressed.
The premise of all this ballyhoo is that the industry (and its artists) are being harmed by free downloading.
Nonsense. Let's take it from my personal experience. My site (www.janisian.com ) gets an average of 75,000 hits a year. Not bad for someone whose last hit record was in 1975. When Napster was running full-tilt, we received about 100 hits a month from people who'd downloaded Society's Child or At Seventeen for free, then decided they wanted more information. Of those 100 people (and these are only the ones who let us know how they'd found the site), 15 bought CDs. Not huge sales, right? No record company is interested in 180 extra sales a year. But... that translates into $2700, which is a lot of money in my book. And that doesn't include the ones who bought the CDs in stores, or who came to my shows. <more>
On Jerry Pournelle's website:
From The Guardian (ahem):
Frodo Baggins Charged With War Crimes Frodo Baggins of Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire, Middle Earth, has been called before the International Criminal Court to answer charges of war crimes brought by Sauron the Dark Lord and Saruman the White in a joint filing.
Baggins refused comment on the matter from his home at Bag End, simply moaning and holding his head. But his former valet and gardener (now mayor of Hobbiton) Samwise Gamgee spoke with reporters from his "bit of garden," saying that "you people ought to know better, coming here bothering my master and trampling my taters and all. This is just about the dumbest thing I've heard of since Master Merry and Master Pippin started up that Broadway show of theirs. That didn't work out so well, either, but all's well as ends better, as my Gaffer used to say." Gamgee was referring to the spectacular failure of "Mount Doom - the Musical," which debuted on Broadway last year and closed the same night, bankrupting its producers and principal investors Meriadoc Brandybuck of Buckland and Peregrine Took of the Tookland, both in the Shire.
The charges brought by Sauron and Saruman are serious and were commented on at length by the Dark Lord himself at a press conference held after he delivered the formal papers to the Court. As a full signatory to the Court's original charter, Sauron is legally entitled to bring charges before the Court, and the Court's decision will be binding on Mr. Baggins, per the charter establishing the authority of the Court over the entire world, whether the particular defendant lives in a member country or not. The Shire has repeatedly refused to ratify a proposal to join the Court; the proposal has languished in the legislature, bogged down by stalling tactics employed by right-wing and unilateralist legislators intent on blocking it. Gondor and Rohan have likewise not joined the ICC, for similar obstructionist reasons. <more>
Political Psychology by John Ray (Part 1)
The Past Revived
What North Americans now call "liberal" is a long way from what was called "liberal" in the 19th century and earlier. Liberal ideas were once those ideas that sought to elevate individual rights above the claims of State and community power and hark back at least as far as the writings of Adam Smith (1776). The writings of J.S. Mill (1859) are, however, most quoted as a comprehensive development of such ideas. Classical liberal ideas had considerable influence in the 19th century -- particularly via Britain and the British Liberal party -- but were very much eclipsed in the early 20th century (as was the British Liberal party) by the rise to prominence of Statist ideas -- particularly Marxist, Fabian and Fascist ideas. Late in the 20th century, however, under the influence of writings by Hayek (1944), Ayn Rand (1977) and many others, these ideas were powerfully revived and extended -- when they came to be known among the cognoscenti as "neo-liberalism" or "Libertarianism". They are perhaps best known to the world at large, however, as "Reaganomics" or "Thatcherism" -- from their most prominent and successful political proponents.
Surprisingly, however, modern-day North American "liberals" and their ilk generally seem to view neo-liberalism as anathema. And in fact Neo-liberalism has found its home entirely on the political Right in recent times. Why? The explanations of Leftist motivation given above would appear to be very helpful in explaining why.
Why "liberals" Hate Neo-liberalism
But the reason why is not initially obvious. Neo-Liberalism of course is very pro-change, particularly in the economic sphere, and aims principally to break down, wherever possible, government-imposed restrictions on what people can do. Its application has led to all sorts of economic reorganization, some of which has been very disruptive to the employment (and hence the lives) of many people. Globalization is just one of its manifestations. So how in heaven's name did such a revolutionary doctrine find its home on the Right rather than among the normally pro-change Leftists?
The answer becomes obvious if we posit that Leftists really have no concern at all about what they are advocating, that they do not really care about human advancement at all, that their "concern" for the poor etc. is a sham. What they really want they want now -- and that is power, simple causes that will win them praise and drama in which they can star as the good guys. That really is about all. And neo-liberalism meets none of those needs. The policies advocated by Neo-liberals do demonstrably lead to slow but steady human economic advancement and do increase prosperity for all to levels once undreamt of in human history. But such policies also diffuse power, are far from simple and are very undramatic. It is hard work just to understand neo-liberalism and there are no immediate rewards inbuilt. One could, for instance, TRY going onto the streets and demonstrating in favour of "comparative advantage" (one of the essential ideas underpinning advocacy of free trade) but that would almost certainly lead to total incomprehension rather than win kudos. And Che Guevara is someone that anybody and everybody can understand -- which is a lot more than can be said for Eugen von Boehm-Bawerk. <more>
The Crime of Percy Schmeiser
Let us first be clear what Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser was found guilty of.
He was found guilty of a) having Monsanto genetics on his land, and b) not advising Monsanto to come and fetch it.
He was not found guilty of brownbagging - obtaining the seed fraudulently. Indeed, all such allegations were dropped at the actual hearing, due to lack of evidence.
Regardless, in his 29 March 2001 decision ( http://www.fct-cf.gc.ca ;click on decisions), Judge W. Andrew MacKay made it clear that how it got there didn't matter anyway. The guilt was the same. Specifically, "Yet the source of the Roundup resistant canola... is really not significant for the resolution of the issue of infringement..."
It also didn't matter that Schmeiser did not benefit - at all - from the RR seed. In order to derive any economic benefit from growing RR seed, you'd either have to
- sell it as seed, or
- spray Roundup.
He did neither. He sold the crop as grain - not as seed, and he didn't spray Roundup. He acknowledges spraying Roundup around his telephone poles - a standard practice - which first alerted him in 1997 to the contamination in his field because some of the plants didn't die. Then, in typical farmer fashion, he got out his sprayer and made a couple of passes leading away from the road to see how far the contamination reached - total sprayed area was 3 ac out of the hundreds of acres sown in 1997. None of these points are disputed. No one - including Monsanto - argued that Schmeiser actually benefited - or even intended to benefit - from growing a crop contaminated with RR plants. But it didn't matter. He was guilty nonetheless, and fined $15/ac x 1030 ac, plus the value of his crop $105,000, plus $25,000 for punitive and exemplary damages. <more>
Thought for the day:
To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mahavishnu John McLaughlin -- My Goal's Beyond
Saturday 13 July 2002
Some weeks ago, the plumber "fixed" the loud banging noises emitted from the water jacket in the cook stove by hacking a hole in the wall and cutting away a portion of a stud so he could lever the pipe upward. The noise was caused by bubbles of steam trapped in the pipe because it was sloping downhill, rather than uphill. Even though this stopped the loud banging, the horizontal run inside the wall also traps bubbles of steam and when the stove is hot, there is an incessant gurgle and occasional bang, though not as loud as previously.
Before you take The Git to task for choosing this particular plumber, I'd like to point out that he is the best of the three I had to choose from! One of his rivals has the habit of installing hot water cylinders with the hot water take-off coming from the bottom of the cylinder! Like Stan, he apparently has no idea that hot water rises.
The other candidate installed the plumbing for our new neighbour Sue's wood burning cook stove. Fran took two weatherboards off the wall so he had access for running the pipes. The plumber ran the pipes on the outside of the wall studs, rather than boring holes in the studs and running the pipe inside the wall! Presumably, he thought the wall cladding didn't need to be replaced!
Of course we only employ these half-wits because The Law says we must. We are not allowed to perform these tasks for ourselves because we are Not Qualified and we Need Protection from ourselves. What? the Git asks, protects US from these IMBECILIC FUCKWITS!
Last night, presumably as a result of five months of incessant banging, the water jacket failed and we had a minor flood in the kitchen. The plumber says he will be here to fix it this morning, but since he has consistently failed to arrive when he said he would, I'm not holding my breath! All that he is going to do is block off the pipes between the stove and the hot water cylinder. We now have to contemplate paying to have the water jacket replaced and we still haven't had the cause of its failure fixed.
Back when we had the Everhot cook stove installed in the cottage, it halved our electricity bill as it supplied all of our hot water needs. Back in those days, electricity for hot water was charged at a lower rate than the rest of the supply. That is no longer the case. So, while we await repair of the stove, our electricity bill is set to more than double!
This is the third flood that Stan's incompetence has unleashed in our home! Of course, it would be easy to blame Stan for this, but that would be curmudgeonly. The true culprit is the Bureaucracy that insists we not be allowed to do anything without their permission. To obtain their permission, we must Pay and be Regulated, not for any good reason, but just to keep the Bureaucrats busy pretending they are doing Something Important. The purpose of the Bureaucracy is only to maintain the Bureaucracy. I HATE BUREAUCRATS! And I despise those who would inflict us with yet more of the same "for our own good".
Thought for the day:
It is possible to lead astray an entire generation, to strike it blind, to drive it insane, to direct it towards a false goal. Napoleon proved this.
Radiohead -- Kid A
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