Misc. Ramblings

Week of 22 October through 26 October 2001
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Monday - 22 October 2001

An Offer We Could Refuse. So SWMBO and I did our Costco run this weekend. Of the three DVDs we wanted to get, Star Wars I/Snow White/The Godfather Trilogy, we got two - Star Wars and Snow White. We decided to pass on the The Godfather because they wanted $65US. We think that is very expensive for movies decades old. So we'll pass.

As an aside, I took a quick look at the Star Wars DVD on my PC (as opposed to our TV system) and noticed it installs its own DVD player from InterActual. I've never heard of InterActual but you should know the default install includes spyware that phones home. What information is transmitted I do not know but they insist it is "anonymous". Anonymous or not, I don't like droids that send information to their masters, so I plan to uninstall the software. Note also that even if you opt out of the spyware, the program still wants to set cookies. Why? I don't know, I haven't allowed it to do so I can't tell you what information they want to store. But again, just another strike against their software.

Speaking of Droid Software. I also went to CompUSA this weekend to pick copies of the Norton SystemWorks 2002 and PowerQuest's Partition Magic 7.0. I've become less and less satisfied with anything from Symantec. My mind has not been changed by the latest version of the Norton Utilities.

First, you have to uninstall your previous version. Fine, except the uninstall crashed when I tried it. This is pretty funny when you think about it. Norton has a utility called CleanSweep which is supposed to track what install programs do and allow you to uninstall them. I realize the uninstall they use to remove their own software is not CleanSweep, but still, I thought it was kind of funny. In either case, they left rubbish behind, on the drive and in the registry. Hopefully, you won't have these problems.

But on to the install, and if you guessed there are problems with the install you win the boobie prize. During the install, an error message popped up saying it was unable to install a .dll. The message did not indicate which .dll, just that it couldn't install it. I clicked "OK" and let the install complete but then turned around and uninstalled and then reinstalled everything just in case.

You need to know that even if all goes well for you, there are periods during the install in which not a whole of activity goes on. No hard drive light flashing, no CDROM light flashing, no nothing. It just sits there, so it's hard to determine whether it has locked up or is just "thinking." I would suggest that if it hasn't done anything after five minutes, assume it has locked up and try again.

During the install, the program makes assumptions I don't want it to make. For example, I don't want it phoning home every time I boot up to check for updates. While some would say this a valued feature, I would say it is a violation of my privacy. Yes, you can disable this, but only after it has already phoned home at least once. How so? Because you can't disable the behavior until after you've already rebooted at least once. I don't know what else it does when phoning home, and perhaps, that is why I don't like it, but you need to know about this. Lose points for that one.

I haven't had the time to check everything, but it now appears that Norton does NTFS. Something Norton did not do in its 2001 version.

All in all, it is getting harder and harder to recommend the Norton Utilities/SystemWorks. The only thing keeping me from switching is there aren't a whole lot of choices out there anymore. Feel free to recommend any that might be worthwhile.

As to PartionMagic. I'll talk more about this one after I've tried using it to convert the NTFS partition to FAT32. It is interesting that its website says you can do this, but when you actually buy the software, it lists a page and-a-half of errors or warning that could occur. Some of which could stop the conversion process from working. Well thanks guys. Let me know the next time you want to buy some ocean front property on the Big Island. Boy, do I have a hot deal for you. Anyway, I'll let you know more when I know more.

Three Years Ago. On 20 October, 1999, this little part of the Internet went live. Actually, I'd had a site since 1994 (or was it 1996?) but I didn't start doing daynotes until 1999. It was because I had been a fan of Dr. Jerry Pournelle's column in Byte magazine that I began searching for the man on the Internet. From his own site, I found RBT, and then Brian Bilbrey. Then the Daynotes site itself (if I remember the chronology correctly). There is now a second Daynotes portal site here. In either case, these people inspired me to take a chance and start documenting my own miscellaneous ramblings [and the world, even now, has yet to recover - ed.].

Looking back, there's been a lot of good times, and few really, really bad ones. But so far, I'm still hanging in there, barely [or clothed, please! - ed.]. I don't know if these writings will continue or I will just walk away. Who knows? But I guess as long as I have something to say, I'll keep on saying it.

Thank you to all who have come by over the years. I hope you'll keep on coming. A special thanks to Brian Bilbrey. A great big thanks to the European Gang. And a very special thanks to Dave Farquhar and John Dominik who I think, are the best pure writers of all of the Daynotes Gang.

Hide the Wives and Kids! The State Legislature is scheduled to convene in special session today to pass legislation to help solve the economic problems caused as a result of the September 11 attack. Tourism, our largest industry, is down by anywhere from 25 to 50 percent. Businesses small and large are closing, or are on the verge of doing so.

Unfortunately, just when we need thinking outside of the proverbial box, the Legislature and the Governor trot out the same old "solutions." The Democrats want to spend our way out of the shortfall while the Republicans want to lower taxes. I've got news for these folks, neither path will work.

The Governor wants to borrow one billion US, in the form of General Obligation bonds, to fund capital improvement projects. The majority of the projects would be for school expansion or repair, which is certainly a worthy goal. Unfortunately, if the problem area is the tourism industry, giving money to the construction industry, to build new school rooms, will not do a whole heck of a lot to help those who most need the help.

On the other side of the aisle, the Republicans want to cut taxes because, well just because. They have no rational explanation as to how this would increase the number of visitors coming to our shores, and thus helping to get the laid off hotel workers back to their jobs. The disconnect between this thinking and reality boggles the mind.

As for me, I think before we look to government for solutions to economic problems, we should be asking the affected industries what they've done to help themselves. For example, how do your room rates compare to other similar destinations? Yes, I'm aware of the danger of marketing a location based solely on lowest price, but I'm also aware that we live in a global economy. So if location "A" is offering a special rate that is 75 percent less than the regular going rate, and location "B" is offering free parking (as some local hotels are doing as part of their "specials"), all else being equal, where do you think people will go?

I would also ask them how much have they been spending on advertising and how much would they be willing to contribute to a central fund that would be used to run advertisements touting Hawai'i in general, and not a specific hotel. The spending of these dollars would be targeted to areas that have not been tapped before. For example, China. We spend billions of dollars in China trade, let's give them the opportunity to spend some of it here. Another example, when we were on the mainland last, we noted the number of German and French speaking tourists. So why not try for a few of them? All I know is we can not continue to focus on the Japanese market, especially as they themselves are in the midst of their own recession.

We need fresh, new thinking. We need new ways of looking at old problems. Unfortunately, the Legislature is not the place that we'll find them.

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Tuesday - 23 October 2001

It's Magic. Someone once said any sufficiently advanced technology would appear to be magic to the uninitiated. Well, as far as I'm concerned, PartionMagic is just that, magic (see their site here). You can read my rant below, that I wrote last week, just in case I wasn't able to get things going by now. Well, I am in the process of installing my application even as I speak (or type, as the case may be). But without the services of PartionMagic 7.0, I would still be running NTFS.

PartionMagic has the ability to not only change the size of your partitions, but it can convert an NTFS partition to FAT32, without losing a byte of data. It took all of 10 minutes to run the conversion program and I was done. Once converted back to FAT32, I was then able to boot off of a DOS diskette, format the C: drive, and begin over again, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

As you may remember, I like to reformat the drive every six months or so as a way of getting rid of all the rubbish that Windows and various applications leave behind. While I've found the speed increase that results is not as significant under Win2KPro, as compared to Win9x, programs still do run faster. And as we know, a PC can never run too fast (unless you are playing a game).

So I am a happy camper today as I reinstall my applications and marvel at the increased speed and responsiveness. As for NTFS, on balance, I think it is a Good Thing for servers, but for the desktop, it would require me to learn a lot more about how it works for it to be of use. YMMV.

NTFS. In Windows 2000, Microsoft introduced a new and improved version of their New Technology Filing System (see it here).

The upsides. It allows, among other things, more granular security, encryption, disk quotas, and easy conversion from FAT to NTFS (more about this below). These things are probably really important on a server. They are not so important on a desktop.

The downsides. NTFS does not support floppy systems. Let me repeat and expand upon that, NTFS does not support floppy systems. Hmmm. Now what exactly does that mean? Well, for one, suppose you wanted create a boot floppy. Under DOS, you would have a functional operating system on one disk. Even under Linux, it is possible to have what you need on a single diskette. Not for Windows 2000. The best you can get is sort of a loader that bypasses the boot record of a hard drive, but where you end up is still Windows 2000. There is no DOS prompt in which you can run disk utilities to try to fix things gone horribly wrong.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, in the past, when installing Win2K Pro, I've always formated the disks as FAT32. Doing so gave me access to the partitions, while in Linux (2.2 kernel), allowed me to use a myriad of disk utilities (such as the Norton Utilities), and gave me the ability to boot off of a DOS disk, when needed.

But a couple of weeks ago, I decided to give the NTFS a try by converting my C: drive over from FAT32. MS conveniently provides a utility called CONVERT.exe that does exactly that. Of course, this is a one way trip, but I digress.

At first, I didn't see much of a difference in performance, or in anything else for that matter. But I did read something from the MS site that said using the convert utility left security access pretty much as you would have it in DOS, i.e., none. They again, conveniently provided a basic set of security settings that could be used. I loaded those settings and all heck broke loose.

What follows are my observations. I want to say up front that I am not an expert on NTFS and there may well be easy solutions to problems I will relate below. If so, please let me know.

First, the only default user of the C: drive was "Everyone". Now, this wouldn't be so bad if "Everyone" had access to the drive, but remember when I said they had a convenient set of security settings? Well those settings keep "Everyone" from writing to the disk. Let me repeat that. "Everyone" can't write to the disk, and only "Everyone" has access to the disk. Let me repeat that last part. Since only "Everyone" has access to the disk, the "Administrator's" settings are irrelevant since he or she isn't a user of the disk. Even though I added "Administrators", "Administrator" (singular), and my own account (set to "Administrator" level), as users to the disk I could not copy or create any files on my C: drive. I eventually ended up giving "Everyone" full access to the disk. There are still some permission problems but I figured since I was planning to do a reformat of the drive anyway I wouldn't worry about it.

So I get my Win2K Pro install and Office 2000 CDROMs out. I then used my trusty Win98 emergency diskette and rebooted with the diskette. The diskette booted okay but when I try to get to the C: drive, it's not there. Well, actually, what was my D: partition, which is still FAT32, showed up as my C: drive. That kind of makes sense since DOS doesn't recognize NTFS so why should it show the C: drive? Of course, this being the case, I can't do anything with the C: drive. So when I try running fdisk, and it blows up trying to read the NTFS volume, I know why. Needless to say [although he just said it - ed.], you also can't format something that DOS doesn't know exists.

So, if you can't really create a NTFS boot disk, and if a DOS diskette can't read NTFS, and if the Win2K Pro version of format won't format a drive with the NT operating system on it (go ahead, try it. Make my day.). Then what to do?

Two choices, do a low level format of the drive (which would delete my D: partition with all of my data on it), or get the latest version of PartitionMagic, which alleges to be able to change NTFS back to FAT or FAT32. While I do have my data backed up to the network, I may give PartitionMagic a try. Then again, who knows. Stay tuned for further developments.

By the way, when you reformat your drives, if you have your email on that drive, remember to export or otherwise backup the data. If you are using Outlook Express, and try to do a backup, it my throw up all over your desktop and say MAPI isn't running. The solution is to install and configure Outlook (not Outlook Express), which loads the required services, and export your email. Once you've done that, you can uninstall Outlook if you want (I think). When you reinstall everything, you will also need to install Outlook as the import process uses the same services.

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Hump Day Wednesday - 24 October 2001

Drive Off. I don't have comparative statistics on drive failure rates so I can't extrapolate. All I can say is that of the six Dell GX1s that we have, all of which have Maxtor hard drives, two have had drive failures.

The first was mine sometime last year. The second was our secretary's which began to fail last week. Both are still covered under the Dell three-year extended warranty that we have so replacing this one should not be a problem. But two out of six drives is way too high a failure rate. I wonder if we can expand the IBM class action suit to include Maxtor drives?<G>

Midnight Madness. The local CompUSA will be opening at midnight so the hordes, ummm throngs, errr tens of people who want to buy Microsoft's latest Windows operating system XP can get it in their sweaty hands as soon as possible. The store is also running some "door buster" sales such as a Linksys wireless router for $99.99US, PNY 128MB RAM for $19.99 less a $20 rebate, a 16X DVD-ROM drive for $19.99, or a Compaq iPAQ H3670 PDA for $349.99 (prices include mail-in rebates).

Speaking of Microsoft and Madness. The Los Angeles Times (See it here) reports that the MS Digital Rights Managements software, designed to lock music content so that it can not be read by unauthorized users was cracked. Again. The software strips the locks off of the file and allows unfettered copying.

And back atcha', Dan.


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Thursday - 25 October 2001

Short Shrift Mode. I'm at home today waiting for the plumber to come and check the toilets in one of our units. The toilets haven't been used for a couple of years so he will probably need to change the parts in the tank and check the water lines to the tanks.

In other house news, the drywall guys started yesterday and have already put up all the patches. Today they begin taping. After that will be spraying the ceiling and the walls to match the original textures.

If all goes well, the painters will come next week (knock on wood).

Sorry for the short post but I gotta go.


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Aloha Friday - 26 October 2001

It's Friday!

Ghost of a Chance. So the Dell mercenaries in Hawai'i go by the name of Getronics Govt. Systems (nee Wang). They came by yesterday to exchange the Maxtor drive that was going South for the winter. Since I had taken the day off, the secretary had to decide what to do when the technician asked her if she wanted the drive Ghosted(tm). Fortunately, she said yes since the problem with the drive, as far as I could see when I ran diagnostics on it, was purely hardware related. So, she's happy and I'm happy.

As an interesting side light, the technician left a voice mail message for me since I'm the contact person for such things. I retrieved the message from home and tried to return his call. I say tried because all I got was a busy signal, for two hours. Come to find out Verizon, hawk spit, had a small problem. A technician there cut a fiber optic line which affected 200,000 customers on this island and Mau'i. The outage lasted from about 9:00am to 4:30pm.

One wonders why Mau'i lines come through here...

Zoned Out. I got a newsletter from the Ansel Adams Gallery recently. As some may remember, the late Adams, who is one of the giants in photography, is high on my list of work I admire. In fact, I admire it so much I bought one of his prints awhile back. Well, for those who would also like to get one of his images, you should probably do so soon because come January 1st, the price goes up by $25US from the present $150 (for most of the prints). The gallery URL is www.anseladams.com

Now it can be told. For some time now, the world has wondered where Salem the cat was. We now know that /bin/Laden operatives have been holding Satan, I mean Salem, as a lab experiment. Below are Salem's daynotes, smuggled out of Afghanisnam, from Salem's hand, ummm paws, to you.

DAY 752 - My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant.

DAY 761 - Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair...must try this on their bed.

DAY 762 - Slept all day so that I could annoy my captors with sleep depriving, incessant pleas for food at ungodly hours of the night.

DAY 765 - Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body, in attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was...Hmmm. Not working according to plan ......

DAY 768 - I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason I was chosen for the water torture. This time however it included a burning foamy chemical called "shampoo." What sick minds could invent such a liquid. My only consolation is the piece of thumb still stuck between my teeth.

DAY 771 - There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the foul odor of the glass tubes they call "beer." More importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

DAY 774 - I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The Bird on the other hand has got to be an informant. He has mastered their frightful tongue (something akin to mole speak) and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room his safety is assured. But I can wait. It is only a matter of time.

And now, something completely different. My entry to the Matt Lemmings completely gratuitous Chest of the Month Award (see his last entry here).

Chest of the Month

Have a Great Weekend Everyone - Aloha!

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