April 27, 1999:
I'm on a plane to LA this morning, to Book Expo America and several sales meetings. Books are a far bigger business for us than magazines, and this is the Comdex of book publishing. More later…
April 26, 1999:
What the hey—I ordered the little Compaq "small form factor" DeskPro EN as my Linux box. It will be almost invisible under my monster 17" monitor, but at least I can test this Caldera OpenLinux 2.2 CD that's burning a hole in my pocket. The machine comes with Windows NT whether I want it or not—Microsoft's requirements—and I will have to eat that cost even if the CD just sits in the drawer. How long will this sort of thing be allowed? All this fuss over Netscape's browser defies understanding. If there is any antitrust case to be made against Microsoft, it can only be in manipulating markets through its licensing policies. Forbid that, and their monopoly is no longer enforceable.
April 25, 1999:
I downloaded and tried a package called Diskeeper Lite (DkLite) and I like it. It's a disk defragger that I would call nagware without much venom—the nagging is minimal and the upgrade is definitely worth having. It handles both FAT and NTFS volumes, and shows the defragmentation process as it occurs, in a nice color graph that shows you what's contiguous file space, what's fragmented file space, what's swap space, and what's unused disk space. You can actually watch a bubble of free space percolate through your drive, picking up little orphaned slivers of empty space as it goes. I was astonished at how much defragmenting a drive speeds up file access to and from that drive. The upgrade is a schedulable version that will run automatically as you direct. Otherwise you have to manually run it periodically, and given our busy lives you know how often that will happen. Highly recommended; go get it and give it a shot: http://www.execsoft.com/dklite/.
April 24, 1999:
Flat-panel displays are going up in price again. Not sure why, exactly—gas prices go up at the slimmest rumor of internal strife in any oil-producing country, so I'm not assuming it's anything rational or persistent. Maybe the damned things are just popular and in short supply. (The market will fix that.) I've been wanting to get a Linux machine for some time, and I've had my eye on the Compaq DeskPro EN "small form factor" machine, which is a cute little box less than half the size of the hollow skyscrapers that clutter our desks these days. The little machine is not a tower: It sits horizontally, and is short enough that you can put a monitor on top of it, like we used to do many years ago, when monitors were smaller and lighter. My plan was to park a 15" flat panel on top of the Compaq box, and run Linux on it. My problem is that the display now costs almost as much as the box. Decisions, decisions. More on this as the agony happens.
April 21, 1999:
Does anybody have Qt bindings for FreePascal 32 under Linux? I'm starting to research FreePascal 32 in the cause of bringing back a Linux version of my book Borland Pascal from Square One, which had a long run in the 1980s as Complete Turbo Pascal. Send me a pointer if you have one—I've scanned the Web and found nothing so far. FreePascal 32, by the way, is a Borland Pascal compatible compiler that has actually acquired some Delphi compatibility as well, particularly with respect to the later Delphi object model. It's available for DOS, OS/2, Amiga, and Win32 as well. For more info go to: http://gd.tuwien.ac.at/languages/pascal/fpc/www/.
April 20, 1999:
Comdex Spring was kind of a dud, to be honest. I did the rounds and saw every booth inside of three hours, and still had time for a pulled-pork sandwich. Very little surprised me—except perhaps how good the sandwich was, compared with historical trade show food. A Linux pavilion had a mere handful of companies, and the only one showing anything intriguing was Caldera, who had a new installer wizard that seemed shoulders above anything I've seen previously. I picked up their CD at the show and will report after I attempt to install it back to the office. Linux Hardware Solutions had a very tiny little Linux box on display. Unlike NetWinder and the Cobalt Qube, it runs Intel x86 (rather than StrongARM) binaries. The company had no press kits and told me to go to their Web site for details. Went there. Product wasn't mentioned, sigh. On the other hand, the site might be worth watching: www.linux-hw.com. Comdex is a very thin show for software, and is still dominated by OEM hardware component companies showing generic PC boxes and power supplies. If I hadn't already been here (Chicago) I probably wouldn't have bothered.
April 16, 1999:
VDM columnist Brook Monroe grumbled to me in an email that RAD tends to beget NAD: No Application Design. That's an interesting contention. I actually think that Delphi apps have a discernable design more often than C apps, because a Delphi app always has the minimal design dictated by Delphi itself, whereas a C or C++ app (or any damned language you could name that gives you complete say over the shape of a program) has no more design than the programmer gives it. That Delphi's minimal design is useful is plain to me: I can find my way around almost anybody's Delphi code. Every considerable C app, on the other hand, looks distinctly and often radically different from every other C app. I'm unconvinced that for apps that need not dance on the cutting edge, Delphi's modicum of design is all they need.
April 16, 1999:
I installed Orpheus 3 under Delphi 4 today, and about all I can say is: Awwwwsome! Admittedly, I've used Orpheus since Delphi 1, but the new package has a whole lot of new components, and real paper manuals, which (middle-aged fossil that I am) I prefer. More on this once I've had a little time to test the new components.
April 11, 1999:
I have a P-350 Compaq Deskpro EN here in Chicago, hooked to a cable modem and running a Web server. There's nothing of consequence available through the server, but I use it to test various things and may someday mount something useful there. However, a few weeks ago the server ceased responding, and it wasn't until I got back out to Chicago this afternoon that I discovered the problem: A power outage shut the machine down, and the nature of the main power switch on the Compaq box is such that once power is removed from the machine, the switch "flips" (it's actually electronic) to off and stays there. When power comes back to the machine, the machine is off and remains off until somebody physically punches the power button. This is a bad thing for "broom closet" servers that pretty much fend for themselves and are administered remotely through a 24X7 Net connection. If you ever lay hands on a machine to put up a remotely administered broom-closet server, test the power switch before committing yourself to the machine. Take power down and up again, and see if the machine comes up as well. Why can't I help but think Compaq is protecting their "big server" business by building their desktop boxes this way?
April 10, 1999:
Off to Chicago for a few days, including a trip to Spring Comdex.
April 7, 1999:
Microsoft is cooking up a deal with Intel that crosses the line, in my book. The idea is to create a really cheap motherboard (called a WinBoard) that includes the CPU, memory, and damned little else—exiling other electronic functions to software. Oh, make that Windows, and only Windows. (And notice that it will take a 500 Mhz WinBoard to equal the performance of a traditional 333 Mhz Intel motherboard.) Microsoft intends not to share the APIs and other essential tech specs for the WinBoard outside the company, so that (for example) the Linux gang can't implement Linux for WinBoards. This is more or less the Apple Mac model, with the exception that Apple has at least allowed people to know enough about its hardware to implement other OSes on it. I suspect Microsoft is looking for ways to protect its lock on the PC desktop, and if successful, this could do it. I don't think they'll pull it off—the DOJ is looking for things like this to nail them on—but whether it's legal or not, it's something we should all refuse to support. Pass it on: Friends don't let friends buy WinBoards.
April 2, 1999:
Good Friday. Every Friday is Good Friday, so the saying goes. How could the day before Saturday be bad? But some of us think this particular Friday has an edge. I'll be taking the next four days off, to ponder Ultimate Things and spend time with my family. I may think about computing—but I'm sure as hell not going to do any!
April 1, 1999:
I wouldn't dare write anything substantive today. Nobody would believe me—or worse, believe the opposite, which is often, if not always, worse. I guess I'm on reasonably solid ground to report the latest email hoax doing the rounds, that somebody died because they failed to wash the top of a soda can on which a rat had urinated. Rat urine is highly toxic, so it says, and the message—accompanied by the ever-present demand to email it to everyone you know—is signed by some poor person deemed "commissioner of health," along with a phone number. I didn't call the number. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get a happy person on the other end of the line. (Rat urine, by the way, while doubtless vile, is not particularly toxic, and for healthy rats may be close to sterile.)