October 29, 1999:
government agency and firm after another announces that they have fixed
or even failed to discover any Y2K problems. I have a firm prediction: Nothing
particularly bad will happen. The problems will be piddly stuff like accounting
programs writing "19100" on checks. The lights will remain on. Planes will
remain in the air. And Ed "Doomsday" Yourdon might be advised to find himself
a new line of work.
October 28, 1999:
Being well known as an ex copier repairman, I have begun getting email
forwards about color copiers having some kind of steganographic ID code
that is applied somehow to every copy made on all color copiers in America.
Some people have (rightfully) suspected that this might be an urban legend,
and want me to tell them whether it's possible. I'm not entirely surewe
don't have a color copier here and I don't recall the last time I actually
used onebut the downside is that my copier tech knowledge is very
I last carried a toolbag at the beginning of 1976, and even then I didn't
exactly work on the bleeding edge of Xerox's copier product line. However,
I will hazard a guess, and keep looking for verification: Unless a color
copier works by first scanning the platen glass into memory and then using
a laser print system to actually print the copy (which, keep in mind, is
eminently possible today) I doubt it can be done. Steganography is a digital
process, and copiers have historically been analog devices. There must be
some digital format into which the steganography algorithm can insert its
bits. No bits, no code. My guess is that if this is true, sooner or later
the secret will be spilt, and there will be Internet instructions on how
to disable the steganographic code, or change it. The whole thing is kind
of dumbpeople have accepted counterfeit bills printed on dot-matrix
printersand it makes you wonder what else they intend to use the technology
October 21, 1999:
a copy of Adaptec's Easy CD Creator yesterday, and it's very nice. I've
long since ripped all the good tracks off my music CDs to MP3s with various
downloadable track rippers, and with Easy CD creator I can create mix CDs
to play in the Jeep while I fight the ever-more-miserable Scottsdale traffic
inbound to work. You just drag the MP3 files to the play list, and it keeps
track of how many more minutes you have to fill on the CD. When you're done
with the play list, the software writes the MP3s to the CD-R as WAV audio,
so it's all done in one step, and you don't need gobs of hard disk space
to buffer the non-compressed CD audio files.
October 19, 1999:
new Dell P-550 came with a CD-R drive, and I finally got a little time to
play with it. I did a backup copy of all my significant files (not counting
application binaries or MP3s) and it was amazing how little room it all
took; maybe 400 MB tops. The CD-R discs are fairly cheap now (about $1 per
from Staples) and they burn reasonably quickly. The only nagging question
I have is: How long will they last? One CD-R can contain every word I have
ever written, period, with room for all of my project source code and most
of my scanned photos. I'm going to drop one in my safe deposit box, but
I'd sure feel better if I had a handle on how long the encoding will last.
I've heard it's not forever, but the technology is so new that nobody's
quite sure what the shelf life will actually turn out to be.
October 18, 1999:
Internet spam/virus concept has infected our paper money! When I went up
to Samurai Sam's for a rice bowl this noon, I handed Oren a 20 and in change
got back a fiver upon which someone had (crudely) written the following
message around the edges: "St. Laureth anyone who receives this message
will be blessed with a lot of money if they write this message on 10 other
bills." This is an intriguing notionkind of like a chain letter that
cuts to the chase. Who needs letters asking for money? Write this message
on money for more money… (And who or what is St. Laureth?)
October 15, 1999:
good a debugger as gdb (the GNU Debugger) is for C programs, it's almost
hopeless for assembly language work if you're using the Intel mnemonics,
as almost everyone does under x86 Linux. The AT&T mnemonics used by gdb
have a certain sense and internal consistency, but Intel and I go way back.
I searched pretty hard for something that runs under Linux and does only
what DOS's primitive debugger DEBUG does, using Intel menmonics, and came
up empty. Does anyone know of such a thing? I would be most grateful for
a pointer if it exists.
October 14, 1999:
new Dell PIII-550 I bought earlier this month came with a preinstalled partial
copy of Office 2000. The compatibility of Access with older versions is
incomplete, and I don't completely like the new 2-level pull-down menus.
(Only the most common items pop up automatically; if you move to the bottom
"item" on the menu, the hidden items you didn't get the first time magically
appear. Too complex.) However, I did get a kick out of Mr. Paperclip tapping
on the inside of the monitor glass when he wants to get my attention. And
the automagical typo-fixer has been repairing mistyped words of increasing
complexity and obscurity.
October 13, 1999:
how certain technologies stubbornly resist advancement. The lead-acid storage
battery hasn't changed much since 1900 or so, when banks of them were first
used to drive fully electric vehicles. 100 years later we have GM's
EV-1, one of which can frequently be seen scooting about the streets of
Scottsdale. It accelerates a little better and can maybe go a little faster.
But it's been a century! This stuff should be cheap and routine,
and EV-1's should be all over the place. About all I can do is assume that
cheap internal combustion engines have kept us from needing better battery
tech, so we haven't bothered. Or is there only so much energy to be stored
per unit volume in electrochemical form?
October 4, 1999:
brand-new Dell machine works beautifully, with only a couple of strangenesses.
Most annoying: When I double-click on an icon that summons a DOS-era legacy
app using a PIF (things like Paradox3) it takes several seconds (five or
six at least) to get the application to load. This was not the case on the
old Compaq, and I have no idea why it should be so. Both use NT4 SP4. But
perhaps more significant is the fact that the new machine doesn't seem any
faster than the Compaq, even though the two clock rates differ by 250 Mhz.
(The old Compaq was a PII-300; the new Dell is a PIII-550.) I'm running
all the same apps. Something else is eating all that incremental performance,
and I'd sure like to know what.
October 2, 1999:
23rd wedding anniversary. Without Carol I would be lost. Forgive me if today
I do not compute.
October 1, 1999:
how we forget things. I tried to load a bunch of MP3s onto a Jaz cartridge,
and the cartridge wouldn't fill up. It got about two thirds of the way there
and threw a "disk full" error. Drove me nuts for half an hour until I recalled:
There are only 128 slots in the root directory of any FAT storage device.
If you need to put more than 128 files on a Jaz drive, they have to be in
subdirectories. Duhh. I was using the Jaz cartridge for bulk transfer between
machines, and just formatted the cartridge and tried to load 'em up. Whoops.
Details count…and I sure wish we would all move to NTFS!