October 29, 1999:
One 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 sure—we don't have a color copier here and I don't recall the last time I actually used one—but the downside is that my copier tech knowledge is very cold.

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 dumb—people have accepted counterfeit bills printed on dot-matrix printers—and it makes you wonder what else they intend to use the technology for.
October 21, 1999:
I bought 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:
My 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:
The 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 notion—kind 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:
As 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:
The 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:
Funny 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:
My 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:
Our 23rd wedding anniversary. Without Carol I would be lost. Forgive me if today I do not compute.
October 1, 1999:
Funny 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!