PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 2 No. 1

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

January 4, 1999

Happy New Year!

I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Coming Back Is Hard To Do

Computer Industry News

  • A Failure of the Future (Neal Macklin asks: why are we still worrying about IRQs?)
  • The Contribution had Nothing To Do with the Withdrawal (methinks--as does Neal--they doth protest too much)
  • Philanthropic Exit Strategy (Craig Reynolds muses on Gates' net worth)
  • Judge Asks is Microsoft Software Developers Are As Sleazy As Their Lawyers

Web Site of the Week

  • Bob and Ray


  • How To Annoy People.


  • A weak endorsement of Java digressions. Matt Jalbert, Harrison Klein, John Kavazanjian (with praise and disagreement for my impeachment writing).

Welcome back. I enjoyed my vacation. I hope a) you had one and b) you enjoyed it. I managed to get this column out Monday, but just barely. Sorry it's a little late. I'm sure most of you didn't notice...

General News

Coming Back from Vacation

My mother wrote me:

Everything gets back to normal so fast, it's like I wasn't even down there!! Except for some terrific memories, and wait till you see some of the pictures -

This is so true. Someday I would like to figure out how to take a vacation that doesn't dissipate within the first 10 minutes you spend at work. Is there someway to create a halfway house equivalent to help you ease back in? It always feels like jumping into an icy cold pool in the deep end at the end of a very warm day. Sort of like the outdoor pool at Grant High School in Portland when I was a boy. I can still remember when I got back to UPI after the only two-week vacation I took during my 18 months there. I walked into the Boston Bureau (then at 20 Ashburton Place in downtown Boston) and was shocked at the light and the noise. I asked if the lights had been turned up and the printers were louder. Everyone laughed. That seemed too loud as well.

Computer Industry News

A Failure of the Future

Neal Macklin wrote me from Saratoga, Calif. to point out an article in the Microsoft knowledge base:

His commentary:

It's amazing that we are still dealing with IRQ conflicts and the total kludge that is the Wintel PC architecture in 1999. We're quite far from seeing HAL in two years.

The whole situation is self-propagating: no way a user can get through this stuff without a support contract and continual fixes from Mr. Bill.

The Contribution Had Nothing To Do With The Withdrawal

And I agree with Neal that this story stinks; Microsoft made such a big deal out of South Carolina dropping out; funny they didn't mention the contributions.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The antitrust case against Microsoft had been underway for more than a month when the government suffered a minor setback: South Carolina withdrew from the 20 states lined up with the Justice Department against the computer software giant. South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon said the state changed its mind after America Online announced plans to merge with Netscape. That showed competition for the Internet was indeed alive, said Condon, a Republican. The defection had nothing to do with the $20,000 contribution Microsoft made to South Carolina's Republican Party for the 1998 election, spokesman Tom Landess said.

Philanthropic Exit Strategy

Craig Reynolds checked in from the San Francisco area this week:

Your digression on "Why I Hate Microsoft Word" reminded me that Rebecca L. Eisenberg, aka The Net Skink had a column in the Sunday San Francisco Examiner "What Gates could give for Christmas" based on his stated intention to give away 95 percent of his money: after citing two pages that give up-to-the-minute estimates of Gates' current fortune. She then goes on to offer various calculations of what Gates' billions could pay for:
"...NASA's 1998 $13.08 billion...Bill could finance [them] for 5.12 years..."
(Frankly, I do not begrudge Gates his money, its his disruption of the computer industry that annoys me. I am willing to personally pledge $100 a year to a green-mail fund if Bill will just go away and stop screwing up the software world, who's with me?!) But the Skink's article ended with this gem:
...The Net Worth Page, however, offers my personal favorite way for Bill to spend his money: "Microsoft claims to have sold approximately 120 million copies of Windows 95. If every one of those copies crashes or otherwise requires a re-boot an average of once per day, and Bill were charged $1 per crash or reboot, his money would last 559.2 days or 1.53 years."

Judge Asks If Microsoft Software Developers Are As Sleazy As Their Lawyers

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, the sharp eye and sharp tongue of Craig Reynolds, who also wrote the headline for this item:

Of course this could just be a matter of software version skew, but either way it looks deliciously bad for Microsoft:

Microsoft cuts questioning of expert short in trial

By David Lawsky

Tuesday December 15 2:10 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Microsoft abruptly cut short its cross- examination of a Princeton University computer expert at its antitrust trial Monday after the judge criticized the company's line of questioning.

Princeton University professor Edward Felten had demonstrated to the court earlier in the day a way to separate Microsoft Corp. Internet Explorer web browser program from its Windows 98 operating system - something Microsoft has said can't be done.

When a Microsoft lawyer declared that Felten's program had big problems, the professor replied that his method worked fine until after he gave his code to Microsoft. ``Microsoft modified (Windows 98) on Dec. 4 in a way that made it incompatible,'' Felten said.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson immediately jumped in. ``Are you telling me that as part of discovery you provide this code in September, whereupon there appears to have been product changes by Microsoft?'' Jackson asked in astonishment.

Felten answered ``yes.''

Outside court, Microsoft's Tod Neilsen, who works with outside software developers, said a preliminary version of Internet Explorer 5.0 might have caused the problem Felten experienced but it would not have been intentional...

Web Site of the Week

Bob and Ray

I have often thought I was born about 40 years too late. All my life I have felt an affinity for radio, and I was born in the year (1952) that television advertising revenues passed radio-advertising revenues. Television really is just radio with pictures, and this country gave up something it can never recapture when it turned radio into a jukebox--or more recently a partyline telephone.

I like old radio shows. I own several, albeit not in the sense they used the term on that episode of Newsradio when the boss gave Matthew the Fibber McGee show. I am ecumenical; I like radio comedies, dramas and game shows. But for me, nothing tops the droll, dry, non-joke based wit of Bob and Ray. Bob Elliot (father of former Letterman writer and character actor Chris Elliot) and Ray Goulding (the big one), who charmed literate Americans for decades until Ray's untimely death a few years back. I had the privilege of seeing Bob and Ray, the Two and Only on Broadway, and I count myself fortunate.

They live on through the magic of audiotape, and I own every one of the tapes for sale at the official Bob and Ray web site. If you haven't been there, go. Listen to the excerpts. Buy a tape or two and preserve the memory of two of the greatest humorists America has ever known.


How To Annoy People

One quick shot of humor.

A lot of Internet humor is stupid, infantile or ancient. This example is clever, original and funny. So, I reproduce it here.

1. Leave the copy machine set to 99 copies, reduce 200%, extra dark, 17 inch paper.
2. In the memo field of all your checks write "terrible service,"
3. Specify that your drive-thru order is "to go,"
4. If you have a glass eye, tap on it occasionally with your pen while talking to others.
5. Stomp on little plastic ketchup packets.
6. Insist on keeping your car windshield wipers running in all weather conditions to "keep them tuned up,"
7. Adjust the tint on your TV so that all the people are green, and insist to others you "like it that way,"
8. Staple papers in the middle of the page.
9. Publicly investigate just how slowly you can make a "croaking" noise.
10. Honk and wave at strangers.
11. Decline to be seated at a restaurant, and simply eat the complimentary mints by the cash register.
13. Type only in lower case.
14. Dot use any punctuation either
15. Buy a large quantity of orange traffic cones and reroute whole streets.
16. Repeat the following conversation a dozen times: "Do you hear that?" "What?" "Never mind, it's gone now,"
17. As much as possible, skip rather than walk.
18. Try playing the William Tell Overture by tapping on the bottom of your chin. When nearly done, announce, "no, wait, I messed up." And repeat.
19. Ask people what gender they are.
20. While making presentations, occasionally bob your head like a parakeet.
21. Sit in your front yard pointing a hairdryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
22. Sing along at the opera.
23. Go to a poetry recital and ask why each poem doesn't rhyme.
24. Ask your co-workers mysterious questions and then scribble their answers in a notebook and mutter something about "psychological profiles,"
25. Tell your friends 5 days prior that you can't attend their party because you're not in the mood.
26. Send this email to everyone in your email address book even if they sent it to you or have asked you not to send things like this.


The results are in. Not exactly a landslide; there were three votes for Java and one vote against (along with the implied votes of Neal Macklin and Matt Jalbert). Since the response was underwhelming, I'll use fewer digressions, but I won't give them up.

The most cogent comment on the subject came from San Francisco-based bicycle rider and Web Guru Matt Jalbert:

Oh, I cringed when I read the last line of your generally pleasant column: "how do you feel about the current format of my digressions, which are launched as Java applets (so they don't cover up the main column). "

The LAST thing these pop-up windows are are Java applets! Nonesuch! They're simply pop-up windows launched by a JavaScript tag. Absolutely no relation to the Java programming language.

I would refer you to the trusty TechEncyclopedia for starters, but its definition is muddled. To put it simply, JavaScript was named as it was simply to ride the wave of enthusiasm for Java.

As for whether or not we want the pop-ups: I noticed that this week's column had none, and was none the worse.

Harrison Klein checks in from San Mateo with this note:

In addition to problems with non-Java browsers, the digressions act incorrectly in a Java browser if you try to open one of them in a new window (which is what I tried to do with your digressions until I figured
out you were trying to do it for me). I prefer feeling like I'm in control of whether I get a new window or not when I click on a link. I also seem to recall some problems on my home Mac, although I'm sure your Mac audience is even smaller than your Pine and Lynx audience :-).

P.S. Wasn't Jerry Colonna a comedian in the '50s?

Yes, he was, but my correspondent isn't that Jerry Colonna, who died a few years back. The comedian. Not my correspondent.

John Kavazanjian, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Xerox's Document Services Group in Webster, New York:

Tell them to get with the new Millenium. Anyone trying to surf the Web with a text only browser, palm pilot or Wannabe PC/Cell Phone and is surprised that not everything is available to them deserves to be partly in the dark.

Maybe you should have an alternative version which uses ASCII characters only and is accessible by people whose text editor is still EMACS.

Let's keep going with Kava, who also had belated nice words to say about my impeachment rants:

I agree with your impeachment column (although it sounds suspiciously like the points that Bill Maher has been making every night for the last 2 months). I would make only one amendment.

If Bubba had any guts at all he would have said either:

-"It's none of your god-damned business what I do in my private life."


"I did it and it was a big mistake"

Whether his offense is impeachable or not is not a legal issue, it is a political issue since the Senate is set up as a political court, not a legal court despite the Chief Justice presiding, etc. He will never be impeached due to the number of Democrats in the Senate-it has nothing to do with conscience-it has more to do with campaign funding.

By lying to the people he has caused more of an irreparable breach than lying to his wife (although we don't know that he did lie to her, do we?). If he had any class he would resign. (It's also probably the only way that Al Gore would have a chance of becoming President-it's about time we had a President who answered his own Email).

I never stay up late enough to watch Bill Maher, and I don't think Bill should resign, but I think John expresses himself well.

David Ferdinand of Audiocast was nice enough to compliment me on my holiday column.


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