A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

A Sturm's Eye View

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 23 October

Some time ago I wrote about the Australian Telco OneNet. These reptiles still have control of the Internet  telephone line, so I'm threatening them with legal action. I'm not a litigious person having learnt long ago that litigation generally works only in favour of the lawyers. However, someone I am very close to is working as a legal secretary for a law firm I also do contract training for and the bill will apparently be small to non-existent.

Old Joke: It's only 99% of lawyers give the others a bad name.

The legal firm "someone I am very close to" works for is part of the one percent. Mind you, on the morning of the "I Love You" virus scare, one of the partners sent everyone a plain text email with the subject line: "I Love You".

Even though OneNet have control of my Internet line, they couldn't stop me obtaining a new ISP. I've had a few ISPs since I first used the Internet in the late 1980s and most of them would come under the generous description of appalling. Not as bad as OneNet, but bad enough. DingoBlue have turned out to be the exception.

When I first installed the Intel iStation (router/hub/firewall/modem/DHCP server), the connect speed reported by Win2k was way below that reported when using the 3Com/USR modem of the same speed. Intel support sent me some beta software that didn't clear up the problem so they had me email DingoBlue support for some details of routers used etc. 

Angela at DingoBlue support not only supplied the requested information, but asked if she could help. We did a few connects with both modems and she monitored throughput. It turned out that the initial connect speed reported was irrelevant. Both modems were performing within a few points of each other. Angela finalised the support incident with some links to information about optimising modem throughput and testing.

Not too long afterward, I received a phone call from DingoBlue. Strangely, this was from a young man called Fergil who spoke clear English, albeit with an Irish accent. Telephone call centres using Asians whose English is a definite second if not third or fourth language take note! The initial thrust of the conversation was to ask about the level of satisfaction with the support I had received. The caller then asked if I had considered using any of DingoBlue's other services. I said I would like some information sent to me. The caller thanked me for my time and I awaited the proffered literature.

I decided to transfer my Internet line to DingoBlue as it was currently unusable since OneNet had refused my written request to transfer it back to Telstra. I telephoned DingoBlue and the telephone was almost immediately picked up by a human being. Several of my friends have expressed extreme disbelief that I actually had my call taken by a real live person and have felt compelled to phone DingoBlue themselves to confirm my story. 

The person I spoke to explained that unlike a transfer from Telstra to one of the new Telcos, the application had to be in writing. Did I want the form emailed as a PDF, by snail mail, or by fax? Email of course, though I had to fax or snail mail the form back. Roll on the acceptance of digital signatures!

My experience with DingoBlue is remarkable because it's rare these days to find such consummate sales and marketing expertise. It was clear to me that everyone in the firm I had contact with had been properly trained -- trained to keep the customer happy. Happy customers do not shop around, they stay. And if the sales staff keep the the customer happy, the customer will want to buy more goods and services from that place rather than elsewhere. 

My tailor knows this; I've been buying my clothes from Michael for 27 years. More than once he has noticed a loose button on my shirt and insisted on immediately resewing it. At no cost. 

My tea supplier told me one time that the Darjeeling blend I nearly always bought wasn't so good this month. Would it be OK if he sold me Sikkim Estate at the same price as the cheaper blend? I now buy the more expensive and more flavoursome Sikkim Estate every time.

I don't just like real tea, I like real coffee, too. Both without sugar or milk. I commented on this to Poppy the cafeteria proprietor as the reason I breakfasted at her shop, Cheers in the city mall. The following week Poppy announced that she had obtained a special coffee for me and to tell her what I thought of it. It was much nicer and I not only told her, I told all my friends. 

Back to DingoBlue. Like every consummate marketer, the folks there know that word of mouth is the most effective way of gaining new business. If you feel good about a product or service, you are inclined to regale your friends and relatives with that fact. DingoBlue pays the referrer and the new customer $A40. The monthly fee for their service is $A25 plus 10% GST. Most months I get a credit of $A12.50. To cash it in I had to avail myself of another of their services, but WTF. I like being appreciated and often pay a premium for better service.

In truth, we are nearly all in sales and marketing whether we realise it or not. It's just that most of us don't realise it and make life that much harder for ourselves, our employers and our families. On the latter, when was the last time you told your spouse, your kids, your parents, or your friends how much you appreciate them? 

Thought for the day:

No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.


Tuesday 24 October

One of the tasks of the writer or public speaker is to distil a concept, that may or may not be complex, into a simple catch phrase. The reader aware of the the context of the catch-phrase will then hopefully recall the meat of the concept. Sometimes a catch-phrase takes on a life of its own, devoid of its original context. Sometimes this works and you'll find 13,000 of them here. Sometimes it doesn't and the original message gets lost. Such as "Sell the sizzle and not the steak".

Prime beef is... prime beef. There's not a lot to say about it. Of course one could list the percentage of fats, proteins, collagen and so forth, but that's not what the consumer wants to hear. Consumers want to know what it will do for them. The restaurateurs will talk about the wonderful sauces their chefs use and the care taken to ensure the precise level of doneness requested by the patron. The butcher supplying the beef will talk about the length of time the beef has been aged and under what conditions. The domestic butcher will give away recipe cards to go with the beef. They are all selling the sizzle, not the steak. 

Steak Sizzle
  • Dual 600MHz Pentium II processors
  • ASUS P2B-D motherboard
  • 1,024 MB RAM
  • 5 x 20 GB hardware RAID
  • Dual power supply
  • 3 year warranty
  • etc
  • A custom-built server that has sufficient capacity to serve your anticipated needs for 18 months to two years. 
  • Hardware redundancy that keeps your server operating in the event of power and hardware failures. Estimated uptime 99.55%.
  • Guaranteed same day service to replace faulty parts or we pay the cost.
  • etc

A first class salesman always sells sizzle, not the steak. Corporations, too. How many of us used to automatically buy Hewlett Packard? We liked dealing with HP because their products were rugged, service was excellent, drivers were readily available for download, originally from a BBS, later the web, products were clearly differentiated according to function. All sizzle! Now there's a bewildering variety of products, driver releases are erratic, service quality has declined. This is sizzle too, but it's the wrong sizzle. How could this have happened? I'd suggest that the sales/marketers have been replaced by accountants. 

Accountants are very good at doing sums and any business that wants to stay in business needs someone good at doing sums. Salesmen are very bad at doing sums, but they are very good at sizzle. Any viable business needs both. Putting accountants in charge of sizzle makes as much sense as lighting a match to check for a gas leak. 

The Franklin and Friends website is now worth a look. There's still plenty to add, but that will occur on a semi-daily basis, hopefully for a long time to come. There is much promised for it, but little delivered. Since I have quite a few things to say about Franklin, the Huon Valley, Tasmania and its inhabitants myself, it will keep ticking along.

If you're a Commodore freak and feeling a little Lunix, then there's a Linux just for you... and yes, it's really called Lunix. We don't have a Commodore 64, so we run a C64 emulator. Running Linux inside a Commodore C64 emulator under Win98-SE inside VMWare running under Win2k might seem a little strange. But then we never made any claims to sanity.

More from the unusual Linux front. An app that allows testing Linux kernels in a virtual machine. Excellent for bozos like me that have a habit of rendering machines unbootable.

And now for some doggy humour:

How Many Dogs Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we've got our whole lives ahead of us, and you're inside worrying about a stupid burned-out light bulb?

Border Collie: Just one. And I'll replace any wiring that's not up to code.

Dachshund: I can't reach the stupid lamp!

Toy Poodle: I'll just blow in the Border collie's ear and he'll do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.

Rottweiler: Go Ahead! Make me!

Shi-tzu: Puh-leeze, dah-ling. Let the servants. . . .

Labrador: Oh, me, me!!! Pleeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Can I?

Malamute: Let the Border collie do it.. You can feed me while he's busy.

Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the dark.

Doberman Pinscher: While it's dark, I'm going to sleep on the couch.

Mastiff: Mastiffs are NOT afraid of the dark.


Chihuahua: Yo quiero Taco Bulb.

Irish Wolfhound: Can somebody else do it? I've got a hangover.

Pointer: I see it, there it is, right there...

Greyhound: It isn't moving. Who cares?

Australian Shepherd: Put all the light bulbs in a little circle...

Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? Light bulb? That thing I just ate was a light bulb?

Thought for the day:

Always think of your customers as suppliers first. Work closely with them, so they can supply you with the information you need to supply them with the right products and services.

Susan Marthaller

Wednesday 25 October

Today started out really well, or really badly. I'm not sure yet, though I am fairly certain it will end well. It usually does. I have been sleeping poorly lately and spent a couple of hours futzing around at 2-3 am as I couldn't get to sleep earlier. Went back to bed and slept in until mid-day! Longest sleep I've had for ages.

Warlock writes:

Jon -

One thing you didn't mention about DingoBlue is what a really neat name that is! I'd dearly love to have a web host with such an intriguing name. That's why I kind of had to invent my own! I really like your 10/23. That's the only way we consumers have to help the Good Guys prosper - and the Bad Guys die, a la Jerry Pournelle's diatribe about the outfit that failed him. I found one to rave about, too, today. It will be up by 0700 PTD 10/24. Their order process broke - but they fixed it immediately. I give them a big plus for CS.



Yes, it is up to us consumers to help the good guys prosper. Everyone I know enjoys being appreciated and if you don't tell 'em, they don't feel appreciated. I remember we used to have a shit hot postscript printer salesman here in Tasmania. He trouble-shot the damn things better than anyone. After the "buyers" had the demo machine working smoothly, they'd buy from some box-pusher on the mainland "because they were cheaper". After a few years, the salesman gave up and returned from whence he came. There's more than a few of those huge colour postscript machines sitting around idle or under-used now because it's "too expensive" to fly someone from interstate to fix the problem.

I like your idea of Consumer Reports, and as you observed in your Sunday piece, it's already happening. In effect, Consumer Reports lets you become your own sales advisor, provided the Reports are unbiased. When you don't need the assistance of a sales rep, you can save money. Much like we save money by building our own computers -- we don't need Dell's after sales service.

I recently replaced my hi-fi music system. The research I did for the one that lasted for 25 years was a tad out of date, so I went hunting on the Internet. Epinions carries reviews by consumers of products and allowed me to rapidly decide on the exact components I wanted. Funnily enough, the personal opinion I had of Bose loudspeakers was reflected in the statistical scores from hundreds of independent reviews. Needless to say these diverged from the opinions of reviewers in most hi-fi magazines that carried ads for Bose. Hint: they sound good for the first half an hour, then fatigue sets in if you are actively listening.

The loudspeakers I chose were from VAF and came in kit form, saving me $A300 in return for a leisurely afternoon's assembly. This purchase caused me the most anxiety -- speakers have a huge influence in the audio chain -- but they were even better than Epinions had led me to expect. Then I realised I had paid a lot less than they cost in the USA where they are an import.

The amplifier was less of a problem. While I used to build my own, my eyesight is not what it was, so I decided to eat my own dog food and settled on a 100 W per channel Rotel receiver. I have recommended Rotel to an unknown number of people over the years and the feedback has been uniformly positive. I decided to purchase the receiver locally and had to wait six weeks as demand was so high. The technician at the hi-fi shop, chosen for knowing what they talk about, said that my choice was a wise one. He had measured the output of Rotel as twice that of double-the-price "golden-ears" equipment and just as distortion-free.

The hi-fi shop, Quantum in Hobart, Tasmania showed the advantage of local shopping. I was given a loaner amp for the duration of the six week wait for the Rotel receiver. This also revealed just what a difference an excellent amplifier makes when compared with a merely "good" one. Changing to the Rotel was like adding a sub-woofer and removing a veil over the sound! 

The Internet showed its strength in enabling the research to find Phil Vafiades' speakers and the exact receiver I wanted to buy; the shop its strength in providing service.


Started reading your site recently and enjoy it. I'm from the USA and have never been to your part of the world. I think I am now too old (70) to think about physically getting up and going on any protracted journey but the Internet lets me at least go mentally.

A question: What modem do you use with Linux?? My "El Cheapo" Rockwell recently died and left me with few alternatives among the current crop of Modems and as you already know Linux does NOT like anything except Hardware Modems (has an on-board controller) . I have tried three different so-called hardware models but none of them seem to work. I use Caldera OpenLinux version 2.4. Any help would be appreciated. By the way, I use a standard telephone line which may be a large part of the problem.

Gene Doss, Tennessee, USA

I am glad you are enjoying my site, Gene. You might like to try a virtual visit to the village I live near:


The site's still a little rough around the edges, but I think it's worth visiting.

I use a 3Com/US Robotics Voice 56K Faxmodem. It's more expensive than the el cheapo sort, but it's compatible with everything I've tried and they are very reliable. I use a standard telephone line too and being just outside the limit for DSL which has started to roll out here in Australia, I'm stuck with POTS for a while.

My computer crashed today! For many, including me, that's a common enough occurrence, but for me a rarity unless I'm doing something stupid. Usually I'm in another OS and often running that OS under VMWare. I don't mess around in the OS where I get my work done. Today I wasn't doing anything stupid. At least I didn't think so.

I wanted to make a spare set of Partition Magic 5 diskettes. While you can run PM5 from Windows 98, I run Win2k and the partitioning is done from a boot diskette and utilities diskette. Running PM5 setup from Win2k runs the diskette writer and it was at the beginning of the second diskette that the screen went black and the machine cold booted.

The first thing that I do when this happens is check the system log. These days it's in the Management Console (MMC) and accessing the log crashed the MMC. Logging off a Win2k session and logging back on usually clears whatever's causing the problem in memory, but not this time. 

Some time ago, I was approached to help get a recipe book published by a gold medal winning chef, Garry Dupree. He could no longer cook following a severe knee injury and was desperately seeking a way to develop a new career. I advised him to treat writing as an entertaining hobby and to develop a career in something more financially rewarding, like computers. He took my advice and has recently started to earn an income from computer servicing. He has come a long way in the 12 months or so since I met him. For a while, I occasionally became exasperated with his "newbie" questions. Today the value of mentoring him became apparent as I knew it eventually would.

Garry saw the events I just related and suggested I look in the MMC again after the reboot. This time it behaved perfectly. Usually, if an OS starts doing dire things to me, like the crash caused by the SMART disk error the other day, I just restore a clean install using PM5. While this takes a while, it's quicker than troubleshooting and my main thing is to get useful work done. 

The system log showed nothing of interest, so Garry said "Look in Hardware Resources/Conflicts/Sharing. Aha! The following devices were all sharing Int 9 -- MS ACPI-Compliant System, Matrox Millennium G400, VIA USB Universal Host Controller (twice), Creative Audio PCI, Adaptec AIC-7850 PCI SCSI Controller and RealTek RTL8029 PCI Ethernet. WTF! I've got to think about this and there's lots else to do yet. More on this later.

Thought for the day:

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason so few engage in it.

Henry Ford

Thursday 26 October

Bo Leuf writes:

The whole issue of wysiwyg html editors is ultimately hilarious, since browser clients have such great leeway in interpreting tags into visual rendering (or for that matter verbal, braille, or whatever). Add to that user preferences in the browser, and the whole issue falls kind of flat. Ok, admittedly the great majority uses IE version something or other, but the different versions do not behave consistently compared to each other, and you are still left with the issue of user preferences. You were wise to settle on CSS as layout definer -- Netscape has however always been a bit broken there because it interprets relative paths document-CSS-etc differntly that others when the files are not in the same directory, or you twiddle the base reference.

Sadly, many HTML editors borrow from the (already erronious) model of wysiwyg wordprocessing. Thus they do henious things in the name of providing many layout options to the webpage author (fixed font sizes, typeface selection, and so on). I could go on...

My own working editing environment has long rested on an old but serviceable "visual" editor/browser called AOLPress. It cleanly supports the base HTML, and lets me flip into tag mode at any time. Although it does not render CSS, not various newer HTML features, this is not a disadvantage, since when authoring I am then fully aware of the visual impression for those who for one reason or other do not have CSS enabled. To see the full-featured page, I in any case want to check in a browser such as Opera or IE. Netscape I gave up on long ago.

Another alternative, albeit slow and sometimes flakey, is the W3C Amaya editor/browser. It has also an option to render a page at the base level that a text-only browser such as Pine (Linux) works in. That can be illuminating, especially for anyone enamoured to tabled layout.

Both of these tools have a form of HTML syntax validation. AOLPress also generates "web" diagrams and page-linking lists.

If you're at all interested, we can go into further detail...

/ Bo

Bo Leuf

Leuf Consultancy

LeufCom -- http://www.leuf.com/

Years ago, I used to work with Ventura Publisher. Where PageMaker was great for design intensive pages such as ads and posters, Ventura's strength was in heavily structured documents such as reports and books. Ventura used mark-up tags and you could either work inside Ventura in wysiwyg mode or place the tags with a word processor. Being able to do both was a great time saver.

As you so correctly point out, WYSIWYG is a bit of a joke when it comes to HTML. The various browsers are free to interpret the tags in a variety of ways. This can be frustrating for someone used to the world of print where things stay where they're put! When I started they were put with glue. If I were truly set on page elements remaining where I demanded they belong, I would use Acrobat Distiller. 

Most people only come across Acrobat in the form of the Reader to be able to view PDF files. Acrobat Distiller creates PDF files from documents by taking the information in a document that would be used to interpret it for a PostScript Printer and turning it into a variant that the Reader can use. The Reader's magic is to substitute fonts that are near enough when the font originally used is not available on the user's system. 

For the mainly textual material with an occasional graphic or table I create, Acrobat is overkill. I have set a background graphic that is off-white and very lightly textured for ease of reading. If graphics are turned off in the reader's browser, then the background is a light grey so any reverse text (white) will still display. I am using three fonts only to keep life simple.

Major headings are all sans serif and they will hopefully render as Helvetica, Arial (which is really Helvetica as well), or whatever other sans has been substituted by the fastidious. I agree with almost every typographer that Helvetica is boring, but it is ubiquitous. I have used a tag to set body text to Zapf Elliptical if that font is available on the user's system. This is a utilitarian serif font I have used for a long time. The default Windows serif font is Times New Roman and I feel that is a poor choice.

Times was originally developed for the Times Newspaper to cram as much print into as small a space as possible. While this had the virtue of saving both ink and paper, these are not a concern when rendering on screen. Times is not the most legible font and the finely tuned version that MS and Apple commissioned has very fine serifs that simply disappear at low resolutions. The robust slab serifs in Herman Zapf's Elliptical never disappear so I use it for screen and correspondence that may be photocopied or faxed. If it's on my readers' systems, they will benefit; if not, too bad.

The third font is Courier New, a particularly legible version of Courier. This a mono-spaced font la typewriter. I am using this for material I didn't write. Presumably on systems without Courier New this will be rendered in the default mono-spaced font.

Almost all of this information lives inside a style sheet, which is where it belongs in a rational world. The two elements that are not, background colour and text colour need to be available to browsers unaware of CSS. 

Having said all this, I am not desperately unhappy with FrontPage. I am not deceived by its pseudo WYSIWYG. It seems to produce reasonable HTML and I use a variety of browsers under a variety of OSs and screen resolutions to check my results from time to time as I fine-tune what I am doing. My frustration is with Netscape's interpretation of the HTML code. It would be nice if it saw the style sheet, but this is not essential to reading what I produce. I use bold and italic for emphasis and Netscape's inconsistency here is bewildering. The italic tags are interpreted, but not the strong or bold tags! Under Linux, the default proportional font is set to Times, but displays as Courier!

The question is do I want to put a copy of my style sheet in every folder just to cope with Netscape's refusal to look in the directory where it's located? This would defeat one of the main purposes of style sheets, the centralised storage of formatting information. Would the ignoring of the bold/strong tag problem go away if I used a different HTML editor? Changing editors would certainly slow me down, a prospect that is not particularly inviting.

One of the most frustrating things for a typographer is the use of inch marks instead of quote marks, the double hyphen instead of an em dash, and so on. One of the earliest things I remember from learning basic HTML back in 1995 was to forget about typographers' marks. Then on Sunday last week I discovered Demoroniser. Before implementing the advice here, I tried a little experiment. I created a test page with a few marks and then had a look in Netscape running under Win98. Lo! the marks appeared correctly. Perhaps the Demoroniser is unnecessary. Please email me if the following table appears incorrect. Make sure you tell me which Browser and OS you are using.



Long ess. Used as the leading ess in very old books such as The Yeoman's Guide to Sucking Pigs.
The degrees symbol as in degrees F or C.
Not to be confused with the elevated letter oh used in No.
This is an ellipsis, similar to three stops (periods).
This is an opening quote.
And a closing quote.
This is an em dash, so called because it's the same width as a letter em.
And this is an en dash. It is longer and thinner than a hyphen (-). 
This is the ligature of o and e as properly used in foetus.

For those curious about such things, my readership is using the following browsers:

MS IE 5.x 67%
Netscape 4.x 15%
MS IE 4.x 6%
Netscape 5.x 4%
Opera 2%
Unknown 1%

 I presume Netscape 5 is the Netscape 6 beta. Screen resolution:

1024 x 768 50%
800 x 600 20%
1280 x 1024 10%
1152 x 864 9%
Unknown 4%
640 x 480 3%
1600 x 1200 1%

And the following OSs:

Win98 37%
WinNT 24%
Win95 15%
Win2k 12%
Linux 5%
Unknown 2%

Thought for the day:

The only thing you HAVE to do is die. Everything else is optional.

W. Matthias Raftree

Friday 27 October

Well, yesterday's mucking about with raw HTML and Netscape eventually paid off. This week's page gave me what I thought was a clue. Immediately after the letter from Warlock, Netscape under Linux respected my bold tags for the daily headings, but not bolded words in body text. However, it displayed body text after Warlock's letter. Netscape under Windows wanted to be different and merely respected the bolding of the daily headings.

The <p> tag immediately in front of the paragraph where this occurred was followed by a line break and it was the only one.  I knocked up a quick page to test the theory and it worked! So, I tediously went through all the HTML in this page making sure I put the <p> and </p> tags on their own lines. This didn't make the slightest bit of difference in either browser.

My next thought was that FrontPage was inserting hidden stuff that Notepad wouldn't, so I opened the page in Notepad and saved it. Again I struck out.

The style sheet had a lot of fluff I wasn't using, so I cleaned it of extraneous material and reread the material on CSS in my HTML 4 book. What if I explicitly declared bold as an option? 

body { vertical-align: baseline; background-image: url('stonbk.jpg'); text-align: left; font-family: "ZapfEllipt BT", serif; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal | bold }

I tried it and it worked! This doesn't explain the earlier bizarre change partway through the page, but at least the page is working properly. Netscape now also seems to consistently use the background graphic.

Why didn't I try the bold declaration as an option for body in the style sheet before, I hear you ask? When I was setting up the font options for my .Quote  style, I listed Courier New and monospace. This resulted in Netscape using the default serif font. Having Courier New as the only font option resulted in Netscape using plain Courier when Courier New wasn't present. Go figure! Whatever, it is most gratifying to appear to have my pages display consistently across a variety of platforms.

One bizarre part of the experience was the wild variations even when minimal changes were made that should have had no effect. Results were different when pages were served from my web server than when opened locally, the background graphic would display sometimes and not others. Another puzzle was the gratuitous insertion of the following code by Netscape at the head of the page:

<BASE HREF="http://www.sturmsoft.com/Writing/Old_ephemerides/">

Netscape no longer does so and it was this that originally led me astray!

Of course FrontPage should have created a suitable style sheet without my needing to interfere. I had told it to create Netscape 4 compatible pages! It should have put the line break after the opening <p> tag automatically for maximum compatibility but didn't. You can set this in Tools, Page Options, HTML Source. Select the p tag and then set the spin-dial to 1 for line breaks after.

I had run my HTML through a couple of validators and they did not flag any serious problems with my HTML. Since the real source of my problems was the style sheet, that's hardly surprising. A lesson learned. At least I know more about how to make FrontPage behave itself and that saves having to learn another editor. 

Apart from the above, a couple more suggestions if there's anyone with Microsoft's ear reading this page. A prompt to provide a text description when placing graphics would be nice. And instead of the text description New for a freshly saved new page a prompt for the author's own description would be handy. If it's possible in Word, it must be possible in FrontPage, too. OTOH someone else might create a nice middle of the road HTML editor that does the trick. The potential market must be huge.

I have all my fingers crossed that this FrontPage nonsense is something I have put behind me now so I can get on with some real work. But this is the wonderful world of computers where changing the set of one's mouth can lead to a new set of problems to solve.

On a lighter note:

Hi Jonathan

I thought you might find this funny!

There are three engineers in a car: an electrical engineer, a chemical engineer and a Microsoft engineer. Suddenly the car just stops by the side of the road, and the three engineers look at each other wondering what could be wrong.

The electrical engineer suggests stripping down the electronics of the car and trying to trace where a fault might have occurred.

The chemical engineer, not knowing much about cars, suggests that maybe the fuel is becoming emulsified and getting blocked somewhere.

Then, the Microsoft engineer, not knowing much about anything, comes up with a suggestion, "Why don't we close all the windows, get out, get back in, open the windows again, and maybe it'll work?"


You timed that one to a tee, Shaun. I really needed a laugh.


From Dan Bowman:

Another thought for Mr. Doss (Wednesday's mail): here stateside another aspect of ISPs is their non-standardization on modems, even within the same ISP. As an example, I use WorldNet. Here in central California, their POP uses Rockwell chipset modems; one hundred-fifty miles away on the central coast, they use Lucent chipset modems. Regardless of the hype over V.90, USR modems lead to higher connection speeds here and Zoom modems yield higher speeds there.

Dave Farqhuar was having a time with his dial-up in the mid-west with his USR modem; I sent him my Hayes (semi-useless here to me) and he moved to the top of the speed range.

Under Linux, I'm seeing the same thing, the USR Sportster works faster (internal and external) than my Zoom (PC Card). It connects at 28.8 from the laptop here; I'll be testing it under Linux on the next vacation trip.

Short version: if he has the time and a few friends with modems to loan (or on the same ISP), it would be worth his time testing both chipsets with his ISP to see which one performs better.

All tests here under Mandrake 7.1,


Thanks Dan! I'm too far from my telephone exchange to work at the full 56k speed. On my my Internet line I generally managed 38-40 kbs. On my voice line I get only around 36 kbs.


From Warlock:

Jon -

I find it remarkable that you have not had serious problems before this! two devices sharing an IRQ is bad enough, although it can be done in certain cases - but that laundry list? is there anything left that was not on IRQ9?

My solution to the "Plug 'n' Pray" mess, with the Award BIOS that my Abit BP6s use, was to disable Plug 'n' Pray, and assign each PCI slot its own IRQ. Then I knew which IRQ the SCSI HA, etc. would have, depending on the slot they were in. You might check and see if your BIOS has this option. Saves a lot of grief, and the roll-of-the-dice Plug 'n' pray IRQ assignment. And they remain the same, whether I boot the NEWBOX into W98SE, NT4.0, or W2K.

Also, if it need be said, take into consideration that certain cards like certain IRQs - Creative cards mostly like 5, Adaptec HAs like 11 or 15, etc.



Living dangerously takes on a different meaning at my age <g> Some people are into heroin, some are into fast cars, some are into fast women... Seriously though, I have the BIOS on my ASUS K7V set to do the IRQ steering. Letting Win2k do it produces a BSOD. When that little change worked, I left it at that. I will likely experiment with your suggestion and of course report on it. It's entirely possible Win2k is lying through its teeth about this. When I was dual booting NT4 and Win95, each OS swore that my ISA non-PnP Adaptec SCSI was on a different interrupt and memory port. Win95's assessment agreed with the jumper settings on the card, but neither OS had difficulty communicating with devices on it.

Then there are the sad:

Political incorrectness? You people are bigots! Tell me something. Do you think that God your father in heaven who your suppose to emulate is prejudice? Grow up! M.N.

Political incorrectness is my watchword! Bigotry could be a bit of a problem since I am a German-English-Jew -- could lead to some quite bizarre internal conversations. Sadly, Jehovah is not my father -- walking on water would have been so kewl. MN, I did grow up -- then out. My advice in return for yours is learn some English grammar! And have your doctor check your medication. Whatever it is you're taking it's preventing you from seeing that most things worth thinking about have no true|false attribute. There's lots of different points of view. And they're all valid from the viewpoint of the viewer. Go look at things for a while from someone else's POV and you can grow up too.

A most unlikely thing: using bad RAM with Linux. Interesting! I'm not sure I approve though; I loathe crappy hardware.

Feedback about the partial table of higher ASCII characters is interesting to say the least. Here is a page for all the symbols from 127 to 255 so you can see which work on your system. I know the Mac sees several of them differently and my own tests with Linux show it depends on whether you've installed TrueType fonts or not. Interestingly, one Windows user had similar results on Windows to Linux without TrueType. While some of my favourite marks don't work universally, some useful ones do. I haven't seen a list of reliable ones anywhere I've looked yet, so it seems a useful thing to discover.

Thought for the day:

Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away. 

Antoine de Saint-Exupry, aviator and aircraft designer

Saturday 28 October

The search for a way to put proper typographers' marks into a document has borne fruit. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's a PITA to do so in FrontPage. An even bigger PITA is that the result in Netscape is worse than Microsoft's "incompetence and gratuitous incompatibility". A surprising result was that Netscape and Opera are more compliant with "Microsoft's incompetence and gratuitous incompatibility" than with the HTML 4 Standard. Read on...

Some of you will have looked at the higher ANSI character set I made yesterday. Here's a slightly different version to give you an idea what I'm trying to achieve.

Character ANSI Code How your browser displays it HTML 4.0
How your browser displays it Name

0147 &ldquo; left double quote

0148 &rdquo; right double quote

0150 &ndash; en dash

0151 &mdash; em dash

0156 &oelig; œ oe ligature

0162 &cent; ¢ cent sign

0163 &pound; £ pound sign

0167 &sect; § section sign

0176 &deg; ° degree sign

The first four marks in the list are the most critical from a typographer's point of view since they are the most frequently used. This is not just nit-picking. Typewriter quotes are used to designate dimension, as in feet and inches and angle as in minutes and seconds. The hyphen doubles as a minus sign. The en dash indicates duration. 4 - 10 is not the same as 4 am – 10 Pm.

The oe ligature is for the fastidious and the French, but the cent, pound and degree are important in documents that refer to money or temperature respectively. It's easier to read 10C than 10 degrees C for instance. Since such material is often tabular in nature, the word soaks up valuable space quicker than the symbol. 

Many of the remaining marks are important when spelling out non-English words, such as people's names. I know a person called Wikstrm who will reply to mail when his name is spelled correctly, but not when it's spelt Wikstrom. 

Back in the days of dot matrix printers and monospace type, none of this mattered. In today's world, any decent word processor automatically turns inch and foot marks to quotes and double hyphens to en dashes.

The level of support for the various typographers' marks is patchy and bewildering. For those of you with access to only one browser I summarise:

Internet Explorer 4.01

On Win95 all the ANSI codes and all the HTML 4.0 entities display correctly.

Internet Explorer 5.x 

On Win98, Win2k and MacOS, all the ANSI codes and all the HTML 4.0 entities display correctly. Thanks to Dave Farquhar for the Mac check.

Netscape Navigator 4.7

On Win98 displays the ANSI codes correctly, but displays the HTML 4.0 quotes, dashes and oe ligature as literal "&ldquo;", "&rdquo", "&ndash;",  "&mdash;" and "&oelig". The other HTML 4.0 entities display correctly.

On Linux the ANSI codes 0147, 0148 & 0156 display as question marks, so the text is at least readable. The dashes display as hyphens. The rest of the ANSI codes display correctly. The HTML 4.0 entities down to the oe ligature make text almost unreadable! The cent, pound, section and degree signs display correctly.

Netscape Navigator 6 beta

On both Win98 and Win2k, all the ANSI codes and all the HTML 4.0 entities display correctly.

Opera 4.02

On Win98 displays the ANSI characters correctly, but the HTML 4.0 opening and closing quotes display as inch marks and the oe ligature displays as a box, but prints as a bullet.

I don't own the Linux version of Opera, so cannot comment.


From the above it's clear that Internet Explorer supports both ANSI and HTML 4.0. The two main rival browsers provide better support for ANSI than they do for HTML 4.0. 

If you want to use proper typographers' marks and have them display correctly, then MacOS or Windows are mandatory. If there is a chance readers will be using Netscape on Linux, or Opera, then ANSI is a better choice. This makes Mr Demoroniser look rather more foolish than Microsoft, I think.


After several hours of research and reading some very obscure documents on the Internet, I think I know how part of the above mess was created. There's a Standard called ISO 8859 that is in reality several standards. [Aside: that's the nice thing about Standards, there are so many to choose from!] The one we are concerned with is ISO 8859-1, the Western European Character Set. When it was in a late stage of development, Microsoft, Lotus, Digital Equipment Corp and Commodore (for the Amiga OS) adopted it. Subsequently, characters 0127 to 0159 were eliminated from ISO 8859-1. 

I am not going to speculate on why this happened, but it seems certain that far from Microsoft adding these characters, they were part of a late draft. One story has it that the removal of the oe ligature was due to the French committee member being absent on the day the decision to remove it was taken. Does this mean that the Belgian and Swiss contingents sufficiently loathed the French to ignore their own needs? The removal of six of the most important typographic marks seems more than a little peculiar. Was the intent to hand over desktop publishing to the Mac, Windows, Amiga and DEC?

One presumes Netscape did not support the HTML entities that map to characters in this range because of animus toward Microsoft, but then Netscape's programmers were never particularly compliant to Standards and may just have not been bothered.

Thought for the day:

Blue-haired old aunts used to come up to me at weddings, poking me in the ribs and cackling, telling me, "You're next!"

They stopped after I started doing the same thing to them at funerals.


Sunday 29 October

Yesterday we went shopping, not something I particularly enjoy. I needed new underpants and since I prefer utility to visual effect, usually get navy blue Y-Fronts as they are called here in Australia. On this occasion, they weren't Australian made, but Mexican and labelled "American Style". I thought Americans wore boxer shorts. These were definitely good old Y-Fronts in my favourite colour for underpants.

The most important part of the shopping trip for Thomas and myself was a trip to the bookstore that carries computer books. The shelf space devoted to them had grown by another 20% since my last visit several months ago. One shelf is now devoted to O'Reilly and there I found HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide 4th Edition by Chuck Musciano & Bill Kennedy. Half the size and no doubt twice the value of the 1997 HTML 4 How-To it replaces. I looked no further.

Thomas wanted something about programming with PHP at the intermediate level. There was only one book and fortunately it wasn't a primer: New Riders Web Application Development with PHP 4.0 by Till Gerken, Tobias Ratschiller. 

There was no sign of Bob and Barbara Thompson's PC Hardware in a Nutshell or Tom Syroid and Bo Leuf's Outlook 2000 in a Nutshell. Doubtless the latter was caused by my telling several colleagues to run, not walk and buy it! By the time the Thompsons' book gets to the shelves here in Australia, it's likely to cost rather more than I like spending on a book. The Australian dollar is at $US0.52 and still sliding downwards. The HTML & XHTML book cost me $A79.95 and is listed at $US34.95 by O'Reilly. Microsoft Australia has announced an impending price rise of 15% come December 1.

We spent a while looking at salt and pepper grinders to replace those Marguerite accidentally sacrificed to the gods earlier in the week. On Tuesday, I didn't feel like cooking and so asked her to bring home fish and chips. Apparently, the salt and pepper grinders became wrapped up in the paper afterwards and the bundle was burnt in the stove. I dislike stale pre-ground pepper and we use flossy salt in the salt grinder. Flossy salt is the coarse stuff used for making ham and bacon and is pretty much pure sodium chloride unlike table salt. Our second bag cost $5 for 25 kg (55 lb). 

We bought wooden grinders this time rather than acrylic on the grounds that the smoke will be less toxic. SWMBO was not amused by this observation.

The shopping trip was made more pleasant than usual by the comfort of the "new" Subaru. There's lots of leg room for Thomas who is now marginally taller than me at age 15.

Thomas started the DL of KDE2 and I started one for the beta of FrameMaker for Linux before we left yesterday. When I used Partition Magic to clone the partitions from my dying hard disk the other day I didn't bother with the Caldera Open Linux partition. There was no important data there and it would likely have taken as long as the Caldera install. So that's the project after I do the latest update to Franklin and Friends: install Open Linux, the new KDE and the beta of FrameMaker. Lots to write about over the next few days.

Ron Morse Writes:

re: The conversation about IRQ sharing under Windows 2000.

This is totally normal behavior for Win2K, although the specific IRQ that it piles everything onto seems to vary from system to system. My PIII desktop box (Tyan) uses IRQ11. The P266 laptop (Compaq) uses IRQ10. The Dell systems (Intel) at work use IRQ 9.

It certainly seems to work well. I detect no performance penalty and plug n' play works flawlessly. I will note, however, that all my machines are 100 per cent ISA peripheral free. All the problems I have seen with IRQ conflicts on Win2K systems is the result of somebody sticking something (anything?) into an ISA slot.


I certainly had several months of trouble-free computing until the other day. My MoBo has no ISA slots. When I first bought this machine, I had problems with a Matrox G400 video card, but that turned out to be a dud card. During my experiments, I discovered the need for IRQ steering by the BIOS was down to the Hollywood DVD card. Nothing untoward has happened since Wednesday, so I'll likely leave things as they are. Maybe it was a burst of cosmic rays that caused the problem. Note that this is not a joke! If the weather wasn't so unremittingly cloudy/wet, I'd be outside every other night on the off-chance of seeing the Aurora Australis. When it's directly overhead, it's spectacular!

Last night I saw part of the Paralympics on TV. The East Timorese contingent arrived in Australia penniless and the hat was passed around to enable their stay to be a success. It was well worth it when I saw their long distance runner struggle valiantly to finish despite being lapped several times. It was especially difficult for Alcino Pereira as he was continually distracted by wanting to join in celebrating with the winners of other events. When an official disqualified Pereira for running off the track, the crowd booed. Another official handed Pereira a bunch of flowers to Pereira's and the crowd's delight. The crowd gave Pereira a well-deserved standing ovation.

Thought for the day:

Win or lose, playing at all is winning.

Wolfgang Nording


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d DVD card. Nothing untoward has happened since Wednesday, so I'll likely leave things as they are. Maybe it was a burst of cosmic rays that caused the problem. Note that this is not a joke! If the weather wasn't so unremittingly cloudy/wet, I'd be outside every other night on the off-chance of seeing the Aurora Australis. When it's directly overhead, it's spectacular!

Last night I saw part of the Paralympics on TV. The East Timorese contingent arrived in Australia penniless and the hat was passed around to enable their stay to be a success. It was well worth it when I saw their long distance runner struggle valiantly to finish despite being lapped several times. It was especially difficult for Alcino Pereira as he was continually distracted by wanting to join in celebrating with the winners of other events. When an official disqualified Pereira for running off the track, the crowd booed. Another official handed Pereira a bunch of flowers to Pereira's and the crowd's delight. The crowd gave Pereira a well-deserved standing ovation.

Thought for the day:

Win or lose, playing at all is winning.

Wolfgang Nording


Home |Previous Ephemerides | Daynotes Gang | Site Map|Top | Next

Check out Franklin & Friends, a website devoted to the village where the author lives: its culture, inhabitants, and more.

Jonathan Sturm 2000