News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 6/14/98

From: namewithheld@anonymous.com (Random Person);
Sent at Mon, 15 Jun 1998 10:18:03 -0700;
Buying a computer without Windows

Please don't publish this with my name on it. Feel free to quote it anonymously.

Buying a computer without Windows is definitely possible. I bought one the other day. I went to Treasure Chest Computers (http://www.tccomputers.com), selected various components (motherboard, processor, ram, hard-drive, case) and then called them to place the order. I explicitly told them I that I didn't need a copy of Windows. No problem they said.

What's that you say? Not everyone feels comfortable selecting all the components. No problem, Treasure Chest also sell pre-configured systems. Just pick the price/power point that suits your needs.

Why don't the big guys make this an option? Well, my guess is that it makes support more difficult:

"Uh, I just bought your latest XYZ 2000 and it doesn't work.

"Really sir, tell me what you see. Do you see the Windows 95 logo? Can you get to the Start menu?"

"Uh no, I just turned it on and nothing happened. I'm pretty sure the screen is busted."

"I see. What operating system are you running?"


I'm sure that if more people cared then it would be worth their while to do this. Remember, these guys deal with support in the front lines, first time users are going to call their support lines with every dumb question you can imagine.

Most OEMs spend from spring until Fall testing out systems with the latest OS release, all to make sure that their systems work as expected. They have no incentive or interest in supporting multiple operating systems, it will only cost them money.

From: TuckerG@sandellmgmt.com (Tucker Goodrich);
Sent at Mon, 15 Jun 1998 10:27:58 -0400;

FYI, when Orwell wrote "1984", his title was "1948", but his publisher made him change it because he thought "1948" was too alarmist and unrealistic. With hindsight, of course 20/20, 1948 would have been a little more accurate. Pretty horrible things were going on in Russia at this point...

Also, cheer up! It'll work out. There was a piece in the NYT this weekend about how happy everyone in the Kashmir is about the escalation of the cold war there to nuclear: they all beleive that this makes any further war impossible (including the military officers interviewed).

They said that the shooting has petered out, and everyone concerned was happy that "life was returning to normal." Nuclear weapons made war in Europe unthinkable, perhaps it will have the same effect in the subcontinent. God willing.

Re: Y2K--I'm thinking the place to celebrate the arrival of the year 2000 is in the woods somewhere, away from airports and falling planes and things that go "bump" in the night.

From: pisej5@staff.kvl.dk (Piet Seiden);
Sent at Mon, 15 Jun 1998 14:45:05 +0200;

Anthony Burgess, a british literati, wrote an in my opinion interesting comment on Orwells 1984 and added his own peculiar version inspired by the rather chaotic situation in Britain in the early seventies.


PS: Arthur C. Clarke in one of his many SF-novels describes a couple who saved the world from Y2K chaos by writing a virus that exchanged the crippled two-digit code in all financial programs with a patch that made them Y2K compliant. This book was published in the early 90's I believe. End of lecture.

From: PPRODOEHL@qgraph.com (w e b s l a v e);
Sent at Mon, 15 Jun 1998 06:14:25 -0700;
Re:Y2K The Movie

In 1948 George Orwell wrote a book about 1984. It wasn't a very positive vision. When I was growing up, the year 1984 loomed large. When it finally came, it wasn't actually very much like the book, although some hippies thought it was.

I've read accounts that Orwell really wrote about the state of things in 1948, not how he thought they'd be in 1984. He was convinced to change the name, by switching some numbers around, so the dismal outlook was of the future instead of present day, so as not to hurt sales...

Bureaucracy, as always...

From: davidbak@microsoft.com (Dave Bakin);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 12:59:52 -0700;

Sloppily, I assume the FBI is stupid in wanting to keep US software companies, like Microsoft, from building authentication and encryption into every incoming and outgoing net connection. But what if the FBI isn't stupid? What could they trying to accomplish?

Yo, Dave, if you don't watch out you're going to end up a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy or something.

Frankly, I think you'd be right about the government intent - if I believed they could actually plan that kind of thing. I don't really think that the politicians and government officials we've got these days are the same class of thinkers like George Smiley in those Le Carre novels, if you know what I mean.

On the other hand, for a down-to-earth view of what they're up to, very plausible, where all the goals are immediate, or derived in one short logical deduction from the immediate situation, or are based on defending ones turf and not trusting anyone else, you've just got to read James Bamford's The Puzzle Palace. It's 16 years old or so, and mainly describes the NSA, but the parts that involve the FBI are chilling.

The NSA (until that time totally secret - even its name and existence were top secret) was able to do domestic surveillance with legal justification (i.e., self-justification) and was only stopped by the efforts of a few powerful men from involving the FBI - though at times the FBI was in fact involved. In 1966 it was J. Edgar Hoover himself, obviously one of the most powerful men in the country during his tenure as FBI Director, that put a stop to the NSA having FBI agents to "black bag" operations on embassies and other sites in this country.

Later on, in the Nixon administration, with the approval and instigation of some Nixon officials, during the time of "domestic unrest", there was an attempt to make it totally legal for the NSA to do domestic surveillance, and it was only because Attorney General John Mitchell (remember him? This is really ironic when you consider what happened to him later) found out about it - he was kept completely out of the loop by the intelligence agencies but Hoover came to him at the last minute irate because he had been ignored - that it was killed because in the end John Mitchell had Nixon's ear more than Nixon's other advisors.

And also, earlier than that, the book describes how the NSA got its start before WWII in reading international communications: Without any legal justification whatsoever they went secretly to the heads of the three companies who ran the international underseas cable lines, and twisted their arm (with arguments of patriotism and the like) to provide them with the actual cables being sent overseas - before they were sent! - and the actual cables received - before they were delivered! Not only that, but because the telegraph companies didn't have the manpower to filter the messages for only those involving non-Americans they turned over ALL the cables to the NSA and let them filter them! Later NSA snooping operations (electronic) were of the same universal vacuum type as well; the book talks about a lot of the early capabilities.

And by the way, did you know (I've seen an article on this in a professional journal) that in addition to photo surveillance by satellite the NSA and NRO actually run SIGINT surveilance by satellite? I have absolutely no idea what their capabilites are but their satellites can apparently intercept and retransmit to NSA/NRO earthside microwave and other transmissions (which I thought were narrowcast!). On the one hand, my reaction is a techy "Wow, that's cool!" and on the other hand I'm like "Oh shit, that's scary!". And, Dave, this is only the stuff we know about, and it is 15 years old! (The satellite SIGINT stuff is newer, the journal article I saw is from this year.) We don't really know what's happening now but considering the history of DES, RSA, the NSA and FBI fighting strong encryption from the start, the Clipper chip, key escrow, billions of dollars spent secretly (i.e., legally covert) on land-based and satellite SIGINT, and all the other stuff, well, jeez, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to feel chilled and if you actually attribute some long-range-strategic-planning brains to the government then you could get really scared!

I really encourage you to read The Puzzle Palace if you're thinking along these lines, and especially to remember that it is 15 years old and no one has done any kind of update on the NSA since!

From: gfrer@luna.nl (Gerard Freriks);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 14:17:12 -0700;
Re:Y2K The Movie

I'm very sorry. But.... you stole my idea's ! :-)

No kidding. 8 months ago I had a movie/television plot in my mind about Y2K.

I still don't know what to think. Should I be a pessimist? Should I be an optimist?

It will be a real life experiment.

Seeing all the lights go out. Seeing transportation of goods come to a halt. Seeing government becoming powerless.

Or not !

From: tobeth@lava.net (Beech Family);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 14:16:44 -0700;
Re:Y2K The Movie

On the way to the movies with the family last nite. I noticed a sign on one of the local bank machines that said something to this effect: "our machines are temporarily out of service while we are fixing the Y2K bug in all our systems."

So. Is that good or bad? ;-)

From: denisjos@compuserve.com (Denis-Jose Francois);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 11:18:07 -0700;
Re:Y2K The Movie

It's a great Idea for a movie. But if you *really* want to get it done, you'd better go with it *now*.

And how about using '1999' by prince as part of the soundtrack?

PS- Have you seen 'Strange days' (James Cameron)?

From: morse@northcoast.com (Robert Morse);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 11:14:56 -0700;
Re:Y2K The Movie

Geez. Yesterday I joined the list. Last night I wondered why no one had made a Y2K Apocalpse movie. Then I dreamt I wrote the screenplay. Then I woke up and read your list email. Weird, eh?

I think the reason no one has made the movie is that it's still too far fetched for most people. The money guys say, "Nah, onone will believe that. Lets make a movie about a giant Moth who fights the newly revived Godzilla, instead!"


From: gnu@toad.com (John Gilmore);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 08:58:17 -0700;
Re:1/1/00 (what if FBI and NSA aren't stupid?)

But what if I'm making the wrong assumption. What if they fully understand what they're doing? What if they're not stupid? What could they be trying to do?

Sloppily, I assume the FBI is stupid in wanting to keep US software companies, like Microsoft, from building authentication and encryption into every incoming and outgoing net connection. But what if the FBI isn't stupid? What could they trying to accomplish?

Louis J. Freeh could be trying to walk in the footsteps of J. Edgar Hoover. Staying in power for 40 years by blackmailing anyone who could get in his way, by wiretaps on Congressmen, Presidents, senior government officials, and influential private parties like Martin Luther King (or, today, Bill Gates). Making that leap doesn't take much imagination; all you have to do is read some history from your own lifetime, or talk to people still living, about how it was.

What *else* could the FBI be trying to accomplish? I've had trouble visualizing it. Their attitude seems to be totally focused on gaining power, money and control via lying to the public about the issues. This is not a combination that inspires trust.

The National Security Agency is another matter. I see more or less where they are coming from. They have a job to wiretap the world (outside the US) and are doing whatever they can to make that job easier rather than harder. If I was in their shoes I would be trying to make the right choices for my whole society, rather than just for my agency -- like business executives who keep the environmental "big picture" in mind rather than just striving for profits. But that's a tricky thing when you're a black-budget agency designed to be fundamentally invisible and unresponsive to the public. Maybe it's better if you focus on predictability and leave the social decisions to the elected officials. (Unfortunately the elected officials are botching them, but that's our problem, not NSA's.)

From: rallen@easynet.co.uk (Richard Allen);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 08:56:53 -0700;
Re:Y2K The Movie

Anyway, in the early 80s I had the foresight to think of writing a book about 1948, making fun of the 40s, and ship it in 1984. I didn't write the book, no one else did either. No one even did a movie remake of Orwell's book. A bunch of missed opportunities.

A good movie version of the book (with a great soundtrack by Annie Lenox / Eurythmics) was released though it remained true to the somewhat grim ending of Orwell's book so wasn't a 'remake'.

One minor point that myself and others noticed was that at the end of the movie Winstone is shown playing chess and his final move is the knight. Remember 2+2=5 well the knight moves 4 squares in almost a four shape - a collegeage who teaches English says that the book orginaly had a marginaly more positive ending with Winstone asserting 2+2=4 - a triumph of the human spirit - but Orwell revised it to present a more grim outlook.

From: diana@acmetech.com (Diana);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 08:55:15 -0700;
Re:Y2K The Movie

Hey babe, a quick one, it's the middle of the night in California, all the other websites are quiet, but I had a few thoughts this evening on the drive back from San Francisco, wanted to get them down, then out, and then hit the sack.

I heard a report on NPR given by a woman who had just gotten her first baby to sleep through the night. She said everyone was congraduating her and she was feeling guilty since sleeping through the night is really not nature's way.

Primitive hunter gather societies don't sleep through the night. They snooze in the afternoon and get up intermittently throughout the night to chat with whoever else is sitting around the fire. Siesta is popular in many parts of the world.

Numerous scientific experiments have been conducted showing that a few sporadic but secure catnaps lead to a more productive life than the grind of working straight through the entire day.

They'd lose contact at the crucial moment, and the movie would end with the world safe and them in love.

This would only appeal to the American audience. If you want world-wide, Neuvo appreciation, you need to leave off at the point where they have a chance to contact each other. Let people make up the ending for themselves. That way the viewers have something to discuss during dinner. That's the way the French do it.


From: irsan@tcf.nl (Irsan Widarto);
Sent at Sun, 14 Jun 1998 08:54:22 -0700;
Re:Y2K The Movie

I'm afraid you're a little bit late with your "Y2K, the movie" idea. Just the other daty I read this article in Salon Magazine and it included the following:

There's even an upcoming Hollywood movie about the millennium bug: "Y2K," due to be released in the fall of 1999 by Warner Brothers. Scriptwriter Stuart Zicherman describes "Y2K" as a techno-thriller from a programmer's point of view. Though he says it's not apocalyptic, and he doesn't expect that the film will trigger any panic, the movie will still portray a breakdown in New York City on New Year's Eve, 1999.

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