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Rocky Mountain Forest

1998 on the Web
Daily Technology Diary

Rocky Mountain Forest
  January 1998  

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Monday, January 26  
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In a deal reminiscent of the blockbusters of the 1980s, Compaq Computer today announced it is acquiring Digital Equipment Corporation for a cool $9.6 billion. Long desirous of being one of the top three computer manufacturers in the world, the Compaq/DEC alliance solidly places them #2 behind only IBM with combined sales of $37 billion. Compaq already held the number 1 position in placing desktop computers and NT servers in corporate environments. With DECs experience in enterprise systems, the new company brings the full package to the table, and should give IBM a run for the money.

The Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 developer team has posted a new version of the IE4 PowerToys. The toys include a feature to zoom in and zoom out on any image on a Web page; reaching the popular search engines in a snap with Quick Search; an image toggler for turning images off and on; the ability to open frames in a new window; selecting words on a Web page and going directly to Web search; and obtaining a list of all links on a page. Some IE4 users experienced problems with the PowerToys during the beta period, but the developers have re-written these toys for the production release.

Netscape Communications continued to make surprising news today. Announcing they are dropping Java run-time technologies in the Navigator browser follows last week's release of Communicator source code and free browsing. Instead, Netscape will now offer an open Application Programming Interface(API) that will allow others such as Sun Microsystems, and amazingly enough Microsoft, to plug-in their own Java Virtual Machines. If you have ever timed the loading of a Java applet in the Navigator browser with the same in the Internet Explorer browser, perhaps you can understand the rationale behind this latest announcement. Netscape has been falling drastically behind in Java technologies. Dropping this development work will help their bottom line. But what about JavaGator you ask? Look for more on this before the 1st quarter is out.

This latest Netscape news may be the beginning of a trend that will make another of my 1998 computer industry predictions come true. Go here to check them out.

I will be in Dallas, Texas for the rest of this week for professional development training. While I am gone, I will be continuing to keep the diary, look for the updates when I return Saturday. In the meantime check out the other features on the 1998 on the Web site.

Thought for the day: "The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That's where we come in. We're computer professionals. We cause accidents." - Nathaniel Borenstein

 

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Tuesday, January 27  
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Your author is away this week at a professional development class. Please visit the other pages of 1998 on the Web while I'm away, and be sure to come back to see the latest updates on Saturday, January 31st.

Published 31Jan98

Some comments about traveling. I headed to Dallas, Texas today for a class, Hewlett-Packard UNIX System Administration. What at first seemed a lousy day for flying, extreme overcast, turned into a nice, thought provoking ride. Once clearing the clouds at about 25,000 feet, the atmosphere just opened up. The sky was a beautiful, deep rich blue. The cloud cover below reminded me of a fresh bed of champagne powder snow, smooth and fluffy. The contrast was candy for the eye. As the flight continued west, the cloud cover broke, and the great American plains sprawled below. There is no better way to learn geography than from the air.

On the last 70 mile approach to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport one wonders how or why a metroplex of this size formed in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. Eventually you begin to understand, it's water. You begin to see all the lakes around the Dallas area and the Trinity River. That was probably my last positive memory of what Dallas has become. I was last in the Dallas/Fort Worth area about 7-8 years ago and it has grown tremendously since.

The logistics at DFW airport are insufferable. There are north and south terminals. This means two of everything. Because there are two rental car depots, the rental companies don't know whether their customers will be arriving at the north or south terminals, and therefore don't have cars ready for the preferred customers. Renting a car at DFW airport is a throwback to 20 years ago before online reservation systems.

When leaving the airport you are immediately inundated with the traffic. As I would learn throughout the entire week I was in the region, the traffic was awful. I spent the week in the Irving area. Perhaps it is not as bad in other communities, but Irving has traffic problems. It took 45 minutes to travel the three miles from the airport to my hotel. Sorry people of Dallas, but first impressions are lasting impressions.

Thought for the day: "The truth is out there. Here's the URL."

 

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Wednesday, January 28  
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Your author is away this week at a professional development class. Please visit the other pages of 1998 on the Web while I'm away, and be sure to come back to see the latest updates on Saturday, January 31st.

Published 31Jan98

First day of class. Hewlett-Packard UNIX System Administration can be summed up in one acronym, SAM(System Administration Manager). Instead of executing commands from a shell, you work through menus that guide task selection and facilitate data entry, and if you are using an X Windows workstation, all this with a graphical interface. Administration tasks are easier to perform because you don't need to remember complex UNIX commands. Now before you UNIX hacks out there crucify me for relying on a wimpy GUI instead of the real thing, realize that I won't be a Sysadmin, but will be doing Performance Analysis instead. For those of you who don't mind modern computer interfaces making your job easier, HP/UX SAM is a helpful utility.

SAM provides mechanisms for operating with Auditing and Security, Backup and Recovery, Cluster Configuration, Disks and File Systems, Kernel Configuration, Networking and Communications, Peripheral Devices, Printers and Plotters, Process Management, and User and Group Account Management. SAM operates with an object-action paradigm providing the advantage of data visibility. A robust context-sensitive Help system makes the SAM GUI a truly full-featured product.

The Hewlett-Packard Dallas Training Center is a very nice facility located among the sprawling office complexes in Irving, Texas. The class rooms are modern and comfortable and conducive to student productivity. Each student has their own HP 9000 workstation for performing Lab exercises, a vital hands-on experience.

Thought for the day: "Half of the people in the world are below average."

 

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Thursday, January 29  
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Your author is away this week at a professional development class. Please visit the other pages of 1998 on the Web while I'm away, and be sure to come back to see the latest updates on Saturday, January 31st.

Published 01Feb98

It was 70 degrees today in Dallas, a wonderful mid-winter respite from the cabin fever of the West Virginia mountains, especially since it dumped the snow back home. The local Dallas folks in class say this was an unusual El Nino effect.

The HP/UX System Administration class continued today with in-depth modules about the functionality of SAM(System Administration Manager). Exercises working with user accounts included; adding-removing, deactivating, working with login shell environment, and security. We set up device files on the systems and worked with hardware addressing. Step-by-step walk-through of the Boot process from the ROM start sequence to attended and unattended IPL helped with understanding how one might recover from system failures. We learned the features of the inittab file, the pre-init_rc script, and the various system run levels.

In UNIX everything is a file. Like most computer systems, the disks and file systems in UNIX are probably the most important resources. Mounting is the way a file system is incorporated into a directory tree. Beginning with release 10.0 of HP/UX, systems can have multiple file systems on one disk drive. This can be accomplished by partitioning with the Logical Volume Manager. LVM also allows a single file system to use space on multiple disk drives. The Superblock describes information about a file system such as size, block size, fragment size, and disk characteristics. The Superblock maintains dynamic information about the number of free data blocks, free inodes, and the file system clean flag. File systems can be repaired with the fsck utility.

Swap spaces are areas on disk that are used to extend the UNIX system's memory, called virtual memory. Physical memory is a finite resource on a computer. Because demand for physical memory may exceed actual supply, swap space was introduced to assist with multi-tasking.

Thought for the day: "I think, therefore I am. I think."

 

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Friday, January 30  
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Your author is away this week at a professional development class. Please visit the other pages of 1998 on the Web while I'm away, and be sure to come back to see the latest updates on Saturday, January 31st.

Published 01Feb98

Final day of HP/UX System Administrator class. One of the principal responsibilities of a computer system administrator is preserving the data stored on the system. A piece of hardware may fail, a file may be accidently removed or overwritten, a command may go astray, or the system may crash. The user community has a reasonable expectation that the administrator has planned and implemented regular backup procedures to minimize data loss. UNIX provides many methods for backup and recovery of data. The tar and cpio commands are general purpose logical file backups that are found on all UNIX systems. In the HP/UX world the fbackup and frecover utilities are the fastest and most flexible tools available short of third-party add-ons. Fbackup and frecover are integrated into SAM(System Administration Manager) on HP/UX.

The course continued with sections on working with and configuring peripheral devices such as printers and plotters, terminals and modems. As any experienced system administrator will tell you, time scheduled jobs are extremely useful, particularly on production systems. SAM allows for interactive creation of these cron jobs.

And finally, the course wrapped up with configuring of the UNIX kernel. There may be times you add a new application that is larger than the kernel will allow to run. You may be adding new devices on your system that require new drivers to be configured in the kernel. You can also add or remove subsystems such as LAN or NFS. SAM allows for the changing of these system paramenters interactively, and the rebuilding of the system kernel. My thanks to John Jackson of Hewlett-Packard for teaching a well structured, well received UNIX System Administration class.

My bad experiences with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport upon arrival Tuesday(see above) continued as I prepared for departure. All of the rental car companies are combined into one parking lot that isn't big enough to contain the returned cars from just one company. This resulted in a very long line of customers trying to gain entry to the return lot. I'm glad I had plenty of time, and wasn't there during the rush hour activity. I can only imagine it must be an absolute mad house between 4-6PM with many a patron missing their flights. Be warned, if you will be traveling through DFW, allow lot's of time for rental car return.

Because I made plane reservations for this trip only a couple of days before I went, I ended up in a center seat on the leg from Dallas to Pittsburgh. I haven't had to do this in years. It is very difficult to sit in one position for 2 1/2 hours. It's great to be back home.

Thought for the day: "There are two major products to come out of Berkeley. LSD and UNIX. We don't believe this to be coincidence." - Jeremy S. Anderson

 

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Saturday, January 31  
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The never ending task of Web site promotion continued today. I submitted 1998 on the Web to The World Wide Web Broadcaster, a Planetweb service. Like others of the free shotgun Web promotion services, Broadcaster submits your site to more than 200 search engines and indexes. You simply enter your page information once, and Broadcaster does the rest. Within an hour of submitting 1998 on the Web to Broadcaster I had already received a dozen e-mail confirmations from indexes indicating my site had been added to their lists. This service is free if you make the effort to take advantage of it. For a small fee, Planetweb will automatically resubmit your site continuously throughout the year.

A reminder that you can see a history of site promotion efforts and tracking the results on the 1998 on the Web Tips and Tools page.

Did you ever wonder what your Web page looks like displayed with browsers you don't have? Thanks to a free utility named Bobby from the Center for Applied Science Technology, now you can find out. Bobby finds HTML compatibility problems that may prevent your page from displaying properly on different Web browsers. Bobby works with all the flavors of Netscape Navigator, the AOL implementations, various releases of Lynx and Microsoft Internet Explorer, and even WebTV. It checks for HTML 2.0 and 3.2 standards compliance. Additionally, Bobby rates your page for accessibility to people with disabilities. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Thought for the day: "History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon." - Napoleon Bonaparte

 

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Sunday, February 1  
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This week Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, did some venting with a c|net reporter about the U.S. Department of Justice's anti-trust lawsuit against his company. Aiming his jibes squarely at the computer industry press, Gates said "I'd be glad to explain to you how disappointed I was at the way we were portrayed. That [contempt issue] was a sideshow. The judge heard the government witness come in and say that he had no idea of any other way to comply with that order. [The judge] heard him say that; he heard [Microsoft expert witness] David Cole come in--who's the most sincere, straightforward person you will ever meet--and the way Cole has been cast in the press is really unbelievable. We did exactly what the order said to do; there was no freedom or flexibility. We went as far as to say what version of Windows that you could delete these files from and it will still run. It turns out it's the retail version that sells hundreds of thousands of copies a month. And what did people say about that?"

Well, what people said about that was that Microsoft was playing fast and loose with Judge Thomas Jackson's injuction requiring the removal of Internet Explorer 3 from Windows 95. So Microsoft offered a compromise to the DOJ that provided additional methods for removal. With the compromise, the injunction issue is over until heard by a Federal Appeals Court in April. I personally happen to agree with Gates. I believe the media had a lot to do with damaging Microsoft's image, and the settlement was a mechanism to begin rebuilding the public's trust. What do you think?

Speaking of Microsoft, they announced today that they are rebuilding their World Wide Web site to more effectively compete with America Online, Yahoo, Netscape, and others for advertising dollars generated by Web visitors. Already in the top 5 of all Web sites on the hit lists, Microsoft will package all of it's resources including search, e-mail, and the Microsoft Network into one basket. Microsoft Start goes into closed beta testing February 9th, and the full site is expected to launch in late summer or early fall. The site will include a complete search engine designed by Inktomi and free email from Hotmail, as well as full links to all of Microsoft's sites, and a customized front page. The customized page will let users bring up personalized versions of Microsoft offerings like stock tickers, Slate, CarPoint, Expedia, and the Sitebuilder Network.

The Clinton Administration announced on Friday a plan for finally phasing out U. S. government involvement in the Internet. The plan seeks to resolve the controversy over management of some of the Internet's basic functions, including the assignment and registration of names for the World Wide Web. You can view the proposal at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's home page.

Thought for the day: "It is impossible to make everything foolproof because fools are so ingenious."

 

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