Junk Mail from Bob!

Sunday, November 21, 1999

You are now the proud and bewildered recipient of Junk Mail number 15! There is a possibility that this is being produced by aliens using my email account. I'll look into it and let you know. If you're new to Junk Mail and would like to see others, check out junkmail. You can also sign up friends, neighbors, relatives, and dictators of small countries to receive junk mail there. If you are getting this and don't want it any more, you should (a) stop using your computer, (b) stop using the internet, (c) change your email address, or (d) email me $10,000. Or you can ask me to send this to someone else instead of you.

I heard on the radio yesterday that 140 years ago this week that Darwin published "The Origin of Species," or he sailed the Beagle, or he was born, or died, or something. I wasn't listening very closely, so just pretend I know what I'm talking about. They mentioned the Scopes monkey trial, too. Blamed it on Darwin. I got interested and looked it up. I was going to be mad at Darwin if he got a poor schoolteacher from Tennessee in trouble.

I have had the impression as long as I can remember that a high school teacher went to jail for teaching evolution, and that the mean old prosecutors were making an example out of the poor guy. It turns out that that's not quite the case. Mr. Scopes was a 24-year old science teacher and part-time football coach in 1925. He wanted to teach evolution and volunteered to be prosecuted. The Superintendent of Schools thought the publicity it was a good idea, and some of the townspeople thought it would put Dayton, TN on the map. Scopes didn't go to Jail. He was fined $100. The decision was reversed in 1927. The defending attorney William Jennings Bryan, a famous lawyer/politician, died in his sleep 6 days after he lost the trial. Here's an interesting review of it all: scopes trial

Speaking of lawyers, the Recording Industry Association of America is suing Napster. Napster is a company developing software that lets people play each other's MP3 files. Napster has not released its software yet. It's in the beta testing stage, available for download on the internet. Napster is only four months old. Napster has never sold this software. The RIAA says, "Yeah, but people can use this software to pirate copyrighted music." Why don't they sue Microsoft? You can illegally copy and play music with Windows 98. It happens every day, and Windows 98 is being sold now.

And speaking of lawyer/politicians, Bill Clinton went to Greece. The "largest police action" Greece has ever had kept rioting crowds away from him. Apparently Greece was not in Vietnam. It seems that a lot of Greeks are mad at the U.S. over the mess in Yugoslavia. Clinton didn't see the protesters, but he heard about them. He said it was OK for them to protest against him. He went on to say, "Heck, this is a piece of cake. Back home they impeached me for less than that."

Comdex Fall was this week in Las Vegas. It's the biggest trade show in the country, according to Comdex. They said over 200,000 people were expected this year, but I heard that the attendance was below expectations. There was less exhibit space this year than last, and it looked to me like there were less people there.

American Small Business Computers first exhibited at Comdex in 1985. That's the year Microsoft introduced Windows 1.0. (It was so slow and cumbersome I was sure that Windows would be a flop and disappear.) Mike and Larry Long were helping me with the setup. We had a large blimp like this one:


Except our letters were taped on and looked ugly. Before the show, Mike and Larry took it outside to deflate it and pack it up. As I expected, they came inside and told me it got away. I knew better than to believe them. After a lot of persuasion, I went outside to look. It was a small dot in the sky.

We (American Small Business Computers, then ViaGrafix, and now Learn2) have been back to Comdex every year since, this year being number 15.

Here's a picture of the hard-working crew of 1992, the year of Windows 3.1. We headed to Death Valley that year after we got set up early:


This year I flew our Piper Archer out. It's about 1/3 the speed of the TBM-700, but you get to see more going lower and slower. Here are some pictures on the way to Comdex:


Here are some pictures of ViaPeople in action:


Here's some more of Comdex:


On Wednesday morning and the unreasonable hour of 6:30, the ViaGrafix 5K run is run:


While I was at Comdex I did some hobnobbing with Unisys:


Comdex used to be its own company. In 1995 it was sold to Softbank (or the owner of Softbank), a Japanese company. Softbank (or its owner, I'm not sure which) also bought Ziff Davis, the publisher of PC Magazine, PC Computing, and some other magazines. Now Ziff Davis owns Comdex. You would think that Ziff Davis would have great exhibits for their magazines, since they own Comdex. Here are a couple:


Mike, Serge, and I flew to the west end of the Grand Canyon and landed at Grand Canyon West airport. Here are a couple of pictures:


It's right on the rim of the canyon, and we thought we'd hike around for a while. A lady at the airport asked me what I thought I was doing. I said we were just going to walk around. She said we couldn't do that. We were on an Indian Reservation and we weren't allowed to go anywhere outside without a "Native American Guide." I thought that since I was born in America it made me a native, but I didn't bring that up.

Now, why are my federal tax dollars paying for a nice public airport with a long paved runway at a place I'm not allowed to go? It's either public or it's not. Something's really wrong with the way it is now.

When we couldn't hike there, we flew over to Death Valley. The airport we went to there (Stovepipe Wells) is on the verge of being closed. They said they're not going to pave it any more, and they may close it soon. This is in a National Park where it's public and I can walk around, yet they can't get my tax dollars for their airport. What's wrong with this picture??!

The last pictures of today are outdoor pictures at (or near) (or on the way back from) Comdex:


What was new and exciting at Comdex? Flat panel displays are coming. They'll replace monitors as we know them in not too many years.

There was a section at Comdex for Linux users. Linux is an operating system that competes with Windows. Instead of being sold by a judge-defined monopoly like Microsoft, the Linux operating system is free to the public. This area was pretty refreshing. It's full of self-proclaimed nerds and geeks -- young start-up troublemaker types. There are a few bigger companies, but the majority of the people seem to be in it for the fun, interest, and mostly because it's neat. I may have to get a Linux system set up myself.

Digital cameras are getting better and cheaper. Canon released the Powershot A50 last summer. That's the one I use. Now the Canon Powershot S10 is available, and it's better. The Olympus 450 is another good one.

You can now get CDR writers that will write a full CD in 6 minutes. With the price of CDR media under a dollar, that makes for pretty cheap backups. Of course, with 20+ meg hard drives at $300, it may take a lot of CDs...

DVDs hold a lot more data than CDs. Here's how:


DVD-RAM is a rewritable DVD that holds about 5 gigabytes. That may replace the CDRs before long.

At Comdex there were lots of internet companies trying to explain to people what they wanted to do when they grew up into a profitable company. Most of them didn't have an easily explainable story, and were pretty much ignored by the population of attendees. Most of the rest didn't have a plausible story.

One thing about Comdex this year is that just about every company there had all the information on its web site that was available at the show. You don't have to go to Comdex any more to see what's new.

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