From: Bob Rankin
Subject: TOURBUS - 02 Jan 03 - FAQaroni & Cheeze
Hi all! It's a new year, that means it's time again for the annual "TOURBUS Frequently Answered Questions" issue. Patrick and I have lots of fun stuff in store for you in 2003, but it's important to pause for a few moments and share in this warm fuzzy Q&A session.
Reading this entire issue is like eating your oatmeal - it's just the right thing to do. So just read it. If you make it all the way to the end, you can snack on some cheezie goldfish. Oh, and passing this issue along to a few friends would be a great way to introduce them to TOURBUS!
TOURBUS is a free email newsletter published twice a week, and read by about 100,000 people in 130 countries around the globe. Your tour guides Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen (also known as the "Click and Clack" of the online world) explain Internet technology in plain English, with a dash of humor. Since 1995, Tourbus riders have been getting the scoop on Search Engines, Spam, Viruses, Cookies, Urban Legends, and other topics. We also give you in-depth reviews of the most useful, fun and interesting sites on the Net.
Bob Rankin, known as "Doctor Bob" in the online world, is a writer and computer programmer who enjoys exploring the Internet and sharing the fruit of his experience with others. Bob got a degree in Computer Science (RPI, 1984) and worked as a programmer at IBM for about 13 years, until one day he was possessed by an overwhelming desire to work at home in his underwear. His writing has appeared in Yahoo Internet Life, Boardwatch Magazine, ComputerWorld, NetGuide, New York Newsday, and other publications. Bob is Geek in Charge of Technical Stuff for FlowersFast.com and author of several computer books including "The No BS Guide to Red Hat Linux".
Patrick Douglas Crispen, known as "Patrick Douglas Crispen" in the online world, is author of the ROADMAP workshop, a Net tutorial that's been read by billions and billions. After spending many years as a professional college student at the University of Alabama, he graduated with a degree in Economics and then earned a Masters in Educational Technology at Pepperdine. Much to the relief of his parents, Patrick is now gainfully EMPLOYED as an Academic Technology Consultant at Cal State Fullerton. Patrick also serves as Internet Mythologist for WGN Radio (AM 720) in Chicago.
You should really be asking your mother that question. Oh, you mean how did you get on the Tourbus mailing list? Well that's easy... You asked for a subscription, then you confirmed that request. That's the ONLY way ANYONE can get this newsletter. We NEVER add anyone without their permission. Both Bob and Patrick are vehemently anti-spam and tend to get "edgy" when people suggest otherwise. So don't.
Your e-mail address will not be revealed to anyone. We hate spam as much as you, so your e-mail address is safe with us. We don't sell or rent our mailing list to anyone - ever - really.
TOURBUS is absolutely free. All of the costs associated with keeping the TOURBUS on the road are paid by our sponsors. Each issue will contain short messages from our sponsors, like the ones you see above and below. So please visit our sponsors, buy lots of stuff from them, and tell them the TOURBUS brought you. :-)
It's kind of hard to say. TOURBUS is, for the most part, distributed every Tuesday-ish and Thursday-ish.
---- ISH? ----
Well, sometimes we get 'em out on time, but more often than not, an issue is a day early or a day late. If you want to be technical (or at least statistical), you could say that TOURBUS has a probability distribution centered around Tuesday and Thursday, with a standard deviation of a day or two. :)
Yep! You can find several months of TOURBUS back issues on the TOURBUS website here:
If you'd like to have the complete TOURBUS Archives (over 600 issues, dating back to 1995) on CDROM, then click here:
Just tell 'em to visit the TOURBUS website at
and fill in the form for a free subscription.
Just visit the TOURBUS website, click on SUBSCRIBE, and you can do all of those fun and exciting things.
Yes. If you stop now, you'll miss out on the Cheezie Goldfish.
It's a bus - a TOURBUS actually. To get the most out of TOURBUS, you should use a monospace font like Courier. Most email programs let you change the inbox font, but one notable exception is AOL for Windows. You want help changing the font in your email program? I charge $200/hour and I'm slow. You're better off reading the Help screens, trust me.
Someday we may offer an HTML version of TOURBUS which will solve this problem for most people. Then we'll be able to control the fonts from here, as well as add nifty graphics and lots of blinking gadgets and other annoying stuff to the TOURBUS mailings.
Well, actually, we've never met. We've exchanged hundreds of e-mails and a couple dozen phone calls over the past few years. Bob thinks Patrick might have been the tall guy who put his seat ALL THE WAY BACK on that flight from Chicago to Philly, but he can't prove it.
The number one cause of power outages in the USA? The weather (electrical storms, snow, etc.). The number two cause? Squirrels! You don't believe it? Just go to the University of Alabama! It seems that the squirrels living in the trees on the campus of the University of Alabama have developed quite a taste for power lines... especially for the power lines leading into the University's mainframe computer center (if you are not electrically inclined, let me just add that energetic squirrels and power lines do not mix well).
Back when he was running the Roadmap workshop in 1994, Patrick was really concerned that if the University of Alabama's mainframe was taken down by a squirrel (which was a regular occurrence at the time) and he was not able to deliver that day's Roadmap lesson to the 64,000 people in the workshop, the participants would panic and mailbomb him with 64,000 "where is today's lesson?" messages.
By telling the subscribers up front to expect a squirrel attack, he kept himself from being mailbombed, elevated Alabama's squirrels to Net-legend status (people around the world were even rooting for the squirrels), and gained a really neat "trademark."
No. We debunk a lot of urban legends, hoaxes and bogus virus warnings on TOURBUS, but I still get emails all the time asking if the FREE MONEY FROM BILL GATES, SICK CHILD or STOLEN KIDNEY stories are really true. Of course they're not. Please check the TOURBUS archives to get the scoop on these stories if you're ever tempted to write and ask. You can also check out Patrick's Urban Legend Combat Kit at
And if you're as tired of these things as I am, and you want to read something REALLY FUNNY, I've got a couple of treats for you...
Have fun, laugh heartily, and feel free to pass 'em along. See you next time! --Bob Rankin