Lilypad


AprilA few of the many articles in this months LilyPad newsletter can be seen here in their entirety.

The April issue, which can be purchased ($1.50) at many local stores, features the articles listed below.

[Newsletter of the Rochester Computer Club, Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to RCC.]


  • Peeking at "Family Origins"
    • A review by Jim McCollum of Parsons Technology's neat Genealogical Tool Uncommon Toasters -- Whimsical speculation from along the Internet "If IBM (and other computer makers) made toasters...".
  • A Little Caution?
    • Editor Dick Comegys passes on some cautionary words from AOL on handling problem/illegal e-mail offers.
  • Nine Months with a Modem
    • FROG member Jeffrey Mehr gets acquainted with communications technology.
  • I Wish I Was a Luddite
    • Another Luddite? -- Jeff Mehr suggested last month that new technology is sometimes too high a price to pay, now FROG member Wayne Howard finds hardware pitfalls in trying out a door-prize copy of Win95.
  • FUN-DE-MENTALS
    • Some of the things you've always wanted to know about computer lingo.


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Jack Greenky: Member Snapshot

April '96 Issue Lilypad p.5, Anson Chong, LilyPad Contributing Editor

[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]

Ask Frog Computer Society member Jack Greenky about ANYTHING related to computers - software, hardware, telecommunications, new PCs, obsolete PCs, BBSs, you name it - and you will get an instant, friendly response that resolves your problem on-the- spot. If he doesn't have an answer, Jack will give you an appropriate, up-to-date source for further inquiry.

Of course, all Frog members have a certain measure of computer expertise and they do often respond to public inquiries posted on the FROG POND Bulletin Board System (BBS) sponsored by the Frog Computer Society. But Jack's volunteer public service goes further. He regularly logs on to a half-dozen or so active BBSs in the Rochester area and feeds useful, up-to-date information about them through regular postings to the Pond and through conferences at his "home base," the MLStand BBS.

This is a very useful public service because Rochester's rather large BBS base is always in flux. New ones pop up frequently, and just as frequently, existing ones close down. Jack's updates saves the BBS cruiser a lot of time!

The former Long Islander came to his interest in computers in a roundabout way: Three decades ago- before he joined the army or went to college- he worked as an inventory clerk for a Long Island firm that made plastic lenses. His job was to count inventory and manually enter the numbers into a daily ledger.

Jack soon noticed that a Florida contractor was sending weekly print-outs of the identical inventory numbers that he was doing manually. The contractor got his raw data from punch-cards that were apparently prepared by different staff. Our erstwhile inventory clerk soon noticed that nobody appeared to pay attention to his handwritten ledger numbers. Management preferred, instead, the neatly typed weekly print-outs that came up from Florida.

So, being a loyal employee, Jack pointed this out to his supervisor. Big mistake. Now management was aware of Jack's redundancy. In due course, without even a "thank you," our hero got laid off.

Thus, way back in 1963, long before the Commodore, Atari, Apple or even DOS were invented, this Frog Computer Society member earned the distinction of being perhaps one of the first people in the country to literally lose a job to a computer!

Today, three decades later, we now know that Jack's experience was the first drop that has since become a torrent. This week's U.S. News & World Report magazine reports that "computers are expected to help eliminate at least 200,000 office positions over the next 10 years." (USNWR, 3/25/96, p. 55).

Getting literally replaced by a computer was a powerful wake-up call; and Jack resolved to find out more about computers. In due course, he enrolled at a Rochester-area institution to study computer sciences, briefly interrupted his studies for a three-year hitch in the Army, and then returned in 1972 to resume his studies.

Jack soon learned that this new-fangled thing called a computer could cause problems. The college computer consistently printed out either wrong or garbled information about his matriculation record. Not only was his address often wrong, but his academic records were in chaotic, unreadable form. When Jack pointed this out to the computer operator, he was told that since his records were the only ones being mangled, the fault was his, and not the computer's. End of story.

Keeping his cool, Jack went about his business studying how computers worked and became proficient in the widely-used Basic and Fortran programming languages at the time- all the while keeping hard-copies of his academic records because (of course) the college computer continued to destroy data related to his school records. He consulted with college professors, and in time, pinned down the specific, technical causes of the problem.

In effect, while he was still an undergraduate he produced- on his own time and for free- a first-rate analysis of a major problem with the college computerized record-keeping system! The analysis pointed out that the problem was due to very faulty programming coupled with a computer operator who obviously did not know how to fix the problem.

When college officials read Jack's analysis, that computer operator was promptly replaced by a more competent individual. However, it should be pointed out that unlike Jack who had reported his own redundancy to his bosses many years before, this person kept his mouth shut and held on to a job for over four years before being exposed as a fraud.

And that is the roundabout, true story, about how Frog member Jack Greenky got into computers. There is also a deeper message. It has something to do with telling the truth and how justice plays out in the real world. But, since the LilyPad is a computer oriented journal, these aspects of the story, unfortunately, must be left unexplored. Peace. 


The Guru's Grumblings

April '96 Issue Lilypad p.7, Nick Francesco, SYSOP, the FROG POND (716) 461-1924

[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]

Those of you who are long-term readers of this newsletter might remember that I used to write a column called "Rants 'n' Raves." Well, Dick Comegys has shamed me into doing it again.

Unfortunately, I have been informed that one of the big magazines is now using that title for one of their columns. So I'm changing it. I was going to call this column "The Micro Mysoginyst," but I didn't want anyone to think that it meant that I was only a little bit of a mysoginyst. Then I thought I might call it "The Porky PC User," but I figured that would engender an inordinate number of fat jokes. And I came this close to calling it "CompuKvetch." I'm still not sure why I didn't. But, in any case, here we go again- a not-quite-monthly column on whatever I feel like talking about this month. Blame Dick.

These days, everybody's talking about the World Wide Web. You can hardly find a computer magazine that doesn't talk about it. And it doesn't stop thereyou can hardly find any sort of magazine that doesn't talk about it. And try to remember the last time you saw a television show that didn't advertise a URL at the end.

The metaphor that you hear everyone use with the World Wide Web is "publishing." You know- "everyone his own publisher," "publish your Web pages," etc. Well, I think that's an inaccurate metaphor.

Have you ever published anything in the real world? You spend about nine months (or years) writing a book. Then you spend another year (or nine) schlepping it around to various publishing houses. Then you spend another year (or ditto) screaming and cursing at your editor while you make "a few little adjustments." Then it's another six months before the book hits the market, and another few months before you get any feedback. By that time, you're thinking "I said that?" or "what the hell is she talking about?" or "I don't think that way anymore!"

To me, the better metaphor is theatre. Theatre is immediate. Audiences either applaud or they don't applaud. They either laugh or they don't laugh. You know it immediately. You don't have to wait to find out of they love you or hate you.

The same is definitely true of the Web. I changed my Web page, adding lots of Java stuff (for demonstration purposes for a class I'm teaching). I wrote the stuff, checked the changes, uploaded them to my Web site, and backed up the HTML files. While I was backing them up, I got four messages about the new look! It doesn't get more immediate than that!

And there are other reasons to use a theatre metaphor. You definitely don't treat a Web site like a book. You treat it more like an event, or a show. You have to think like a director. When you're directing a show, you have to worry about the costumes, the lights, the actors, the set design, the ambience of the house; everything! Similarly, when you're "directing" a Web page, you have to worry about all of the incidentals- how each page looks, the overall look of the site, the flow from one page to another no matter how a person wanders around or where he or she enters, the effect of each page individually and also the cumulative effect of different pages; everything!

And, most particularly, like theatre, you have to keep your Web pages fresh. Once a Web site is up, you can't expect a 20-year run out of it. You have to keep making it fresh, keep topping yourself (and everyone else!). Every time you change something, it's like a new opening night. And if you don't keep yourself fresh, pretty soon you'll end up playing to empty houses!

Of course, you also have to worry about what type of show you're putting up. Are you mounting a serious drama? Or are you mounting a comedy? And, of course, there's a difference between the comedy of Neil Simon and Noel Coward.

So, don't think of your Web site as something you "publish." It's the wrong metaphor- the medium is all wrong, and the publishing paradigm doesn't fit well. Think of your Web site as opening night (or, if you're web site is always "under construction," think of it as try-outs in Hoboken). And break a leg! 


Random Writes

April '96 Issue Lilypad p.16, Dick Comegys, Editor, The LilyPad

[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]

Umberto Eco's theological analysis of computing approaches has been around for some time. I thought I'd gotten it into the LilyPad along the way; but running through back issues, couldn't find it. Michel Cousins (who hangs out in Scotland) recently posted on EcuNet, noting "This is an English translation of his back-page column, 'La bustina di Minerva,' in the Italian news weekly 'Espresso,' September 30, 1994":

..."Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It's an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.

"The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the 'ratio studiorum' of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach-if not the Kingdom of Heaven-the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

"DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

"You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It's true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions; when it comes down to it, you can decide to allow women and gays to be ministers if you want to."

Steven Wooley is an Episcopal theologian heard of the Windows comparison to Anglicanism; and without seeing the Eco piece, wrote: "I assume you mean_ that Windows cannot be defined, works in ways no one can figure out, occasionally goes blank or locks up, and yet sets the standards by which all other things in its class are measured." Now that's evangelism!


Now to the whimsical world of WIN95: it still labels key BitFax files as belonging to QModem! One probable consequence of the "Install" program's only really dealing with Win95-designed programs. Oh, it goes through the routine of getting the other program files into place; but doesn't remember them and therefore cannot "un-install" them!

It's also pretty dumb about a TSR included in my Geoworks start-up to keep Geos from re-setting the system clock. OS/2 handles the whole thing seamlessly. Win95 tells me with every exit that my "pop-up program is ready to run."

I also tried out the Microsoft Works set of programs for the first time, because that's what Bill Wells writes to me (or so I thought). For some reason the Win95 doesn't quite get what Bill's writing. Took a while to get it to admit it can export in ASCII text (TEXT under a button at the bottom of the "Save As" dialogue box). On the first run, it re-keyed the filename with the .TXT extension; couldn't get it to do so after that!

And when I afterward opened up the "My computer" routine to scan for some files, it was acting entirely differently from what I set if for- one directory at a time; instead was pushing out directories all over the screen. Only one of Billy's minions knows why!

Win95? Bah! Humbug! And my whole communications/multi-media set-up depends on it!


Did get the CD-ROM version of WordPerfect 6.1 onto the machine. Here's a Windows-independent program that's really impressive- not enough yet to wean me away from Geoworks; but that's a tough test! More on WP later.


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