Vol 14 #9 1996
The journal can be purchased for $1.50 at many local stores.
The following selected articles from this months Lilypad newsletter can be seen here in their entirety:
RCC Newsletter Quick Jump
The President Reports
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.1, Marty Becktell-Pres
[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]
Congratulations to Nick and the Pond, five years old, on the 14th. In those five years we have seen a world of change in the computer industry. In August of 1991, Gateway was selling a 386 25 with a whopping 80 Meg. hard drive and MS-DOS 3.3 for $2,395, plus shipping, of course. XT type machines were in most ads. 386 SX motherboards sold for $500. 2400 baud modems finally dropped to less then $100, and a 9600 fax modem was just under $600.
A one gig hard drive could be had for only $3,800, and a more reasonable 200 Meg was only $1,000.
In '91, PC's were still not that common, and finding someone who really knew anything about computers was even rarer. Modems were not a standard part of a new machines configuration, and getting one to work was definitely not plug and play. The industry has seen a lot of change in those five years, as have most of us. As I wasn't a member of Frog then, I can't speak about what the club was like then, but for those of you that were, I leave you to your memories. Again, thanks Nick, for what you have given to us all.
Speaking of the past. Not everyone needs the latest, hottest hardware and software. Many of the old DOS programs have the power, and in some cases are faster, than today's Windows programs. The members that use these machines deserve support just as the people that use the latest Pentiums. The problem has been getting someone to step forward to organize a 'We Don't Do Windows' group. What is needed is not someone to answer all the questions, but someone to do administrative work. The major job requirement is to organize.
The club has people that are knowledgeable in these older machines and programs who will answer questions. It is up to the members that want the DOS group to help get it started.
In the next few months we will be having a meeting of some sort at the Henrietta Media Play. The details haven't been worked out yet, but we'll let you know. This will be a test to see how an extra meeting each month works out.
September is kind of the start of our year. Bob Frank and I will be getting together soon to look at the structure of the meetings. Last year we added New Users in the hour before the official meeting. The side effect was that much of the social time for members before the meeting was lost. I am open to any ideas, and, of course, comments.
By the next program meeting a group of us will have met with the officers of PC3 to discuss combining the two groups. I want to reiterate that protecting what is FROG is my prime objective. At the planning meeting we had our second discussion on the subject; it was quite lively at times. Although there were some concerns, we are basically open to the idea, and everyone sees some real opportunities here. FINAL DECISIONS WILL BE MADE BY THE MEMBERSHIP. I would like to thank all of you that have given me your ideas and feedback, it has helped me to deal with this issue.
FROG Web Page: What's New
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.2, Jim Kane-Web Site Manager
[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]
Hey you Froggers, get your surfin' gear on, board over to the FROG web site at http://www.vivanet.com/~frog, and tell us what you think about YOUR web site??
To make it easier for you to reply we've added a simple to use on-line form, just enter your comments and click on submit, or if you prefer use the e-mail link. Tell us something, good or bad, but don't be indifferent.
We post the latest info on upcoming meetings for the current month (often including how to get there maps), and regarding future meetings we post everything we can get our little webbed hands on.
The site contains several articles from the current LilyPad and an archive stocked with many past LilyPad goodies.
We now has over 50 links to other sites including "Other User Groups", "FROG Member Pages", "Member Favorite Sites" (you may add your favorite site if you wish), "Shareware/Freeware" (go there and download), "Hardware Suppliers" (modems, CD-ROMs, printers, sound & video cards, processors, scanners, you name it), "Software Suppliers", "Computer Mags" (over 70 hot ones), "Win95 Tips", "Web Search Tools", and much more.
Let us know of other links you'd like to see on the site, and send us info on some good links you'd recommend.
With the upcoming formation of an Internet SIG we should be in a good position to help beginner frogs with many aspects of web pages and of course the Internet.
The FROG web site is looking for help in many areas: simple, advanced, and way out there; basically all having to do with improving the site. Volunteer, it's a sure way to learn. 'Til next month, good surfin'.
Hard-Drive to Spinning-Wheel
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.3, Dick Comegys
[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]
Don't throw away those old hard-drives; they're great for spinning out a new thread! That was the word from Donna Howland, when she read of the feats at last month's "Geek Olympics".
She and her husband have converted several of the old full-height 5-1/2" drives- good for all of 10 or 20 megs- into spinning wheels- really!
I didn't believe it myself, but dropped by for a demonstration. The disk itself- with its main bearing and mounting hardware- is at the heart of the device. If the bearing's still good, it provides a smooth-turning mass that has enough inertia to keep on turning well after a twist of the staff to get it going; just great for providing the twist that turns fibers into thread! The staff is Howland's design, mounted on the hard-drive axis. Very compact, very efficient- a way to spin away odd moments... or hours... in a very productive way!
Alpha Five for Windows 3.1
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.3, Mark Lewis
Alpha Five for Windows is advertised as a full feature easy to use database for Windows. The street price at the time of this review was $45 to $50. Alpha Five is targeted at the beginner to intermediate level database user. Alpha Five comes with both Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 versions. I tested the Windows 3.1 version.
Alpha Five comes on both floppy disk and CD-ROM. I installed from the CD-ROM with no problems. I have no prior experience with database applications, except as a client on a network, (at work) and making about four or five database module in Windows Word 6.0.
Alpha Five User Interface...
Alpha Five has its own version of Microsoft's Wizards. They call them "Genies." But they do the same thing. The Genies are nice, but I have mixed feelings about them. Some of them are very powerful and some are kind of lame. But overall, they are very useful.
Instead of putting all the commands and features into pull down menus and dialog boxes, Alpha Five has most of its features accessed through what is called Control Panel. The control panel is a small window that is always accessible. There are four icon palettes that represent the four major groups of tools that you use in Alpha Five.
There are still pull down menus and an icon bar at the top of the screen like in other windows applications, but for the most part everything you need is in the control panel. The control panel window has four tabs in it. Select a tab, and the icon palette attached to that tab rise to the top. You can use the control panel to jump around between different Alpha Five modules while working on your database.
Alpha Five Feature Set...
The feature set is very strong for such a low priced package.
The report editor took some time before I was able to like it. It is a bit more complicated than the other modules. The Quick Report Genie is absolutely great. You literally can make a report by just dragging and dropping elements in a dialog box. This Genie was extremely helpful.
Alpha Five has the ability to give the fields of your data base intelligence without doing any programming. It calls this feature field rules. It is all done through pull down menus and dialog boxes.
The forms editor was really great. Easy, intuitive and forgiving. I can't say enough good about it.
For creating query lists, there is Query Genie and this works great.
The Quick Report Genie and the Query Genie proved themselves to be really useful and powerful. It was the other Genies that I first used, that really did not impress me all that much.
Alpha Five Documentation...
The only hard copy manual that Alpha Five comes with is a Getting Started booklet. The one line help was basically useless to me.
The Getting Started booklet walks you through a well thought out example problem of creating and modifying a database. It is one of the very best written software manuals I have ever seen of any kind. It has a great deal of screen shot pictures in it. I could not have learned anything about Alpha Five without it.
Absolutely the biggest problem with Alpha Five is the lack of documentation.
If you have strong knowledge of database applications, Alpha Five should not be a problem for you.
If you are a total beginner like I am, I have to say forget it. Despite all of the nice features, there is no way that this application is worth it for you due to the lack of documentation.
The only consolation to beginners is if the optional User's Guide is as good as the Getting Started booklet. You have to order this book directly from Alpha Software for $12.95. Unfortunately, due to lack of time, I was not able to do this in time for this review.
I absolutely can not get over the fact that Alpha Software did not include the User's Guide in the original package. To not include the most important piece of documentation in with the software is unforgivable.
The Complete Home Suite
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.4, Tom Barrett
The Complete Home Suite can be purchased locally for $30 to $40.
Last year I received Alpha Five for Windows 3.1 and loved it. At a recent meeting I was lucky enough to win the opportunity to review The Complete Home Suite. Unfortunately, I'm less than enthusiastic about the product. My main complaint is that the program tries to do too much and doesn't do anything particularly well. There is considerable duplication of effort among applications.
The Complete Home Suite includes a Party/Wedding Planner, Phone Book, Mail List Manager, Home Inventory, Home Librarian, Home Repair Log, Club Membership Database, Home Budget Manager, Stock Portfolio and Conversion Calculator. It sounds pretty impressive, but most of the applications are not full - featured. Five of the applications include lists of names and addresses, but they are set up to easily read from each other. There are import features included, but not all the names and addresses are split up into two different databases.
Anyone who has ever tried Quicken or Microsoft Money will find The Home Budget Program to be excruciatingly cumbersome. It will keep track of your budget for you and it can print checks, so it may be useful for some people. The stock portfolio is well-written, but it too will not hold up to a program like Quicken.
The applications can serve as examples of what can be done with a good database program. They are also fully customizable with Alpha Five. When it comes to "canned" specialty databases The Complete Home Suite covers a lot of ground. Most people, however, would be better off investing in Alpha Five and Quicken rather than The Complete Home Suite. They would then have the flexibility to develop a database for their needs and also have a fairly complete financial package.
Quick Books and MY Books!
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.5, Dick Comegys
QuickBooks is to business what Quicken is to the householder- a presumably direct, convenient and reliable way to keep financial records. Made for Windows, it seems to draw heavily on procedures initially seen in Parson's "MoneyCounts" package that's been a standard for over ten years now.
I had looked at MoneyCounts as a possible way to standardize St Stephen's Church book-keeping, soon after we installed the now-dated 386sx back in 1990. My problem then- as my problem now- is that the church keeps its accounts in several Funds- cash and assets that are not necessarily tied one-to-one with separate bank or broker accounts. I turned my back then on the Parsons' package; and I'm just about as puzzled now over how to get QuickBooks to do the tracking that I need.
Truth to tell, I took a quick look at QuickBooks; and about gave it up as too business-oriented. Too much about invoices and procedures we don't use at St Stephen's. But then I looked again; and where I had failed to find accommodations for "churches", I stumbled upon "religious organizations"; there's also a start-up package for less-religious "non-profit organizations".
So- new hope! The good news: QuickBooks has high compatibility with generally-accepted accounting standards- including the (optional) account-numbering system. The not-so-good: the approach is very general: one long list for income categories, one for expenses. Adjusting those arrangements can be done; each name can be snagged with the mouse-pointer, and dragged to where you want it- moving accounts into sub-accounts.
My organizing principle is relatively few broad Accounts- especially in charting expenses: Personnel, Building, Organization, Program, Mission, etc. Each of those then has relevant sub-accounts: Building would have things like Alarm, Janitorial, Repairs.
There are categories in building such a Chart-of-Accounts that must be reckoned with. QB first of all separates categories into "Balance Sheet Accounts" and "Income/Expense Accounts". While related, they act in quite different ways.
Balance Sheet Accounts are those that record a current balance:
a bank account, Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable (if you're doing
accrual book-keeping- a technique not usual to churches, but probably well-advised
for businesses), and other assets and liabilities. The program generates
an automatic "Equity" Account to show a current balance of all
Income and Expense Accounts track what money comes and goes for, within the system. There is no way to make a direct entry into these accounts! That fact puzzled me no end, until I read that they reflect "Item" entries put on invoices (or cash-transaction slips) and Purchase Orders or billing forms.
Billing forms are fairly direct. But how do you provide the tracking for a church deposit? Only way I finally did it was to create a cash-transaction form under the Customer name "Deposit"; then create the deposit categories as "Items" paralleling the "Income Accounts". Each of these artificial "Items" then assigns the amount entered to its counterpart "Account".
It's a feature I may get used to; but a lot less straightforward than the process I developed for St Stephen's in a series of QBasic routines that controls the church book-keeping.
Another unnerving feature came to light in my setting up initial Account balances. I started with the main Accounts in filling in initial balances, then worked down to the sub-accounts. The result was that I doubled the main balances! Any change in a sub-account is automatically posted to its parentneat, but unwelcome when I had to start over with my initialization; there's no way to change a balance- or to erase the account (except to re-install the files).
Actually, it's all in the Book (actually, three books that come with the program-- very comprehensive, but a month's worth of reading. And there's no substitute for hands-on experience.
The program also boasts a full series of cue-cards- little pop-up windows with messages that hint at what I ought to be doing. Fortunately, these can be killed off with Ctrl-F1. And with the CD-ROM version, even audio advice!
Windows do not close consistently with mouse-clicks, but everything else seems to work as advertised. I'm not yet prepared to risk St Stephen's financial fate on QuickBooks.
If you're going to move into using the package, I would allow 3-to-6 months familiarization before taking the final plunge into writing checks and sending out invoices.
It is- in short- going to take a lot more fooling around before I make a go-or-no-go decision on the package; and I'll be sharing some further steps along the way with you.
American Cival War
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.6, Laura Michatek/George Sass
It was a stroke of luck. Laura Michatek was the winner at Media Play of Interactive Magic's CD-ROM- a $49.95 value. UNfortunately, she didn't have the equipment to play it, so turned it over to George Sass (new to this country from Romania).
He was unimpressed; commented: "It's worth 60% less than the price; no good-not interactive." His opinion- the IM folk "should look up the word 'interactive' in Webster's dictionary."
George did not detail the reasons for his opinion- just gave the whole package back to Laura.
The set of two CD's is supposed to present the War "from Sumter to Appomattox"- a multimedia history. But that's only the start: the 2nd disk allows an armchair strategist to fight any of the battles- from either the Union or Confederate side. When it works, history is in your hands.
We'll look for a further opinion next month.
Kids Point of View
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.6, Stu Becktell
This is the first month that I am doing this little column and I'll probably do this every month. It is going to be about what I think about computer products. This month, I am going to review products for back to school time.
My first product is Mavis Beacon. Mavis Beacon is a typing tutor. There are two Mavis Beacon products, one for adults and kids. I have the one for adults. One of the nice little parts of this product is that there are two modes to play in. In Mode One you do all the lessons in steps. Mode Two is when you just play the race game. The adult version of Mavis Beacon is the one to buy, unless you have very young children (as in seven years old or younger).
My next product is Microsoft Encarta 96. Personally this is my favorite encyclopedia. It is A LOT easier to use than Grolier and Comptons Encyclopedias. It has more entries and has a better interface. Most entries have at least one picture or sound clip in it, if not many. It uses many encyclopedias to cover each subject. It has a nice feature for when you are doing a report and don't want to write everything on a piece of paper; you can just write on the word processor included with it.
If your child is entering a grade where they are just really starting to learn about ancient civilizations, then you should think about getting Microsoft Ancient Lands. I used it almost constantly when I was learning about ancient civilizations. There are three major civilizations, Egypt, Greece and Rome. All of the civilizations have a page to themselves. On the page are menus like work and play, and each has a guide who is a person in the city ranging from a child to the emperor. I thought that it was pretty interesting seeing how the guides acted like they were really in the civilizations.
If you want to have me review a product, E-mail me at email@example.com and hey, I might have it!
FROG Program/Software Report
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.8, Robert Frank
August 20, 1996
Do you believe it's Labor Day already? I sure don't!
I would like to start out thanking Brock Brock, Media Play (Greece), DeLorme software and of course, ADS for loaning us the PC to TV adapter. This was a solo presentation by Brock. I literally had nothing to do but watch Brock work with Media Play, ADS, and DeLorme in pulling off one of the nicest home brewed presentations I've attended. Well-done Brock! Thank you!
Heres what we have in store for you in the upcoming months:
September 10, 1996 -
October 8, 1996 -
November 12, 1996 -
December 10, 1996 -
January 14, 1997 -
Speaking of letting me down, there are several reviews past due:
Due Date: Member: Program: Publisher: July 1996, Claude Fedele, Laplink for Windows 95, Traveling Software July 1996, Jeff Mehr, askSam for Windows, askSam Systems July 1996, Marty Becktell, Organizer, Lotus Development Corporation August 1996, Duffy Vigaretti, Win CheckIt, Touchstone Software August 1996, David Osofsky, Visual Test, Microsoft Corporation
Come on people, we have an agreement with the software publishers that they'll supply us free software in exchange for a published review. It's simple, no reviews no software! Until now the software committee had an unenforced policy of no review, no software. In other words, members that have an outstanding review are not eligible to be awarded future software for review until the outstanding review is submitted. We apparently need to enforce this policy. I know its summer and we all want to be outside enjoying the nice weather, but we made a commitment to the software publishers to publish a review of their donated product. There is no free lunch here. The software is clearly marked that a review is required. If you can't write the review, don't enter your ticket in the drawing for the product. Lets get busy people!
In the request for review department Tom Barrett is going to be taking this part of the Software Committee's job over in its entirety. As I hope everyone knows by now, you can request software for review from the software Committee. Starting in September Tom will be handling all requests for software for review and all requests should be directed to Tom.
Tom will be processing the requests, writing the requests to the software publishers, tracking the reviews due and sending the published reviews to the software publishers. I will be working with Tom in helping him perform his task in anyway needed, but Tom will be our point man in the request for review department. I'll introduce Tom to everyone at the September meeting and hopefully with this change we can improve the response time by eliminating me as a middle man between the membership and Tom.
Last month I asked for help publicizing upcoming events and meeting of our user group. While more volunteers would be appreciated, we had one of our new members step forward to volunteer. Jean Bradt has stepped forward and has volunteered to help out in creating press releases for our coming meetings. Jean and I could use some additional help with publicizing our up coming meetings. In January Richard Katz from Intuit will be visiting our user group to show us Quicken personal finance software. To get Richard to come out to pay us a visit I had to promise to try and get 150+ people to attend our meeting. That's the policy Intuit has set to justify the expense of sending someone from California to New York. The size of the required attendance isn't going to happen without an effort on our part to publicize the event. Jean and I could use some help in putting forward this effort. Give me a call and volunteer. We need all the help we can get.
Until our next meeting, take care and I'll see you there. I can be contacted in the following ways:FROG Computer Society Robert Frank
1945 Ridge Road East Suite 5180
Rochester, New York 14622-2467 1:2613/364 (Fidonet)
ASAP Word Power Review
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.8, Michael Bowen
When I attended the July Frog meeting at MediaPlay in Henrietta, I was very impressed with the size of the store. I also won a copy of ASAP Word Power on the condition that I perform a review. I had no problem doing the review for CorelXara (May 1996 LilyPad), and actually enjoyed doing it. So I looked forward to doing this review. What I found was that doing this review was a far cry from easy.
ASAP Word Power is a package that allows you to create very sharp looking presentations with surprising ease. You can import outlines from word, charts and graphs from excel, or create or modify outlines with the built-in package. It even has a built in spell checker. The program can run on Windows 3.1, Windows 95, or Windows NT. The system I tested it on is (was) an Epson 8200 Action Tower 80 MHz Pentium with 8 Meg of memory and an 850 Meg hard drive, operating under Windows 3.11.
Don't get me wrong. I was able to get the package working, and I did like what I saw. It was also very easy to use. Since the version I tested was version 1.95, it is probably still a Beta Version software. I have seen Beta Versions of software totally screw up systems, so in retrospect I am not surprised at the damage it did to my system, but I wasn't any too happy at the time.
First, let me explain what the software package is capable of doing, when I was able to get it working. It is not a word processor or a spreadsheet program. Lord only knows there are enough of those on the market, some of which aren't worth a hill of beans. But if you have a need to do a presentation for whatever reason, and want hand outs, overheads, or a computer presentation program, this program will make the job of "jazzing it up" much easier than doing it in Word or Power Point. You can take an outline from word, or a chart and a graph from Excel, and import those into ASAP Word Power with surprising ease, through the use of the cut paste buffer. And once you've imported them, you can choose between any of several presentation styles with just a few clicks of your mouse button.
ASAP Word Power has three "views" that you work in. The first is the outline view. This is where you enter, load, or modify your outline, or paste your chart or graph. The second is the Preview. This is where the user can select how the presentation will look. The user can select the presentation style, the background type, and the color of the presentation.
The third is the Presentation View. This allows the user to view the presentation in a full screen mode, and see the presentation how the viewer will see it.
Do you want to make additions, deletions, move things around? Absolutely no problem working in the outline view. Suppose you want to take a sub point and make it it's own page in the presentation. No problem. Just click on outline view, click on the sub point, and then click on the buttons to increment or decrement points. It's that easy.
Now for what it did to my system. The initial installation went no problem. But when I tried to start ASAP Word Power, it wouldn't run. I got a General Protection Fault on File ComPobj.dll at 003:3EED.
By then it was getting late, so I turned the machine off, had a beer, and went to bed.
The next day, my wife couldn't start Microsoft Word. She got the same General Protection Fault. I thought "Great, just great. The things I do for free software." I thought it was a memory problem, so I ran Memmaker. Then I found out that a lot of people don't recommend running Memmaker, because it usually ends up screwing your system up. So I spent a while undoing the damage that Memmaker did, to no avail.
So I got my recovery CD and disk out, and reinstalled the Config.sys, Autoexec.Bat, etc. No change. So I reinstalled DOS and Windows (Pre-defined choices of the recovery disc). That got Word and my other programs worked. Next, it was time to call Technical Support. First I called an 800 number. Then I found out for technical support, I had to call a non-800 number, to Colorado. Great. So I called, and finally got through. I was only on hold for a couple 0f minutes, and once I talked to a "real" person, it didn't take them very long to find the problem. Bad Install disks. I ran Chkdsk (now you know why Microsoft didn't make Chkdsk go away with DOS 6.xx)and found 11 files with non-contiguous blocks. I then ran chkdsk on the Install disks and found files with non-contiguous blocks on the install disks. Great. In order to get replacement disks, I had to call an 800 number during business hours for Pacific Time. Great.
Next I called Robert Frank. We determined that he would write some E-mail, and I would make some phone calls the next day. So I called it a day and went to bed.
So I called the next day, and immediately got put in a hold loop (What else? Wish I was home sucking on a beer) After 3 or 4 "Please Hold " messages, they said to leave my name and number, and they would call me back within 24 hours. Cooooollllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Guess when they called. You guessed it. During my lunch, and I was playing Hearts on the Computer Network (What else?). So I explained my problem.
She put me on hold, and when she returned she said she would call me back. When she did she said it would be taken care of. Cool.
A day or two later I got a package delivered to the house from a delivery service. It was a fresh install package with an apology note from ASAP, along with an ASAP T-shirt. Coooooollllll!!!!!!!!! It was almost worth the aggravation. I installed ASAP and it worked. Microsoft Word even worked. I thought this was going to be okay.
Robert Frank also told me he had a video from ASAP. He dropped it off, and I plopped it in my VCR while the other half was putting kiddo down to bed. It was about a five minute video. Looked extremely easy to use.
Things were looking pretty good that this would be a cake review, that everything that would go wrong did go wrong.
I did outlines in word and imported to ASAP, pasted charts and graphs, and it was all very easy. I did outlines within ASAP, and ran the spell checker that comes with ASAP. I also found out that if you have Microsoft word installed, it installs an icon within Word itself on one of the too bars. This was starting to look like an okay package.
I also noted that if you wanted to run a presentation on a machine that didn't have ASAP on it, you could do that. So I looked up how to do it, and it referred me to a Web Page. Well, I don't have full Internet access (Not willing to pay the price), so I sent my friend at ASAP a note asking how to do it. A couple of days later I got another package in the mail from ASAP with their web show package on it. In the mean time, I wanted to fire up CorelXara and see if I could import Windows Metafiles or something like that from CorelXara to ASAP Word Power. I had lost the icons for Corel when I reinstalled DOS and Windows. So I tried to re-install the icons. It wouldn't let me (I don't remember why). I re-installed CorelXara. No dice. AAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! This was turning out to be the review from hell.
I then tried to install their Web Show. Wouldn't install. So I ran a chkdsk on the install disk, and found several files with non-contiguous blocks. About then I had had it. I think I then had another beer (Getting to be a habit, isn't it?) and went to bed.
So now I ended up re-installing DOS and windows again. So I got smart and created another directory, Windows2, and copied all the files over, then proceeded to delete the non-essential files out of the Windows2 directory. I then reloaded my icons for office. No problem. Deleted and re-installed CorelXara. No problem. Deleted and re-installed ASAP Word Power. Bingo. You guessed it. This time my friend the General Protection fault did not re-appear. This time I got a call to an undefined Dynalink. This time I shut the computer off , had another beer, and went to bed again.
The next night I copied the dll files from Windows2\System2 over. That got word working. Now CorelXara and FreeCell give me a DOS error: 21. That was it. I deleted ASAP, and ran defrag and scandisk.
In conclusion, ASAP word power does have a few problems. I think a majority of the problems are in getting the programs to work on 99% of the systems. An 800 Technical support number would help for one thing. I will admit the t-shirt is nice. I think embedding the Icon in Word could be a source of problems. For now I am done with ASAP (I'm even giving the disks back). But once they get some of the kinks worked out, and I do some backups on my systems files, I might be willing to give it a try.
First Aid 95 Deluxe
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.10, Pete Moore
First Aid 95 Deluxe comes in a nifty package, with a Velcro-secured flap that pops open to reveal lots of details about the many things First Aid will do for you. This is a program, and even a genre of programs, that has drawn fire in the computer press for failing to live up to its promises. I got a free copy. If you can get a free copy, get one. If you can get a copy for a greatly reduced price (say half, maybe), think about getting one. If you can only get it at full retail price, don't get one.
Do I seem cynical? Sorry. Occupational hazard. Packages like First Aid have a fine idea: making Windows slick and crash-proof. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. First Aid 95 Deluxe is aimed at users who are pretty new to Windows 95, or even to PCs in general. Its goal is to make these relatively unsophisticated users feel safer with their PCs, by providing a safety net to catch PC boo-boos.
First Aid 95 Deluxe requires a 386 or better PC, running Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 (both versions in the box), and about 10 megs of free disk space. (Parenthetical note: if you have only 10 megs of free disk space, don't even think about installing ANY program. Spend your money on a new hard disk.) The program comes on a CD-ROM, so unless you want to mail away for 3.5" diskettes, include a CD in the basic system requirements. And the program also offers the capability (not used by me) of connecting you to CyberMedia's World Wide Web site, for tech support, bug fixes, and software updates; so a fast modem and an Internet account are highly recommended optional requirements.
I installed this program on my desktop machine, a rapidly-aging 486/133 with 16 megs RAM, one gig of hard drive, and VESA local bus video. I run multiple operating systems on it, but I only installed it under Windows 95.
There were some hiccups in my initial installation attempt. As part of my standard Windows 95 setup, I use some of the Microsoft PowerToys, which extend the Win95 interface in lots of little ways. One of these toys adds AutoPlay capability to non-Win95 CD-ROMs, meaning that when you insert say, a CD copy of MS Office 4.2 (written for Windows 3.1), Win95 will pop up a dialog box asking if you want to run a setup program it found on the CD. Cool, mostly. And when you insert a Windows 95 CD-ROM, the AutoPlay Extender applet will generally just let Win 95 handle it unassisted. Cool again. But when I inserted the (Win95-aware) First Aid CD-ROM, I ended up with two separate copies of the install program running at the same time. Not cool at all.
I didn't understand that while it was happening, of course. All I knew was that this install program seemed a bit more confusing than most. Finally it ended, with a message that setup was complete. There was a new item on my Startup Menu. But there were no files on my hard disk. Apparently running two copies of the install program at once didn't actually work twice as well. Or even half as well. Or even at all. I deleted every trace of the misfire.
At this point, I attempted to do what much better men than I have done over the years: to punt. I called our esteemed president, who had personally requested that I take a look at this package, even though I had originally refused his kind offer to let me review it. He had prevailed upon me against my better judgment to take a whack at it, and sure enough, didn't that slick son-of-a-gun talk me around again? The man's got a gift.
So I deactivated the AutoPlay Extender and tried again. Okay, no speed bumps this time. But my first experience strengthened my tendency to regard First Aid with a jaundiced eye. My basic feeling is that a program sold mostly to users who aren't technically sophisticated should be truly bullet-proof.
In running First Aid 95 for a week or so, going about my normal business, I found nothing that either unduly alarmed or unduly impressed me. I ran the Fix Applications, Fix Multimedia, Clean Windows, Tune Up PC, and Trim Applications applets, and found that I had no problems when I started, and no problems when I finished. Mildly reassuring, but not notably informative.
A couple of times, I had problems printing, because my printer doesn't have enough RAM in it. First Aid popped up a dialog box that told me it had just saved me from a General Protection Fault, and let me press a button to fix things automagically. I pressed it. Did it do anything? Could I even tell? This is me shrugging.
See, in Windows 95, when I DO get a GPF, I still can save my work, close the offending application, and either continue about my business or exit and restart Windows (usually the smartest thing to do). And using First Aid 95, I still had the same options. So did it do anything for me beyond what Win95 normally does already? I have no compelling reason to think so.
One thing that puzzles me is that while First Aid 95 scans your hard disk for programs, generating a list that will be used in the Fix Applications and Trim Applications applets, the only part of MS Office 95 that it noticed was the Office Toolbar. That seems to me like a fairly huge oversight, MS Office not being one of your more obscure programs, either in popularity or in disk space usage. Hmmm...
There's a 150-page manual included, which contains basic information about how to install First Aid 95 Deluxe, and how to use each of its components. I note that the System Requirements section of the manual specifies eight megs of RAM, while the box says only four. The manual is written well enough, with clear (if shallow) explanations of each section of the program's capabilities. Again, this isn't for anybody with tape on their glasses and nine pens in their shirt pocket. It's written at the same PC literacy level as the program itself. Basically adequate.
CyberMedia can be contacted in all of the normal ways (mail, email, Internet, BBS, phone, fax, AOL and CompuServe), and as I mentioned, they also built an Internet connection into the program. There is one very nice extra: a little Tech Support Yellow Pages book, about the size of the manual, covering the field from AT&T to ZyXEL. Almost worth the price of admission. Definitely worth it for what I paid, anyway.
See paragraph one.
Additional comments by Marty Becktell.
Bob Frank and I wanted this program reviewed by someone that could give it a real test. Since I was building a new computer that could be rebuilt easily I felt this was a good situation. I saved a working configuration and later when the system went south, that is technical south, I restored the working configuration. A week later I still had not gotten the system working so I cajoled Pete into taking over the review. I cannot say that the program had a part in messing up my system, and under most circumstances I wouldn't even mention it. After reading Pete's review I decided to mention it because there is a greater possibility that it did have an affect. I think Pete is right that the program is aimed at the beginner and not for those of us that really know how to mess up a computer.
AutoCAD Review, Part 1
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.12, Robert Frank
In today's world, a good CAD program is an engineer's main tool for developing drawings. CAD is one of those computer acronyms that we all love to hate. CAD stands for Computer Aided Design. In the modern world of engineering and architecture, the computer has replaced paper drawings. Today, drawings are created on a computer where it is possible to create and edit drawings faster and better than paper and pencil could ever offer. Before, changing a drawing often required erasing large portions of the drawing and redrawing the changes by hand. With CAD's editing tools, this process is far less time consuming and made simpler. Being able to copy, rotate, stretch, move, and an array of other tools, have greatly simplified the process of editing drawings. With the tools that CAD has to offer, productivity increases and thus the cost of creating drawings decreases.
CAD differs from the paint and graphics programs that you may have used. The concept of a paint program is to create a presentation or illustration. CAD on the other hand is a precision drawing program. CAD maintains a database of the drawing's elements with the precision of 16 decimal places. Unlike a paint program where you would draw a line from about here to about there, in CAD you would describe the geometry of the line being drawn. To draw a line in CAD, you would instead perform something like this: Line from midpoint <pick object>, perpendicular to <pick object>. CAD offers many constructs for use in various situations. You can choose to select an object by its center, tangent point, end point, etc. The one chosen depends upon the needs of the object being drawn or edited.
There are two major methods of creating drawings on a computer. Many engineers and companies that were weaned from their drawing board to the computer screen, still create drawings in 2D letting their brains do most of the work in visualizing the finished part. On the computer screen they create the front view, top view and side view just as they would have on paper. While this method of designing on a computer doesn't take full advantage of CAD's power, productivity improvements can be realized in 2D drafting on the computer. Using predrawn part libraries for commonly used components and taking advantage of CAD's editing tools can dramatically increase productivity. On the drawing board, in the old days, an engineer would draw a component on the drawing dimension by dimension working from a measured drawing in a catalog. Today, the same engineer would insert a predrawn component from a library often supplied by the component's vendor. Much less work! Once the component is inserted into the drawing it may be moved, rotated and edited at will. To move the same component on paper meant erasing the component and redrawing it in its new location.
While 2D drafting has existed for centuries and has proved it's merit, before Computer Aided Design it was all that was possible. Now drawings can be created in 3D right on the computer screen allowing the draftsman to visually see the part drawn from any direction. No longer does the draftsman have to mentally visualize what is being drawn. It's on the screen. All the editing tools and part libraries offered the 2D draftsman are still available plus much more. Having a 3D image allows for rendering and solid modeling not available to the 2D draftsman. When the drawing is completed, the computer will plot on paper a traditional 2D drawing ready for the shop floor.
As I mentioned, there are tools available to the 3D draftsman that are not available to the 2D draftsman. One of these tools allows the creation of a rendering of the drawing. A rendered drawing takes on the qualities of a photograph. A well-done rendering is indistinguishable from a photograph of an actual object. A rendering of a drawing is often used by architects for presentations to the customer showing what the finished building would look like. Look at a couple of CAD magazines at the news stand and you'll see what I'm talking about. Some of the examples that you'll see published will leave you amazed.
Solid modeling on the other hand is usually an add-on product that allows for intelligent editing of a drawing. Solid modeling treats the object being drawn as a solid object and not just a bunch of lines connected together. Chamfer a corner with an angle, and all the lines that formed the object's corner are shortened and lines of the angle are created to connect them representing the chamfer. This is a very powerful and expensive CAD add-on, but the productivity gains more than make-up for it's expense.
Introduction to AutoCAD...
In this review it will be my pleasure to introduce to you AutoCAD for PCs. AutoCAD for PCs is Autodesk's latest release of their famous CAD product. What make this product stand out from the other releases of their products, is that the CD-ROMs that comes with AutoCAD for PCs contains several versions of their software. The versions of AutoCAD supplied on the CD-ROMs are as follows:AutoCAD Release 13c4 for DOS
AutoCAD Release 13c4 for Windows 3.1x
AutoCAD Release 13c4 for Windows NT
AutoCAD Release 13c4 for Windows 95
AutoCAD Release 12c4 for Windows 3.1x
AutoCAD Release 12c3 for DOS
This version of AutoCAD is intended for the professional market. Autodesk, the publishers of AutoCAD, released it to facilitate the migration from previous releases of AutoCAD to the new Windows based Release 13. AutoCAD for PCs has a list price of $3,300.00 and a street price of approximately $2,700.00.
In this review I'll concentrate my efforts on their Release 13c4 for Windows 95. The reason I have chosen this version of AutoCAD for the focus of my review is that it is most likely the version that will be used by small to mid-sized companies. This is my primary interest group because I'm employed as an engineer at a small local machine builder where AutoCAD is used as our primary design tool.
Autodesk is the fourth largest PC software company in the world and the number one provider of multimedia tools. AutoCAD was first released back in December of 1982. As best as I can remember, I've been using AutoCAD as a design tool in my job for the last 10 years. The first time I ran AutoCAD was on a Tandy 1000 computer. I didn't have a mouse or a hard drive, but was able to run it off of three 360k floppy disks. That was version 2.5, Release 7, I believe. How things have changed! Those early experiences of trying to teach myself CAD nights and weekends a decade ago seems like prehistoric times. Today, AutoCAD is a full 3D design tool.
To run AutoCAD on Windows 3.1, Windows NT, or Windows 95, the following software and hardware are required:
DOS 5.0 or later (for Windows 3.1).
The following hardware is optional:
The test computer:
You'll also need:
I of course installed everything the setup program had to offer. My installation took 66 MB of hard drive space. The ACAD.EXE alone weighed in at 6.8 MB. Installing AutoCAD was very easy because of the use of the Windows 95 setup Wizard. I did run into one problem during my installation. To install AutoCAD I had to change the location of the Windows swap file from the default C: drive to my SCSI gigabyte drive. I had limited room on my C: drive and AutoCAD would not complete its installation because it could not create a large enough swap file on my C: drive. Changing my Windows 95 setup so that the swap file was located on my faster gigabyte drive gave AutoCAD plenty of room and the faster SCSI drive can't but help Windows 95 and AutoCAD's performance.
End of Part One...
This concludes part one of my review. In future installments I plan to explore the power and functions of AutoCAD that as a 2D draftsman weaned away from the drawing board I haven't had the opportunity to explore. In future installments I hope to look at performance issues, working in 3D, customization, programming, and much more. I might even start a project such as designing a deck to add-on to my home next summer. Read along as I explore the ins and outs of using AutoCAD. It's sure to be an adventure that I'll share with you in many future installments. Keep an eye open and read about my future adventures using AutoCAD.
Delrina WinFax PRO 7.0 (for Windows 95)
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.15, David Osofsky
reviewed by David Osofsky, firstname.lastname@example.org
I installed WinFax PRO 7.0 on a Gateway 386/dx25 with 8 megabytes of ram. The product came on eight 3.5 floppies. The following installation options are available: Typical Install, Compact Install and Custom Install. I selected the Typical Install option. This option installs the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities, a set of already prepared fax cover sheets and "mail system support". I have not used this third item.
The installed product takes up about 25 megs of hard disk space. Installation was complete in less than 1 hour.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to test out this product. I am in the process of organizing the 4th annual IEEE Technical Job Fair (http://www.rochester.r1.ieee.org/jobfair), associated with this task is the need to do a lot of faxing. In previous years I have attempted using older versions of WinFax, however, I often encountered problems that forced me back to the old fashioned, paper based fax system.
This weekend I was scheduled to send out 109 faxes. This review will mainly talk about my experience accomplishing this task. I wanted to fax each of the 109 recipients a cover page and two documents. The documents were created in WordPerfect for Windows V5.2, each document consists of a single page. If I were using the paper based method of faxing I would have performed the following steps:
1) Create a "generic" cover page in WordPerfect merge format.
2) Perform a merge in WordPerfect using the cover page and my database of contact info for the 109 fax recipients.
3) Print out hard copies of the 109 cover pages.
4) Print out a single copy of both WordPerfect documents.
5) One by one take each cover sheet, add the 2 printed WordPerfect documents, feed the 3 sheets into the fax machine, dial the number, hit the start button on the fax, wait for the 3 page fax to complete. At about 1 minute per page, this step will take at least 5.5 hours. (1 minute X 3 pages X 109 recipients = 327 minutes ~ 5.5hrs)
With the WinFax method the steps "should be" as follows:
1) Create an appropriate, IEEE Technical Job Fair, cover page by using one of the existing cover pages supplied with WinFax and modifying it. Save the new cover page. (Note: The cover page can have embedded "WinFax variables" for items such as date, time, recipient name, recipient phone number.)
2) Create a WinFax PRO phone book. This is done by importing my database of contact info for the 109 fax recipients.
3) Select Send/New Fax. This will bring up a dialog screen.
4) On the dialog screen, select the phone book containing the 109 fax recipients, select these 109 recipients and add them to the list of people to fax. Select the cover page that I built. Select the 2 Word Perfect documents as fax attachments. Select the desired fax resolution (fine or standard). Mouse click the send button, let WinFax do the rest.
In the WinFax scenario, there is potential for saving a lot of time because you don't have to manually initiate each fax. Once you queue up the faxes WinFax does all the work.
In actuality I used the WinFax method to send out the faxes, although I departed slightly from the outline listed above. Some of the departures were my choice and some were not. I will explain in more detail:
Step 1, creating a cover page. I managed to accomplish this task, but I did spend some time scratching my head trying to successfully modify an existing cover page. Once I modified the page I wanted to save it, without overwriting the original. Saving was not a problem, I had trouble "adding" it to the list of cover pages available. I did not find the process intuitive. I spent half an hour stumbling around before I successfully made the cover page available. I had occasion to repeat this process a second time and found myself equally confused, although I on my third pass I will be able to conquer this task without much problem.
I encountered one other obstacle in this step. I included my e-mail address (email@example.com) in the cover page. WinFax uses variables that begin with "@", this screwed up my e-mail address and I could not figure out if there is an escape sequence that would allow the character to get through unchanged. I even consulted the manual and on-line documentation. I did not find the answer.
I ended up removing the e-mail address from the cover page. If anyone knows the answer please e-mail me.
Step 2, importing my database went relatively smoothly. I imported an ASCII file containing company name, telephone number and contact name.
Step 3 was a simple menu choice, no problems encountered.
Step 4, Filling in the dialog box. I found this confusing at first. The choices and the consequences of my actions were not clear. However, having completed the process a few times, I now understand what the buttons do and can interact with this dialog box without problem. On my first attempt at faxing, I selected a set of companies that I wanted to send the fax to. I selected my custom designed cover page and I selected the two WordPerfect 5.2 documents. I then clicked on the send button. WinFax launched WordPerfect. I received errors in WordPerfect. I even hung the machine on a couple of my attempts. I have not figured out what the problem is. Because it was clear that I was not going to quickly solve this problem, I came up with a work around. I took printouts of my 2 WordPerfect documents and faxed them to myself. I used WinFax to receive the faxes. I saved these documents as WinFax attachments (.FXS). I repeated step 4, this time instead of selecting my original WordPerfect files as attachments, I selected the 2 .FXS files. With the exception of one other problem/educational opportunity, this worked. The other educational opportunity was that I had saved the .FXS files in fine resolution and I was trying to send the fax in standard resolution. As far as I can tell this is not something that can be done, as soon as I changed everything to fine resolution the faxing proceeded without problem.
WinFax allows you to pick the date and time the transfer should be initiated. I elected to start faxing immediately. The option to pick a date and time allows faxes to be scheduled days or hours before they are sent. If your phone company offers cheaper evening or night rates you can schedule your faxes for this time period and take advantage of the cost savings.
WinFax lets you select the number of retries that should be made when a fax fails. It also lets you select how soon after a failure it should try re-sending the fax. For myself I set the retries to 0. If the fax failed I wanted the opportunity to investigate the failure before another attempt was made.
WinFax sets up three folders that I will briefly discuss. Send Log, Receive Log and Outbox.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
This review has neglected some of the major features of this version of WinFax PRO.
WinFax Pro 7.0 it has the capability to handle e-mail and Binary File Transfer (BFT). I didn't need these features to accomplish my weekend fax and therefore ignored them. BFT is interesting, it allows you to "fax" a document, instead of converting the document into a bitmapped image, the document is sent as a file in the format of the application that created it. This allows the receiver to manipulate the "faxed document" in the application in which it was originally created (or any other application that understands that format). Example: A WordPerfect document would be sent across as a WordPerfect file and the receiver could enter WordPerfect and edit the file. This technology has promise. The receiver of the "fax" must be set up to receive BFT transfers and must also own a copy of the application that can read the files transferred (ex: WordPerfect). The sender must know what format the receiver can accept and use.
The size of the BFT file is generally smaller than the size of the corresponding fax image. This mechanism decreases fax transmission time. Yet another way to economize on long distance faxing.
I have tried uninstalling and re-installing WinFax. Uninstall worked perfectly, it seemed to leave untouched any data files created. Among the things it saved was my custom designed cover page. When I re-installed the program I used the same path as in the original installation. The program was smart enough to restore the Send Log and the Receive Log. I suspect it did the same for the Out Box. I had no events pending when I uninstalled, therefore, I am not able to say for certain. The re-install did not seem to put the cover page in the folder it was previously in, I had to manually do that. I did not seem to restore my personal phone list either.
In conclusion, there were some challenges in using the program, however, the time invested in conquering the learning curve should pay of in the near future.
Sept '96 Issue Lilypad p.18, California UG's
(Reprinted from the Monterey Bay UG's newsletter; and LACS User Friendly, Journal of the Los Angeles Computer Society.)
Probably the most common sound cards are the Basic SoundBlaster and SoundBlaster Pro. These are 8-bit cards and, as such, can only be set for IRQ 2,5, and 7. The default setting (the way they are set at the factory) is IRQ 7.
This is guaranteed to conflict with LPT 1, so you must change it. If you are using COM3, then changes are, it is set to use IRQ5. You can use IRQ2 for the 8-bit SoundBlaster, but be aware that on most PCs, IRQ2 is wired to IRQ9. Using IRQ2 is OK with DOS and Windows, but not with OS/2.
If you buy a SoundBlaster 16, you get IRQ 10 as an additional choice, which is usually the one to choose. The flexibility is often worth the additional cost. The 16-bit sound from a SoundBlaster 16 also sounds better.
The address of a SoundBlaster can be set to 220, 240, 260, or 280. The default setting is 220, which is usually okay. If you have a SCSI controller card or a Token Ring card, you may have to change the address on the SoundBlaster from the default. Often 240 is a good choice.
The Basic SoundBlaster and SoundBlaster Pro can use DMA channels 0, 1, or 3. So does the SoundBlaster 16 for 8-bit sound. The default is DMA channel 1. For 16-bit sound, the SoundBlaster 16 gives you a choice of DMA channels 5,6, and 7. The default is DMA channel 5. These choices usually provide much flexibility.
Note that the address, IRQ, and DMA on the SoundBlaster cards can only be set through software. If you are running DOS, the installation program makes changes to your configuration files (CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT). It adds a device driver to your CONFIG.SYS that sets the address, IRQ, and DMA on the card.
If your running OS/2, then the DOS driver will not work and you will need to set the latest Creative Labs OS/2 driver for the SoundBlaster card. You can get this from Creative Labs BBS 405.742.6660 or via Internet FTP (ftp.creaf.com). It may also ab available on your local BBS.
Note that if you are running OS/2, the SoundBlaster does not support multitasking. That is, if you enable the SoundBlaster in Win0OS/2, you cannot access it in another session. IBM's M-Audio card does support multitasking, but it is more expensive and not supported by as many software makers.
If you are installing a Media Vision PAS-16 card, then you actually have two sound cards in one: an 8-bit SoundBlaster card and a 16-bit PAS-16 card.
The PAS -16 Users Manual contains a good discussion of hardware settings; you should read it carefully before installing the card.
Briefly, the SoundBlaster side of the card has the same address and IRQ choices as an 8-bit SoundBlaster: address 220,230, and 240, and IRQ 2,3,5, and7.
The considerations are the same as for the 8-bit SoundBlaster. If you are unable to find a IRQ that does not interfere with the other cards, then you must enable the SoundBlaster side of the card.
The PAS-16 side of the card has lots of choices for address and IRQ: address 388 (default), 384,38C,280,284, and 28C, and IRQ 2,3,5,7,10,11,12 and 15. As with a SoundBlaster 16 IRQ 10 is usually a good choice.
The DMA channel and IRQ on the PAS-16 side of the card are set with a device driver in your CONFIG.SYS. All other settings are made with jumpers.
The DOS device driver is installed when you run the Install program in the package.
The OS/2 device driver is available from MediaVision BBS 510.770.0527, via the Internet FTP (ftp-os2.cdrom.com) or from CompuServe (GO MEDIAVISION). It may also be available on your local BBS. There are lots of other sound cards on the market.
There are three ways to set the address, IRQ, and DMA: via jumpers, via a device driver in the CONFIG.SYS, and via EEPROM (Electrically Erasable PROM).
I actually prefer the last method since you can make permanent changes without opening the case. I detest the second method because it mixes up the functions of hardware and software settings and this makes it difficult to diagnose hardware conflicts.
Furthermore, if you are running OS/2, and the manufacturer cannot supply you with a driver, then you will not be able to use the card under OS/2.
For that reason, most people, who run OS/2, are careful only to purchase sound cards and other hardware that they know is supported under OS/2.
Whichever sound card you use, you may need to tell your software (e. g., game) what address, IRQ, and DMA channel your sound card is using. Some software, particularly older games, are written to use only the default settings on an 8-bit SoundBlaster card.
If you are not using the default settings, you may not be able to play these older games. Newer, better written software looks at the operating system's environment variables to find out about the settings for the card. The card's installation program should take care of the setting the environment variables.
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This page last updated on April 13, 1997.
Copyright © 1996, 1997 Rochester Computer Club. All rights reserved.