More Shopping Tips
In the last six months, I have been in and out of various computer stores in the Rochester area on various missions. I thought it might be useful for me to share my experiences with other members of the Society. My guess is that one of the most important assists we have is all of our members experiences. I hope that ever more of you will be willing to take a few moments and share your experience with the rest of us. One person’s experience on one or two occasions does NOT a profile make!
About six months ago, I was in the market for a 6' SCSI I cable. I called Comp-USA and was solemnly told the cost would be $59.95. I got on the net and ordered one from MacShack for $12.95. But I had to persuade the order-taker that I really could settle for Priority Mail for $3.95 rather than overnight, guaranteed, Air Express for about another $15. (I was told the Rochester store was out of this item.)
About ten days later, I was out on Jefferson Rd. and went into Accurate Tech looking for a piece of software (which, it turned out, the store didn’t have). Just as a price comparison I asked if they had a 6' SCSI I cable. Instead of answering, the store owner walked across the floor and came back with a cable. I asked how much it was and was told $14.95. I said thanks and was met with, “You’re not going to buy it? You don’t want it? You’re wasting my time. Leave! Just leave!” I said I was just comparing prices for the Computer Society and was told that I was not wanted in the store and, “don’t come back!” This is the third very negative experience I have had with this man in about 2½ years. As far as I am concerned, three strikes and you’re out. I do not chose to waste my time struggling with igneous anal orifices.
Somewhat miffed, I went to CompUSA, inasmuch as I was next door anyway. The cable was — are you ready? — $14.95! The $60 item was some sort of printer kit with paper, ink cartridges, etc. This is another example of the increasing incompetence of retail clerks everywhere. But that is a different thing from price gouging, which was not happening at all.
While we are on the subject of retail clerks, I will conclude this saga with my recent visit to Circuit City looking for a small tape recorder. (Bye the by, none of the clerks at Circuit City or Radio Shack know what an automatic gain control [AGC] circuit is. Fortunately, the instructions in the package do know.) As long as I was in the store, I wandered over to the computer section to see what I could see. A nice young man asked if he could help; so I asked if anyone was making internal, USB, CD-ROM drives. After some back and forth I was solemnly assured that one could only hook up four USB devices. “I know,” he said, “because I know computers unlike some people.” Exactly where the rest of the 124 devices one can daisy-chain to a USB port went escapes me.
I do not mind people who do not know the answer to some question. The questions I don’t know the answer to would fill the Encyclopædia Britannica. In fact, they do. But arrogant, self assured, ignoramuses give me gas.
Next month, the Editor willing, I will recount buying parts to build a new computer.
Napster and Gnutella:
How many times have we all heard that some innovation or invention is going to “change everything”? The end of this! The end of that! Everything’s going to be different from now on! Really!
And just about then something comes along that really does “change everything.” I’m talking not only about the Napster and Gnutella phenomena, but about the very notion that we are rapidly — and I mean really fast — approaching a time when anything which consists of “sensory information” can be virtually limitlessly reproduced and transported, at virtually zero cost. What do I mean by sensory information? You name it: For your eyes, any and all writing including novels, articles, poetry, books of any kind and any type … and any type or kind of picture, film, video, artwork, sculpted representation, etc. For your ears, music, music, and music, not to mention audio books, audio novels, audio poetry, audio‑anything. For your taste buds, your nose, and your sense of touch (to round out the five overt senses), we’re not there yet. But we will be, you can bet on it.
Right now the ability to endlessly copy and trade audio recordings is what is driving the death of the music industry. First, a few words of explanation: Napster is a program that can be downloaded from virtually anywhere on the web. When you install it the program will hook you up with a web server named Napster.com which then enables you to “share” for copying all the music (that you specify) on your computer with whomever and wherever in the rest of the world people may be looking for what you might have.
And then there’s the other side: Not only can you share what you have, but everyone else in the world running Napster is similarly sharing all their music files with you. So, you download Napster, crank it up, run a search for whatever you might be interested in, and in a few moments a whole giant list of what you’ve been looking for pops up on your screen, from Napster users all over the world. From there you just specify which ones you want to download. Then, you’ve got the music to use and share as you see fit, with the result that you don’t have to go out and buy $17.95 CD’s anymore (more importantly, our kids don’t have to spend their money that way … and we all know they’re better on computers than we are).
All of which is why the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), hard‑ metal rocker band Metallica, and rapper Dr. DRE are all piling on Napster.com, suing them for zillions of dollars and asking a federal judge to issue an injunction shutting the web site down. Permanently.
Which is where Gnutella comes in. This program is what might be called a “next generation Napster.” Except it dispenses with the inconvenience of a central server. Everyone in the world running Gnutella can connect and share music files directly, without any central coordinating location. That is, no location that can be legally attacked and shut down. Um.
The more important implication of Napster and Gnutella type programs is how they extend the notion of “sharing” property which was previously protected and kept sacrosanct for owners and creators (often not the same people, remember) by federal copyright law. The emerging “e-book” industry is already being held back by worries about how Napster‑type sharing can be prevented for text‑based works of art. I mean, there’s music and there are books, right? And books are made out of paper and ink, right? Not for long. Already the Softbook Reader and Rocket Ebook are on the market.
And while they’re primitive and expensive as first generation “electronic readers,” the future is quite clear for those who care to contemplate it: Printed and bound paper‑and‑ink books will soon shrink drastically as a method of transferring written information and eventually may be totally supplanted by electronic text on small, inexpensive, portable reading appliances.
Now. Let’s talk. What about copyright? What about musicians and authors? What about a concept as simple as the right to “private property,” i.e. being able to enjoy the fruits of that which is yours. Especially when that property was created by you. That’s what the growing legal, media, and ultimately cultural battle is all about. How can artists hope to be compensated, when as soon as their work is released it becomes instantly available to the entire world for free? Perhaps more importantly, how can we as a society hope to encourage artists and writers and sculptors and playwrights and musicians and poets and other “purveyors of beauty” to work when they may get paid nothing for what they create?
And that’s where the struggle now stands. To the leaders of the “music industry,” and plenty of musicians, the kids who invented Napster.com are simply encouraging this very thing, threatening an entire industry with wholesale theft. Many of the millions of people who are actively using Napster and Gnutella snarl back that the music industry has been ripping off consumers — not to mention the musicians themselves — for far too long with their overpriced CD’s and cutthroat contracts.
So where should the rest of us come down? If the copyright law is clear, this is just wholesale copyright violation. But wait! The Napster.com kids and lawyers are arguing in court that, first of all, they don’t have any responsibility for what other people do with the program (and even have, ahem, a somewhat disingenuous anti‑ copyright‑violation warning on their web site).
And secondly, they argue that the copying and sharing of music files among private citizens, where there’s no money changing hands, isn’t a violation of copyright law anyway! I mean, if you have a record you like, and you copy it and give it to your friend to hear, is that a violation? Or does it come under the copyright exception rubric of “fair use”?
Interestingly enough, the most erudite and thoughtful writings I have seen on the subject have come from two big‑time rockers: One from the (in)famous bandleader and widow of grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and the other from Grateful Dead confidant and songwriter John Perry Barlow.
First Courtney Love: In a long and very insightful speech she gave just a few weeks ago as a keynote speaker at the Digital Hollywood Conference in New York City, she argued that the Napster phenomenon is a “radical democratization of music,” resulting in betterment to both musicians and fans. Citing dismal figures from the recording industry that make it look little better than chattel slavery of musicians, she proclaimed that in fact artists will also ultimately benefit financially from the Napster wave. Said Love, the “real” music pirates are the record companies and the RIAA, who have recently successfully changed federal copyright law so that musicians and bands are little more than “sharecroppers.”
Clearly Courtney Love has not endeared herself to either musicians on the other side of the barricades, or the RIAA (which may be one reason she’s involved in a ferocious legal battle with her former recording label, Geffen Records, which maintains it is owed five more albums by Hole, the rock band that Love fronts). Yet if you read the unedited text of Love’s speech, she makes eminent sense. (Which may be why it took me a so long to find an unedited version on the Web: Go now, before it’s too late, and download her speech from http:// www.undercover.net.au/rncourtney.html. Read what she has to say yourself.)
The other quite thoughtful and important writing I’ve seen about the Napster phenomenon was written by John Perry Barlow, a former songwriter for The Grateful Dead, co‑founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which exists to lobby the government in favor of the Internet and cyberspace in general. To give you an idea of where Barlow comes down on the issue, his essay begins like this: “I expect most of you are aware that the Recording Industry Association of America has been fighting a desperate struggle against technologies that would end its century‑long enslavement and exploitation of musicians. One of these developments is something called Napster.com….”
Barlow, like Love, is an insightful observer of the modern music industry, having been involved in it himself for decades. “The music industry,” he observes, “is generally despised by both music‑lovers and musicians, to whom they’ve been returning about five percent of the retail value of their works.” What will happen? “I’m convinced that the traditional music business is finished,” Barlow states. “Napster and other environments like it will polish off the likes of BMG and Tower Records within five years. Personally, I can’t say I’ll miss it. For over a century, it has exploited both musicians and audiences. Whatever models evolve to protect the creation of music, I am not concerned that we will fail to economically support its makers. For some reason, humans absolutely require music, and they were providing for the material needs of musicians for tens of thousands of years before copyright law, just as they will do so for tens of thousands of years after this brief and anomalous period has been forgotten.”
You can read Barlow’s entire essay by reading or downloading it (for free!) at http://www.technocrat.net/958163435/index _html.
How will it all play out? Can’t tell now. My guess is that Barlow is right, and the “music industry” will be destroyed, to be replaced by more direct contact between artists and their fans. Perhaps the most straightforward statement came from a friend of mine who lives and works close to a center of the music industry in southern California. When asked about the apparent copyright violation aspect of Napster, he tried to beg off by saying “My stuff is music that’s long out of copyright.” But when I pressed him and asked “What about music being downloaded that is still covered by copyright?” he paused, then said “Well, I guess they’ll just have to kiss my ass.”
Chalk up one more supporter of Napster.com.
Reprinted from the July 2000 issue of Bits of Blue the publication
of the Tampa PC Users Group. Tim Condon may be reached at tim @free‑market.net.
Yahoo lists more than 1,200 cooking sites. Epicurious <www.epicurious .com/> is still one of the best on the ‘Net. At its core is a searchable file of more than 11,000 recipes. It also contains features from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines; I found the recipe for Pecan-Bourbon Crème Brulee from the Zuni Grill on the Riverwalk in the Bon Appetit archives.
Another good site to graze is About.com. Begin with their recipe of the day <dailies .about.com/recipes/> and then start nibbling at the links. Categories include Barbecues & Grilling; Busy Cooks; Cheese and Appetizers; Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Jewish, Mexican, Southern and Vegetarian Cuisine; Home Cooking, Low Fat Cooking, and Nutrition. Each is a savory stew of original content and links to other carefully selected sites.
The Snap directory <www.snap.com/ directory/category/0,16,-324,00.html> is a good food portal, well organized and fast-loading. Other sites to check are Better Homes and Gardens <wwwbhglive.com/ food/> and Culinary Com <www.cu1inary .com/>; both have lots of recipes.
Your favorite radio and TV cooking shows have companion sites with all of the recipes listed. I*m a fan of public radio*s The Splendid Table. On their site, <table .npr.org>, you will find recipes for the real Salade Nicoise, Sun-dried Tomato and Pecan Pesto with Prawns, and dozens of other great dishes that have caused me to leave drool marks on my radio. Now you can fix them at home. Food TV has its own tasty site at <http://www.foodtv.com/>. Not all of the cooks divulge their cooking secrets, but the nice ones do. You can also look up regional cooking programs, such as The Shortcut Cook <www.shortcutcook.com/> from California.
Another good use of the Internet is to download recipe collections to use in recipe database software. MealMaster, an old DOS program, is now freeware and there are a zillion recipes available in MealMaster for-mat. Download the program from <home1 .gte.net/welliver/>. Then, go to their list of links to find the good Samaritans who have converted recipes to MealMaster format. One zip file, only 111KB, contained 259 asparagus recipes.
The database is searchable by recipe title, ingredient, category, or cooking direction (for example, saute). Some commercial recipe software can convert this MealMas-ter format, so even if you use another program it*s worth checking out.
Looking for a secret recipe? Top Secret Recipes on the Web <www.topsecretrecipes .com/> probably has it. Try Seven Seas Free Viva Italian Fat-Free Dressing (the secret is buttermilk powder and gelatin) or Starbucks Frozen Frappuccino (I never would have thought of adding a pinch of salt).
Another list of “copycat” recipes is in SOAR, the Searchable Online Archive of Recipes <Soar.berkeley.edu/recipes/>; they have 310 of them, including Entenmann*s Pound Cake. But it doesn*t stop there. This is a searchable index of more than 67,000 recipes. If you don*t want to search, you can browse, by category (there are 232 marinade recipes) or ethnicity (112 from Indonesia). All of the recipes are in MealMaster format.
The Recipe Webring lists 748 recipe sites <nav.webring.org/hub?ring=recipe; list>. The Yummy Recipe webring lists 228 <www.webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?ring =yum&list>. Webrings are groups of sites with a similar theme that band together to point to other sites in their linked circle. The management of the links is centrally administered, which takes a huge burden off of the shoulders of the individual webmas-ters. The biggest ring of rings is at <www .webring.org>. If you click on the “directory” icon and search for “recipe” you will be taken to a list of 242 rings, listing thousands of recipe sites. There are web-rings for every topic under the sun, so this is a good starting place when you are searching for sites that cover your own off-the-wall hobby or interest.
Between the Mad Cows, genetically engineered tomatoes, and E-coli, there is reason to be worried about food safety. Good starting places are <wwwfoodsafety.gov>, an initiative of federal agencies, and The National Food Safety Database <www .foodsafety.ufl.edu/index.html>. For information about genetically engineered foods, visit Frakenfoods <pages.prodigy.net /moonbathing/gmfoods/>. They quote Organic Gardening magazine: “With regard to altered life forms, once a mistake is made and released into the environment, there is no certainty it can ever be undone.” Scares me!
Not all food sites are serious. The Orkin Man claims that 80 percent of the world*s population eats bugs, and provides recipes to prove it at <www.orkin.com/html/ cuisine.html>. Another source of bug cuisine is BugFood, hosted at the University of Kentucky <www.uky.edu/Agriculture/ Entomology/ythfacts/bugfood/bugfbod.htm>.
The ultimate Internet food joke is Spam. Spam has come to mean wanton
newsgroup postings or floods of unwanted e-mail sent to strangers. The odd term
has its origins in a Monty Python sketch <http.cs.berkeley.edu/~ddgarcia/spam
.html> which features Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a Mornay
sauce served in the Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines
garnished with truffle paté, brandy, and, on top, a fried egg avec Spam.
Now that’s one recipe I can do without!
From the August 2000 issue of PC Alamode, the news magazine of The
Alamo PC Organization, Inc. of San Antonio, TX. Susan Ives is famous for her
bourbon balls, which have made the December Alamo PC board of directors meeting
a jolly affair enjoyed by all.
Feds Plan Full Service Site
Firstgov.gov portal will let you search government documents and (eventually) handle transactions, says President Clinton.
Coming soon to your computer: a web site that will make available at the click of a mouse every online resource offered by the US federal government. Its name will be firstgov.gov, and it will be created in 90 days or less, President Clinton said July 1st. “When it’s complete, firstgov will serve as a single point of entry to one of the largest, perhaps the most useful, collection of Web pages in the entire world,” Clinton said in what was billed as his first Saturday Webcast to the nation.
“Increasingly, we’ll give our citizens not only the ability to send and receive information but also to conduct sophisticated transactions online,” Clinton said. By using the site, Americans will be able to track their Social Security benefits, find a fuel‑efficient car, buy a home, learn how to invest wisely, check for flight delays, and learn food safety tips, among other things. It is all part of an effort to create a “high‑ speed, high‑tech, user‑friendly government,” Clinton said.
Clinton also offered a $50,000 reward to citizens, students, researchers, and government employees who provide the most in-novative idea for advancing e‑government. Details are to be on excelgov.org.
The firstgov.gov Web site will be created by a team led by Internet entrepreneur Eric Brewer at no cost to taxpayers. A free site, it will allow citizens to search all online government documents.
Government information and services are currently spread over 20,000
different Web sites. The site will be able to search half a billion documents in
less than one‑quarter of a second and will have the ability to handle at
least 100 million searches a day, the White House said. “It will uphold the
highest standards of protecting the privacy of its users,” Clinton promised.
From the August 2000 online journal of the Hampton Roads (VA) Computing
Community The Umbrella Online.
The Big Picture on a
How horribly forbidding would finding information on the Internet be without search engines! I shudder to think about it. Still, they can be a bit maddening. There are dozens (scores?) of them and they are each organized differently; each has its different strengths and weaknesses and specialties, and each has its own rules about specifying searches.
Some are true search engines while others are Web directories where the information is arranged into categories and sub‑categories. If you are just searching for a single keyword then things are simple but if you are searching for multiple words then it becomes important that you enter the words using the format expected by your particular search engine or Web directory. Let me use the example of searching for some information about JPEG 2000 for use in the second half of this article.
I was using the AltaVista search engine. I selected English language Web sites only, and entered JPEG 2000 in the “Find this:” box. Look at table 1 to see how format variations affected the number of hits returned. What’s going on here? Obviously the natural first try — just typing JPEG 2000 — was a disaster. But that is precisely the mistake that most newcomers fall into. In many, if not most, search engines just typing multiple words tells it to search for any Web page that contains any of the words that you typed. You can imagine how many Web pages mention 2000. The + sign is AltaVista’s way of specifying that JPEG and 2000 must both occur on the same page in order to count as a hit. The one in quotation marks means that the phrase has to occur in just that way to count and the JPEG2000 is a caution to you to seek variations of the way that first occurs to you. Some pages contain JPEG 2000 and some contain JPEG2000. Even more control is available. For example, suppose you are searching for an ancestor named Madison but hundreds of your hits are for Madison County in several different states. Eliminate these by typing madison ‑county as your search string. The minus sign means skip any page that has county on it.
For the ultimate in control go to the search engine’s “Advanced Search” page — but be sure to read the help page for it. Many give very detailed ways (including Boolean expressions) to specify exactly what to look for, and what to avoid.
So where does “the big picture” come in? Meta Search Engines,
that’s where. You may already be familiar with some meta search engines —
Ask Jeeves, MetaCrawler, and Dogpile are examples. A meta search engine’s main
purpose in life is to accept your search string (be careful, they also have
their own unique rules) and issue the search request simultaneously to many
different search engines and Web directories. A meta search engine that I have
recently started using is called Copernic. It differs from most of the others in
that you actually download the Copernic software onto your computer rather than
simply run it from the search engine’s Web site. Why bother to download a
It has some advantages such as faster browsing through all of the hits that you get rather than having to download small result pages one after the other. It also allows customization and it remembers strings that you have previously searched for. Copernic eliminates duplicates found by more than one of the underlying search engines. Visit http://www.copernic.com to read more about it and to download the freeware version (that’s what I use) or purchase one of the two premium models. It has an interesting interface — give it a try.
Big picture — small file. I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as JPEG 2000 until Butch Blasingame sent me an e‑mail recently calling it to my attention. Those of you who are at all into computer and Web graphics are certainly familiar with JPEG (or .JPG). It has been around for more than a decade and is by far the most used graphic format for people who wish to post photographs on Web pages or to attach photographs to e‑mails. Why? Because of its very effective file compression capabilities, that’s why. It can easily turn a photograph that is 2 MB in size when displayed in your graphic viewer into a trim 80 KB in size when stored and transmitted as a JPEG format. Less disk space, less transmit and download time. All that and it’s an international standard (read “very stable”) to boot. So what’s the down side?
To achieve this wonderful compression the designers of JPEG (the Joint Photographic Experts Group) elected to use a compression algorithm known as DCT (Discrete Cosine Transform). That was state‑of‑the‑art 15 years ago and we willingly lived with the fact that the compression is “lossy.” JPEG allows the creator of the file to select the degree of compression. The higher the compression, the lower the quality. It is possible to get compression ratios of 20:1 to 40:1 with little noticeable picture degradation. But avoid, like the plague, multiple successive JPEG compressions because the degradation is cumulative. You have probably seen, particularly when the image is magnified, the results of this excessive degradation in the form of JPEG artifacts. These chiefly consist of obvious square blotches in large areas of subtly changing color, and color fringes in the vicinity of high contrast edges. How to avoid these? Keep your photos in a non‑lossy format (e.g., TIF or the native format of your graphics editing program) until you are ready to output a copy for the Web or for e‑mailing. Even if you receive a picture in JPEG format (e.g., from your digital camera), if you intend to do any editing at all, first convert it to the lossless format and work with that format throughout all of your editing passes.
Now for the good news: JPEG 2000 has adopted something called Wavelet Compression which has all sorts of interesting features (too many to go into here) but, certainly, the first one to catch our attention will be that it’s vastly more powerful and less lossy! Here is one quote from an authoritative source on the Web: “JPEG2000 promises to compress images 200 times with better resulting quality than current JPEG images compressed fivefold.” Wow!
When do we get our hands on this wonderful creature? Probably within a year. Part 1 of the draft standards document was approved by the JPEG committee in March of this year. Part 2 will take a little longer. The good news is that Part 1 is where the compression is defined and, due to the browser wars, is likely to be implemented into IE and Netscape just as soon as they can come out with new versions. Of course browsers just read the format — we still need the format to be provided in the programs that we use to write graphic output. Part 2 will define many of the additional goodies alluded to above and will not likely show up on our screens until later in 2001.
Can’t wait a year to see that it is possible to compress an image by a factor of 200 and still retain good quality? No sweat — just aim your browser at www.luratech.com and carefully watch the animation at the top‑center of the screen. This compares the current JPEG with some proprietary software called Lurawave that uses Wavelet Compression of a type similar to that already adopted by the JPEG2000 committee. Did you get the significance of what you just saw? That’s an 800 KB image that is compressed all the way to 4KB! And it still looks good!
That’s a factor of 200:1 compared to the typical 20:1 that I generally expect out of today’s JPEG set for fairly high quality. So JPEG 2000 will produce files 10 times smaller than we are used to. A few seconds after the animation ends a “replay” button appears a couple of inches to the left of the bottom of the picture. Click this to watch the whole thing again. Notice the bad blotches in the girl’s cheek and the background in the left half of the picture. Think how that amount of compression will not only impact download time on the Web but also how many more pictures digital cameras will be able to fit on their memory cards once they adopt the format (I’ve not. been able to determine if the new compression algorithm is more computationally heavy than current JPEG; that might impact whether camera manufacturers adopt it quickly).
From the August 2000 issue of pc news, the newsletter of the 1960
PC Users Group of Houston TX. Alex Dumestre has been associated with computers
since the mid ‘60s, most of the time developing geophysical applications for
use on mainframes, minicomputers, and work stations. He is a bit of a nut about
graphics but is a perpetual novice on PCs. He can be contacted by e‑mail
Your Choice: “Light”
Qualcomm’s popular Eudora e-mail software now comes in three flavors: Light (free), Sponsored (with ads), and Paid (no ads — “less filling”).
This release introduces a new business model for application software by adding an optional mode in which people can use all the features of the commercial version of the program for free in exchange for viewing ads.
The upgrade is minor if you’re currently using Eudora Pro 4.2 and because of that, Qualcomm has made the upgrade to Eudora 4.3’s “Paid mode” free for Eudora Pro 4.2 owners. Eudora Light 3.x users will enjoy a much more significant upgrade, offering benefits of two years of development since Eudora Light was last updated. And the new Sponsored mode will get all the features of Eudora Pro — spell checking, styled composition, inline images and movies and sounds, HTML display, toolbar, powerful filtering, and more.
The free download of Eudora version 4.3 from eudora‑survey.qualcomm.com/live/ download automatically installs in the Sponsored mode, but users have the choice of switching to Light mode, which does not contain any advertising.
Sponsored mode provides the full‑ featured Eudora desktop e-mail program at no charge, and includes free technical support with up to six calls per year. This mode displays a series of static on screen advertisements that do not interfere with the user’s e-mail workspace, as the advertising does not appear within the body of e-mail messages.
When Paid mode is selected, Eudora guides the customer through the payment process, and then provides a registration code that can be used to activate the full‑featured version of the software without advertising. Selecting Help, Payments and Registration from the pull‑down menu allows users to switch modes, find the latest updates, or change registration information.
You can now import the address book and messages from other e-mail programs, including Microsoft Outlook Express 5.0, by doing the following:
1. From the File menu, choose Import. The Import and Addresses dialog box appears.
To import your e-mail messages from Outlook, check Import Mail. To import
your address book entries, check Import Address Book Entries.
To transfer your e-mail account, click OK. Eudora imports all settings
including personalities, incoming and outgoing server names, real name, return
name, and login name.
Another new feature is the ability to sort messages in a mailbox sequentially using different sort criteria, including “sticky sorting” (using more than one sort criteria). For normal sort options, click on each column heading to sort in ascending order. Click on the column while holding the SHIFT key to sort in descending order. Right clicking on the column heading will open a context‑sensitive menu with sorting options.
To sort messages in a mailbox sequentially using more than one sort criteria, just click on each column heading in a sequential order. A number appears in each heading area indicating in what order the sort will occur, and the sorts can be combined in any order. After clicking the first column heading, hold down the CTRL key and click on the second column heading.
Link History is another new option on the Tools menu that displays Internet web site URLs, attachments, and ads that you have clicked in Eudora. To display your link history, do the following:
1. From the Tools menu, choose Link History. The Link History dialog box will appear.
To view a link in the list, click to highlight it, and then click View.
To remove the link from the list, click Delete.
Updaters, quick start guides and user manuals in PDF format for both Windows and Macintosh platforms are available at www.eudora.com/pro_e-mail/updaters .html/.
New Patch Posted
A new patch to Eudora 4.3.2 that includes security‑related changes has also been posted on the Qualcomm website, very timely since the recent rash of computer viruses and worms that has plagued Microsoft Outlook mail servers worldwide for the past six months. Now the user is warned by default before launching an attachment in Eudora if its name has one of the following extensions: ade, adp, bas, bat, chm, cmd, com, cpl, crt, do*, exe, hlp, ht*, inf, ins, isp, js*, lnk, md*, ms*, pcd, pif, pl*, pot, pp*, pwz, reg, scr, sct, shs, url, vb*, ws*, xl*.
There’s also a checkbox in Tools/Op-tions/Automation for warning the user any time some other program or script asks Eudora to send an e-mail message via its COM Automation interface. The warning is on by default. To turn it off, put Warn ComAutoSend=0 in the [Settings] section of Eudora.ini, or paste this link: < =0> into a message and Alt‑click on it.
Avoiding Worms & Viruses
Today, a worm or virus can arrive on anyone’s computer through e‑mail. Installing the latest patch for Eudora will hopefully protect you from inadvertently launching an attachment that could potentially damage valuable files. But there is no substitute for maintaining antivirus software with current signature files. Before you lose a day’s work to the latest malicious virus, follow these precautions.
First, get protected. If you don’t already have virus protection software on your machine, you should get some right away.
Second, keep your anti‑virus signatures updated. Some anti‑virus protection programs have a feature that will automatically link to the Internet and add new virus detection code whenever the software vendor discovers a new threat.
Third, scan your system regularly. If you’re just loading anti‑virus software for the first time, it’s a good idea to let it scan your entire system in order to start with your PC clean and free of virus problems. The anti‑virus program can be set to scan each time the computer is rebooted or on a periodic schedule. Make it a regular habit to scan for viruses.
Fourth, be suspicious of e‑mail attachments. Even if the e‑mail seems to be from a known source, be careful. Some viruses take the mailing lists from an infected computer and send out new messages with its destructive payload attached. Always scan attached files first for viruses. Unless it’s a file or an image you are expecting, delete it.
Last, but by no means least, stay informed. There are virus and security alerts posted almost every day. Keep up‑to‑date on breaking viruses and solutions.
While millions of PC computer users world wide scrambled to protect themselves against the recent Love Letter (I Love You) worm outbreak, Macintosh users had little to worry about because Macintosh systems do not support the VBS code that Love Letter uses to replicate on a PC computer.
The only real risk involves emulation environments on a Macintosh, where
an emulated PC e-mail program could run the Love Letter code, adversely
affecting files within the emulated environment.
From the August 2000 edition of HAL-PC Magazine. Beverly Rosenbaum, is
a 1999 and 2000 Houston Press Club “Excellence in Journalism” award winner.
She can be reached at brosen@hal‑pc.org.
Want your computer to know exactly what time it is? Forget looking at your watch. Here's the best way to set your computer's clock. Have your computer connect to the official timekeeping source, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). After you install this program, About Time will connect to the NIST and synchronize the official time with your computer's time in seconds. Requirements: Windows 95, 98, or NT, download size: 584KB, Careware: free to try and free to keep. You just need to care.
Shaq Needs a Dummies Book
Recently, I was watching the NBA Championships, which seem to go on and on until it’s time for football. And there was the league’s arguably best player Shaquille O’Neal doing his thing. He was a force — blocking shots, slamming down dunks, feeding other guys the ball at just the right time. Yes, he was a force, except for one time — when he was at the free throw line. You see, Shaq has never gotten a clue about this art, much less mastered it. He throws up genuine bricks more than half of the time. It’s so bad that the other side will use a tactic called the "Hack‑a‑Shaq," where he’s intentionally fouled to send him to the free throw line. He’s been coached by the best, but I’m convinced that he needs Free Throw Shooting for Dummies. That’s all it would take to get him Hall of Fame bound immediately.
Yeah, I know this isn’t a sports column, but I wrote the first paragraph with a point. The point is that there are lots of books out there that can make computing life much more fun and productive. How may times have you gone to the computer store looking for great software, only to discover that the box that you pick up off the rack of Carel DrawDeluxe or Microstuff PhotoWord is light as a feather — a telltale sign that there’s only a CD inside. The companies must be into saving trees, or at least increasing their bottom line by making manuals a thing of the past. Even if a manual is provided on the CD, you’ll have to print it out yourself. Let’s see, at a cost of about 6 cents per page, a 300 page manual would cost $18 plus having to put holes in it and binding it in something so that it’s not just loose pages. Maddening, isn’t it?
To the rescue, it’s still not fair, but the best thing to do in this situation is to buy a good book. You’ll usually have a resource that is far better than any manual. Even the worst book usually meets this criteria. But when you go to the computer section at your local bookstore — you make a discovery. Here’s where all the trees that were saved by the software companies are going. In a large store, there can be as many as eight shelves of books on computing. It can be bewildering. And if you do find the section on DeluXword 4.0, there are maybe 15 titles about it.
Which books are going to do you the most good? After all, they are expensive — you don’t want to make a mistake.
First, I would check out Amazon.com (www.amazon.com), the online bookstore. If you’re into ordering online this can be a great source for computer books. The selection is still bewildering, but they have a feature where people who bought the book actually write mini‑reviews and rate the books. Very cool. The prices also look good, but remember there’s shipping to consider, so if you’re in a hurry to get the book you’re going to pay. It works out many times to be similar to bookstore price especially bookstores that have discount programs.
Second, you can follow the author of this article’s Humble Guide to Computer Books. Take it with a grain of salt — these are my personal opinions. I’ll group them by sections.
The Humble Guide
I’ve bought lots of computer books and actually read most of them (amazing). I’ve found a couple of common sense rules. Don’t buy expensive books, unless you need to have a very intense knowledge of a particular program. For one thing, the next version will come out, usually right after you buy the book. Also, these books are really heavy and inconvenient, especially reading them before bed. As most of you know, I’m sure, the only thing better than a computer book for making you sleepy is watching a computer learning video. Now there’s a cure that beats Sominex every time! Check out second‑hand or deeply discounted books, especially if you have an older version of the software. Like the software, the book doesn’t go belly‑up just because it’s not the latest and greatest!
Anyway, on to the ratings:
jjjjj: IDG’s Teach Yourself Visually series and Simplified series. You’ll pay more for the color graphics on all the pages, but the visual approach teaches you more effectively and is great if you’re stuck and need a new point of view. I also put Adobe’s Classroom in a Book series here. There’s no better way to get a handle on the Adobe products, which have a steep learning curve.
jjjj: Sam’s 24 Hour series. Not the best looking but just plain great for learning. Also, I put the the Dummies books here, because most of them, not all, have good info and fun and that’s an excellent combination.
jjj: Peachpit’s Visual Quickstart series — nice and compact, but more of a quick reference than a learning tool.
jj: Most of Microsoft’s books. Good information, but duller than dirt. Certification books are for true geeks for sure.
j: Anything that makes you go online. The trend toward non‑books is coming and you’ll see much more of this in the future. Going to get info from an online source that charges you lots for the privilege. What!?
Take these ratings and go forth into bookland, remembering what they cost
you and appraising their value. :‑)
From the August 2000 issue of pc news the journal of the 1960 PC Users Group of Houston, TX. Butch Blasingame is the editor/designer of the pc news and can be contacted at butchb @butchb.com. His Web site is www.butchb.com.
Web Pages of Interest
While keeping in mind that Americans speak the English language a bit differently, this is nonetheless a useful guide for journalists and non-journalists alike in using the language gracefully — using active rather than passive voice, avoiding jargon and unnecessary words, controlling tone, avoiding grammatical error. http://www .economist.com/editorial/freeforall/library/ styleguide/
Awesome Movie Mistakes
There are no graphics accompanying any of the mistakes detailed at this site, but the explanations are very easy to follow and there are tons of movies to work through in your quest for blooper knowledge. Select a letter of the alphabet and be transported to a page that covers as many gaffes as possible for each and every movie that starts with that letter. http://www.everwonder .com/david/mistakes.html
Web Search ‑‑ Past Issues
Chris Sherman, About.Com's guide to Web Search, here offers an archive of useful articles on topics like specialized and niche searching, finding people on the net, competitive intelligence and business research, etc. http://websearch.about.com/internet/ websearch/library/weekly/topicmenu.htm
Linux Documentation Project
Includes guides, how tos, FAQs, development projects, links to applications and utilities using Linux, and the Linux Gazette. One of the better starting points, though you might also want to check out Linux World at www.linuxworld.com. http://metalab.unc.edu/mdw/
I resign as an adult
I defy you to walk away from this site without a smile on your face and agreement in your soul. http://www.geocities.com/ jmerz2000/where_do_i_sign_up.html
Logophilia: the Word Lovers' Site
Site includes the Word Spy, which keeps track of recently coined words (Goldilocks economy, downshifter), the Word Arranger which automatically creates anagrams, the Jargon File repository of hacker language, and neologisms (I especially liked "slackademic," and "Monday morning idea") http://www.logophilia.com/ logophilia.html
Clickable subject guide from various ThinkQuest project teams to completed projects and curriculum materials on an extraordinary range of topics: the generation gap, the physics of golf, the festivals of five major religions, the Dutch dike system, the Holocaust, fractals, and much more. http://library.thinkquest.org/library/ index.html
Our American Ancestors
A collaborative web site that is part of the larger RootsWeb site, this
allows you to browse examples and contribute other expressions you heard your
grandparents and great grandparents use. Organized loosely by themes such as
Aging and Dying, Character Traits ("He could talk the dogs off of a meat
truck"), Kids ("Your belly‑ button isn't even dry yet!"),
Money and Numbers ("If steamboats were selling for a dime a dozen, I
couldn't buy the echo of the whistle."), etc. http://www.rootsweb.com /~genepool/amerispeak.htm.
From the August 2000 issue of the I/O Port Newsletter of the Tulsa
USPS Plans E‑Projects, Including Permanent E-mail Addresses
Anticipating that electronic bytes will take bigger and bigger bites out of first‑class mail in future, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is readying new and varied electronic mail services for Americans. A major one would assign e‑mail addresses to most people.
One of the new services could notify customers by e‑mail about an incoming bill or package, which they could then reroute to another address. Another proposal, set to begin a three‑year consumer test in September, would allow customers to send e‑mails to a post office to be printed and delivered as first‑class mail. A third program, already available, lets customers pay bills online through the Postal Service’s Web site.
Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Bren-nan called the e‑projects “a way for customers to choose how they want to get their correspondence.”
The new services will be added to Internet‑oriented offerings the Postal Service already has in place. It began testing a kind of certified e‑mail service in 1998. Called PostECS, it sends electronic receipts for contracts and other important documents transmitted over the Internet.
Online Stamps Popular
Last year, USPS rolled out its heralded system that makes postage available online. The Postal Service says 280,000 customers have printed $22.6 million worth of “online stamps” since July 1999, but the service has yet to deliver a profit.
Both of these existing services do show promise for future growth, however, which may be critical to the USPS is coming years.
Considering that e‑mail will soon take huge bites out of USPS first‑class business, these moves, and more, are needed to move postal service into the 21st century. The post office itself predicts that in 2003, first‑class mail service, now a $35 billion business and its top revenue producer, will begin an unprecedented decline at the hands of booming e‑mail and online billing services.
Benjamin Franklin, our first postmaster and a great innovator himself, would surely applaud these new efforts, but probably would be critical of the Postal Service’s slowness in facing up to challenges of new technologies. Banks, credit unions and many other private services already offer bill‑paying services, and have for some time. Is it too late for the USPS to capture a piece of this pie? Judge for yourself.
Under its own online billing system, the Postal Service charges customers $6 per month to send 20 electronic transactions, or $2 per month and 40 cents apiece for unlimited transactions. How does that compare with bill‑paying services already available to you?
The e‑mail‑to‑paper system would cost about 41 cents per message — eight cents more than current 33 cent postage. Is it worth it? My personal opinion is that it might be in some instances, but it would depend on how much faster the Postal Service can get time‑critical correspondence to recipients than would be the case with normal first‑class mail.
(Mail2000, a Bethesda, Md., company (mail2kinc.com) already offers a service that translates e‑mail messages into first‑class mail, plus a variety of other mail‑related services. Aimed more at businesses and other volume mailers than individuals, it claims it can save time and money, compared to the USPS.
Your Own ‘Mailbox’
The e‑mailbox proposal, whereby virtually every American would be assigned a free e‑mail address corresponding to his or her street address shows more promise.
Under this system, customers could simply link the service to any present e‑mail address they have, or opt for a special online postal box. Customers could then get an e‑mail address using their initials, followed by their nine‑digit ZIP code and the last two numbers of their street address — with “usps.com” tacked at the end.
For instance, John Doe, 1234 Main St., Los Angeles, CA 91365‑4004 would get the e‑mail address: jd91365400445usps.com. I know, it’s cumbersome and tough to rattle off from the top of your head! But it also is unique enough to minimize duplication problems. This would eliminate the need to change addresses when you change Internet Service Providers, but using e‑mail services such as Bigfoot, Hotmail, or Altavista mail provide a similar benefit.
It’s no news that Americans are avid e‑mailers. A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that more than 90 million people have Internet access. Of those, about 84 million use e‑mail regularly, while 16 million have used some sort of online banking service.
E‑commerce gurus have mixed feelings postal e‑mail proposal. “They’re in catch‑up mode,” was a typical reaction. Several ex-perts I talked to pointed out that most people apt to use the service already have e‑mail — and that many of the rest probably wouldn’t log on for the tracking service.
“As schemes go, this one isn’t bad,” said one representative of a Santa Monica, CA based technology research firm. “It absolutely makes sense — the Postal Service’s business, and expertise, is mail delivery, and e‑mail is just another form of mail. If the USPS ignored this new mailing technology it would insure that it would become obsolete eventually. Any steps it can take to work within the new framework should help it survive.”
CD Label Magic
Do you have a CD writer? If you do, then you have confronted the problem of identifying the disk. If you use a marker pen, you risk affecting the data, besides the fact that your handwriting may be nearly illegible anyway.
Once you cross this emotional self‑ esteem hurdle, you concede that you need computer‑printed labels. Next, you spend time trying to construct a template so that the relevant information appears on the label. Lotta work! There must be some software for doing this. There is. Quite a bit of it. It ranges in price from free to around $100. Some of the free ones work, sometimes. Most are more pain than help. But I found one that works beautifully, is flexible, compatible and all‑around one of the nicest software products I have ever encountered at any price. And you can try it out for free!
The SureThing CD Labeler is available at www.surething.com. I downloaded it from the web and was immediately dazzled. I was so impressed that, after using it for a few days, when I saw a commercial version on the shelf at CompUSA I immediately bought it for under $40!
The product includes a wizard that guides you through creating your CD labels. First, you select the label stock you will be using. Then, you select from among the collection of background graphics. After that, you are looking at your label on a worksheet. Three scrolling lists let you select experimentally among choices of background graphic, label text layout and main font. When you have these choices made, edit the text to fit your needs. The weight, shadow direction, size and color of the fonts are adjustable. Text fields can be added and removed and several text effects applied. To help with the editing, there are also tools to zoom, rotate and move text.
The real highlight for me was the ability to add graphics to the label. This includes photos. You can even replace the entire background of the label with a photo! If you use a digital camera, this really makes the archiving of your photographs onto CDs a pleasure. Including one of the contained photographs in the label helps a lot with CD identification. You just have to be sure the photo file used does have a square image. Glossy CD label stock is available. Though expensive, it does make the best‑looking photo‑containing labels. When you are ready to print, you can indicate that only one of the labels on the form should be printed. This will save you some money.
The retail version includes added art, fonts, features and a CD label application tool. The NEATO tool that came with my CD writer doesn’t ring my bell as it takes a steadier hand than I can muster. The SureThing label application tool is a clamshell device. You place the CD on one side and the label on the other and then close the shell. I haven’t managed to make a mistake with it yet. And the result looks great.
The only time I had a problem using this program, I was using a greater‑ than‑one‑megabyte JPEG file for a background. It didn’t crash but it didn’t print. I tried out their website support to get an answer. They answered the next day with a reasonable explanation and suggested several ways around the problem. The first one I tried worked! The user interface is so WYSIWYG that I did not look into the Help system before writing this review. The Help system is well indexed, includes tutorials, and appears to maintain the very high standards of the rest of the product.
The SureThing CD Labeler program will also produce labels for miniature
CDs, jewel cases, diskettes, audio, video and data tapes and Zip and similar
media. The product isn’t flawless. I never did get the transparency tool to
work, and the Help system insisted on frequent re‑indexing. These are only
minor inconveniences within an awesome product. If my praise for this product
seems effusive, it is intended to be so. It is a pleasure to encounter such a
well‑designed, well-implemented, and well-supported pro-duct. This
is all too rare an event.
From the August 2000 issue of HAL-PC Magazine. Fred Thorlin is a long‑term HAL‑PC member and computer industry consultant.
User Group Meeting
Six regulars entertained a guest at the August New Users Group Meeting at the Monroe Developmental Center, 630 Westfall Rd. The meeting began promptly at 6:30 with a question about the use of a flatbed scanner. After several photographs were scanned, they were manipulated with software that accompanied the scanner (thought to be Adobe Photo Deluxe).
Working with the pictures seemed to make them fuzzy. The first thought was that the resolution might have been changed. The higher the resolution, the sharper the picture but the larger the file. The Scanner might have a way of controlling the resolution through software. If the scanned file was compressed to reduce file size, as is often done with .JPG or .GIF files, picture quality would suffer.
It was recommended that the scanned file be saved with a unique file name. Subsequent work files should use the same name with an additional digit or alphabetic character to differentiate between versions. Frequent saving of working copies is highly desirable to avoid rework resulting from lost intermediate results. Bill Statt mentioned a very good paperback book on Adobe Photo Deluxe which is available at Barnes and Noble or Borders. There is one for the home or professional editions. The user was cautioned to load Adobe and check properties to determine the version number before purchasing a book.
The next question came from a Microsoft Works for Windows Ver. 2.0A user. After almost nine years of use, this software package began displaying the same several month-old document every time it was opened rather than the blank work space displayed previously. The first suggestion was to go to the file menu, select delete, and then exit. Another suggestion was to save the original document under a different title and then delete the file that was presented upon opening Works for Windows.
Experimentation showed that the Options Menus selections included "Works Settings" that opened a window allowing several choices including Units; Use Templates for; Modem Port; Dial Type; and When Starting Works. When the Use Saved Workspace check was removed, the problem was resolved.
When the question "What computer should I buy?" arises, as it did at this meeting, the answer often takes the form of a question, "What do you want to do?" Hardware and software are interdependent subdivisions in the computer world. Hardware cannot work without software and software is useless without hardware. Although the wide variety of tasks most computers can perform are controlled by the software chosen., some hardware choices allow operations to be improved.
Some operating systems tradeoffs might include varying features, robustness, projected life and ease of transition when replacement becomes necessary. For example Windows 98, which comes installed on most new machines, is thought to crash less frequently than Windows 95 and being of a later vintage should have a longer remaining life but it requires more memory and storage space for its many features and there could be learning curve for someone inexperienced with it’s use.
Applications software may also be affected by hardware choices. If the machine will be used primarily for document preparation, small data bases and spread sheets, less memory and storage space is required and machine speed is not a priority since even the long obsolete 286, could process faster than you can type. The word processor and operating system you choose could help define memory and hard disk size unless your data files are extremely large or complex or you require multitasking (the ability to work on more than one job at a time).
High speed chips; plus faster memory, hubs and buses will improve processing speed and internal data transfer rates. This is particularly useful if you are into advanced gaming or graphics manipulation, or deal with extensive interactive spread sheets or significant data bases.
Large hard disks facilitate storing big graphics files and massive software packages such as the newest games but without a partitioning strategy they increase the time required for adequate file backup and disk housekeeping such as defragmenting.
Some of these choices lead to bigger power supplies and/or greater cooling needs. While most people cannot justify the cost of uninterrupted power sources (UPS) a good surge protector is an excellent investment. Most people will turn on the machine when they start work but it should not be turned off until you are finished for the day. Short off‑on spans create problems for the hard disk and other moving parts. Be sure to disconnect the power and the phone line from wall boxes when the threat of thunderstorms looms.
As your horizons expand you may want to enjoy the ease of e‑mail or delve into the Internet. These can be accomplished on a 486 with 2 megs of memory and a 14.4K modem but they will be very slow, taxing your patience severely. Minimum memory makes it necessary to swap sections in and out. Communication links are the controlling factor regardless of the speed of your mother board chip and remember that the quoted speeds are maximums that can be reduced by line quality and number of concurrent users. Whenever you are on line, your machine is vulnerable to attack from outsiders. Virus protection and firewall software should always run simultaneously (multitasking) with the attendant need for more memory and storage space. Road Runner or Direct Subscriber Links are rated much faster than modems but make your machine more vulnerable.
If an analysis of your computing needs indicates you would be satisfied with something less than the state of the art, consider a used or rebuilt machine of older vintage. Whether buying new or used be sure to consider the possibilities of expansion. If memory can be increased does it require addition or replacement, and is the mother board affected? Many machines have restrictions on how this can be done. Can another hard drive be added? Could processing speed be improved? What peripherals can be easily added?
If money is no object buy the most advanced system you can (after checking its expansion capabilities) but remember the current TV commercial, in which a T6 is announced even as a T5 is being taken home.
The next meeting will be held Sept. 5th at the Monroe Developmental Center, 630 Westfall Rd. Come join us and bring your questions.
Machine lease $87.00
Heveron & Heveron $100.00
St. Stephens 15.00
Folding machine 87.00
Total expenses $202.00
Balance as of 8/24/00 $1,665.77
The Lighter Side
Coming Soon to the Small Screen
know it*s the silly season when two of
the summer*s savviest hits are what commercial network programmers refer to as
“reality based” TV. In CBS*s Survivor, a motley crew of modern day
shipwreck survivors are set down on an uninhabited island and the video cameras
are allowed to roll. Don*t like that crusty retired military man with the
short hair and abrupt attitude? Vote him off! Last one standing is the winner.
The same scenario plays out in another
genre show, Big Brother. The landscape has changed — BB takes
place in a sealed house instead of on a tropical isle and, thanks to the www,
the cameras are rolling 24-hours a day, seven days a week, but the “plot”
is essentially the same. If someone snores in their sleep, the TV viewing
audience is likely to say sayonara. He or she who snores least (or maybe
showers most) wins the war of attrition and picks up a million dollar paycheck
for their troubles.
If you*re wondering what the next big
summer hit will be, wonder no more: Windows: The TV Show, of course!
Here*s how it might play out on the small screen. Fifteen adults are chosen at
random from hacked Census 2000 records and flown to a secret location in Silicon
Valley. Each is assigned a cubicle. Inside each cubicle is a 19-inch monitor, a
beige box with a speedy Pentium III and spacious hard drive inside, DVD drive,
DSL modem, and a stack of shiny CDS, including the latest Microsoft operating
system, Windows ME, and MS Office. Each cubicant, or cubicle occupant, is
constantly monitored by a carefully placed video camera connected to the main
Microsoft web site. A software program monitors and records each and every keystroke
and mouse click.
The plot is this. Over the next two
weeks, each cubicant must install Windows from scratch on their own, configure
their modem, and establish an Internet connection with Microsoft*s
designated ISP, which, no surprise, is Microsoft itself. After that, they must
install the MS Office software, and then uninstall same, just to see if it can
be successfully done. Finally, all computers are required to be tied into a file
and printer-sharing network with indivi-dual password protection.
Of course, we*ll need some ground
rules, too. Each cubicant, having reached a personal impasse, will have access
to four life-lines. The first of these is the printed manual for each product,
followed by the on screen help file. The third lifeline is Microsoft*s own
tech support (phone or online). For the fourth and final lifeline, cubicants are
allowed to place a phone call to any male teenager in the country However,
these phone calls will be billed at 95 cents a minute and subtracted from the
cubicant*s final winnings, if any.
It seems only fair that the voters,
the viewing audience, that is, abide by certain rules, too. First and
foremost, cast no stone unless ye have not sinned yourself. In other words, no
points should be deducted from any cubicant*s score unless you yourself have
never taken the Lord*s name in vain while working with Windows. In short,
profanity is definitely permitted by the cubicants. It won*t help, of course,
but it is permitted.
Similarly, no cubicant should be
penalized for hurling physical objects across the room, such as keyboard, mouse,
manual, or external Zip drive, unless another innocent cubicant be actually
struck and physically harmed by same. That*s definitely a no-no. Damaging the
monitor is likewise off limits.
Also, no points shall be deducted from
any cubicant who fails to solve a problem or breach an impasse that you yourself
haven’t already resolved or breached on your own. Let us not sneer at the
discomfort of others. It*s unseemly. When it comes to Windows and
globalization, we*re all in this together, with the exception of some Mac
users and a billion Chinese, who now seem to be leaning towards Linux. Let ‘em
get their own TV show, I says.
Test audiences proved remarkably re-ceptive to the idea of Windows: The TV Show,
with one exception. This came during the final segment of the pilot, when one of
the stage crew inadvertently bumped into the ultimate survivor, dislodging a
fake, paste-on moustache and pair of Groucho glasses — thus revealing the
clean-cut visage of an embarrassed Bill Gates. A Microsoft spokesperson said
that Gates often adopted such a disguise in order to appear in public. Gates, he
added, was not trying to influence the outcome of the program, merely monitoring
its progress. “I was surprised as anyone that I won,” Gates was quoted
as saying. “Windows is a stable, robust platform that even Harry Potter should
be able to master without a magical wand. I don*t know what all the commotion is
about. The best is yet to come.”
Inside sources say that MSNBC is ready to proceed with 15 episodes, reruns to
follow in the fall. Interestingly, neither Survivor nor Big Brother originated
here. Both are borrowed from European imports. If that sounds familiar, Windows:
The TV Show should be an overwhelming success.
From the August 2000 issue of PC Alamode, the news magazine of The
Alamo PC Organization, Inc. of San Antonio, TX. Dennis Stacy is a San Antonio
writer. E-mail him at dstacy @texas.net.
Top Ten Reasons to Dread “Smart” Appliances
With plans in full swing for the appliances of tomorrow, from networked water heaters to refrigerators that order groceries, we consumers must prepare for the inevitability of these science fiction devices in our everyday lives.
But smart appliances may do more than save time. Our top ten reasons to dread them:
Your bathroom scale tells your fridge to stop ordering food.
Your smart pillow talks to your PC then
e-mails your boss that you’ve overslept again.
Not only does your stove-top grill know when your steak is cooked to your
exact specifications but a flying Windows logo is seared onto each side.
Sunglasses combine UV protection with real‑time stock quotes but
laugh maniacally when you approach margin calls.
Your dashboard computer giggles and makes jokes about your driving.
The perky “kitchen assistant,” an animated on screen spatula, keeps
calling your mobile phone to ask, “Is your refrigerator running?”
Your mailbox asks why you get so many plain brown packages.
Your lamps are so full of bright ideas you have to pay for their Mensa
Your appliances secretly open a joint bank account for kickbacks to
Microsoft coffee maker elbows other
appliances out of the way to monopolize your counter top.