The Bug Report
The only Bug thatís good for your computer!
A Publication of the Greater South Bay PC Users Group
Volume 16 Number 11
Software Library News
Digital Imaging Group (DIG) SIG
Member Want Ads
NORTON 2000 TEST-&-FIX
Confused by Graphics Formats?
Al Fasoldt Articles
The Real Problem With Windows
E-Mail Tips and Tricks You Wonít Find Elsewhere
USB Peripherals Appear
Whatís That Windows Key Good For?
By William A. Parradee, GSBUG Inc
Saving, Copying, & Printing Messages
Outlook Express comes with Internet Explorer 4. Some methods of saving and printing messages are obvious or learned by experience. Others were learned on the Internet or worked out the hard way. This article includes the usual methods as well as some that are less well known. The steps given here were used in Windows 95a.
Most of you are familiar with saving a message by choosing File, Save As, (rename if desired), Enter. Or printing the message by choosing File, Print, or by pressing Control+P. These methods include the entire message and its header. Either the mouse or keyboard may be used for most steps although in some steps I have given the keyboard method because it is shorter.
Outlook Express or a compatible viewer is needed to view files that are saved with the default extension. The default extensions on saved messages are eml (e-mail) and nws (news).
Choosing the txt extension when renaming and saving messages will allow almost any editor to view or edit them or send them to a printer. To change the extension to txt while in the Save As window, click on the small triangle at the Save As Type entry area and choose Text Files (*.txt) before completing the process. Saving with the txt extension reduces the space used by up to 40% on small messages; that may not be important, though, because most such files are much smaller than the cluster size.
The next paragraphs offer shortcuts for editing messages immediately, for printing part of a message with or without its headers, and for saving part of a message without its headers. It is assumed the message is open for viewing in Outlook Express during the following steps. See Note 1 for an exception to the assumption that editors are Windows-based; Notepad or Word, for example.
To copy an e-mail or news message with its header into an editor, press Control+F3, Control+A, and Control+C. Start an editor (or move the mouse pointer into one that is already open). Put the cursor in the desired part of the text area and press Comtrol+V. You can view or edit the message before saving or printing it. See Note 2.
To save or print a full message without its header, use Control+A, Control+C. Start or move into an editor. Press Control+V. Now the message can be edited, saved, or printed by the usual methods for that editor.
To save or print part of a message without its header, use the mouse to highlight the desired portion and press Control+C. Put the cursor into the desired editor and press Control+V. Edit the material if desired, then name and save it. Or send it to the printer.
To print part of a message with its full header, highlight the wanted part with a mouse and press Control+P. A window will open that allows three choices: All, Pages From: To:, or Selection. Choose Selection and press Enter. On multiple page messages you can, of course, choose Pages and enter the first and last page to print. But how you know what is on which pages, I do not know.
Note 1: A message, or part of it, can be copied into many MS-DOS based editors running under Windows 95 with extra steps. After a message or part of it has been prepared for copying using one of the methods above that end with a Control+C, start the MS-DOS based editor or switch to it. (If the window frame is not showing while using the editor, press Alt+Enter.) Click on the MS-DOS logo in the upper left corner of the window and select Mark, Paste. Or, if the toolbar has a Paste logo, click on it. The Paste logo appears as a small clipboard with a tiny piece of paper on it.
Note 2: This method can also be used to copy an existing message into a new message that is being composed. This may be needed because some e-mail systems (Juno's free service for example) do not allow attachments; but a better way for that is to choose the forward option unless comments need to be added.
Note 3: More than one message, with or without headers, or parts of messages can be combined into a single text file. Use methods given above to place each message in turn into the editor. Be sure the cursor is in the proper location before adding each saved message. The combined file can be edited, saved, or printed as desired. Or even put into a new message to be sent.
Note 4: My Bits and Bytes of Info article in the May 1998 issue of The Bug Report has details of methods that can be used to combine several unopened messages into a single file.
By Virginia Pfiffner, GSBUG
The Christmas Party will be held on December 10th from 7-9:30pm. Weíre planning to have food and soft drinks through the efforts of many members, including YOU! There will be sign up sheets at the November meeting for any special gastronomical item you would like to donate. Remember, if your spouse or friend helps with the food, be sure and bring them along to enjoy the festivities.
Weíre also going to have a silent auction where each member can bid on the items that other members have donated to the cause. Forms for the silent auction will be available at the November meeting - these forms include a description of the item and the donor, a minimum bid, and lines for bidders and amounts.
We will have a drawing for door prizes. Bring friends and prospective members for a festive evening with lots of socializing and good eats!
Software Library News
By Bob Hudak
What's new? I was listening to what some of the members had to say about new things. Bill Champlin came up with two tips on getting a cheap or FREE internet connection. The word FREE was the one that made me listen up.
NETZERO is the name of the program and firm that is providing the software. It works like Juno in that they bring advertising to you on your screen when you are using it. You need Win 95. NetZero provides free Internet access and e-mail to its subscribers. Whenever you dial-up and connect to the Internet through NetZero, an AdVantage(tm) ad window is displayed. This window displays ads and promotions that are targeted to each user. To subscribe to the service, users need to answer around 15 questions about their interests, demographic data, and other personal information. When a user logs on to the web, a 1-by-3.5-inch personalized banner advertisement opens on the screen. It can be moved around, but not closed or reduced.
I have the software in the library on three disks. A special price of $5.00 will get you going. This is the latest copy of the software, only a week old. Several members have tried to install it with no luck and then others installed it with no problems. NetZero has support if you need it. Remember it is FREE so it is worth a little time to set it up right. I believe you will also have support from some of our members that have it working. I am trying to get it to work on the club computer. Had to install a modem and the next step will be to check if the modem is working. "A step at a time" is the way to go.
When I downloaded the program, it was one file that was 3.1 MB in size. Looking at how to put it on floppies, I decided to use SPLIT. It is also in the library.
What is SPLIT: A high-speed, low-drag file splitter. Does not need any other file to rejoin the split files, just use the batch file generated by the program.
Why use SPLIT:
1. To transport a large file that will not fit in a floppy disk to another computer.
2. To e-mail another person a large file. The reason for this is that ISPs do not allow for an e-mail attachment that is bigger than 1 megabyte.
What are the system requirements for SPLIT:
1. Any IBM PC compatible system.
2. DOS 3.3 and above. Also compatible with Windows 95.
3. At least 128 KB of memory.
What are SPLITís features:
1. Extensive help and examples. Just type ĎSPLITí to get help.
2. Able to split a file by number of partitions or partition size.
3. The program will create a batch file for the user to rejoin all the split files.
And a whole list of other features. You need this one in your bag of tricks.
John Sellers said that Juno now has expanded service. You can sign up for Juno Gold for $2.95 a month which will give you the ability to send and receive file attachments, such as pictures or formatted word processor documents. You can download a copy of the new required program, have it sent to you for $8.82, or you can get a copy from the library.
As you know the club receives software for review from different vendors. They expect to see a review printed in our newsletter. A new policy has been put into effect by the GSBUG Board. If you write a review that is done on time and is acceptable by me for printing in our newsletter, you get to keep the program if you wish. If it is something you feel you are not going to use, you of course can return it and we will offer it to someone else or use it for a door prize. Another great feature of being a member of the BEST computer group in the South Bay!
Bill Champlin reports that MicroTimes is no longer being delivered him. But their distribution does include several locations that may be convenient to club members:
4848 W.190th St., Torrance
1820 W. 182nd St., Torrance
2515 Torrance Bl., Torrance
110 E. Carson St, Carson
5750 Mesmer Ave., Culver City
14401 Inglewood Ave., Hawthorne
2130 PCH., Lomita
2400 Sepulveda Bl.., Manhattan
2115 Artesia Bl., Redondo
615 N. PCH, Redondo
1516 S. PCH, Redondo
1636 W. 25th St, San Pedro
1222 N. Avalon, Wilmington
Advanced Computer & Technology
2401 208th Street, #10 (at Crenshaw)
20016 Hawthorne Blvd., Unit A
Digital Imaging Group (DIG) SIG
By Martine Alter, GSBUG
10 people attended 10/06/98
1. Have you noticed that the color images from your printer do not match the image on the monitor? We did, and discussed monitor vs. printer resolution. The printer hardware mode is lpi where more lines = less shades, higher resolution = lower number of colors, and the dot is a solid color (for example, itís either red or not red). The monitor software mode is dpi where there are 256 colors, the colors have intensity, and the point (pixel) is shaded (the red can range from pink to burgundy). .A typical monitor resolution is 72 dpi (some are 92 dpi). The monitor is proportional to the printer output. Conclusion: Set monitor resolution value to 2 x screen frequency of the output device. For web use, 70 dpi is enough.
2. Learned that photos are limited to 200 dpi by the photos. Negatives have 2000 dpi, but are limited by the output device dpi.
3. Learned that it is best to scan images at the hardware output level, and to make the image smaller before (rather than after) you scan it.
4. Learned that dithering is the ability of software to blur dots to merge edges and fool the eye.
5. Learned that gamma changes the colors on a monitor to calibrate to a (registered) printer output. Not all printers, however, are registered. It is a refinement of the brightness control for the range of red, green & blue.
6. Learned that gamut is the range of red, green & blue in 3-D space which can also be matched to a registered output device.
7. Learned that Intellhance by Extensis is software that changes the looks of an image automatically. It is an Adobe plug-in and is 1 of 3 tools in a suite.
8. Had a demonstration of the clubís recently purchased Panasonic LCD projector (model PT-L592U). This device projects the PC screen onto the wall and relieves bent necks.
9. Started learning Photoshop 5 software by Adobe. We are using Sams Teach Yourself Photoshop 5 in 24 hours ($16 at CompUSA). Each week we will study 2-3 chapters in this 24 chapter book.
Hour 1 - Basics
a. Toolbox - tools for selecting painting brushes, views, and special (add type, background color).
b. Menu - contains commands to open and manipulate image.
c. Windows - shows or hides command buttons.
d. Setting Preferences - Customize task settings.
10 people attended 10/13/98
Continued learning Sams Teach Yourself Photoshop 5 in 24 hours.
Hour 2 - Opening and Saving
a. Opening and Importing - open files in many formats or ones that use plug-in modules (twain).
b. Saving - how to save your work by reducing file size and choosing a format. It is important to save in the Photoshop format (.psd) because it saves all your layers of work rather than merging into one layer.
c. Undo and Redo - unlimited undo via the history palette. This is the biggest single improvement to version 5.
Hour 3 - Selection Modes
a. Tools - various shaped image grabbers.
b. Selection - adds commands to tools like feathered edges, borders, and edge resizing.
c. Cut and Copy - adds additional image pieces to main image.
d. Cropping - cuts off part of image.
12 people attended 10/20/98
1. Continued learning Sams Teach Yourself Photoshop 5 in 24 hours.
Hour 4 - Transformations
a. Resizing - resizes entire image or the canvas ( the picture area).
b. Rotating - Rotate image and crop to straighten up.
c. Flipping - use for multi images on folded paper (like an invitation).
d. Skewing and Distorting - use to unskew distortions in an image.
Hour 5 - Color Modes and Models
a. Color modes - Methods of working with color based on the color models.
b. Color models - Methods of defining color.
2. Discussed the various color models. The RGB (red, green, blue) model has bright colors. The CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) model has more color hues. The HSB (hue, saturation, brightness) model has no direct corresponding mode and is used by artists. The CIE Lab model has a broad gamut.
3. Discussed various color modes. The Bitmap mode (black and white) is used for line drawings. The Grayscale (256 shades of gray) mode is used for more definition. The RGB mode is used by monitors and scanners. The Indexed color mode is used by web designers. The CMYK mode is slower (uses more cpu) and is used by your printer.
4. Learned that you need to calibrate your printer to your monitor so that the colors you see on your monitor are close to the colors that the printer can print. The Adobe Photoshop 5 software has a list of monitors that it can calibrate.
5. Learned that you should convert from the RGB color model to the CMYK color model just before you print. Once you convert to CMYK, you can not convert back (the color data is lost).
6. Learned that orange is the hardest color to convert and is a good color on which to test your changes.
No meeting 10/27/98.
Member Want Ads
Looking for a YZ Plotter for sign making. Contact: george medinilla at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Frank Chao, GSBUG, Inc.
Hello. This is the fourth in a series of articles about matters pertaining to the Internet. These articles are based on the ideas and questions that GSBUG members send me, so please contact me by means of any of the methods listed at the end of this article.
Low Cost and Free Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
I and Herman Krouse, the hardworking Webmaster and Vice President of our club, continue to recommend the Los Angeles Free-Net as a quality, low-cost Internet Service Provider (ISP). This fine system has been around since the spring of 1994. Contact either me or Herman if you need help using this system.
However, we are entering an exciting era of free and cheap Internet access. If you find an ISP that is totally free, I strongly recommend that you try it out in order to learn about it. The price is right! You have nothing to lose but plenty to gain. (Editorís Comment: See Bob Hudakís Software Library column regarding NetZero.)
Participate in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI):
While looking at http://kfwb.com, I found a hyperlink entitled "Join the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" which is located at http://planetary.org/news/SETIatHome-Form.html
At this site, you can sign up to participate in "SETI@home". Participants will download a special screen saver program that knows how to communicate over the Internet with data from the huge radio telescope dishes that scan the universe for signals from possible extraterrestrial civilizations. This special screen saver then uses your computer to analyze this data for possible signs of signals from other life forms.
Another Internet Seminar Offered by the Los Angeles Free-Net:
The Los Angeles Free-Net (LAFN), will host another free seminar on Internet access. The public is invited. It will be similar to the seminar that was held in September. However, the subject matter in the second half of the seminar is created "on the fly" by the participation that we get from the audience, so no two of these sessions will cover the exact same material. The agenda and lecture notes for this seminar are located at http://www.lafn.org/webconnect/pp112298.htm This Web page and all of the Web pages that are hyperlinked to this page will be provided in paper format to all seminar participants.
Date: Sunday, November 22, 1998
Time: 1:00 pm to 3:30pm
Location: Tarzana Regional Medical Center, 18321 Clark Street , Tarzana, CA in the Womenís Pavilion auditorium (Follow the paper signs.)
Directions: Clark Street is one block south of Burbank Blvd. and one block north of Ventura Blvd. The hospital is in the middle of the block between Reseda Blvd. on the west and Etiwanda Ave. on the east. From the Reseda Blvd. off-ramp of the Ventura (101) Freeway, go south (toward Ventura Blvd.), drive past/through Burbank Blvd., then turn left at Clark Street. Proceed 1/2 long block past Gelson's Market (on the right/south side of Clark Street) and then the hospital will be on the left/north side of Clark Street. Park in the multi-story parking structure. There is no charge for parking. The Women's Pavilion is just east of the parking structure.
A Review of Basics
Your computer can connect to the Internet in two modes: The first mode is a "Point-to-Point Protocol" ("PPP") connection. And the other mode is "dumb text terminal emulation".
"PPP" is the mode that lets you run a "graphical Web browser" such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. It is the more technically advanced and complex mode. It is the kind of connection that you make when you use Windows 95 or 98ís "Dial Up Networking".
"Dumb text terminal emulation" is what you do when you connect to most "BBS" systems. It is what happens when you connect by dialing up with "Procomm for DOS", Windows 3.1ís "Terminal", or Windows 95 or 98ís "Hyperterminal".
Now here is where things get a bit complicated: If you connect to your ISP by means of PPP, you can then run something called "telnet" to make a "dumb text terminal emulation" connection to many servers on the Internet.
As an example, the specific instructions on doing the above-mentioned things on LA Free-Net are located at http://www.lafn.org/webconnect/wc_help.htm
Free Personal Home Pages on the Internet
Last month, I mentioned that you can "publish" your personal home page as a Web page for free at the following locations:
During the month, I found an additional free place for publishing home pages: http://www.angelfire.com/
If you want to see how my personal home page looks at the various freebie sites, here are the locations:
Each site has itís pros and cons. And each site appears to have plenty of "takers". I guess that the price is right here also.
If any club members are interested in some hands on help with publishing a personal home page at any of these sites, letís do it at a SIG meeting or two. When you publish a Web page on the Internet, it is your golden opportunity to tell the world something. For me, it is a chance to do a little bit of community service work. I maintain a Web site with links to information of use to people with disabilities. This site is located at: http://www.lafn.org/medical/special_needs/
Send Us Your Comments and Suggestions:
In closing, let me know if you have any questions or problems with your Internet access, especially if you are a member of LAFN, and I will either help you out or find someone that can. I can be reached in several ways:
1. Page me by phoning 800-516-3104 and leaving a voice message.
2. Send me e-mail at email@example.com
3. Send me "snail" United States Postal Service mail at Frank Chao, P.O. Box 2548, El Segundo, CA 90245-2548
Hope to hear from a lot of you soon. Hope you are enjoying your Internet connection.!
NORTON 2000 TEST-&-FIX
By E-Mail from Cap Kierulff
LA Computer Society
Y2K test&fix for "Desktop PCs". Download it from the home-page at www.symantec.com/sabu/n2000. I did. My older PC "FAILED" the test & was "FIXED" BY installing THE fix. My newer PC "PASSED" the test so I did NOT install the FIX. IT'S FREE! You just have to download it & follow (exactly) the "READMEs". NORTON 2000 TEST-&-FIX FREE at www.symantec.com/sabu/n2000. The self-extracting-EXE-file is 1.3 MB
Confused by Graphics Formats?
Here Are Some Basic Answers
By Ken Fermoyle, TUG-NET
Reprinted from the web
Judging by questions Iím asked regularly, many computer users donít really understand the differences between vector (or object-oriented) products of graphics draw programs and bit-mapped (raster) images produced by paint programs. The differences are significant, and knowledge of what they are will help you choose the best tool for a given graphics task. First, a few basic definitions are in order.
Draw programs use mathematical expressions to create objects (lines, curves, circles, squares, etc.) that make up the drawing. Paint programs create an image dot by dot, by turning the pixels that represent each dot on or off. When you draw a line in a program such as Corel Draw, for example, you create a mathematical formula that describes that line and its location. When you draw a line in any paint program, you create a series of dots that make up the line. A third category, metafiles, can combine draw (or vector) and paint (or bit-mapped) characteristics.
Each method has advantages and disadvantages. Draw images are resolution-independent; because of the way they are described, objects will be printed at the resolution of the output device, be it 300-dpi (dots per inch) laser printer or a 1270-dpi imagesetter. Moreover, they can be made smaller or larger without affecting their quality and sharpness.
Paint images are created at a given resolution, which canít be changed. So an image created at 72- or 300-dpi will print only at that resolution even if the output device is capable of 1270-dpi or more. Nor can they be made much larger or smaller than originally painted. Blow them up much and paint images become coarse, with obvious "jaggies." Reduce them significantly and the dots merge, making the image muddy and indistinct.
Paint image file sizes tend to be much larger than draw image files, though introduction of compressed image formats such as JPEG and GIF in recent years has reduced this imbalance to some degree. To illustrate the size differences, I saved an identical piece of art in several formats; here are their respective sizes: CGM, 20KB; JPEG, 45KB; TIFF, 46KB; BMP 8,974KB! CGM (Computer Graphic Metafile) is a draw or vector format; the others are bit-mapped formats. (BMP files, incidentally are intended to be viewed on a monitor, in Windows, not printed.)
Metafile formats such as CGM, WMF, EPS and PostScript basically use draw techniques to create images, but bit-mapped fills can be added to add richness. Programs like Corel Draw and Xara or Adobe Illustrator allow image layering to produce illustration-quality images.
All this made it a no-brainer for desktop publishers to select draw art whenever possible, especially back in the 1980s when much of the paint clip art available was in PCX, native format of Zsoftís PC Paintbrush. It usually was quite low in resolution: 150 and even 72 dpi (the latter to match screen resolution). Many of us preferred the CGM format or, if using a PostScript device, EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) or PostScript graphics-native or proprietary format of Adobe Illustrator, first of the high-end illustration graphics programs.
When scanners began gaining popularity, the TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) bit-mapped format developed by Aldus, Microsoft and others specifically for capturing scanned images, was used widely. Digital cameras will further popularize bit-mapped formats, and we can only hope that a standard will emerge from the many proprietary formats now used.
Biggest boost to bit-mapped graphics, however, has been the World Wide Web, which requires bit-mapped images, usually .JPG (short for JPEG, Joint Photographic Experts Group) or .GIF (Graphics Interchange Format). Both formats greatly compress the size of bit-mapped files; .JPG files may be 20 times smaller than the original image, but images may lose something in the translation.
Graphics professionals may argue that this information is too simplistic, but space is limited and I believe it does cover the basics. Perhaps this would be an apt subject for a future SIM night; several members with wide graphics experience could provide more detailed insight into different facets of computer graphics. Iím certain that the DTP SIG will devote time to the subject in future meetings.
Ken Fermoyle has written some 2,500 articles for publications ranging from Playboy and Popular Science to MacWeek, Microtimes & PC Laptop. He was cohost/producer of radio talk show on computers and a partner in a DTP service bureau during the Ď80s. Fermoyle Publications currently offers editorial, consulting & graphics design services.
Al Fasoldt Articles
Editorís Note: The following two articles were submitted by our Windows 95 Intermediate SIG leader, John Sullivan, who obtained permission from the author to reprint them. The author maintains a web site containing his articles at: http://www.dreamscape.com/afasoldt/current.html where you will be able to obtain next weekís sequel.
The Real Problem With Windows
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
Technofile for Nov. 1, 1998
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998
The Syracuse Newspapers
What's wrong with Windows? The answer might surprise you. Windows has a lot of faults and foibles, and you can't work with a PC running Windows for more than a few minutes without running into some of them.
But these quirks and oddities in the way Windows behaves - traits I've described in dozens of articles - aren't what's wrong with Windows. They're just evidence of sloppy programming or unfinished design.
What's wrong with Windows is a deeper problem, one that can't be fixed without a complete change in the way the Windows operating system is engineered. It can be alleviated, (and next week I'll tell you how), but it can't be fixed.
In their private discussions, many of Microsoft's chief programmers know about this singular failing, and they also know they need to redesign Windows to get around it. Whether they can get their bosses at the world's largest software company to approve those changes is not certain. Windows is wildly successful despite this major flaw, and Microsoft can hardly be expected to fix something that most users don't think is broken.
But Windows is broken, in a very big way. The problem can be stated simply: Adding new programs to your Windows 95 or Windows 98 PC inevitably corrupts the operating system. It can happen almost immediately or it can take many months.
When this occurs, some programs won't run right and others won't run at all. Eventually, Windows itself fails to run. The term for what happens is perfectly descriptive: Windows crashes.
How this happens is easy to explain. You'll need some background first.
Programs that run under Windows usually need to ask Windows for help doing certain things. A program that wants to show a message on your screen, for example, would use a common support file that shows messages. A program that needs to connect to the Internet would use another common support file to do that.
These supporting files come in different forms. The most common is the Dynamically Linked Library, or DLL. The idea would seem to be sound: Common support files let Windows programmers write their software without having to reinvent everything that goes on.
But in fact the idea is fatally flawed. Nothing stops a programmer from creating an improved DLL, one that does its job faster or with less fuss, and nothing stops a programmer from messing up a DLL and calling it "improved." In either case, other programs that use the same DLL may not be able to run with the changed version. The other programs could refuse to run or they could simply crash - or cause Windows to crash.
Add this up over many months of use, scores of newly installed programs and hundreds upon hundreds of DLLs in a typical Windows PC and you have the makings of a disaster. No other device commonly used in daily life behaves like a Windows PC. Only Windows is guaranteed to stop working if you keep using it the way it was designed to be used, as a platform for running a variety of Windows programs. The more
programs you install, the quicker the inevitable end.
This may sound like sour grapes. I've had too many crashes, installed too many programs, tried out too many oddball games I found on the Internet, and now I'm ticked off because my computer crashes. All of that is untrue. I'm very cautious and only install software when I know as much as possible about it beforehand. I seldom play games or entertainment programs on my main PC.
What I'm guilty of is the same thing you are. We have let Microsoft get away with robbery. It has robbed us of our time and productivity, taken away our sleep, stolen our Saturday afternoons, pulled thousands of corporate systems managers away from real work and forced them to find ways to keep their PCs operating.
This has happened not because of chance - because two programs that need to use the same DLL have installed incompatible versions of that file - but because of design. Windows encourages this kind of risk-taking. Windows invites its own disaster by the way it has been engineered.
Until Microsoft fixes Windows or another company creates an operating system better than Windows that will run Windows programs, our only recourse is self-defense. I'll tell you how to do that next week.
E-Mail Tips and Tricks You Wonít Find Elsewhere
Bit Player for xx, 1998
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
I've never come across an e-mail program that gave me a fighting chance.All of them assume the wrong thing - that I don't want to know how some features work because I'm too dumb or too busy, or that I already know how they work so I don't need any additional information.
Phooey. Like you, I end up learning by trial and error. And that means a LOT of error and a very trying time. Some of what I've learned probably seems obvious to many of you, but I'll bet I can still come up with a couple of tricks you've never heard about.
Let's start with your e-mail address. Do you know what it is?
Not so fast, bud. Do the world a favor and send yourself a letter. It doesn't have to be fancy - "You deserve a raise" would be enough for the content - but it does have to have your address as the destination.
When it arrives, take a good luck at it. Is it from you?
No, I'm not kidding. I get mail all the time from "firstname.lastname@example.org" and "Your name here." (Those folks really get around.) When I see that, I know that the e-mail writer forgot to set up the mail program properly. You have to do it yourself. You have to type in the name that will show up at the top of letters you send.
So check the mail you sent yourself. Make sure the letter says it's from you and not from "Fill in your name here."
How about all the fancy backgrounds and typefaces you use in your letters? If you're using Outlook Express or another up-to-date mail program, you can send mail that looks dreamy or dreary, full of big and small type and pictures. It's your choice.
But what will the people who get your mail see?
Glump! Send mail like that to an AOL user and you might as well have saved yourself the trouble. All that AOL folks see is the text, without your fancy type and backgrounds. Send it to anyone who's using a Mac and you're almost guaranteed to get the same deadly-dull result. Send it to anyone who has an
old mail program and there's no contest: Do not pass Go. Skip the $200. And watch your mail get mauled in the process.
So think twice before you slave over the look and feel of your letters. Just write a normal note and send it off. Forget the decorations.
What about those neat little photos you created with your Boxomatic Software Picture Stitcher of all the family at Verona Beach? Send them to all the relatives by e-mail, right?
Hold it, pal. Image formats make up the last refuge of babbling idiots. The people you send the pictures to won't be able to make sense out of them unless they're stored in a standard image format. And I've seen dozens upon dozens of oddball programs that store their images in everything but.
Bitmaps (BMP files) are always safe for Windows users. JPEGs (JPG files) are, too, now that everyone seems to have a Web browser; browsers can show JPEGs very nicely. (You just drag the icon of the JPEG image onto the browser and let it go.) But BMPs are often huge files, so don't even think of sending them by e-mail unless you have a cable Internet connection. Send JPEGs instead. (If your software won't save the images as JPEGs, don't mail them to anyone else unless the recipients have the same software.)
And how about those letters you've been getting from Bill Gates or Bill Clinton? The ones you send on to me and a dozen others every time they arrive? Yessir, yes maíam, those two Bills just sit around all day looking for things to do, so they write to a couple of million people every few days asking for help, for money, for you to send more chain letters, all that kind of thing.
Want to know what to do with letters like that? How fast can you say "Delete key"? They're hoaxes. Please, ever-so-sincerely-please believe me; they're hoaxes. As are ALL of the virus warnings you get in the mail. No one sends out real virus warnings to strangers by mail.
USB Peripherals Appear
By Vade Forrester
Reprinted from PC Alamode, 9/98
Computer industry prophets forecasted that Windows 98, with its native support for universal serial bus (USB) connections, would spur a deluge of USB peripherals in the marketplace. And for once, it looks like those prophets may be right. This column will discuss USB devices available locally. But before we go further, let's review what USB is and why you should care.
The universal serial bus, or USB, is a medium-speed circuit, that makes it easy to connect external devices to your computer. All you have to do is plug a USB device into your computer and Windows 98 stops, recognizes the device, installs a driver if necessary, and you're off and running with the new device. You shouldn't even have to turn off your computer! The USB is fairly high speed: about 12 megabits per second, considerably faster than conventional serial and parallel ports. USB connectors have been included on most desktop computers manufactured in the last year, and many laptop computers have them as well. If you are in the market for a new computer, either desktop or laptop, make sure it has USB connectors.
USB can provide power for a peripheral through the connecting cable. That means if you want to connect a USB scanner to a laptop computer, for example, you don't even have to plug it into a power supply: the laptop battery or power supply would power the scanner. Of course, that would probably drain the laptop battery pretty fast.
The USB can handle up to 127 devices, and you can daisy-chain the connections to make more connectors available. But all those devices share the same 12 megabits per second bandwidth, so if you try to operate several bandwidth-hungry gadgets simultaneously, they will still be slow. But you probably wouldn't do that.
Desktop computers typically have two USB connections, or ports, while smaller laptops usually only have room for one. Desktop computer USB connectors are usually on the back of the computer, like all the other ports. That's not very convenient; a front-panel location would be easier to reach.
What types of gadgets would benefit from USB connections? Equipment that needs to send or receive lots of data from your computer, like digital cameras, scanners, external tape or removable disk drives, TV cameras, speakers, DVD drives, recordable CD-ROM drives, cable modems, network connections - anything that needs an easily accessible high speed data path to the computer.
Although the number of available USB gadgets doesn't yet qualify as a true deluge, a lot are already available, with more to come. Some make sense; others don't. One of the more sensible applications of USB is scanners. Scanners produce large amounts of data and need to pipe that data into your computer where you can save it as a file or modify it with touch-up software. Low-priced external scanners have traditionally use the parallel printer port to connect to the computer, while higher-speed scanners used a high-speed SCSI connection to pump the large data stream into the computer. The USB will provide a great improvement in connecting scanners, since the speed of the circuit is more than twice as fast as a parallel port, and the connector can be plugged in while the computer is running. I have seen the following USB scanners at CompUSA: UMAX Astra 1220U, LogiTech PageScan, Storm PageScan (the last two are sheetfed scanners that look identical except for color) Storm EasyPhoto, and the Visioneer PaperPort 3100. The most expensive of these is the UMAX model, but it only costs $180.
Another application of USB is for computer sound systems. With the proper speakers, you donít even need a sound card to play sounds! Not just any speaker will work; they must provide a digital-to-analog (D/A) conversion of the digital audio stream inside the speaker, but already Altec-Lansing and Philips make USB speakers which do that. I havenít yet heard them or seen any reports on the quality of their sound or ease of use. But in theory, eliminating the sound card from your computer will free up resources and remove one of the most troublesome devices from your computer. And it should be cheaper; inexpensive D/A chips are plentiful in the audio industry. Higher fidelity should be possible by using more advanced D/A chips on the market.
I havenít see any digital cameras with USB connections yet, but that would be a logical application. Digital images are large and the serial port connections used by most digital cameras is even slower than parallel ports.
Microsoft offers a USB joystick, the SideWinder Precision Pro. Installing several of these joysticks allows you to play multi-user games.
Other uses of USB make less sense. For example, I added a Microsoft USB keyboard to my computer. It worked as advertised, even to the extent of letting me operate both the standard keyboard and the USB keyboard at the same time. But there were certain anomalies: the computer didn't recognize that a keyboard was available and didn't activate the numeric keypad when the computer booted up. And I couldn't get to the CMOS setup by pressing the Delete key, since the computer thought I didn't have a keyboard. I finally decided that the conventional keyboard connection was preferable to the USB connection and switched. Fortunately, Microsoft provided an adapter for the USB connection, so I just removed that and plugged the keyboard into the standard connector in the back of the computer. Microsoft also offers a USB mouse, but since computers already offer PS/2 mouse ports which are detected by the BIOS chip, using a USB connection for your primary mouse doesn't make sense.
A visit to some of the local computer stores (CompUSA and Computer City) revealed that USB accessories are already available. These include USB hubs, which expand the number of USB ports available, and locate USB connectors where they are more accessible, like on your desktop. After all, it's still inconvenient to plug something into the back of your computer. Prices for USB hubs range from $70-$100. All of these hubs added four additional USB ports and included a power supply so the computer didn't have to provide power to the USB. That's particularly valuable for use with a laptop computer.
If your computer doesn't have USB ports installed, a company called ADS offers USB expanders for both desktop computers and laptop computers. The desktop computer model uses an interface card that plugs into a PCI slot. The laptop model uses a Type II Card Bus Slot. Both add two ports. The laptop model could be useful even if your laptop already has a USB port, if you need to attach more than one device.
There were also a reasonable assortment of USB connecting cables and adapters. Adapters let you plug devices like printers into the USB instead of the normal parallel port. They seem rather expensive (a parallel-to-USB adapter cable costs $70), but I expect prices to drop once the new wears off.
In the USB pipeline
A product called EZLink will let you use USB ports to make a network. Capitalizing on the high-speed USB connections, EZLink Instant Network was supposed to ship in August. You won't need to buy network cards to connect computers, just the EZLink connecting cable. This will be a great way to connect desktop and laptop computers. Estimated price is under $100.
Iomega has announced a USB Zip drive which will be available by the end of the year, with a list price of $149. That should be very useful for laptops, where the parallel port connection is the normal way to connect a Zip drive. I hope other manufacturers of removable drives like SyQuest follow suit.
The availability of USB devices is encouraging. The next time you purchase a new computer accessory, look for a USB model.
Whatís That Windows Key Good For?
By Beverly Kurtin
Reprinted from North Texas PC News, June 98
Do you have a Windows compatible keyboard? You can tell by just looking at your keyboard. If you have a "flying windows" key between your Control and Alt keys, you have one.
But are the keys good for anything other than just popping up the Start menu? You betcha. Whole bunches of things.
Let's say that you've got four or five applications open and you want to get back to your desktop in a hurry. Press the Windows key (I'll call it the WinKey for the rest of this article) and the letter "M," and in an instant, you're on the desktop.
Want to go back to the last application in which you were working? Press Shift + WinKey + M. Ta-daa, you're there!
An alternative is to press the key combo WinKey + D. That is a toggle which will take you to the desktop, pressing the combination a second time takes you back to the application in which you were working. Need the Accessibility Properties box? Just press WinKey + A. WinKey + B takes you to Exploring My Computer, WinKey + F opens the Find dialog box.
WinKey + P allows you to see your printer setup, and WinKey + R brings up the Run dialog box. Finally WinKey + F opens Windows Help.
So what about that odd-looking key on the right side of the keyboard, just to the left of the Control key? That's the context menu key. Try pressing your left mouse button. Now press the menu key. Same menu, just a little easier for those of us who like to use keyboard strokes instead of reaching over for the mouse.
Not all of these keyboard combinations may work with all EOM versions of Windows 95. As you're no doubt aware, each computer manufacturer messes around with Windows a bit. This group of keys was tested with a Packard Bell Platinum 4500.
If you happen to use Internet Explorer 4.x, try pressing the WinKey + R. When the Run dialog box appears just type www.whatever.com, press Enter, and IE will launch with that site as its opening page.