The Bug Report

The only Bug that's good for your computer!
A Publication of the Greater South Bay PC Users Group
Volume 17 Number 11
November 1999


Christmas Party December 8

PC Wizard:

Attention all GS-BUG members

From the Editor

Internet Talk

Free Wordprocessor, Free Spreadsheet, Free Database

Spell Catcher

Scanning Basics

Selecting a Digital Camera 

FreePing by Simac Software

Bob Click's December 1999 Deals Column 

The Internet Zone    





Christmas Party December 8



GSBug’s holiday party will be held at 6 pm on Wednesday, December 8 at the Torrance Scout Center. Be sure to contact Virginia Pfiffner or Dixie Rasmussen at today’s meeting or by phone to sign up to bring snacks and goodies.  


We will have the silent auction where members bring the hardware and software that they no longer use and wish to remove from their inventory.  Emmet Ingram will get a fire started in the fireplace and we will have poinsettias to set the mood - they will also be added to the many door prizes at the end of the meeting. 


Bring your friends and your contributions to the silent auction and let’s get into the holiday spirit.




PC Wizard:

By Dr. John Hanson, GSBUG, Inc.


Look for visitors?

 It is very important to make visitors feel welcome.  That is one of  my jobs but I need your help.  When you spot a visitor, introduce yourself and make them feel welcome and give them a newsletter.   

When  you can, bring them over to me and  introduce them to me.  I will take over and find out about their interests and try to introduce them to members with similar interests.   If you have time, you can do the same, as I need all the help I can get.  Be sure that we get their name and address so Keith can send them the following month's newsletter to entice them to join. 

John Sullivan noticed that some visitors were left to wander around and wrote a nice letter to the board offering suggestions.  The  reason  I need your help is that sometimes I miss some or arrive late, so please pitch in. 

How do others use computers? 

My auto mechanic at the NE corner of Marine and Inglewood is quite reliable and efficient.  About a year ago, I saw him  drill­ing holes and fishing wires through them for a new computer system.  Recently I had time to see how it worked out when I noticed the marvelous invoices he was printing out compared to the unreadable ones in past years.  He has worked out a program so efficient he now  sells it complete to other auto mechanics for only $3,000.  What a bargain, as he has done all the hard work.  If they need  a computer,  he can provide that also so the client gets a complete working system.

 Now, when any customer comes in, they just explain the prob­lem and leave their car with no papers to fill out  with your phone number, etc.  He looks at the first three letters of  your license  plate, and zap, you come up on a list.  In my case  three cars showed up with one coming in highlighted.  He can then see all about the history of repairs done on my car and what things might need to be checked besides my main  problem. From  a complete list of things cars need, he just clicks what is  needed on my car and it comes up on the screen ready for printout.  It is nice to have a mechanic who is computer literate since our cars have so many computers in them. 

How many free IRQs do you have? 

Those  who  attend John Sullivan's popular  Win 98  SIG probably  know  as well as those who attend the Hardware  or  DIG SIGs.  For Windows 98 try this:  Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Information.  Click Hardware Resources and then IRQs.  For more details on this and for Windows 95 see page 284 in the Nov 99 issue of PC World.  It tells how to solve IRQ problems when installing new hardware.


Attention all GS-BUG members

By Keith Decker, GSBUG, Inc.

Membership Chairman


We are trying to update our files and suspect we may not have your curent E-mail address. If you have changed your E-mail address during the past year, and have not given us your latest address, please either send us your latest, or drop by the membership table at a general meeting and give us an update.

Why not bring a friend to a general meeting and introduce him or her to our club.  (If you sign up a new member, you are eligible for a four month credit toward your next dues).  If you need membership application forms, they are available at the membership table at general meetings.


From the Editor

By Liz Orban, GSBUG, Inc.




Photos, Photos, and More Photos

Last week was the second time I attended Comdex and the APCUG sponsored activities.  When I attended two years ago, I noticed numerous programs to put pictures or movies in your e-mails.  This year, several companies are offering FREE online photo albums, complete with e-mail notification to your friends. 

 First, you need to get your photos into digital format using a scanner, digital camera or have the film developed into a Kodak photo CD.  Your photos are stored in space on the participating company’s web server.  You load your photos from a web page or using a free downloaded program.  In some cases, you can even stitch pictures together to make panoramas. 

 At APCUG’s presentations at Comdex, Adobe, MGI, Corel and Microsoft all demonstrated online photo services.  Check out some of these websites:



Prior to Comdex, I received a postcard from Be asking me to visit their booth and download a free evaluation copy of their software from the web.  I thought about the time I would need to learn a new operating system, and decided to see their demos but probably not go further.  I remembered that Rich Bulow had written two reviews saying Be was easy.  He also praised the book, The BeOS Bible, but I figured Rich had more time and knowledge than I do. 

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Be has the same type of desktop and icons as Windows.  They actually have a choice of several desktops for your ease of organization, but they all look and work like Windows.  And Be’s presentation was a great hit with the crowd.  They made the point that their OS is a modern high-powered system that is hard to break by pulling the power plug while running several movies, an audio presentation, live camera, and a 3D rendering of a teapot.  The system booted back up quickly without a hitch. Of course, their drag and drop video editing program was a big hit too, since that requires a high-powered system.  Another draw is the low price of their applications.  So, now, I’m planning to partition my hard drive and add BeOS next to Windows 98. 


Star Office is free! 

We stopped by the Sun Microsystems booth to see this program in action.  Like BeOS, it looks a lot like your Microsoft applications and will open your Word and Excel files and save them back in original format.  Sun was giving disks away and our club got several copies.  The program runs on Windows, Mac or Linux.  This makes it a big draw with the Linux crowd who are in need of applications and like free software.


Microsoft at Comdex 

At Comdex, Microsoft was giving away the beta 2 versions of Windows2000 and Advanced Server. A training company called Infotec had set up impressive training rooms with 60 terminals each in a corner of the showroom.  We were each given a handout, headphones, and a networked station to use.  We learned how a system administrator can set up new applications on a user’s networked computer in two different ways.  You can assign a program which will put it in the user’s start menu.  You can also publish a program which will put it in a user’s Control Panel under Add/Remove Software.  I’m a Windows 98 user, so I’m not too familiar with NT, although we do dial into NT servers at work and I know I’m sometimes locked out of things by the system policies.  Even at my level, the Infotec trainers made things quite clear.  This was a great experience.


APCUG Sponsors 

GSBUG attendees at APCUG Las Vegas saw demonstrations on almost any kind of software you might be interested in. One presenter, SpellCatcher, is the subject of a review in this issue.  So, be sure to ask the members that attended  to tell you about the demonstrations they saw this past week.


Internet Talk

By Frank Chao, GSBUG, Inc



Hello again. This the sixteenth article about you and the Internet. Let’s start this article with a discussion of Internet access at Comdex, since I just returned from a trip to “Los Wages”,  Nevada to attend the largest computer show on earth.

 Internet Access From the Show Floors at Comdex

 Free Internet access was everywhere throughout the three show floors at Comdex. I could not walk more than 30 feet  without seeing someone browsing the Web. I did not see that many people accessing their e-mail. In order to access your e-mail, you need some form of Web-based e-mail. My guess is that many people do not have web-based e-mail yet. Remember what I told you in previous articles? E-mail comes in three basic formats:

·         POP3 e-mail (also known as SMTP) (like a Los Angeles Free-Net account)

·         Text-based e-mail (also know as “shell account mail”, which most of you do not have), and

·         Web-based e-mail (like “Yahoo mail” or “Hotmail”).


Since I have a Yahoo mail account, which is in the “Web-based” category, I was able to access my e-mail from anywhere on the show floors of Comdex. Better yet, I was able to use their “Check Other Mail” feature to download e-mail from my POP3 (SMTP) e-mail accounts into my Yahoo mail account. Using this neat feature, I was able to look at mail at 

· (a POP e-mail account that I use mainly for business pertaining to the Los Angeles Free-Net), and

· (another POP e-mail account that I don’t use much).


As a result of my fabulous account at Yahoo mail, I was totally in communication via e-mail with all of you throughout the Comdex show.


From the Hotel Where I  Stayed 

As is customary for me when I travel, I brought along my computer and set it up in my hotel room. This gave me an excuse to try out the three free Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in a “roam” mode. As most of you know, I live in the Los Angeles area of California. In a nutshell, two, out of the three free ISPs, had great dial-up Internet access for me while I was in Nevada.  The services that did a great job for me are: Netzero and Altavista Free Access. Both allowed me to dial into phone numbers that were local phone numbers in the Las Vegas area. I only encountered one busy signal (from Altavista) during the entire week and this incident was not significant, since I was able to make a successful dial-up connection 30 seconds later. Even though half the computer geeks in the world were in town, I was able to use both Netzero and Altavista to make connections to the Internet between the hours of 6PM and midnight every evening of the week that I was in Vegas. This is almost unbelievable. If you are not using one or both of these two free dial-up Internet services, you are throwing away money, like the mindless folks that I saw who populated the casinos that I visited! So go to and and try it out for yourself if you have not already done so.  It’s great!

 Now, let me explain what happened when I attempted to access the Internet using FreeI Networks, the third free ISP that I have been raving about. Their software would not let me access their Nevada phone numbers. They only allowed me to see their phone numbers that are in California. Well, I will just not use them when I go out of the state, unless they straighten out this problem. After all, they do a great job of getting me onto the Internet when I am home in California !


"Spedia": Get Paid for Accessing the Internet for Free

 Last month I told you all about a new, totally free ISP called "Spedia" will provide you with totally free Internet access and pay you cash for the time that you use them to access the Internet. You will not get rich from their pay but it will provide you with a few dollars for you to lose in Vegas perhaps. See I have been too busy to try them out but a member of the Los Angeles Computer Society has assured me that this service is for real. Let me know if you are successful in using this new concept in free Internet access.


Travel Planning and the Internet 

Using the Web, you can be more knowledgeable than your travel agent when you plan your travel itineraries.  The key to using the Internet for travel planning is to take a two-pronged approach: learn to use search engines AND get  free membership accounts at several travel-related Web sites.


Searching for Travel Information 

To find information about travel, I recommend the following two search engine sites:  Yahoo Travel at and Altavista Travel at  Use these specialized search engine pages to locate information on destinations, accommodations, airlines, train trips, embassies, etc.


Join Some Travel-Related Web Sites 

For specific information on flights, fares, car rentals, and other details, you can join the following Web sites for free: Travelocity at, American Airlines' Aadvantage site at and United Connections

 Using these sites, you will have more information that most travel agents. Even if you end up using the services of a travel agent, the information in these Web sites will allow you to locate low-cost flights and fares that your travel agent might otherwise have missed. Both Travelocity and the American Airline's site are tied to SABRE which the massive mainframe computer system that American Airlines maintains as a service to the travel industry.  Both of these Web sites have information on more than 90 percent of the flights of most of the airlines in the entire world. United Connections is operated by United Airlines. I often find that they are available for use when the other two sites are either overloaded or down for maintenance. In the same way that I use all three of the free ISPs in order to get better overall service, I now use all three sites whenever I am planning a trip. Each of these sites often shows me flights that the others do not show me. By using all three Web sites, I have discovered that I do not miss out on any flights that I otherwise might not find.


Some Comments About Computer Training 

Last month, I told you that El Camino College where I teach has great computer training at bargain prices. Some of you sent me e-mail to request details and I replied with both more details and a suggestion to go to for even more details.

 As of this week, I know exactly which sections of  “CIS 3” I will be teaching in January and then in March. This will be a beginner’s survey course which introduces people to Windows 95/98, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel. You can participate in the classes that I teach in one of two ways: as a student, or as a volunteer teaching assistant. You can participate as a student if you want to learn a lot in a short period of time. Each of these classes runs only nine consecutive weeks. If you want to both learn and help others learn and don’t want to sign up as a student, please contact me and I will sign you up as a volunteer lab assistant. For more information, please contact me by means of one  of the methods below.


Additional Comments About Computer Training

 Don’t get into the rut of  expecting someone else or some organization  to teach you about your computer. The world of software and the world of the Internet change too fast. If you need to know something, buy books and seek out free tutorials on the Internet and learn what you need to know on your own. 

 To learn about how to use your computer, you can use on-line tutorials. For your convenience, you can find a hyperlinked list of great tutorials at


Ways to contact me 

If you have any questions or problems, I can be contacted by one of the following methods:

1. Leave a voice message for me at 310-768-8951.

2. Send me e-mail at

3. Send me "snail" US Postal Service mail at Frank Chao, PO Box 6930, Torrance, CA 90504-6930.

Or sell your computer and take up skiing instead !


Free Wordprocessor, Free Spreadsheet, Free Database

By Bill Allen

Reprinted from Orange Bites, the newsletter of  North Orange County Computer Club 9/26/99 

How would you like to have a FREE full-featured “Office” software package? Sun Microsystems is currently making their Star Office 5.1 software suite available FREE. Considering the retail price of Microsoft’s Office even a subset of MS Office FREE would certainly be worth the cost, right?

The Sun Star Office 5.1 suite is fully featured, not a knock off or refurbished older package. The suite includes a Wordprocessor, Spreadsheet, Database, HTML editor, Internet browser, e-mail, drawing, and presentation programs. You can install a JAVA runtime environment as part of the initial installation. Sun Microsystems even offers on-line tech support, including a knowledge database (and that’s for a program they give away!).

 The programs are all designed to upload data files generated by dozens of competitive programs such as Excel, Access and Word, which means you could transition to Star Office without losing access to your old data files.

 The installation CD-ROM provided by Sun includes Star Office 5.1 versions for Windows 95/98/NT, Linux, Solaris and OS2. Installing the Windows 95 version is idiot proof (I got it right the first time). 

Want a copy for your high school student’s PC or for that child on their way to college? Then contact Sun Microsystems at While Star Office 5.1 is FREE you will actually pay about $16 for packaging, handling and shipping. 

I have used Microsoft’s Office for about five years. The Sun Star Office suite seems to be of the same or better caliber, and its price can’t be beat


Spell Catcher

By Norma Broderick   

Reprinted from Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria Newsletter, September 9, 1999


Spell Catcher, from Casady & and Green, is a spell checker that includes features for most of your word processors and adds system-wide spell-checking to applications that presently have none. It is available for Macs, Win95/98 and Win NT. 

 Spell Catcher is easy to install. You can set it to begin at start up and run with all applications. It can also be easily accessed from the Task Bar just when you want to use it.  

When turned on it alerts you as a mistake is being made. Something that can be a bother if you are a terrible typist. You can however decide how you wish to be alerted. You can also check on demand only. You can add words and abbreviations for your custom use.  Other features include a Thesaurus . Modules are available that allows you to manipulate text in various ways. Some of the available selection modules include Capitalize Sentences, Lowercase, Smarten Quotes, Uppercase, etc.  

According to a mini-review by Frank Guido, Spell Catcher is generally a very useful and good application, but it does have a significant flaw. If you begin typing a word then jump somewhere else in the document, and finally return to finish typing the word, Spell Catcher will not detect if the word is misspelled. He suggests that despite this flaw, Spell Catcher is well worth purchasing if you plan to do a lot of typing. It retails for $49.95 US. 

 According to makers Casady & Greene, on their web site,  "Spell Catcher for Windows is the universal, interactive spell checker you can use in almost any application, including e-mail! Here are just some of      the applications Spell Catcher for Windows can be used with:    

·.AOL 3.0 or later   

·.Eudora Lite (a popular free e-mail program)    

·. Netscape mail   

·. Most older versions of Word Processors   

·. Quicken (and other financial programs)   

·. Any chat service   

·. Most spreadsheet programs   

·. Outlook Express (offers no interactive checking)   

·. WordPad & Notepad (bundled free with Windows)"   


Scanning Basics

By Tom Monturo 

The scanner you buy is a hardware device. It will usually come with two kinds of software; one a photo or graphic processor for handling graphics, and the other an optical character recognition (OCR) package for recognizing characters from printed matter. 

Scanners will do two different jobs:

·.they scan graphics, either in color or in black and white, and place the graphics into files for your computer, or

·.they read documents and turn them into files that your word processor or  text editor can process.



Resolution is generally described in "dots per inch" or dpi. Unfortunately there is a great deal of confusion in the term as it applies to screen, scanner, and printer. A screen resolution of 800 x 600, typical of 15" monitors, applies to maximum pixels displayed, where a pixel is the smallest visible unit on the screen. Such a monitor has an actual horizontal screen size of about 10.5". At 800 pixels divided by 10.5", its resolution is about 75 dpi. 

Scanner resolution is a specification that describes the maximum number of dots that can be sent to the computer. Since there is a practical maximum of about 300 Charge Coupled Devices that can be mounted on the scanner light bar, any claimed resolution that exceeds 300 dpi must be interpolated. That's not necessarily bad, but it does depend partially on the quality of the scanner software. 

Printer resolution is also expressed in dpi, but can be misleading since printers must place a series of dots on the paper to create the illusion of shades of gray or, for color printers, to show variations in color. A 600 dpi laser printer may place anything from 0 to 600 dpi on a line to express 256 shades of gray from white to black. 

You choose the resolution you wish when you scan material. Do not assume that you should scan everything that will be printed at the same maximum resolution of your printer, i.e., if you have a 600 dpi printer, don't assume you should scan at 600 dpi. Here are some suggestions for choosing scanner resolution.


When scanning gray scale or color images, using either a color or a black and white printer:

·.with a 300 or 360 dpi printer, use a scanner resolution of 50 to 100 dpi.

·.with a 600 or 720 dpi printer, use a scanner resolution of 100 to 150 dpi.

·.when scanning black and white images or for OCR, use the full scanner resolution.


Handling Graphics 

At minimum, if your scanner software permits - and most do - adjust the image level or tone before sending your graphic image to your photo enhancement program. Then, if necessary, use a sharpening filter.


An Excellent Source of Information on the Web

Wayne Fulton's "A Few Scanning Tips" -

 This article is brought to you by the Association of Personal Computer User Groups, an international organization to which this user group belongs.  The author, the late Tom Monturo, was the editor of microCHIP (micro Computer Happenings In Poughkeepsie), the newsletter of the Mid-Hudson Computer User Group in Poughkeepsie, New York.


Selecting a Digital Camera 

By Alex Dumestre

Reprinted from PC News, 11/99

1960 PC Users Group, Houston, Tx 

I purchased my first digital camera 12 years ago. It was a closeout model that I paid $90.00 for on an online auction. The highest resolution it was capable of was 320 pixels by 240 pixels, thus

 creating a 76,800-bit picture. The camera came with a .5-megabit memory, so I am able to take about 8 pictures before the memory is full. There is no flash available. The size of the pictures when I print them is about 1 « inch by 1 inch, and they actually look pretty good, until I try to enlarge them, then they look pretty bad. The camera is excellent for sending email pictures since their size makes them fast to send and receive. There is no way to display the pictures I have taken, without sending them to a computer first, so I always have to wait to see how they look. I have never had to replace the batteries that came with the camera.

  Today's cutting edge consumer digital cameras cost $700-$1000, and take picture resolutions of 1800 by 1200 bits, creating a picture with almost 2 megabytes of pixels. They come with flash memory cards that have between 4 and 32-megabyte capacities and have software that compresses the images so that you can take between 6 and 80 pictures before having to download the pictures to a computer. If no computer is available, just snap in a new memory card just like you would put in a new roll of film. For the ultimate in capacity, some cameras are now starting to support the new IBM 170 and 340 MB Microdrives, and Sony cameras will soon support a 200 MB floppy Disk that will allow for an almost unlimited number of pictures. Most new cameras come with a 1 to 2 inch LCD panel on the back so that you can preview the picture to see if you wish to keep it, that's a real money saver over film cameras. Many of these cameras have glass lenses and come with optical zooms that magnify up to 12 times. Flashes are standard and rechargeable batteries are required to keep you from going broke! Printing pictures from these camera's results in 8 by 10 inch glossy pictures that are indistinguishable from those created by 35 mm prints! 

 As you can imagine, in-between my camera and the cutting edge cameras, there are many other digital cameras that are priced between $200 and $700. However, while there are many good cameras, there are some that will disappoint. Let me tell you what to look for when buying a digital camera.   

 1.  The best quality cameras come with a glass lens. While several good cameras come with plastic lenses, they will be prone to deteriorate much more quickly than ones made with glass.  

2.  Look for a camera with an optical zoom lens. Most people take pictures of the great outdoors, and it is difficult to get close enough to get  good detail in your pictures without an optical zoom. Many cameras  advertise a digital zoom lens, just remember that a digital zoom just  crops the current view and uses software to make the remaining image  larger. Many cameras come with both kinds of zoom, for example a 3X  optical zoom with a 2X digital to make it seem like a 6X zoom. 

3.  Examine how the camera downloads the pictures to the computer. The  amount of time can vary dramatically depending on the method used. The  slowest way is to have a serial port connection; a better way is via a  USB connection and even faster is using the new Firewire connection  that is starting to appear on computers. Another fast option is to use  a floppy disk, or a memory card reader that can be plugged in to the  floppy disk drive.  

4.  Check and see how visible the LCD panel is in sunlight. A washed out  screen will make it harder to see what you are shooting. The LCD also  takes up battery power, and does not update very quickly. A regular  see-through optical viewfinder is always nice to have in your digital  camera.  

5.  Cameras that accept other lenses give you more flexibility. There are  several cameras out there that allow you to screw on a wide angle or  telephoto lenses. Putting in a filter also helps with special effects.  

6.  Always look for a camera that will output to a TV. This will not only  allow you to see a much bigger picture to share with others, but by  using a VCR you could make a tape of your favorite photos or an easily  viewed slideshow of a vacation.  

7.  Nice optional features include Picture delay, audio imprint, burst  mode, thumbnail images and panoramic mode. 

 Digital cameras are definitely the wave of the future. But if you are not quite ready for the cost of a good camera yet, remember that you can always ask for your regular photos to be put on a CD. Kodak does this for a nominal fee, and each disk includes the software the will let you view the photos right from the CD. 

Lastly, always do your research when buying a major item of this nature. My favorite research sites for digital cameras are and http:/ Both sites let you see reviews and comments about many of the cameras that are available for purchase. If you are looking for a bargain, be sure to check out or and look for digital cameras that are being auctioned under the computer category. 

 Alex Dumestre has been associated with computers since the mid '60s, most of that 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 is a member of 1960 PC Users Group and can be contacted by e-mail at


FreePing by Simac Software

By Kevin Wood 

Generally, there are two types of software.  There is software you swear by and software you swear at.  Since June of 1998, I have been using one utility from the first category. The program is FreePing by Simac Software.  You can download the program from  This program does one thing and does it very well. At an interval defined by the administrator, FreePing attempts to "ping" remote location(s).

  For those who are not Network Administrators, when you 'ping' a remote site, you are checking to determine if a virtual circuit or 'connection exists between your machine and the remote machine.  You could open a command prompt and enter "ping" or "ping".  I have over 100 workstations located on a Wide Area Network (WAN) all over the state of Alabama.  I need to know when the sites go off‑line so I can start diagnosing and correcting the problem. 

 How do I constantly check these remote sites?  Other software exists that will do this, but it costs hundreds to thousands of dollars.  The other software also comes with features I do not need, and the configuration tends to be difficult. Do not think, "Pull out the checkbook, Woody is going to sell some software."

This utility is free. FreePing costs nothing.  There is a version for both Windows 95/98 and NT.

 It is easy to install and configure.  The program takes up 465 KB of hard drive space.  Monitoring over 120 hosts (routers, servers, and workstations ‑ anything with an IP address can be monitored) takes up about 1.4 MB of RAM.  If a host fails to respond to two pings in a row, the program sends an alert.  You can configure the destination of the alert as well as how frequently a ping is sent.

 How good is this FreePing?  Before using FreePing, we had to wait until someone called complaining before we knew a problem existed. Now, many times, we are notified a site is off‑line, and are able to resolve the problem before the user realizes there is a problem.

 If you are a network administrator, or need to monitor remote workstations, printers, router, or servers, this is the utility for you.

 This article is brought to you by the Association of Personal Computer User Groups, an organization to which this user group belongs.  The author, Kevin Wood  first started programming in high school - he won't tell how long ago that was.  When he left the military in 1992, he started working with computers again. His expertise currently lies with operating systems and networks. He is a past Advisor to the APCUG, President of the Atlanta PC User Group and on the COMDEX Committee.  He’s worked for Georgia State University, College of Business, and is currently President of Koalacomputers.  He is currently under contract to the State of Alabama, Department of Public Safety.


Bob Click's December 1999 Deals Column 

From the Deals Guy, Bob Click, Greater Orlando Computer User Group

 I talked about Intel's 810 chipset a couple months ago? There's more. I heard that in an 810 hardware-support forum on Intel's Web site, an Intel engineer said: "The RTC (Real Time Clock) may inaccurately report that the clock is not busy when it is actually in the process of updating internal registers. This may result in invalid data being read in the date and time fields of the RTC, but the erratum does not modify the actual RTC values." It wouldn't hurt to look for a software work-around if you have that chipset. 

Intel's new 820 (Camino) chipsets are also controversial at this point. With the introduction of Direct Rambus in three different speeds, 600/700/800 MHz, the 820 will be in two different formats. One supports all three speeds while the other supports only two. They support PC100 SDRAM, but not the more popular PC133 SDRAM, which amounts to a clock-speed mismatch. 

Intel is using a new technology called the "Memory Translator Hub" to connect if you are using PC100 SDRAM. What a saga! If I were you, I'd check the net for more information if you are looking into motherboards, or check with knowledgeable people in your user group. There is much more but I'll let you check all that out. Last I heard Intel had the 820 chipset on indefinite hold which leaves many OEM people frustrated.


Still Good

 Stuffit etc. Code # UGDEAL 999. Good through November 30th (maybe longer). Call 1-800-732-8881 to order (1-831-761-6200 in Canada) or e-mail them at

 Web4Life internet service (only a one time $149 setup fee), call 1-888-267-1122.

 Y2K light humor book by Ingrid Harding - ordering information was inadvertently omitted last month. Single copies are just $3.98 (50% off) + $1.50 S&H US & Canada. Gift pack of 10, $30.00 - $4.00 S&H in US ($6.50 S&H to Canada). Order quantity for fundraisers and get a better discount. Order with check or money order to Porch Publishing, PO Box 158, Magnolia, NJ 08049, or w/credit card, order at Otherwise leave info with voice mail at 609-792-3339 or fax 707-897-2593. This book is informative, but also humorous and easy reading. I enjoyed mine. My apologies to Ingrid, and to my readers, for that blunder. 40 lashes to myself and my proofreader.


Get Better At Windows 98

 I've been browsing a new O'Reilly book called "Windows 98 in a Nutshell" and I like it. It contains 618 pages packed with information about using Windows 98. I had no problem understanding it all, nor the sequences to use its information. I took a cursory look, but I certainly learned a lot while browsing through it. Even several new keystrokes. It is an O'Reilly book written by Tim O'Reilly, Troy Mott & Walter Glenn.

 The book is $24.95 retail in US funds, but you get a 20% discount as user group members. Call 1-800-998-9938 and give the CS rep the code "DSUG" for your discount. They didn't give me the shipping fees. Remember that user group members always get a discount on all O'Reilly books.


Talk is Cheap

 Thanks to Dennis Adamson, a member of my club, for alerting me to this one. Do you use phone cards? First time I used one, I was dismayed to find that my time started when I made initial contact to their access number. By the time I made contact with my wife, the voice said I had used seven minutes. The following was not meant to replace long distance service on the home phone, but to serve as an electronic phone card. Even so, a couple folks I know are using it at home with their speed dialers. 

Take a look on the Web at and see if you aren't impressed. They offer long distance service anywhere in the continental US for 3.9 cents per minute. You read correctly, 3.9 cents per minute. Even the service to other countries is priced right. Looking at the foreign country rates was very interesting.

 There may be a 55-cent connection fee from a pay phone, according to their Web site, but that's not bad. I get charged 75 cents each time with my AT&T card, plus a monthly fee. I didn't see any monthly fees for using BigZoo. Check it out. You sign up on the Web and replenish your time using a Visa or Mastercard. You start with amounts as small as $10.00.


Home Automation? Anything You Want 

I received a catalog called "" and it seems to have just about everything to automate your home. Prices in this catalog are nothing special, but I liked the selection. I wouldn't have worried about passing this information on, but it even offers one of the best toys I ever bought. I have mentioned my automated drapery rod to others who also wanted to buy it after hearing about it, but it can only be bought through retailers, mostly overpriced catalogs. This is for those people. I tried in the past to get the Boss Company to give me a deal, but they were reluctant for fear of offending their retailers.

 The "Boss" drapery rod control can be added to your existing drapery rod by cutting the cord and splicing in the chain provided. Mine lets me program up to six movements a day with stops wherever I want them. I didn't buy a remote, but one is also available. I have loved mine every since the day I installed it. I bought mine at a CES show. The movement of your drapes each day makes it look like someone is home when you are away. The catalog price for the basic drape controller is $169.95. No "deal," but not that bad.

 The phone number for the "" catalog is 1-800-762-7846. Guess what their Web site is! If nothing else, you'll enjoy the catalog. It sure has a variety of products.


Sheet Music To MIDI File

 Own sheet music you would like to hear without playing it? You need a scanner for this, but here is the description for this fascinating software: SharpEye Music Reader can convert a scanned image of printed sheet Music (a TIFF or BMP file) into a MIDI file. It incorporates a music editor that displays the converted image in standard music notation. You can also correct errors before saving as a MIDI file. The music editor is linked to a display of the scanned image to facilitate the checking and correcting of the notes. It can deal with multiple staves per system, multiple voices per stave and recognizes most common musical symbols, including lyrics.

 This fascinated me and I hope many of my musically inclined readers, so I have worked out a deal with Graham Jones, the developer. Go to the Web site for a better description and to download a 1.1 MB self-extracting fully working evaluation software.

 If you like what it does, you can then contact BMT Micro at to purchase the registration key for $35.00 (normally $50.00). That URL was created just for this deal. Your registration key will be e-mailed back to you within 24 hours. You then enter the registration key into a box in the program's "help." Since the author is in Scotland, ordering is complicated because of foreign funds, but BMT Micro is a US organization for ordering. More information can be found at If you desire it on a disk, call BMT Micro at 1-800-414-4268 to order, or if you have problems with this URL.

 I have not tried this product myself as yet.


It's The Internet Calling

 Here's a product to save money on your phone bill. It gives users low-cost functionality and flexibility for phone calls over the Internet. ACS Innovations has introduced the new Ezfone Pro. With the $129.00 (SRP) Ezfone PC add-in card, individual and SOHO firms can use the Internet to call anywhere at only the cost of a local call.

 The board allows you to forward calls to an alternate location and provides accessibility when you're away from the office. The Ezfone Internet Telephony product provides people with the mobile solution for international communications with just the local Internet connection charge.

 My box contained two ISA adapter boards w/40 MIPS digital signal processing for audio compression (full duplex audio), two installation disks, two manuals and two phone cords, so both you and the remote party have everything needed. The manual has step-by-step instructions with pictures showing the PnP wizard. You will need dial-up networking, an ISP, Internet TCP/IP connection, 486 or better processor, a free ISA slot, touch-tone telephone, 14.4 Kbps or better modem and Windows 95/98 OS. Use either a touch-tone telephone or a microphone and speaker connected to the Ezfone card.

 The called party should be connected to the Internet by previous arrangement. Otherwise, a short call must be made to set up the Ezfone call, or make initial contact. Imagine the savings, especially for International calling. Also works with others using Net Meeting or ICQ. 

Discount to user group members is 20% off the $129.00 list. Please order 3-5 at a time with a single shipping address and single payment to avoid S&H. The order should be identified with the user group organization, and referencing the user group discount of 20%. Call CT & R Inc. at 1-408-566-0900 (fax 1-408-566-0909) and talk to Michael Ho to order. Check their Web site If you must order an individual piece, there is a $20 S&H.

 Looks like I'm out of space so meet me here again next month to discuss deals. This column is written to make user group members aware of special pricing and my comments should not be construed to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of products.

 Bob (The Cheapskate) Click.


The Internet Zone    

A Tribute to New Things Techie 

By Cheryl Floyed

Reprinted from PC News, 11/99

1960 PC Users Group, Houston, Tx 

Hey, everyone!   Hope this has been a good month. The Techie’s Day meeting was  great, huh? Well, speaking of Techies, I thought a way to honor  those dubious folks would be to do this month’s article about  some of the new things available on the Internet. Of course,  nothing is really new, but maybe you don’t know about some of  this.  

 One of my favorite new things is WebEx. You can find it at All you have to do is fill out a short  application (yeah, right, SHORT doesn’t exactly describe it) and  get one of your favorite people to sign up, too, and you will  have the ability to “surf” together. Lynn and I tried it and I  was able to show her (take her) to some of my favorite spots on  the web. We could pass control from one to the other with a fair  amount of ease. Digging a little deeper into this, we found that  we could also explore each other’s computers. I was able to see  what is in her favorites list, what she has on her desktop and  even what programs she has on her computer. It was an  enlightening experience!   

We then used another feature of WebEx and were able to  collaborate on a project. We both tried PowerPoint and Word and  were not only able to look at a presentation or document on the  other’s computer, but could make changes to that presentation or  document. It would be a great tool for business or for student’s  working on a project. I’d be able to show my grandmother how to  change her desktop theme, change her Internet settings, or  install stationery. However, I think it is really fun just for  the sake of being fun! Not everyone can use it though. It gets a  little slow on a 33k modem and will not allow you to even try it  on anything slower. If you live way out in the boonies and have a  slow connection regardless of your modem, you, too, may have  problems. It won’t even let you sign up if your access speeds  aren’t high enough.  

 As some of you know, I have a new place that I frequent. It’s  called Africam. Somewhere in Africa, there are several cams set  up (small cameras remotely linked to computers so we can all see  what is going on) that show a few watering holes and the like.  Often you won’t see a thing on these cameras, but I’ve gotten  lucky enough to see a family of hyenas playing and napping. You  may see a lion walk right up to a camera to check it out or maybe  some elephants bathing in the sunshine. If you miss the action,  check out the “Highlights” and see what has been happening for  the past few weeks.  

 Ok, as my final “tribute” to some new techie things, go to  Windows Media (at and click on the  Radio link. This is not the end all and be all of Internet Radio,  but it is a good place to start. You can get the latest news,  sports, and music of every type on the Internet and there’s no  need for an antenna! IE5 comes with a radio toolbar that will  make some of this a little easier but you can still hear music on  the Internet even if you don’t have IE5 (which if you are an IE  user, get it!) It’s nice to listen to music while playing on the  Internet or even keep it going while you are working elsewhere in  the room. Well, this won’t work for me because I NEVER leave my  computer!  


Hot Spots...  

 What better radio station to listen to than ZDNET?  This is the next best thing to ZDTV!  

 Another free stuff kind of site The Free Site  

 If you want to know what is on TV tonight, go to  Cool feature is that you can sort by comedy, sports, drama, etc.  to find just what YOU want to watch!  


OE Stationery Site of the month  


 Tudie (aka Cheryl Floyed) is the Internet SIG Leader for the 1960 PC User  Group.  She can be reached  at .