San Francisco Peninsula Computer Club logo 

Return to Home page
Return to Newsletter page

Vol. 16  No. 6 Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:..Nov.- Dec. 2000

Tracking all those books

Sharing memories

Diskette problem

Two Worlds Come Together


 20th Century comes to a close
Wait a minute!  Didn't we do all of this just last year?

As a matter of fact, yes, we did, when politicians and media decided to jump ahead last year, thereby suggesting that we were moving into the first year of the next millennium. Not quite the case, in fact. Last time your editor did any checking on how many years in a decade, century or millennium, last year's claim was found to be bogus.

Each and every decade requires ten years, not nine. Centuries still require 100 years to finish off, not 99; and millennium celebrations happen every 1,000 years, not 999 years, whether politicians and/or media like it or not. Come January, 2001, we'll move into the first year of the 21st century, and the first year of the 3rd millennium.

Before we get quite that far, however, I want to take a moment to say in this public forum a major "Thank you!" to Marsha Brandsdorfer for the editing chores she took on for the SFPCC Newsletter. She has done an excellent and outstanding job during her tenure as alternating editor. Also to be noted are Marsha's contributions to the newsletters done here that included a handful of book reviews that helped add more column inches to newsletters edited here.

Speaking of additional material being added to the newsletter over the past few years, my personal thanks, too, to all those who have submitted items for inclusion in the various newsletters being edited here in the closing years of this decade and century. It's not that often that we can lump that much detail into a paragraph, so we'll simply go out of our way to take advantage of it!

One of the changes we're likely to find with Marsha no longer editing alternate bi-monthly newsletters is the likelihood that our newsletter may become a quarterly newsletter. Adding another couple of issues each year can be done here, provided some assistance can be had from members, primarily, but any other source is also welcome.

(Club members interested in writing a piece for the newsletter should save each file in "Plain Text,"  "ASCII Text," or whatever your word processor saves "clean" text files with. Avoid saving in the "default" mode within your word processing program that includes all the formatting commands within that document. File- attach via e-mail message (or cut-and- paste within the message), save to diskette and mail, or drop items off at one of the monthly meetings.)

Doing a newsletter three times each year is one thing. Doing six issues each year will push my time to the limits, particularly given the schedule of work at the day job which has jumped to the point of including overtime on nearly a daily basis this year, and has added several Saturdays to the lineup of work in this month of November alone. We are far busier in construction this year than in any year in the 22 years your editor has been in this industry!

As a matter of fact, this year's work-load in construction serves to remind of just how busy we were some 30 years ago while driving chartered buses in and around much of Northern California when tourism increased substantially during that period, both in terms of vacationers visiting the local and regional sights, and business people from other countries visiting local businesses to learn about what their competitors were doing.

Despite quite a bit going on within the computer industry over the past few months, my interests have been in other directions, given that this is the year in which we decide who will be given the privilege of being this nation's Chief Executive for the next four years. I'll not bore you with polling results or headline stories that should have been printed. Suffice it to say that there are lots of sites available on the Internet that will give you access to stories that may have appeared in your local news-paper, or stories that should have appeared in those pages.

One advantage to having access to the Internet and all it makes available is the ability to be your own news editor, if you choose to do so. Finding even a handful of sites on the World Wide Web can lead to one thing or another. Typing in a word or phrase within Netscape Communicator will run a search of the Internet to find as many links to that word or phrase as can be located. Given this political year for presidential politics, a quick search was made Sunday to see how many 'hits' might be found for the word "politics," and how many might be found for that word with the word "Real" added to it for one search, the word "American" for another search. "Politics by itself found 327 sites in which that word was included. For "real politics," only 23 sites popped up, whereas "American politics" garnered 107 sites.

Two sites include some number of links to other locations within the Web. Going to the Drudge Report site ( will find a large number of links to other places, including newspapers, wire services and columnists. One of those sites is the Washington Times in the nation's capitol (, which also has a good number of links available, including some number that go directly to government agencies.

One other site not related to politics that popped up recently will be one many of us will recall. For those of us going back to the beginnings of the SFPCC, most of us got started with Kaypro computers. Somewhere the word went around that Kaypro was back in business following a period of being out of business. Kaypro built some of the better computers back in the early '80s, bundled software with their system (often called a "luggable" computer, given the weight of it), and came with a reasonably good review by author Peter McWilliams, who wrote a book on portable computers at about that same period of time. McWilliams gave such a glowing account of the Kaypro computer that your editor went out and purchased one. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tracking all those books 
By Bob Wallace

Going back to the July-August issue of the newsletter, mention was made in that issue of a book my wife Lois was working on for the floral design school in Osaka, Japan. The printing process has been completed, books are now in hand, which means it's time to work out some scheme to keep track of our books inventory, and those books being sent out via one pipeline or another.

We sat down and discussed the tracking or books already in our possession, and how to track the dispersion of books going out into promotional areas, regular retail for people purchasing books in quantities of only one or two, and discounted purchases for books going out in groups of 3 to 10 or 11 to 20. Each box or case of books includes a total of 20 copies.

A quick check of files already available within Microsoft's Excel 2000 or Corel's Quattro Pro found nothing readily available for the purposes we had in mind. For that matter, digging into the pre-made files for my 'antique' Perfect Calc also came up empty in terms of something to use, if for no other purpose than a starting point to build the files within Excel 2000 or Quattro Pro.

To give you some idea of where your editor was coming from in making up the files we'll use, this was my first real attempt at figuring out what makes Excel 2000 or Quattro Pro work. Working through some of the help file information provided a starting point from whence to begin, and then it was simply a matter of putting together each 'page' within the opened files under Quattro Pro to build the record keeping files. Both Excel 2000 and Quattro Pro have 'file association' already in place, whereas Perfect Calc allowed one to include that feature when working with those files.

Keep in mind that Perfect Calc dates back to 1984, but virtually everything current spreadsheet programs include today was available within Perfect Calc even that far back in computing history. Also for the record here, Excel 2000 is relatively recent, and Quattro Pro is version 6.0 for Windows. With this background on the programs being used, let's start setting up the files we'll use to keep a real-time inventory of books, regardless of which channel of distribution it takes getting out of our hands.

First, let's look at the inventory tracking. The setup here is to have a starting inventory entry of 'X' books, with each subsequent group of books easily entered into that 'page' within our file, a total being kept further down within that file, and that 'totals' entry being picked up by the summary page which will show how many books should be on hand at any given moment by subtracting the totals from several other 'pages' to get that number.

After giving that 'page' a name to make it both helpful and useful, we'll start on the third line with "Starting inventory" in the first column, and follow that with the date and number of books being added. Each time a new shipment arrives from the warehouse, the total number of books will be entered into that 'page' of the file and in the same order as noted above, with the total for that page showing ALL the books we've had under our control.

The next step is to make additional 'pages' for tracking retail purchases, and those for the discount 'pages,' depending on which class of discount the purchaser is allowed. In some instances, depending on the transaction, one client may be listed within the lower group of books 'page' (3 to 10), and later within the larger group of books 'page' (11 to 20). In each instance, these pages will include the name, date and number of books purchased, along with the amount of each single transaction being calculated at the correct price for the transaction, and the total of all transactions maintained further down on each page. The total on each page will be picked up by the summary page, making it very easy to see an overall record of all book transactions on that single page.

Helping all of this to work are the various functions built into each spreadsheet program. While working through this little exercise, it was also interesting to note the similarities between my antique Perfect Calc and the current crop of programs. In summing a column, for instance, Perfect Calc used a function called SUM, and looked like this: sum(C3:C15). Quattro Pro uses @sum(C3:C15), which is not that much different from what I'd been exposed to previously, and not that difficult to work with, once it had been found within the help file information. Both cases involve adding a range of rows within the same column.

To tie all of this together, we now need to build that summary page, the display that will give us a quick reference point to where we stand with books on hand (total received less those distributed by one means or another), and the total of money received for sales transactions. To do that, we'll need to keep track of which line (or row) and column on each page contains the totals information. By entering the reference point for each page into the summary page (page /name/ and cell position), this page will always provide a current picture of the number of books on hand, and the total number of transactions since we began tracking these items.

Need a printed page for one reason or another? It's easy under Quattro Pro, as that program allows for printing only the current page being viewed. For the moment, Excel 2000 has not yet been set up for this purpose, but is likely to have the same capability as does Quattro Pro. If you need only the summary page for your own reference or as part of a report to be made, click on the correct page tab to bring it up, then click on the print button. In this instance, select "Current Page" and "Okay" to send your summary to the printer.

Sharing memories
By Judy Oliphant

With the holidays right around the corner, no time to spare, and no time to shop for that perfect gift for your favorite Aunt or Uncle. I have found the perfect gift and it won't cost you a cent. And you won't have to leave home to enjoy it, or give it. I can see you shaking your heads.

I am talking about a new concept in sharing photos with your family and friends over the holidays. The enduring human need to share and to capture that special moment with the family over the holidays.

Although digital equipment is more attainable, the existing sites that claim to provide creation and sharing of photographic albums do not go far enough in terms of enabling digital experiences that more closely resemble everything that occurs when several people sit down at a table, pass pictures around and tell their stories about them. And they are not technologically accessible for the average person.

That shared moment of surprise, that hug under the moonlit night, or that first step of that grandchild and its smile.

The majority of us send our photos by what is known to all of us as snail mail. This can be a problem. It can be cumbersome and a problem protecting those photos, making sure that they do not get bent or destroyed in the mail.

There is an easier way then this. In-stead of scanning the photo and attaching it to some email and hoping that the recipient can download and access the photos on his system. This is far from a sure thing.

Log on to the URL I have listed above. All you need to do is there. Just scan your photos and store them on your hard drive in some sort of order. You don't even have to worry about resizing them. Ememories will do all that for you. With Ememories, you can create this special album.

To create your Ememories photo album you just need to create a Ememories account, giving them a user ID and password and that is how simple that is. Once that is done you can upload your scanned photos to Ememories and create your album.

Ememories has created a way that you can scan and upload them to Ememories and create your own photo album with a background, and add text and a caption and heading to all of your pictures.

Ememories will then give you the URL for your album that you can then copy and paste to any Email message or Christmas card that you write this Holiday Season.

To see my Ememories photo album that I have created, click on the below link: 
[All on one line. -Ed.]

These are some of the photos that I have taken of this past summer's Active Worlds SF reunion held in August.

What if I wanted to add photos after the holidays are gone of my New Year's Eve celebration with the family? Not a problem, and you can always go back and add new photos to your album. Just log back on, give Ememories your password and logon name and your album will appear. Click on the "add photo" button and you are set.

Diskette problem
By Bob Wallace

One weekend trip in October to southern California popped up a small problem with a 3.5-inch diskette upon our return to San Mateo. After putting together a fairly small word processing file on the diskette taken to Newport Beach for use with the Compaq LTE 5100, getting it back home should have not been a problem. Turned out to be a problem, however.

The diskette was packed carefully (or so I thought) next to the laptop computer, with a pair of handkerchiefs that should have cushioned almost any impact that diskette might have been subjected to by airline personnel at John Wayne Airport, or on arrival back at SFO between the aircraft and the baggage carousel.

Only after we got home did I learn that the diskette's metal slide cover had been popped off the diskette, leaving the opening to the media exposed to the world. After trying to put the metal slide cover back on the diskette in an effort to salvage that diskette, it turned out that it wasn't going to work the way I'd hoped it might. That left no alter-native but to put that diskette into the A: drive, copy all the data to the hard drive, find a reasonably empty diskette to replace it with, format that diskette, then copy all the data back to the 'new' diskette.

Getting the diskette into the A: drive with the metal slide cover on worked, but then the drive would not work correctly, bringing up the error message that the drive was not ready. Removing the diskette proved no problem, although it was clear that putting it in and out another couple of times might make it difficult to get out at all at some point. Removing the metal slide cover made the diskette's data available for reading, at which point I simply went ahead and copied it all to the hard drive, formatted the 'new' diskette, then copied all the data back.

The 'moral' of this tale is that if any of your 3.5-inch diskettes have a problem with that metal slide cover, you can get data from the diskette if you take some precautions in the manner in which you do it. Keep in mind that any loose metal slide cover is likely to cause a problem for your A: drive (B: drives on some computers; just so you know, this is the 3.5-inch diskette drive we're talking about here) if it comes off even slightly while the diskette is still in the drive. If that happens, at the very least you'll have a problem until such time as the diskette can be removed, or the drive itself replaced.


Two Worlds Come Together
A marriage made in Heaven
By Judy Oliphant

As many of you may know, I have been involved with Active Worlds, a 3D piece of software that allows one to chat in real time, to people from all over the Globe, shop on line, and Learn to build a dream 3D virtual house, or a cabin in the woods. The only thing that stops you is your own self.

Active Worlds has now joined forces with one of the top leading Internet Providers in the country, Juno. I am sure many of you are aware of Juno, and some of you are using Juno now for your email.

If you are a Juno Premium Subscriber you will receive a FREE citizenship to Active Worlds. And be able to see why I think Active Worlds is the best 3D Virtual Reality program out there on the market. And no, folks, Active Worlds doesn't pay me to say these things. I'm just one of thousands of people that are hooked on Active Worlds. The buzz word is we're addicted, and proud to be.

If you were at the last Potluck dinner for the our club, you had the opportunity to talk and to meet some of the people that were here for the Active Worlds Summer Reunion party that I hosted here in San Francisco in August. We're in the middle of planning our next summer reunion and this will be held in Portland, Oregon in August of 2001. Active Worlds welcomes all Juno Subscribers to our Worlds.

Juno members, either a tourist or a citizen, will land in what will be called JunoDome. This is where you will learn how to teleport to the many 700-plus worlds within the Active Worlds system. You can select a citizen name that will be yours. We encourage you to pick a nice name, one that is familiar to you.

Chat with your citizens and tourists alike. JunoDome will have its own browser, and there will be friends from around the Globe. These friendly people are called Gate Keepers, that will be there to answer questions. A role that I take on proudly, and happily. To share my experience with all the new people entering Active Worlds Gate or in JunoDome there will be a friendly Gate Keeper there to answer all of your questions and concerns.

The role of the Gate Keeper is to be friendly, and helpful to all the new citizens. Help you enjoy the Active Worlds Experience. Many of us come from all over the USA and overseas and as far as Australia. We are a dedicated bunch of Citizens that have one common goal: help you have fun in either JunoDome or Active Worlds own Gate.

Active Worlds will maintain their own entrance point. The Gate, as it is known to all of us. Just like JunoDome, tourists come into the Gate to learn about Active Worlds, how to fly, how to move around active worlds. There are helpful help files that are there as well to show you how to do these tasks.

There will also be and is in place a Automated Bot object that is programmed to detect and eject from the system anyone that uses foul language and decides to flood the screen with foul words. A bot does not like to be cussed at. She'll give you no chances. She ejects on site anyone that cusses. Active Worlds encourages good behavior at all times. Many of our worlds are G-rated because we have so many families who do use the software and like to chat online and make friends, and build. And because we have children that do use our software. Active Worlds maintains a family environment and we are proud of this.
So if you stumble across a "Gksourdough" or a "cablecar gal" standing on a sign somewhere in JunoDome, it's me, your friendly writer. I will be the one tossing out sour dough rolls with butter, or Ernest's cheesecake slices or Sandy's cookies and answering questions. And trying not to get them too lost or too confused. I will also be the one that is telling stories on you all. So drop by and tell a story or two with me. One of our readers to this newsletter lives in South Dakota and she also is a Active Worlds Gate Keeper and citizen. Please say Hi to Maggie4real if you see her standing on a sign as well. She is also one of these dedicated Gate Keepers that puts in countless hours of her own time to secure the happiest to Active Worlds. Proud to call her a friend and a fellow Gate Keeper. Juno citizens to Active Worlds will have the full benefit of a citizenship to Active Worlds. They will be able to shop online in our Virtual Malls, build that dream house or that castle they have been reading about. And hopefully make friends across the globe. As I have.

What if you're not a Juno Premium Subscriber and you want to become a citizen of Active Worlds? For $19.95 for the entire year, you can become a Active Worlds Citizen. What do you get for your 19.95 for the year? Well, you can select an avatar from our many exciting avatars, a way of dress or costume, maintain a contact list, or buddy list if you are a Juno Subscriber, telegram your friends, and the best benefit in my humble opinion is that your building structures become part of the Active Worlds theme can not be deleted by another citizen.

Tourists to Active Worlds dress like a Intel bunny in a yellow or pink jump suit can not send telegrams to their friends, can not maintain a buddy or contact list, and their buildings can be easily deleted with the click of a mouse.

Logon to and read more about this new adventure with Juno. The latest version of Active Worlds is 3.0 which requires that you be using Win98 with at least 128 megs of RAM, a good video card, and have installed Direct7 from Microsoft.

One of the things that I am most proud of. Recently I have set up within Active Worlds a world of my own called SFGATE, where I have constructed a virtual city within a city, have been practicing some of the animation skills that I have been learning at one of the many classes that one can take in Active Worlds. These are free classes by the way. Open to all citizens. I have also been learning more about 3D building, and working on my own animated object, a Bot named after Herb Caen "Herbie". SFGate is my corner of the World in Active Worlds. Where you can ride a cable car from City Hall for free and down to the wharf and back, pass by the park and even stop for a crab sandwich at the deli I have created. And see a Church by the river, and a wolf den with pictures. And take a dip in a big swimming pool. Use "hear me" to chat by voice online. And occasionally a live cam shot of my home. When I remember to turn on the live cam.

And chat with my many visitors to the World. Looking forward to seeing all of you in Active Worlds at some time.






Return to Home page
Return to Newsletter page