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Vol. 17  No.1 Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:..Jan.-Feb. 2001
 
 
CONTENTS

Netscape 6: Good or okay

Vacation Planning 

A picture is worth ... ? 

Final bytes

Schedule

 Software still frustrates users

One might well think that turning over nearly two decades since the personal computer 'revolution' began that software authors would be able to build a piece of software that does what it's supposed to do, not what it chooses to do?  Not so, apparently, as we learned over the Christmas weekend late in December, 2000.

Lois and I visited with her mother and brother in Winters over that weekend, a part of which involved an attempt to install two different CD disks onto the computer in that household, get the necessary files copied to the hard drive, then start the program to gain access to the Internet. In both instances, the Spiegel and Bluelight CDs installed as one would expect them to, but then
stalled when going on-line.

Each CD had been mailed by the business named above, but both actually came from the same source, at least in a general sense. Each had been mailed to neighbors, with the notation on the outside of each mailer that it could be used by the addressee, but then could also be passed along to friends and neighbors to get them involved in the Internet. If this is the case, why so much  frustration involved in getting it to work?

The only clue at this moment, some two weeks after the fact, is that we might have used the name of the party to whom the CD had been mailed in the first place, but then that would make a healthy problem to straighten out later on. After installing each CD, one at a time, followed by attempting to log on to the Internet by way of a local access number for the Winters area code, each bounced back with "User unknown" messages on at least
a handful of occasions. If these people actually want new users,
you'd think they would have worked out any problems with their software coding by the time a relatively expensive CD package was put together and mailed out to prospective users? Apparently not!

After seeing the results of the first attempt to log on, we
started finding what he hoped would be different ways of getting into the program by clicking on the "New User" button on the first page of each program, rather than typing in a first and last name, or giving a user name that included parts of each name, but nothing would work once the dialing finished and we expected to find a URL popping up in the browser.

Long story short?  Later in the evening after Lois and I had gone to our motel in Vacaville, her brother managed to work through the Prodigy CD and got on the Internet without any help. Well, perhaps no direct help, but he had seen enough with the first two CDs to get an inkling of what he might have to do in order to get through the setup routine with the Prodigy CD, then start the program and attempt to get tied to the Internet without any hand- holding from your editor.

Next morning, Christmas Day, he was quite happy to tell us he'd managed to install the Prodigy CD, got it up and running, then gone through the steps to get it started and on the phone line to get going with the Internet. Given some of the discussion of the previous night about what an e-mail 'address' might look like to set up his own under Prodigy so that both of us can exchange messages with him via Internet e-mail. While he uses Microsoft's
Internet Explorer for browsing and e-mail, both Lois and your
editor use the MR/2 Ice program: Lois the MR/2 Ice for Windows version, mine the MR/2 Ice for OS/2.

Seeing other people get started with using the Internet brings
with it a certain reward, if for no other reason than allowing
someone else to gain access to so much information capability,
provided you work out the details of how to search for something, and if too much shows up from your search, learning how to narrow down that search to get closer to what you're looking for.

But this is getting away from the main point of the moment: Why is it so difficult for software writers to figure out how to make using their CD to get on the Internet in the first place so nearly impossible to use?  Going back to the Spiegel and Bluelight CDs noted at the outset, each would dial the local access number which actually worked insofar as gaining access to the provider, but then stumbled around for a few seconds before coming back with a message that said the username was not recognized and the connect was dropped.

For as much effort as computer companies appear to put into their marketing schemes to get people interested in the Internet in particular, if not computing in general with all its differing
types of software, one would think that about 20 years into the personal computer industry, everyone in the business would know by now how to write and in-house test/debug programs being mailed all over the country at some considerable expense to the business, only to learn after the fact that some- thing within the coding doesn't quite work the way it was intended.

Netscape 6: Good or okay
By Bob Wallace

Last Thanksgiving's four-day weekend provided ample opportunity to download and take a look at the newest version of Netscape's browser software. Getting it sent over the cable modem makes it a
snap to fetch, while dial-up modems will take substantially
longer to get. Installing it is quite easy,  which means you can be up and running with Netscape 6 fairly quickly.

The major difference between this version and earlier is that you download a 'stub' execu- table program which then checks your computer to see what you have for a printer, for instance, then chooses the appropriate driver for it from somewhere deep within the Netscape server. In all, some 14 files were sent down the phone line for Lois's specific system, which may be typical. The Netscape stub is about 150K in total size, so it gets down the wire very quickly.

One significant difference in the way Netscape 6 sets up on your computer should be noted. The version 4.x program installed into Program Files / Netscape / Communicator / Program, while the new version 6 goes into the Netscape 6 subdirectory below the Net- scape subdirectory. This should serve anyone well if you later
choose to go back to the earlier version, as that previous version will still be sitting in its own subdirectory. Just change the link from your version 4.x program to the version 6 to get started using this 'modern' look, or change it back to the previous subdirectory to get back to the older version.

Making this change is relatively simple. Left-click on the Net-
scape icon on your screen, then right-click on it to bring up a secondary window which includes Properties. Click on that entry to get to the file that tells Windows where the program is located. Changing that entry does not remove the previous version of Netscape, only leaves it sitting in its sub- directory without using it. Save the modified link back and then click on the Netscape icon to bring up the new program version. For those with the quick links on the "Start" line on your 'desktop,' right-click on that Netscape link and make the change noted above. If you left-click instead, you'll be starting the program, whichever version you have attached to that link.

Jumping into the program once it's been installed brings up a
very different look from earlier versions of the program,
although an included function allows for changing from what is now called the 'modern' look back to the 'classic' look. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that modern look, aside from its having some of the features in different places on the monitor, or at least having buttons with a different appearance from what you may be used to with Netscape v4.x, redesign being what it is.

For whatever reason, once the new version 6 had been installed on Lois's Windows 98 Second Edition-based computer, it came up in a
minimized window, not the full-screen window we'd become accustomed to with Communicator version 4.x. Not only a minimized window, but one skewed off to the side of the monitor to such a degree that the right side slide button was not visible. Working with it for a few minutes finally got that situation adjusted so that all the browser would fit within the frame of the monitor.
Quitting out of it and then starting it again put it back where it had been adjusted to, so that minor problem had been solved.

As with previous versions of Netscape's browser, one can go into several setup options to configure this version to suit yourself. Anyone getting mail via Netscape's program will probably have to configure directly for that option. At the very least, if Netscape does find a configuration for message services, you'll still be better off and further ahead by checking that setup before going on the Internet, if for no other reason than being sure to get your messages sent to your computer, and outgoing
messages going to the right SMTP forwarding address.

What's different about the browser's new look? On the left side of your 'window' is a sidebar 'window' that will include various things, depending on what you're doing at the moment. This window
can be closed by putting your mouse on its drag button and moving it to the left until it closes. This one feature proved to be just a bit disconcerting, as doing a search for anything from within Netscape brought that window back again with the found information, giving you perhaps a handful of related items to jump to. Some users may find this feature useful while others may find it at least mildly distracting. There appears to be no way
to disable this feature, at least in the time spent with this
version thus far.

Several things that we've become accustomed to aren't there in this version. These include the Print Preview option included in the version 4.x program; a notice from several web sites visited over the past six weeks that suggest Netscape version 6 does not
allow for viewing frame pages, those screens with several 'windows' within the normal Netscape page; and clicking in the Location or URL window does not work in the same way as the version 4.x, meaning you apparently have to type in everything!  This one alone would be sufficient reason, in my opinion, to go back to the version 4.x program that turns blue when you click into that window, thereby allowing you to start typing the next URL right away, not backspace out of it. The alternative would appear to be to use the pull- down list of sites you've been to in recent days, or to use the bookmark function for those sites you visit from time to time.

Perhaps the last item on my list of not-so-favorite things about
Netscape 6 is that it still takes a lot of time to load and get you ready to work. For an executable file only about 150K in total size, this makes no particular sense to me, other than the subdirectory for Netscape 6 also includes some 49 DLL files, most or all of which may be getting loaded into memory as Netscape 6
gets itself up and running. Re- call that this version is put into
a new subdirectory on your computer, so any DLL file in that space must have been put there by the Netscape install program. For the record, it takes something close to 30 seconds to get started, which is about the same as previous versions have taken. This on a Windows 98 Second Edition- based computer running with a

Celeron processor and plenty of RAM (64 megs) available.

Will we go back to Netscape v4.x?  Still toying with that
thought, but also still tinkering with this latest version. Whether Netscape plans to put back in a few of the features that earlier versions still have available is not known. For that
matter, is AOL's ownership of Netscape influencing the way the Netscape browser coding is being directed?  We may have to check in again later to learn answers to these and other questions.



Vacation Planning
By Judy Oliphant

By now I am sure you have put away your Christmas decorations, recycled the Christmas Tree, taken down the Christmas lights from around the house, and can now settle back into an easy chair or your computer desk. Hopefully among those Christmas gifts was a calender you'll want to mark the dates for the User group meetings and other important dates. And your vacation dates are very important.

All of us each day use our computers for many things, from balancing our check books, to sending a hello to our friends, and exchanging information with one another. Some of us even get out there on the Internet and shop or look up information. The Internet is a marvelous tool.

Take looking up airline ticket prices and vacation spots. The
Internet is the place to go!

Making my summer plans now, I logged onto Microsoft's home page and clicked on travel. Up popped this friendly easy-to-use web page where I was instructed to put in where I was flying out of, where I wanted to go. And I scrolled down and found my airline of choice. Since the skies are friendly, I selected United Airlines, and I would be traveling alone.

For my information I put in SFO and going to Portland, Oregon. Date that I would be leaving SFO, August 9th, returning to SFO August 14th, and I would be traveling alone, of course. They had the best deal - $255.00 round trip. Just what I wanted, a round trip
ticket to Portland, Oregon in August for my Active Worlds Reunion of my friends from around the globe.

But wait a second here before you start pulling out that luggage. What if you have never been to Portland, Oregon and knew nothing about it: where to stay, where to eat, what is there to do, and most of all, where are the shops for shopping. That marvelous tool called the Internet again. I soon found out more then I ever would want to know about Portland, Oregon. Even found out that they have a huge Intel Plant in Beaverton, Oregon,
and there are several key soft-ware vendors that make Beaverton, Oregon their home. Wonder if I shouldn't write and tell them, "Hey, I am from San Francisco and I am a member of a computer club and can you please send me some software? Larry needs it for mail call. And I need it for - ah, never mind."

This marvelous tool called the Internet is just that, a marvelous tool. What would we do without it? With just a few clicks of the mouse, and with little time I was able to locate the convention bureau in Portland, Oregon, sent them email, told them what I
wanted to do and who I was and why I was doing this, and what I hoped to do. All with just a few clicks of the mouse and this tool called the Internet. I have successfully planned a vacation in beautiful downtown Portland, Oregon for myself and 25 of my closest friends from around the Globe. No one can plan an Active Worlds gathering like I can, so says my friend from The Netherlands who writes daily to me and marvels at what I have been able to do in such a short time. Still, have not mastered how
to say a simple word in Dutch yet or found any German beer to tell him about. So far it has just been "[I]t's sunny and nice in California, wish you were here, and, oh, by the way, when are you coming over again? I miss you."

And, "I am searching on the Internet for hotels and rates, and things for us to do."

Don't be afraid to get out there, folks. Use this marvelous tool
called the Internet to plan your next vacation. I think Southwest Airlines says it best: Want to get away? Then go for it!



A picture is worth ... ?
By Judy Oliphant

So you got a digital camera this Christmas and now you're
scratching your brains about what do I do with it. I have read
the books that came with it, they tell me it's so easy any one
can do it if that is the case how come I can't and how come the
pictures show up so large they fill up my computer screen. And I really did not want that face in there I just wanted my Grand daughter they say I can edit and cut and copy and resize but how do I do this. Must be easy. Everyone is doing it.They say it is so easy even an adult can do it! Does this sound familiar, folks. Well it does to me. Christmas morning around my house was like this.

My father got into the digital age of digital cameras. Spare me please, someone. First it was the computer age, and the
introduction to the Internet, as I shudder when the phone rings
here at the house. It just may be him asking for help. But I have
told you already, Dad, how to do that. How come you don't take notes? Ah, a stocking stuffer: a note pad; came with a pen even.
Thinking my life would be stress free, it wasn't. I got him the Dummy's Guide to Digital Cameras, and me some Egg Nog and hope I could find the Brandy bottle to spike it.

As in most households, we were preparing a lovely Christmas feast.  Dad was reading his digital camera books. Santa Claus has great taste, by the way. Santa Claus gave Dad an Olympus 3.6
Digital Camera with a zoom lens and some photo paper. Mother said, "Good, now he will be spending more time on the computer and less time asking me is it time for dinner." Of course, Dad wanted to show off his ability to take that perfect family picture around the Christmas Tree for the loved ones that would not be there to see this event unfolding.

The picture came out perfect, but then came the questions: How do I resize it, and how do I get that vase out of the picture? With a wink of an eye I was able to show my Dad how to edit and resize that family photo and I still have my sanity, folks. What they say is sooo true - you can teach an old dog a new trick and they will even say Thanks.

To do this I used a program called Picture It by Microsoft. Very good program for editing pictures from your digital camera, or scanners. Purchased this program at one of the Cow Palace Computer shows some time ago. And found it is the best to show "newbies" how to do things.

With Picture It, you can edit your photos by dragging a square or a circle around the image that you want to edit, then say copy to the paste board, and then paste as a new photo. After several glasses of egg nog, and a few glasses of wine with dinner, Dad was able to see clearly enough he was even having fun with this program. I tell you, folks, it was the Christmas Evening that I
had dreamed about. Dad was really into computers and new
technology.

Among the gifts that he was opening was some HP photo paper and some greeting cards. Stay tuned to see if I ever see the results of my efforts that night. I am still hoping I will not regret that I and my sister introduced the age of digital cameras to a man that can't find Windows Explorer and calls me instead. Wishing you all the Very Best in 2001.


Final bytes 
By Bob Wallace

Thanks to Judy Oliphant for providing two pieces for this issue of the SFPCC Newsletter. Whichever program she used to write them with, she saved them in DOS Text or "Plain" Text, whatever that program calls it. The only problem with one of them came when I
finally figured out that the filename used included a space
between two words. Once that was determined, it was a simple
matter of renaming it to the 'old' way of naming files: eight-and- three characters. 

For the benefit of your editor, please save submissions for the newsletters in DOS Text, Plain ASCII, whatever your editor program calls such methods of writing to the hard drive or floppy diskette, and also name it something that follows the old way of naming files. Doing so will most assuredly save time and effort at your editor's keyboard. Getting those submissions to your editor is quite easy, given that most of us have e-mail providers that allow attaching files to messages. Write your piece, save it in 'plain' text, then just attach that file to an e-mail message directed to: bob-wallace@rcn.com.

Speaking of RCN, a recent visit to their web site found a newly
designed series of pages, although much of the content has not changed significantly since our first visit several months ago. Reason for that visit had to do with the problem you'll note a few paragraphs down this column related to an OS/2 Warp 4 crash on your editor's computer.

With the demise of the club's former bulletin board system, a new home for the computer system needs to be located, or perhaps it's time to send this along to a computer recycler? Any free advice, anyone?  One method of contacting is via the club's e-mail address: 
sfpcc-l@egroups.com, or make mention at this or future month's meetings.
 

This past December found us on the road again to Southern
California to visit Lois's father, brother and nephew in the
Riverside/San Bernardino area. 

One good thing about going out of town is that we can check on
what connections hotels and motels make available for their
guests. In this instance, River-side's Courtyard by Marriott
included a small connector next to the desk telephone that made
available both a dial-up modem connection, and a high speed USB port and Ethernet port, with cords for each in a bag located in the closet. Had we taken along a telephone line cord to plug in between the Compaq LTE 5100 laptop computer and that dial-up port, Internet access would have been readily available.

Our second stop in Southern California was in Avalon, on Catalina Island, normally a 75-minute run across the channel from San Pedro. Fog on our outbound trip was so bad that the boat was running late all day, and getting later as the day went on. Our room at the Seaport Village Inn had a phone with a plug at the back that probably would have accepted the same line cord for
gaining access to the Internet, although we made only a
superficial check of that phone to see that any plug was there.

As you may note from the postage on this edition of the SFPCC Newsletter, postal rates went up on Sunday, January 7, just in time to catch us forking over an additional penny to get this issue on its way. Plan had been to get it on its way on Saturday, but night work for the new Moscone West convention facility in San Francisco Friday night well into Saturday put that plan out of commission. 

Several changes here in recent months. Lois decided her com-puter needed a new color printer, so off we went to Office Depot to purchase an Epson Stylus Color 880 printer to replace the HP Deskjet 693C that had been in use for several years. Switching the printers was no problem, as the Epson comes with a CD that installs the software onto the hard drive, including making it the default printer. If this news-letter shows up via snail mail
by Wednesday, you'll know it's working.

That HP Deskjet 693C was moved to the OS/2 Warp 4-based computer in use by your editor. Putting that printer on in place of the Epson Apex 80 dot matrix printer may have contributed to OS/2 Warp 4 taking its first crash since being installed more than a year ago. This just had to happen on the night before we were to leave for Southern California!  Need-less to say, the reason for that crash, whatever it might have been, was on my mind during
much of our trip down and back. A total re-install of OS/2 Warp 4 was undertaken shortly after we arrived back home, with the system now up and running, e-mail and dial-up configured correctly again, and no problems to speak of with the DOS partitions. The only area affected by this 'modest' problem was on the OS/2 partition only. Next step in this process is to upgrade to the latest fixpak for OS/2 Warp 4, with that coming right after the newsletter is wrapped up.



Schedule 

January 11: Hank Skawinski

February 8: Chris Havnar on genealogy

As of Sunday, January 7, no guests or topics have been lined up for March and beyond. Any ideas can be sent via e-mail to Judy Oliphant:  jlo@sirius.com, or to
club's group address: sfpcc-l@egroups.com.

 

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