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Vol. 17  No.4  Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:.July-August 2001


Desktops out, laptops in? for digital pix

Floridade 2002 begets 'bug'

Final bytes


This is the early edition!
By Bob Wallace

As has become the custom over the past few years when my wife's AIFD Symposium does not convene in San Francisco, this edition will arrive one week ahead of time. This year's annual meeting of floral designers is being held in Chicago, which means your editor will be on the 7:00 A.M. United flight out of SFO to O'HareAirport on Tuesday morning, July 3, to cath up with his better half.

Results of student competition are already in for this year'sSan Francisco Computer Club logo gathering, and again at least one student has won first prize for College of San Mateo! This is becoming almost routine, which is when one ought to start watching over one's shoulder to see if anyone may be gaining on you. Fortunately, the retail floristry instructor at College of San Mateo is an excellent floral designer in her own right, and is quite capable of training her students to be some of the best not quite in the business yet.

In fact, some number of her students are taking the course for their own reasons, with no intention of going into the retail business as a floral designer. Not unlike some of us in this computer club who tinker with bits and pieces of the hardware to see what our systems can do, take the time to install software other than Microsoft DOS and/or Windows to learn what those other operating systems are capable of doing, yet have no intentions ourselves of going into the computer business. It's all for our own amazement, perhaps even our own amusement. It's our in-vestment of time and money with whatever rewards we get from it.

On to other issues in this issue of our bi-monthly newsletter. Following up on all the discussion over the past year or more on digital cameras, an Internet site has been found that will post your digital pictures, so you'll find a piece on that subject, and Judy Oliphant has a thought-provoking piece on where this computer club appears to be from her perspective, and the direction she'd prefer that it go in.

Add to this the usual odds and ends that tend to make their way into a given issue and we'll have another July-August edition of the newsletter on its way to you, so long as you keep in mind that you don't have to jump into the family gas guzzler and head for San Carlos until next week. And your editor will keep in mind that he'll spend the Fourth in a toddlin' town that will be sure to have its own fireworks display, although he'll have to 'suffer' through another annual dinner and dance with the  American  Institute  of  Floral Designers, or AIFD, as they're known, before traveling on to Michigan and Canada for a few days in each place. We'll see you for the Potluck dinner in August.

Desktops out, laptops in?
By Bob Wallace

California's energy crisis may change the way many of us do our computing activities. Having a limited amount of electricity  during hours of the day when we might normally expect to work at our electronic devices means finding an alternative to what we've become accustomed to.

Desktop computers have served us well when there has been a sufficient number of kilowatts available with which to use our systems. Now that it's reasonably clear that we may be into a 
new phase in high tech here in the home of high tech, I suspect we'll begin to see an increasing number of laptop computers taking over for the desktop systems most of us typically use on 
a daily basis.

In one sense, moving to laptops at this juncture may be a good choice. Laptops have increased both in computing power and hard drive storage space at just about the right moment in time. New systems are available now that have extended battery power to keep your keyboard up and running while neighbors are finding some other way of keeping themselves busy while enduring the latest rolling blackout.

One of the latest such laptop computers is Apple's new iMac, reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle less than two months ago, advising that their battery would reach up to five hours of use before quitting. The reviewer noted that he managed about four hours of use right out of the box, while a later attempt after charging the battery up again managed nearly 4.5 hours.

International Business Machines (IBM) sent out a mailer just a few weeks ago that included several models of their laptop computer line, a quick browse of it showing that even IBM's laptop computers are getting somewhat better battery life than earlier models had been capable of.

The Compaq LTE 5100 being used at the moment to edit this piece can get about two hours of useful work before shutting down, and even as this is being written, continues to go into 'sleep' 
mode, despite fingers working quite quickly on the keyboard. One eye is being kept on that portion of the liquid crystal display that shows the remain-ing battery time without being plugged into the wall outlet, as much to see how well this laptop unit will do on its own as anything. Might as well learn how long this computer will work when power is still available at the wall outlet as to learn later that it won't be enough time to finish the current bit of work.

Moving from desktop systems to laptop computers may also change the nature of the way in which we work. Running energy-intensive spreadsheet programs or database queries will almost surely need wall outlets that are active, mean-ing no rolling blackouts while this sort of heavy duty computing is going on. Using a computer to do word process-ing is nowhere near as energy-intensive as either of the two applications noted above, but will still deplete your battery at some point to such a degree that a wall outlet will be needed to continue working  while  at  the  same  time 
replenishing the battery.

Depending on the application you're going to use may also require that you change the basic setup within your computer to avoid going into 'sleep' mode while running spreadsheet or 
database applications to ensure that all the numbers get crunched in the spreadsheet program, or all the queries get asked within the database program. Going on-line with your laptop will likely demand that you change the option that puts your computer to sleep when no activity is going on, or you're 
likely to lose the phone line connection when one end or the other senses that nothing is going on, that the connection may  already have been broken.

One item worth noting for you in the IBM mailer noted earlier is that IBM now offers laptop computers with the 3.5-inch diskette drive being optional equipment while the CD drive is included. This is one option I would insist upon having -- the diskette drive. Not everything I might choose to install on a laptop is on a CD disk just yet, and may never get there. While some may 
think of the 5.25-inch disk as being a dinosaur at this point, there are still files here at the house that are on those larger disks, but could easily be moved to the smaller diskettes, so long as both 3.5-inch and 5.25-inch drives are available to make that change possible. for digital pix
By Bob Wallace

For at least the past year if not longer, we've had discussions about the use of digital cameras, which make and/or model is the better choice for what the average picture taker might use such 
a camera for. Once you get a few of those pictures taken, and barring the possibility that you have a full-fledged dark room at your disposal, how can you get those pictures printed, much 
less displaying them for someone else to view? There is an answer to these questions, and it's to be found on the Internet. Such a surprise?

Lexar Media in Fremont has a web site available that will provide at least one or two answers to these questions at their Internet site. Your editor learned of this site from the graphics firm located in San Mateo who did much of the work on his wife's "Feng Shui Seika" floral design book last year, including text and graphics displays.

Getting on the site is easy enough, simply type in the name noted here after you get on the world wide web. Lots of  questions are possible with such a site, and they have their own FAQ file available with some number of answers to those questions. Joining their site is easy enough, too, as you simply  click on the "Join Free" button, follow the few lines of information they'll need from you to assign you a location on their server. Among other things, this will obviously include your user name and a password that will identify you to their system. The rest of it includes your home address, voice phone and fax, and your e-mail address.

Once you get a 200MB space assigned to you, and this happens almost as quickly as you can post your infor-mation on their server, you can upload your pictures for viewing by yourself and any of your friends and relatives. If someone else has already  taken the user name you choose, the server will advise you right away of that fact, allowing you to supply an alternate name before giving you space on the server.

Once you have your storage space set up, you can send your pictures to their server for posting. Given that it's only been since June 30 that our site was begun, I'm still figuring out how all of this works while attempting to inform you at the same time. More checking on this as we go along here. Giving you our user name and password would allow you to modify any of the text 
associated with specific pictures, even allow you to delete pictures, which is clearly not the intention by any means!

One thing quickly becomes apparent with, that being that you can only upload 36 pictures at one time, although you'll still be able to get additional pictures sent so long as you stay on the connection, or go back to that same album at a later time. For anyone  using  a  dial-up  modem  connection to get on the Internet, 36 will be about as many pictures as you will want to send at any one time, given that your 28.8 or 33.6 connect will take some time to send as many as 36 pictures over to's server. Having a cable modem gets them there much quicker.

Getting that many pictures moved over to does take a bit of time, but then you can easily add more pictures to that specific "album," unless you choose to add a second "album" to 
your 200MB of server space. If you need more space than 200MB, you can request it, but be aware that there is a small  one-time  charge  for  each additional increment of storage space. At the moment, that cost is 20 cents per megabyte.

Whether you need that much space or not, be aware that 47 picture files in JPG  format  were  uploaded  to on June 30, a total of 12,365,293 bytes. Depending on how efficient's server soft-ware is in making use of storage 
capacity, not much more than that total number of bytes should have been used.

Getting on's site early on Sunday morning, July 1, comes up with the following information. You can search for a picture album by clicking on the magnifying glass icon, then supplying "Scotland vacation" within the album name frame. Their 
server will bring up any listing with "Scotland vacation" in it, then you click on the part of the ID you're looking for. In our case, you'd click on the picture of Lois and myself in front of our tour bus to gain access to the 47 pictures sent to the server on June 30. And clicking on any single 
picture will get you a larger view of that picture. Clicking on your browser's "Back" button will return to the album.

Floridade 2002 begets 'bug'
By Bob Wallace

Last year found my wife Lois working extra hours to finish up text for a book tied  to  Feng  Shui,  the  Oriental  phil-osophy that all things interrelate, that making a modest adjustment here or 
there can make subtle but positive changes in one's life and lifestyle. That book is completed, their website is now up and running (, and Lois has now moved on to another 

Next year is the next Floriade event ( in The Netherlands, an event that takes place once every ten years, this next occasion marking the fifth such. Even as this is being written, people in Holland are busy moving dirt one way or another to put it all together. As a result of next year's 
event, expected to draw thousands of attendees from all around the world, Lois is working with a local travel agent and a floral expert in The Netherlands to put together a package for next year's tour.

While this would not be notable in most instances, it was this connection between Lois, the local travel agent and the floral expert in Holland that brought us one of those nasty e-mail attachments by way of Microsoft's Outlook Express program. Our notice of it also brought along the typical additional message from the travel agent who discovered that their computer system had forwarded some number of messages along with the offending executable program to our computer, among whatever number of 
others in their address book as well.

The saving grace for us is that we do not use the Outlook or Outlook Express program, so no address book on Lois's computer to forward yet another copy of that executable to those with whom we exchange messages on nearly a daily basis. The only  problem, such as it was, was having that EXE file begin to run on Lois's system, search for any Outlook/Outlook Express address 
book, then crash and burn itself when it found nothing. At that point it took only a moment for the system to totally reboot and get us back to work.

Forwarding that same message and file-attach to my OS/2 Warp 4  com- puter had no effect either, given that Windows was not up and running under OS/2, nor is there any address book available for it to post messages to others with. Had the Win-OS/2 'window' been up and running, it might have been interesting to see what the results of that executable running in a Windows 3.x environment might have been. At best, it may have generated a 
message about needing Windows 9.x to run at all.

As  has  been  noted  on  previous occasions, getting a file attached to any e-mail message may require some degree of luck for the average com-puter user to avoid getting caught forwarding a message to those with whom you pass e-mail messages back and forth with, without much need to worry about getting 'bugs' coming your way from such exchanges.

Depending on how early in any given day your correspondent gets started for that day may make the difference in which way you learn of an attachment being sent to you without the know-ledge of your computer pen pal. In our case, the warning message came along right behind the file-attached message, giving us a heads-up that something might not be quite what we expected.

For the vacuous pissants putting these irksome programs together, three cheers for their programming skills. But I'd much prefer to see them exercising their skills in a direction far more likely to be beneficial to all computer users, not the simpleton exercises they're doing at the moment.

Final bytes
By Bob Wallace

What you've been reading in this bi- monthly edition of the SFPCC News- letter has been done in large part on the Compaq notebook computer, most of the time running with its power supply firmly attached to the wall outlet behind me. While the battery is good for about two hours of doing some-thing, not being in any rolling blackout warning state means that the electric power from the outside line is being utilized fully.

One thing California's energy crisis has done for the bi-monthly  newsletter is to get us to thinking about getting started on each issue at least one full week ahead of what had been our pre- vious schedule. That's not too difficult to do, so long as our schedule at home and work will allow for it. Over the past few months, weekends have not been all that agreeable for doing news-letters or much of any other computing activities.

As you may have noted, the most recent newsletters have been put to-gether on your editor's OS/2 Warp 4-based computer using WordPerfect for Windows v6.1, running in a Win- OS/2 'shell' under OS/2 Warp 4. Aside from that OS/2 status line sticking up 
over the top of WordPerfect's frame, one would otherwise be hard put to determine that WordPerfect is running on anything other than a Windows- based computer.

You should also note that address labels no longer are being printed on a dot matrix printer, that 'antique' also going the way of the dinosaur several months ago. That 'old' Epson 9-pin 
printer is now sharing space in the storage shed with another antique, a daisy wheel printer that has seen better days. All address labels are now being sent directly from within dBASE IV 
to a file that gets imported into Word-Perfect directly, then gets sent to the HP 693C printer after a quick check to be sure everything lines up within that file.

Either before or right after the news-letter is printed, address label pages are placed on the printer for printing, the several pages of newsletter taken to Kinko's for duplicating, collating and stapling before having the address labels affixed to them back at the house. Then it's off to the closest open post office to get them sent on their way to clubmembers.

As you might surmise from what's gone previously in this portion of the news-letter, your editor is now using three different word processing programs at one time or another: Perfect Writer, the
1984 'antique';  IBMWorks' editing program, the software being used at the moment; and WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows. Juggling each of these is not that big a deal, provided one keeps the
thinking cap on and running. Getting whatever text into each newsletter frame is a simple matter of inserting within WordPerfect.

On those occasions when submitting articles for the bi-monthly  newsletter, make a mental note to save it as "plain" text, by  following whichever key-strokes your word processor might use to leave out all the extra bytes in your document. Getting those submissions to the editor is reasonably easy, using either snail mail, or attaching it to an e-mail message sent to Messages are checked here on at least a daily basis when we're home in most instances, but not while on vacation.


July 12: ActiveWorlds

August 9: Potluck dinner

Suggestions for future monthly presentations can be sent to:


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