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Vol. 17  No.6Vol. 18  No. 1  Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:. January-February 2002

CONTENTS

Windows XP: A first look

 To XP or Not to XP

DeLorme’s "Street Atlas" put to work

Software updates 

Final bytes

Schedule

Windows XP: A first look
By Bob Wallace

Your editor got started on Saturday morning with lots of e-mail message traffic revolving around Microsoft in general, and Windows in particular, so this may end up being an issue with a bit more heat to it than normal. We’ll leave that for your judgment.

Microsoft managed to get their latest PC operating system out on time at the end of October, but within just under two months, only five days before Christmas,  managed to find reason for posting an update or fix on their web site for anyone who installed or upgraded to Windows XP Home Edition.

Anyone familiar with this writer is aware that his computer usage dates back to the days of Kaypro’s CP/M machines, including those with the dual floppy disk drives, followed by the hard drive Kaypro. Finally moving into DOS long after many in the club had already done so, then into Windows with the same lack of haste, anything to do with Microsoft wondering what all the fuss was about.

No question but that MS-DOS had several really good versions, and Win- dows has as well. But the more compli- cated Windows has become, the more frequently there seems to be problems with getting a system that will work consistently and reliably over a period of time with whichever collection of software you happen to run on it.

Now comes along Windows XP in two versions: Professional Edition, which includes some number of features not included in the Home Edition. Your editor had the opportunity to look at one installation of Windows XP while visiting friends at South Lake Tahoe with his wife last week.

Here’s what a brief look at Don Huggins’ Dell system, upgraded from Windows 98, looked like. Slow to boot up for an Intel Pentium II  448 MHZ processor with 128 MB RAM. Once it’s up and running, the desktop looks not unlike what we’re used to with Windows 98 Second Edition on the "other" computer here in San Mateo.

Okay, let’s go searching for one type of file, just to see how many of them are being used in this version of Windows XP, and the couple of other programs on this specific system. Bring up the Search tool, type in "*.dll" (without the quotes) and find that 3,075 files of this type are on Don’s computer. Contrast that number with the approximately 1,400 found on Lois’s computer right after we purchased it several years ago from Datawise, and prior to installing a handful of programs on that computer.

Interesting. Okay, let’s see if Microsoft did indeed get rid of the MS-DOS prompt within Windows XP. Start the Windows Explorer and click on the Windows folder to see what comes up in that part of the system. Everything in that folder is protected, so click on Unprotect to open up System Files, then page down to find -- MS-DOS!

Now that we can get down to the DOS level of Don’s computer, let’s do some further checking of what’s in there. Ask about the DLL files again, just to see how accurate the Search tool was earlier. Very interesting!  The system now reports more than 4100 DLL files in various and sundry subdirectories. At this juncture the question should have been posed to Don as to whether he ran Format on his computer before doing the installation of XP, but that’s one question we can leave for later now.

Now that we can look inside of what Microsoft has done with this latest operating system, let’s start MS-Word and type in a small text file, save it, go back into DOS and figure out how much space might be used up for just a few words. The phrase "This is a very small text file." (without the quotes) plus carriage return/line feed at the end of that line was saved to the hard drive.

Back to the MS-DOS prompt and search all subdirectories for the text file to see what the Word program did with our text file, named as Tiny.Doc. One file with that name, but then two other files with .LNK extensions show up as well, meaning that MS-Word needs TWO  links to find that file we typed? If one of those links is deleted or changed, does that mean you’ll never see that file again?  That option was not checked into, given that we were guests in Don and Kathleen Huggins’ home, and did want to spend time with them, not sit in front of a computer for the day.

Note, however, that the very same text was typed into the Compaq LTE 1500 laptop computer which runs under OS/2 Warp 3, using Perfect Writer as the word processor, despite its being clearly an antique by modern computer thinking. Those 34 characters were saved under OS/2 as 34 characters, and using up only 512 bytes of hard drive space. Hang on to your seat while you get the information on what Windows XP does with this same file.

Results of the search on Don’s Dell desktop system for the TINY*.* file came up with three files, which would be what might be expected. Now, take a look at the numbers given to these files: TINY.DOC came in with a total of 19,456 bytes for those 34 characters inside the file, the two LNK files came in with less than 1K each, but the total number of bytes allocated to these three files added up to 48K!

Let’s do some quick math on the numbers. With only three files adding up to 48K, that must indicate that the text file itself took up two allocation units, or a total of 24K, while each of the LNK files took 12K each. Contrast that with the 512 bytes allocated by OS/2 Warp 3 for the very same file, and note that the Compaq laptop includes a hard drive of "only" 810 MB. For anyone looking for efficient use of their hard drive storage, Windows XP leaves more than a little to be desired.

Go back for a moment to all those DLL files found earlier. The operating system showed a total of 850,038,987 bytes in those 4100-plus DLL files. One has to wonder what possibilities exist for future conflicts between any of those files, and what the average computer user is likely to do when it comes up. Some answers to what can happen under Windows XP are likely to show up over the next few months. One thing for certain. We’re bound to have a presentation on this OS at some point that may better detail for us what the benefits are for anyone upgrading to Windows XP, and perhaps some of the undocumented features included.

For the moment, we’ll go back to the conversation Jerry Havnar had with your editor just prior to Christmas. Windows 2000 is a far better OS than is XP, has better memory management, is far more stable, and is built on the NT kernel. The same thought has come  from an e-mail group made up of former GT Network BBS Sysops, each of whom has gone off on his/her own track with one or another operating system, in some instances using one of each  (Win-NT or Win-2K)  on two separate computers. There may be a Win-2K in our future. Stay tuned.



If You're Going to Upgrade, Get Ready Now...
By Steve Bass, Pasadena IBM
Users Group

I'm going to upgrade. Yep, I'm breaking one of Bass International's
number one rules, but I think it's going to be worth it.

I can't give you all the details because it's coming out in December's PC World Home Office column (hey, they pay the mortgage). What I can do, however, is share parts of my upgrade experience, things that I didn't have space to say in the PC World column.

DOS Programs: Every legacy application I tried worked. A 1988
version of FoxBASE+ 2.10, WordStar 7.0, Norton Commander, and even a
1984 copy of Autodex 1.0, something few of you could possibly remember.

More intriguing is Win XP's ability to run these programs better -- faster and with more stability -- than Win 9x. Why? Who knows, folks, magic maybe, but it does. I had trouble with only one program -- an early Windows version of Ventura Publisher. It turns out that even the current version of VP won't run under Windows XP. Advice: Read
MS's "Reliability Improvements" article that explains why XP's more
stable than Win 9.x. It's at:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/techinfo/planning/reliability/prevention.asp

Then read "Windows XP Application Compatibility Technologies," a very comprehensive article that explains how to tweak apps so they'll run in XP. Pay special attention to the QfixApp, a tool that gets you to the database of compatibility fixes included with XP. 

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/techinfo/planning/appcompat/default.asp

Drivers and Upgrades: My Turtle Beach Santa Cruz sound card wouldn't
work with XP. 

Advice: As with any Operating System upgrade (excluding Amiga and GEOS), dig out the drivers and upgrades before you start the upgrade. If you can, burn them onto a CD-ROM. 

Networking: Lots, lots easier than in Win 9.x with one proviso...you'll have to dump NETBEUI on the other PCs in the network. Win XP relies totally on TCP/IP. 

Advice: Hone up on your networking skills or hire a consultant to get up to speed. Read MS's "Home and Small Office Network Topologies," article
at: 

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/techinfo/planning/networking/topologies.asp

Internet Explorer:  IE 6.0 doesn't support Netscape-style plug-ins. The
only one I missed -- and was annoyed with MS's removal of -- Apple's
QuickTime player. That meant I couldn't play MOV videos. MS claims it's for security. I say it's hogwash and a way to lock out Apple. By the time you read this, MS and Apple have probably tweaked the QuickTime Player to support ActiveX controls for IE 6.

Advice: If the QuickTime player doesn't work, find the patch on MS's site.

Getting a Jump: One good place to see if your PC is ready for XP is with PC Pitstop. They have a neat-o XP test site that examines your PC's operating system, CPU speed, BIOS version, amount of memory, available hard drive space, and video capabilities. The results tell you how your machine matches up to XP's minimum and recommended requirements. The tool
is available for you to try at:

http://www.pcpitstop.com/xpready 

MS also has many good articles if you're a tinkerer: 

** The "Consumer Desktop PC Design Checklist for Windows XP" provides
technical details for building a new PC for XP.

http://www.microsoft.com/hwdev/pcdesign

** You might want to continue using W2K while experimenting with XP. Read "Multibooting with Windows 2000 and Windows XP."

http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/techinfo/administration/management/mltiboot.asp

I'll have more to say about my XP upgrade experience next month.

Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World and runs the Pasadena
IBM Users Group. Write to him at steve_bass@pcworld.com. Check PCW's current edition at http://www.pcworld.com/resource/toc/index.asp  and sign up for the Steve Bass online newsletter at www.pcworld.com/bass_letter. 
 



DeLorme’s "Street Atlas" put to work
By Bob Wallace

One of the better uses for computers tody is mapping one's vacation trips.
One of the programs for doing that comes from a company named DeLorme, their program called Street Atlas, this the 1999 version. This makes the second version of their program we've had available for use, but the first time we've actually put it through its paces for a vacation trip.

Our introduction to this program came at one of the GT Network BBS Sysops
conventions some years ago. We've upgraded to the 1999 version, and will
likely update to the latest version shortly, given that streets and highways tend to change over time. One way to keep reasonably close to what one might face on local streets, or on highways around the country.

My wife and I have become accustomed to vacation trips at the end of each calendar year. She teaches Retail Floristry at College of San  Mateo, your editor drives a concrete delivery truck in San Francisco, so this end of the year means no classes for Lois, and minimal days for concrete
deliveries. So, let's sit down and figure out our trip, then check with Street Atlas to see which routings we come up with.

DeLorme's Street Atlas will start itself under Windows 98 Second Edition
when placed in the CD drive, so we'll get the CD off the shelf and get going.
First step will be to tell the program we'll be leaving from San Mateo. The problem with that is that, without a starting address somewhere within San Mateo, Street Atlas will assume that we're leaving from downtown, startng us out by leaving the Ben Franklin Hotel on Third Avenue, just off El Camino Real.

Fixing this little problem is no big deal. Simply click on the Start button and enter the street address and city, which helps Street Atlas to figure out where you're starting your trip. Once past that step, give the program your destination, including any "Via" locations that might assist in getting accurate details, including the mileage and map details.

First problem you're likely to encounter with this specific map program is that it tends to send you off with directions that the average driver simply would not follow. Leaving our home at Branson Drive and East 40th Avenue, for instance, Street Atlas would have us drive:

West on East 40th Avenue
North on Pacific Blvd
East on Hillsdale Blvd to US 101
 

which will work, but it's clearly the long way around. Starting north on
Branson to Santa Clara or Poinsettia, left to Saratoga and right to Hillsdale will save at least one mile of travel.

Next problem with what Street Atlas lays out for us is that it tends to think in only one direction: use the Interstate first. That may be good up to the point that one has an Interstate just outside the front door, or just down the street from the residential area you live in, but not necessarily good in terms of direct travel that makes sense to humans. In the first instance, without entering any "Via" locations, Street Atlas routed us across the San Mateo- Hayward Bridge, north on I-880, over  238 to I-580, then through Pleasanton and Tracy to the I-5 freeway. Street Atlas may view this as being the quickest routing, but it'll not be the directions followed by this writer.

Adding in one's Via routing(s) changes the output by Street Atlas. We'll want to go by way of Gilroy and SR 152 to get on I-5, follow I-5 to Bakersfield, over State Route 58 to Barstow, then on I-15 to Las Vegas. That's the routing we want to follow, but it means telling Street Atlas some of those details before we get a routing map and driving instructions that follow that track.

Once all the details are in place, click on the Travel Package icon (left of the Print Map icon) and get the preview of your printout. If everything looks reasonably correct for the routing, check the overlay screen to be sure you're getting only the printouts you want, then send it to the printer. Street Atlas defaults to giving you lots more than you're likely to want, so check first to be sure you want as much as the program will provide for you. Modifying that default of as much as can be generated thus far has maintained that reduced level of paperwork for us, meaning minimums.
This is where the checking of the DeLorme Street Atlas program gets
interesting for the computer user. Check the miles and time printed out by the mapping program, get in your car, reset the trip odometer and get on
your way. In our case between Christmas and just after New Year's Day, Street Atlas had things figured out pretty well, once the software and the
computer user were in agreement on specific routings to be followed.

From San Mateo to Las Vegas turned up with only four miles difference,
Street Atlas being about as accurate as could be. Our drive from Las Vegas
to South Lake Tahoe was also compared with Expedia's mapping program (www.expedia.com), giving us a slight difference in mileage, but some major difference in driving time: seven miles difference, Expedia being
lower, but two hours difference, Street Atlas being way over. On the homeward journey, despite only a slight detour through Davis and Winters, we still finished up with only 218 miles on the van, but Street Atlas suggested a total of 236 miles for straight through on US 50, I-80 and US 101.

Other discrepancies may be built into Street Atlas. Further use of the program would show us where those errors may be. In addition, we can
always visit Expedia or other mapping software sites on the Internet to
compare what we find in our program. Despite that minor bit of carping about DeLorme's program, we're very likely to upgrade to the latest  version of  the Street Atlas program within the next couple of months, just in time for the summer vacation periods.



Software updates
By Bob Wallace

Several software updates have been posted for computer users. Among other things, ZoneLabs’  ZoneAlarm program has been updated to version 2.6.362, downloaded and installed on my wife’s Win-98 SE system since our return from vacation this past week.

Ernest Hintz advises that anyone looking for Linux should check the Mandrake version now available. This is one of several versions of Linux available to computer users, Red Hat being another noted in a previous issue of the newsletter.

E-mail users looking for an alternative to Outlook Express, Eudora or other programs will find that MR/2 ICE for OS/2 was updated just before Christmas. The Windows version was updated at the same time, but got a further update shortly after Christmas. It’s available at:

www.nick.secant.com/mr2ice.htm

Download the correct archive for your operating system. Windows version can be found on a link on the first page. Also note that this program does take a bit more setup than others to make the connect with your local ISP. Not all that difficult, but be advised of such.

Genealogy.com has posted several messages to us in recent weeks to advise that a new version of their program is available for purchase, if you’re into genealogy research. Version 9 is the number, if memory serves.

We’ve noted this one on one or two previous occasions, but another site that may be of interest to you is where you may be able to locate driver files for your computer, should you need them. Go to:

www.drivershq.com

and look around. Yet another Internet site, one that used to be frequented by SFPCC members, is TUCOWS, the site still up and running, with four servers in California. The only surprise in their list of sites is the one in -- are you ready? -- Yuba City?

Given the number of Trojan, virus and worm problems noted during 2001, you may want to make routine checks of McAfee and/or Norton/Symantec web sites for the latest updates to their anti-virus software. Several alternatives to these two are also available via the Internet.

Additional quick checks via the Internet can be made by logging on to your local ISP on a regular basis. Also look for Windows updates occasionally from Microsoft for Windows users, or the  Hobbes site for OS/2 users. And after noting the TUCOWS site just a moment ago, also note that their sites have available files for Windows, Mac, Linux, Windows Themes (whatever that might be), BeOS, OS/2, Windows 3.1, QNX, plus Software Store. For anyone not on the TUCOWS site previously, go to: www.tucows.com.



Final bytes
By Bob Wallace 

By this point you should have already been introduced to Steve Bass of the Pasadena IBM Users Group. He posted a message that was forwarded here by Larry Welling last month. Within 24 hours of sending a message to him, he had responded with some number of files he’d written over a period of months. Given the recent release of Windows XP, that piece was a natural to add to this issue of the SFPCC Newsletter.

For those of you attached to the club’s e-mail messaging, some of this may repeat what you saw over the past weekend. The rest of you can catch up with it here.

Anyone with any thoughts on upcoming presentation topics, up to and including Windows XP, now that it’s out and has at least one fix already available?  Send your ideas to the club’smessage list, or direct to the program chairman: jlossf@earthlink.net, or to the newsletter editor: bob-wallace@rcn.com to alert us to your ideas.

Anyone with ideas to put in writing for the March-April newsletter (due out over the weekend of March 9) should save the text in DOS Text, Plain ASCII, whichever phrase your word processor uses to avoid including all the formatting commands for your specific computer and printer setup, thereby making it readily readable in any  word processor. (Heaven forbid we get anyone starting to save everything in PDF format!)

Forwarding e-mail messages to others? Consider editing all the "header" information already in those messages, unless you keyed in all the text on your own. For messages making their third or fourth forwarded-to round, readers have to wade through lots of "stuff" to get to the really important portion of such messages. Taking a moment to clean out all the garbage first will make it far easier for others to get to the meat of the message, and they’ll certainly appreciate your efforts. At least until such time as e-mail program writers decide to skip over all that information, or someone comes up with a utility program that strips all that "stuff."

In most instances, various articles for this newsletter are typed up ahead of time on the desktop system here which runs under OS/2 Warp 4, using WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows running under OS/2's Win-3.x emulation. Given our trip between Christmas and just after New Year’s, covered in detail in the piece on DeLorme’s Street Atlas program, much of what you see here was edited on the Compaq LTE 1500 laptop computer using my antique word processor, Perfect Writer, with all files saved to the diskette drive to help move those files directly onto the pages within WordPerfect by inserting each file where appropriate. Several bits and pieces were entered directly via the keyboard on the desktop system to help fill out these pages. Anything to help cover the pages for the SFPCC.
 
 



Schedule

January 10: Hank Skawinski, on almost everything related to computers.

February 14: Chris Havnar, on Genealogy update.

Note that every effort is made to have scheduled presenters make their appointment with the SFPCC. Due to circumstances beyond our control, sometimes circumstances beyond their control, those scheduled to be there on the appointed evening are not always able to make it.

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