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Volume 14, Number 2..........................Supporting PC platforms.......................... March - April 1998


Contents:


Bob Microsoft is/isn't a monopoly
by Bob Wallace

Given all the news reports of this past week via the nation's broadcast and print media, one might have concluded we were back in the days of the Robber Barons of the late 19th century. In fact, it was just another day to visit with the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee for Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft.

Gates wasn't alone at the table provided for witnesses before the Judiciary Committee. While Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had invited Gates and several other computer titans, several others were asked to attend at Gates's request to Senator Hatch.

Silicon Valley was represented by Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, and Jim Barksdale of Netscape Communications, both named as two of Microsoft's bitterest rivals. Additional participants included Michael Dell of Dell Computer, Doug Burgum of Great Plains Software, and Menlo Park venture capitalist Stewart Alsop.

Microsoft, clearly in charge of the lion's share of desktop and laptop computers with 85% of these systems running Windows 95, may not be spending enough of its own money inside the Beltway. One number being mentioned in recent days would suggest that Microsoft is in the lobbying business at a measly (by Beltway standards) $1 million per year, when other groups spend that much or more each month in protecting their own interests.

Netscape's Barksdale requested a show of hands of people in the hearing room on Tuesday who use a computer. Nearly every hand went up in response. Then he asked how many use an operating system other than Windows. Nearly every hand went down. "Gentlemen, that's a monopoly," Barksdale said.

Whether it is or isn't, even California Senator Dianne Feinstein was anti-Gates, noting that "One trade association told my staff that if things continue as they are today, that it could be the end of Silicon Valley as we know it today in two or three years."

Senators Hatch and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, ran their own check of Microsoft business practices by having their staff contact Dell Computer. In each instance, the response to questions of being able to get Netscape's Browser installed on a new computer brought a negative response, including one reply which ran "I don't know, it has something to do with Microsoft."

Don't forget about the federal court order which disallows Microsoft from putting their operating system and Internet Explorer together as part of a connected whole. Microsoft would be in the cat bird's seat if such were the case, but for the time being is not possible. Had Microsoft been able to make that connection, that their IE and operating system were one in the same, how long would it have been before other software applications might have been tied to the Windows banner through the operating system?

Another curiosity for Microsoft is how they take advantage of new programming efforts coming from outside sources. So long as the new program appears likely to garner some interest among computer users, Microsoft will jump in with a statement that their in-house development team is working on something similar, in some cases making sufficient waves for the outside programmer so as to detract from any potential that program might have had going for it.

Even a different wrinkle comes from the potential for in-house development to nearly copy a piece of software, but give it several "hooks" only the Microsoft programmers might be aware of, given their close connection with the operating system development in Redmond, Washington. While outside programmers are said to have access to programming "hooks," several stories have made the rounds that suggest Microsoft's people have a leg up on the latest information available, with the next to latest information being available generally outside the hallowed halls of Microsoft.

Yet another twist comes into this story when looking at venture capital interests. Any group looking for startup money will be asked about their intentions for programming, and who they might be going up against with their efforts. If Microsoft enters into this picture in any way, potential funding sources are highly likely to dry up immediately.

For anyone with reservations as to what is being suggested here, pick up Sunday's (March 8) San Francisco Examiner and glance through the story in their Business section in the Net Skink column by Rebecca Eisenberg on Page B-5. What is covered within that column has been noted elsewhere by your editor on at least several occasions. She even goes so far as to ask if those in front of the Senate committee on Tuesday might have ever tried what she refers to as "superior" operating systems, including FreeBSD, OS/2 or Linux, or ever been faced with keeping an NT "box" from crashing.

Will Microsoft be given orders to divest themselves of one side or another of their business? At this juncture that's difficult to tell. Typically, monopolies have been judged based on having a "dominant" position within their market, while at the same time prices are going up on their products. In the computer world of recent memory, prices are stabel or going down for software, which means the government isn't likely to seek a breakup of Microsoft. At least, for the moment. Stay tuned.


Calendar

March 12: Beginning Internet, Part 2, with Myron Gershenson and Larry Welling. More on getting started with the Internet.

April 9: Eudora, with Judy Oliphant. More information on this program.

May 14: Windows 98, with Jeff Marchi. Only weeks until launch date for the latest from Microsoft.


Marsha Review of Dramatica Pro
by Marsha Brandsdorfer

Dramatica Pro is a program which was developed to aid in the art of writing fiction prose. It describes itself as not "the place (to) write your story, but rather a tool to help you know your story better." It comes on three 3" discs which are easy to install for Windows 3.1 and greater, or for Apple Macintosh. Dramatica Pro was developed by a Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley and distributed by a company called Screenplay Systems, Inc. in Burbank, California, (818) 843-6557. It is an expensive program retailing for approximately $400, but if you are serious about learning how to develop your creative writing, you get a lot for your money. The Dramatica Pro package comes with the graphic software, a detailed trade paperback text book called "Dramatica: A New Theory of Story," "Dramatica Pro Story Worksheets," and a Storyguide Pro/User's Guide book, as well Dramatica Pro Bulletin Board software to use if you are interested in communicating with others who use Dramatica Pro software. Screenplay Systems emphasizes licensing their product and promises updates and technical support if needed.

I found this program user friendly and installation very easy. Graphics are very clear. After installation, I went into the main Dramatica ProDesktop. This has a menu bar and twelve icons entitled: Story Guide Pro, Query System, Story Points, Story Examples, New Story, Characters, Reports, Brainstorming, Open Story, Story Engine, Preferences and Theory Help. My first thought was "Now what?" I found that I did need the Storyguide Pro/User's Guide to show me where to begin. The book suggested I go into the "Storytelling" menu on top of the Dramatica Pro Desktop. Under the "Storytelling" menu, I was to select the "Story Info" command. Clicking on this opened a window which asked me to name my story and put in some other general information, including the genre of the story and a brief synopsis.

I decided that I would use a boy meets girl contemporary story. The premise of my story was that "the boy," which was actually a single white male around 40 years old, would be interested in having a relationship with a single white woman only a few years younger than himself; however, she would be disinterested in pursuing same, due to emotional reservations influenced by past experiences. Despite this conflict, I decided that somehow there would be a happy ending where the boy gets the girl, so I had to make her turn around in her feelings. When I started the program I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do this.

Dramatica Pro gives several analytical examples from 36 stories including "Amadeus," "Being There," "Body Heat," "Blade Runner," "The Client," "Clockwork Orange," "The Fugitive," and "Star Wars." Dramatica Pro explains the development of these stories. I could have chosen to look at some of the examples to see how relationships were generated in some of these stories.

Instead, I decided to go right into my story. The "Story Info" asked for a title for my story. I used the working title "The Computer Wiz," as I was thinking my main male character was a computer wizard. Later, I changed my mind and had male character meet a "wizard" such as in the "Wizard of Oz," who gives him what he needs to change to capture the female character's heart. The title of the story becomes the name of the file as well, as it is saved under the "Story Info" command upon completion.

The Storyguide Pro/User's Guide suggests that I should begin to analyze my story by using the characters' icon first. Clicking on that brings me to what Dramatica Pro calls a "Character List Window." In that window, you are to create your character by giving names and general information about the characters in the story. The character list window was fun because it gives choices of several dozen photographic and cartoon graphics you can use to illustrate your characters. I chose a cartoon for my male character and a photographic picture for the woman, so you do not have to be consistent. This helps give a visual image to your character.

Now the program starts to get much more involved, detailed and time consuming, as you are asked to respond to numerous specific questions under the "Story Guide Pro" icon, which brings up a "Query System." I was in the Query System responding to the fill-in questions for two hours and still hadn't completed all my responses. However, Dramatica Pro does advise that you do not need to respond to every question. It was the Query System that certainly enabled me to think more about my story. It gave me the opportunity to think more in depth about my characters and their relationship to each other and the plot. It was by responding to the questions that I came to the conclusion that I needed another character, "the computer wizard," to help move my story along. The textbook entitled "Dramatica: A New Theory of Story" and information under the icon "Theory Help," help you to specifically understand the questions. Theory Help explains in alphabetical order what these terms mean. And at the bottom of each question, you can get an explanation, definition, theory help, and story examples. For example, one question was: "Illustrate how the domain in which the objective story takes place is a fixed attitude (mind)."

If I click on definition, I am told "Mind: a fixed attitude." If I click on story, I am told: "Amadeus: .. within the objective story, the characters are fixed in their attitudes... Mozart is fixed on his personality and his thinking."

My response: "Marilyn, in the beginning of the story, is totally uninterested in John and not open to feeling otherwise. John, on the other hand, is interested in Marilyn and not agreeable to changing his thoughts either."

Because the questions were so specific, the Query System was very involved and at times overwhelming and draining mentally and emotionally. Other times it was challenging. The questions got me to think thoroughly of my characters and their relationships with each other. For instance, I came to the conclusion that by using this question and answer format that my female character, Marilyn was resisting getting involved emotionally with my male character John, not so much because she did not like him for who he was as an individual, but because of her past experiences. She noticed that John did not have a strong balanced self-esteem and her experiences in past relationships showed her that men who did not have a good self opinion about themselves, were unlikely to get into a healthy relationship. She found that they were looking for the other person to make them happy, and she knew that was not always possible. The Computer Wizard John eventually visits has to bring this to John's attention and give him self-esteem, as where the Wizard of Oz had to give the Lion courage, the Tin Man a heart, and the Scarecrow a brain.

So, the Dramatica Pro gave me the ability to analyze my story and helped me come to a successful happy ending. What is interesting is that Dramatica Pro takes the information you type and uses it in the "Reports" icon. The more questions and the more detailed and specific you are in your responses to the Query System, the more help you can find in the Reports.

Dramatica Pro takes the information you typed in, and organizes it into reports. Some sample reports include "The Kitchen Sink Report," "Objective Story Plot Dynamics Report," and numerous others. You can also print out any of these reports. For my story I printed out the "Storytelling Output" report. This was a very detailed report, in 19 pages. Many of the other reports are much shorter. For my story, "The Kitchen Sink Report" was only four pages. I liked the "Storytelling Output" report because of the contents. Organizing my own words from the fill-in questions, it mentioned for instance, some of the following: the objective character mini-synopsis, description of my character John, story activities, his role in my story (which was to be the love interest), Marilyn's character description, how the outcome of the story might relate to success (Marilyn will agree to date John after his visit with the Computer Wizard, because she now sees that John likes himself as a person.). There is what is called "backstory," "concern as it relates to memory," "problem as it relates to desire," "solution as it relates to ability." For instance, my text under this last question says that "after John sees the Computer Wizard he will have the ability to rethink the way he feels about himself. He will then desire to make himself happier and more attractive, and a more positive person with more confidence."

There is also the "Story Points" icon which also organizes the story, but does it in a form of tables. For my story, I looked at "story dynamics" and it listed four items across the page: "appreciation," "item," "definition," and "storytelling." Under "appreciation" was the word "resolve." Under "item" was the word "change." Under "definition" was the description "John changes his essential nature while attempting to solve the problem." Under "storytelling" were my words taken out of the "Query System," which said, "John realizes finally that if he can be upbeat and pleasant, Marilyn will want to be with him more. Also, since he likes being with Marilyn, he usually is more upbeat when he is with her." There were a list of other "story dynamics" under this table as well.

I found that using the Dramatica Pro program can be as complex as one wants. It is basically a program to help analyze one's story ideas, help with organizing, character development, conflicts, resolutions and other aspects to enable the story to be credible and third dimensional. I found that Dramatica Pro is a good thinking tool, as well as a writing tool. It allows the user to think in depth the extent and specifics of character and plot. It does not, however, help with writing as far as dialogue, grammar, and syntax are concerned.

Time can be the only draw back. This program is extremely helpful particularly to users who wish to take the time to take advantage of what Dramatica Pro offers as a strong teaching tool for creative writing. The user can do this on his or her own time and speed and get involved as much as she/he wants. The more Dramatica Pro is used, the more the user will learn its terminology and theories and its use as a writing tool will be more effective. I recommend this program for people who are serious about the creative writing process and want help in plot and character development.


Moving up from Win 3.11 to 95

by Bob Wallace

Going from nearly the last holdout within the computer club with respect to use of Windows at all to being nearly as current with Windows 95 in just over one year is almost more than I'm able to contend with.

No question but that all of this came about as a result of my wife needing a graphics capability for the computer work she needs to do, which covers installation of Windows 3.11 early in 1997. Moving up to Windows 95 was somewhere off in the distance until only a month ago.

One of the device additions here had already been contemplated, that being the purchase of a flat-bed scanner to work with the DeskJet printer already at work behind Lois's computer. Off we went one Sunday to check on the availability of scanners and their pricing, only to walk into what we were looking for, only to find out after the fact that it was designed for Windows 95 only. Not until the CD-ROM was in the drive and ready for installing did we figure out that this one required Windows 95, and nothing less.

Back to the drawing board, with it quickly obvious to us that we'd be getting into Windows 95 somewhat earlier than we'd anticipated. Given that virtually everything on the hard drive had come from CD-ROMs in the first place, the only backups we'd require would be the data files we'd added under those programs already installed.

Knowing that made choices relatively easy for us, including making a partition for two logical drives, then formatting the hard drive with MS-DOS 6.22 to clean up that 630MB storage device before going into the Win 95 install program, all 13 disks! Not that it was all that bad. Took maybe some 40 minutes, which is near to the estimates provided by the Microsoft documentation.

Once all the programs were installed, most of those going onto the second partition, time was made for putting all the data files back in their proper directories. That chore taken care of, it was finally time to install the scanner software, this time finding that it came up as it was intended to, and going about its installation without further delay. Next step will be to work through the chart provided by Hewlett-Packard for their 5100C scanner, and figure out how to get that to work with pictures and other graphics-based items we want to import into WordPerfect for Windows 6.1.

One step we've already figured out with this new Windows 95 software is the use of both ScanDisk and Defrag. While each of these programs can be started from the Start button on the Desktop, each can also get going from the MS-DOS prompt, if you choose to do that extra step.

One word of caution if you do, that being to insure that you're using the Windows versions of these programs, particularly if you installed the MS-DOS programs into the DOS subdirectory. Starting either of these from the DOS prompt will not be a problem, so long as your DOS Path statement finds the Windows subdirectory for either program before searching the DOS subdirectory. Use of the older DOS versions of these programs will create havoc with the longer filenames available under Windows 95, if either program is still located in your DOS subdirectory.


Final bytes

by Bob Wallace

Another spring is just around the corner, despite all the talk about El Niño giving us fits for another month or six weeks. At the top of this closing column for another newsletter, mention for everyone in the computer club that Judy Oliphant was involved in an accident in San Francisco on Saturday, but was only shaken up. Talking with her on the telephone Sunday evening finds her in good spirits, despite some questions asked of her by the insurance agent that struck her as inane. Her vehicle was damaged and will be in the repair shop for up to several weeks, perhaps. As of Sunday evening, she expects to attend Thursday night's meeting with us in San Carlos.

As you may have noted for quite some time, the masthead of newsletters put together by both Larry Welling and myself have noted that our group is "Supporting PC Platforms," which is meant to indicate that the Peninsula Computer Club includes people running various of the operating systems that control how our computers work for us. This includes both Windows (3.x and 95), OS/2, MS-DOS, and Linux, that I'm aware of at this writing.

One of the changes made here within the past month, in addition to installation of Windows 95 on Lois's computer, is the opportunity to get another look at OS/2 Warp v3.0, the operating system won at a "silent auction" more than a year ago, but put back in the closet after a very brief look at it at that time.

Working with OS/2 Warp is not an easy task, given that it means opening up the system case for the computer set up to work as the Netmail system known as Crossroads BBS, the local site for gathering and distributing GT Network Mail during the night throughout the year, swapping out the hard drive, then making the change within the system BIOS to go from the 540MB hard drive to a 630MB hard drive with OS/2 installed on it.

This also means using a mouse to move around the Desktop within that system, although IBM thought out its system to the degree that keyboard moves are also included within the operating system scheme of things. If the mouse fails for any reason, it's still possible to get around by using alternatives via the keyboard.

Once I get familiar with OS/2 on that computer, and get comfortable with the idea of having that operating system handle the Netmail system, too, it'll make for an interesting contrast with three computers running here, each with its own operating system on it: DOS on the club's BBS system, OS/2 on the Netmail computer, and Windows 95 on Lois's machine. At the very least, it ought to be extremely interesting.

This is about the point where your editor typically provides information on what is behind this newsletter. It's become a habit, in part so that those who take the time to read this far can get some idea of how this was put together. The computer is a 486-133, Windows 95 (it had been Windows 3.11 until only a month ago), WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows using its Desktop Publishing capability, printing through an HP DeskJet 693C printer.


Thanks this month to Marsha Brandsdorfer for reviewing Dramatica Pro for this issue, and making it available both on a 3.5-inch diskette, and on paper, just in case. She edited her review using WordPerfect, too, which made it easy to import into the page form. As a reminder for other reviewers, save your editing work in DOS Text, making it easy for Larry or I to import to our program.


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