San Francisco Peninsula Computer Club logo
Newsletter

Return to Home page
Return to Newsletter page

Volume 14, Number 3..........................Supporting PC platforms.......................... May - June 1998


Contents:


Thanks to our Outgoing Program Chairperson and Host

We wish Susan Faulk and her husband the "best of life" in their move to a new home in Idaho. We will miss them at meetings and Pizza Bashes. Susan has been our Program Chairperson and Host for the last several years...I can't even remember how many, and she has done a superb job. We thank her for all those efforts.

Generally, the Program Chairperson and the Board decides what presentations and presenters we would like to have for each meeting. It's a joint roundtable effort. The Chairperson is then responsible for making the contacts and doing the cajoling and follow-ups so that our presenter shows-up. Perhaps specific equipment will be needed, or the room setup in a specific way. The presenter needs to be greeted upon arrival, aided with any equipment and helped when leaving. So, you get the basic idea about what a Program Chairperson does.

In addition to this, Susan has also been our Host over these years. That means she has gone to the store before meetings to buy us goodies to eat and drink which are reimbursed out of the club's treasury. When she arrived at meetings, the goodies had to be setup and the coffee pots prepared. When the meetings were over, things had to be cleaned up and put away. That's a lot of effort she's put in over many years for our benefit. We owe her and all of our volunteers lots of gratitude. We wish her well in Idaho, and that she lets us know what club she joins or forms up there!

So, now the club is searching for replacements. Things could be a little rocky in the interim which is one reason why we only have a Free Forum Night scheduled so far for two months from now in June. However, thanks to Ernest, we will have a fine meeting this month from Jeff Marchi about Windows 98, and for June its been quite-a-while since we've had a Free Forum Night anyway, (even by accident...<grin>). Hopefully, we will be able to separate the two jobs Susan did and find two volunteers. Naturally, we would prefer that you show eagerness in volunteering to Ernest so we don't have to do much arm-twisting. Your coffee, cake, and strawberries depend on it!


Larry

The Modem Battle of the Century

by: Larry Welling

I say the battle for this century because it will probably only last a short time into the next before another technology makes it obsolete. Guess what! I am talking about the current 56K modem battle. And, a battle it is to get the best bang for your buck for the next few years. All is not as it seems at first glance between the Rockwell and Robotics 56K modems according to a fabulous article brought to my attention by Lowell Herried at the last club meeting. The article was by written Jack Rickard about extensive testing done by Boardwatch Magazine; the first test of its kind of the Rockwell vs. Robotics 56K protocols and the V.90 standard. The article appears in the March issue of Boardwatch and you can get it online at: www.boardwatch.com/mag/98/mar/bwm24.html. The folks at Boardwatch don't even charge for viewing their articles and you can print the whole thing out on your printer nicely formatted. It also contains a complete history of how these standards and modems came to market and of testing of many ISP's to determine how efficient they are at connecting.

Anyway, my purpose here is to summarize findings between the Rockwell K56flex and Robotics X2 modems and which you should choose in order to gain the best connect speeds. Boardwatch started out by trying to get speed connection data from various ISP's who offered X2 and K56flex. Good X2 data was obtained over some 17,000 calls, but a brick wall was hit trying to obtain K56flex data from ISP's. The reason was that the K56flex ISP's were having " ongoing difficulties keeping the equipment running at all. When they finally did, they found to their dismay there were no callers. There had not been sufficient penetration of the end user market to comprise a user base for the K56flex modems. We could find no one with more than a few hundred calls logged. And the problem (later) spread to the US Robotics camp. After an initial flush of enthusiasm over x2 among the very early adopters, the end user community decided somewhat emphatically to wait for the 'standard'." So, Boardwatch set out to do its own call completion and speed tests under real-world line conditions

modem including long-distance dialing by actually calling ISP's for a total of 140,000 phone calls. No testing in a closed lab stuff here! "Our call completion tests contained a stunner, K56flex and X2 weren't even close. The good news is you can regularly achieve mid-forties and as high as 50,666 connections with the new modems. The bad news is you can really only do it with one of them." Boardwatch found that the X2 modems were best. Calls with the X2 Robotics modems averaged a connect speed of 45,192 bps with nearly 94 percent of all calls at 40 KPS or over. Call completion rate for X2 was 90.4 percent to X2 ports. The average connect speed for various brands of K56flex modems was only 30,849 bps. This was close to what a 28.8 V.34 modem would do. The call completion rate for K56flex was a disappointing 79 percent to K56flex ports. This meant "no connection about one call out of five. The results were identical between the Motorola, the Diamond Supra, Zoom and the Hayes Accura. We must assume it is the Rockwell chip set." As to why this has happened, the article applauds extensive beta testing on the part of Robotics with 1,400 beta testers. They called the Robotics' test BBS line in order to fine tune the X2 protocol over actual line conditions. New versions of the test code could be easily downloaded by the beta testers because Robotics was an early adopter of Flash ROM upgradeable modems. On the other hand, Rockwell only produces chip sets to go into modems manufactured by others. So, the theory is that Rockwell never did much testing under real conditions. "Everyone assumed the modems were basically identical in performance. No one credible bothered to test outside the lab." The next question you could ask yourself is "won't the newest V.90 standard render all of this moot"? Boardwatch concludes that the new standard may get K56flex some 'slight improvement in dealing with digital networks and that Robotics modems may deal better with gruesome local analog lines'. "We're persuaded that most of the differences will remain proprietary". "The result is that we will have interoperable modems compliant with the V.90 specification and able to talk to each other. But it appears that large disparities in achievable connection speeds will depend on which client modem you are using, and which server modem you connect to (a Robotics or K56flex ISP modem). Our testing would indicate these disparities may be enormous". "In the coming world of V.90, we would expect to see an almost implausible range of operating performance from modems all purporting to be V.90 compatible. We'll have a standard, but it won't be very standard with regard to performance".

Boardwatch concludes by saying "U.S. Robotics x2 modem is very clearly the winner of the 56K battle at this point, and we would look for a continued dominance in actual performance on release of the new V.90 modems. Indeed, rumor has it 3COM (Robotics) was about to release some strongly improved code and decided to hold it for the V.90 release. So we think 56Kbps modems will be getting better". "You will most likely get the best performance using a modem and technology that matches the one supported by your ISP. And at least initially, significantly better performance will be available from the 3COM/US robotics V.90 products".

As an aside here, the article also mentions that some users can rarely get even a 28.8 Kbps connection and wonder what benefit they may achieve with a 56Kpbs modem. "The dirty little secret in the modem industry is that there have been many improvements in the V.34 code over the years - virtually none of it announced at all to minimize the headaches of users wanting to upgrade to the latest code. Cumulatively, they have improved modem performance dramatically. A V.34 modem off the shelf today will be much better in operation than a V.34 modem purchased a few years ago". So, a new 56K modem will also contain the new V.34 code and be more efficient at connecting to at least 28.8K under poor line conditions.

My conclusion from this extensive article is that you can enjoy greater Internet speeds by using a Robotics 56K modem even with the new V.90 standard. You would be largely wasting your money on a K56flex modem. My own ISP, SLIPNET, has just announced that it is V.90 compatible. If you are shopping for a modem, you will probably find that 56K modem prices at Fry's are little more than for the obsolete 28.8K technology.


Myron

Some Thoughts on Corel's WordPerfect8 Suite

by: Myron Gershenson

While I have Microsoft Word for Windows, Lotus Word Pro and Corel WordPerfect on my computer, by far my word processor of choice is WordPerfect. So, when the opportunity came to take a look at the WordPerfect 8 Suite, I was quite pleased. In this review I will not deal with the technical or intricate maneuvers that can be carried out with the different components of the suite, but rather my own usage of the program as a working teacher.

Corel WordPerfect 8 Suite. I suppose the best way to start is to look at the differences between the WP8 Suite and the WP7 Suite. Personally, the new suite feels better, the components seem to intermesh together much smoother and the toolbars have the same icons throughout so you don't have to learn a whole new bunch of symbols. Should you forget what one of those symbols stands for, just put the cursor on it and a small box appears telling you just what the icon means. The major functions necessary for the production of a paper, report, document or whatever word processing task you may have at hand, are all easily in reach in the toolbars and if you need some special one, you can add it with no trouble at all. On any of the operations you are trying to perform, should you forget how to do it, just go to Help and there are a variety of ways to get the instructions, or just hit F1 and the Perfect Expert pops up. I find this feature really helpful when I am trying to do something I haven't done for a while. If you are trying to do something tricky and for some reason it isn't covered in Help, the entire manual is located on the CD and covers every question I have been able to think of to date. Ever lose your work because you forgot to save it? For me, one little feature that has been carried forward from earlier versions that I love is the word "unmodified" that appears at the top line (where it says Corel WordPerfect and the title of your paper). If you see that, you know it has been saved, if you don't, you have changed the paper since you last saved it. That has sure saved me a lot of work!

If you are creating an Internet document, WordPerfect8 has made it simple, just save your work in HTML and it is an Internet document without you having to know anything about code at all. Just in case you have problems there is an Internet expert to help you get them solved. Since I maintain a web site for the use of my students, this feature of the suite is very helpful.

Since I teach geography, where statistical information such as demographics, agricultural information, and transportation statistics change frequently, the linking feature of the suite is extremely useful. I can create a statistical table in Quattro Pro and link it with my WordPerfect lecture notes and if I change the table, it is updated in the lecture notes. This is a handy feature too when linking the Quattro Pro table with a Presentations slide show that I will use in class, update one and the other is automatically fixed also. Good stuff!

To summarize, personally I find the WordPerfect 8 Suite much easier to use then either of its major competitors. Most of its major features are extremely intuitive and the learning curve on the whole suite is remarkably easy. Now I would like to discuss the individual components that make this such a remarkable program.

WordPerfect8. WordPerfect8 is so easy to use that I have found it to be my word processor of choice. While you are typing you don't have to worry about misspellings since a red line appears under a word not in the program's dictionary. To correct the error, just click on the right button of your mouse and a number of possible corrections are presented. pick the right one and click on it and job is done. It won't let you type a double word inadvertently, i.e. "the the" without signaling the fact to you with a red line. Right click on the mouse and it shows you the problem, click and the problem is gone. Each word typed appears in a box on the toolbar and you can click it to use the built-in thesaurus, for me a very handy tool. You can pull out a part of your document, put it in another file, put a border around the excerpt, add a table, illustrate it with graphics and print it, make a transparency of it, or put it in Presentations and make a web page out of it. There are templates to help with almost anything you can think of available just by hitting File and New and a whole list of pre-formed suggestions are shown to you. While you are typing your document you can look at a very small part of it or expand it to look at the full page. There are so many things you can do with WordPerfect8 that even though I have been using the basic program for years, I am constantly finding new great things that I never knew were possible. Since Corel has taken over WordPerfect, graphics have become easier to use then ever before. Font manipulation has been made into child's play and beautifully turned out documents are possible to the complete neophyte. With the toolbars everything you might want to do in word processing is available at a click of a mouse, or it you prefer keyboarding, there are a whole series of keyboard commands to do anything I know of that one would want to do. Preparing a table of contents and index are made so simple that one is tempted to use that feature a lot. As with the rest of the suite, your document can be prepared as a web page and posted to your site without knowing any of the HTML language. One feature that is handy is the Reveal Codes feature or F3, which shows you exactly what you have done and enables you to fix problems in your document. That's one thing you can't do in Microsoft Word or in Lotus Word pro. I find myself telling my colleagues at school to try my WordPerfect8 and a number of them have already changed and really enjoy using it. I use it for lecture notes, staff reports, classroom materials, handouts, quizzes and tests, and in general anything I need to get my job done. I haven't found anything that I haven't been able to accomplish with this program. In sum, I can honestly say that if you are planning to do word processing, look no further then WordPerfect8.

QuattroPro8. QuattroPro8 is the suite's spreadsheet. I have been using QuattroPro since it's inception and even though I am familiar with other spreadsheets, none is as handy. I keep all my grades on Quattro Pro. For the titles at the top of the columns you can turn the labels from horizontal to vertical and slanted vertical at that. Headers, footers, labels, titles are all easy. Sorting is merely a matter of telling the program what to sort and in ascending or descending order and it is done almost instantly. When I produce a list of the points my students have achieved to date, I also produce a graph (almost instantly) showing just what the numbers mean. I can add titles to the graph, change its form, add graphics, put in lines and even have it put into a form to post on my web site. The spreadsheet and graph can be printed together or separately as you wish. I prepare my tax stuff for my financial planner on Quattro Pro, keep lists of all kinds, even keep information about slides in it. As with the rest of the suite, you can import another application. And as with the rest of the suite, all the icons on the toolbars are the same as the rest, so once you learn one set, you can use all. This program is really easy to use and I am only just beginning to learn all the different applications that can be made for it.

Presentations8. Presentations8 Next to WordPerfect, Presentations is my favorite program in the suite. It can be used to prepare a slide show in class, a web site page, or a very nice single sheet sign. I use the slide show feature a lot for my classes. I can import a photograph, put in an arrow of any color I choose, and add explanatory information with no difficulty at all. I can then set up the slide show so I can project it from any computer using Windows 95 or Windows 3.1, even if the program is not on that machine. Presentation comes with a whole series of beautiful background templates that make you look really good without knowing how to do anything but point and click with your mouse. You can produce slides with just a title, with information, with bullet lists, with graphics, with tables, with just about anything your imagination can require. The program has a wonderful built-in outliner that lets you play around with the words you are using and then see the whole final product in a slide show. You can add slides, take them out, rearrange them, and when you are done, look at the final product. If you like, you can make a whole set of speakers notes and the program will print each slide as it will look and beneath the slide, the words you have decided to use, so your notes are instantly prepared. If a computer isn't handy, the program can print each slide as a transparency with no problem. If for any reason, you are called upon to give a demonstration of any kind, Presentation is the program that will help you most.

Central8. Central8 is a handy PIM. It serves as a calendar, reminder, to do list, address book and several other things I haven't used yet. I like it to keep my class schedule in and I can add notes about what I am going to do in class that day and print out the whole thing to keep me organized. It can remind you by alarm of birthdays, meetings or anything else you need to be reminded of. I must confess that I have not used this program for anything except its calendar features and address book but I can see that at some future date there is much more to learn about this part of the suite. As with the other parts, you can export from Central or import to it from the other applications. Pretty handy gadget to have.

Photo House. I must confess that I feel this is the weakest part of the suite. It is fine for some simple applications but is nowhere as good as most the other graphic manipulation programs. Maybe it is because I am too used to other applications. You may like it just fine.

Envoy7 Viewer. This is a nifty program that can be used to send WordPerfect documents to other formats or to import other formats into WordPerfect. I haven't used it enough to comment on it.

Overall, I would recommend the WordPerfect8 Suite to anyone who needs an excellent all-round word processing program. There is also an excellent monthly publication dedicated only to WordPerfect that enables you to learn new ways to use the suite which is still another attraction of the program. This one is a keeper!


Judy

Gold Mine 4.0

A Software Review

by: Judy Oliphant

Want to make the most of your time, manage all of your relationships, experience better teamwork, forecast, track and close sales, use e-mail and the web to talk to clients?

You might want to check out Gold Mine. Gold Mine 4.0 Standard Edition offers a good core of flexible contact software. One of the features that I took some time with was the calendar, while not quite as good as the one in Day Timer or Lotus Organizer which I see being used elsewhere.; and while not as "user friendly" as I would have liked, compared to Day Timer or Lotus Organizer, Gold Mine does offer some of the same features. It offers multiple views, alarms, drag and drop and recurring events. You can send invitations to meetings, or to an office after hour get-together.

Gold Mine Center for Information allows you to retrieve and store reams of text information such as company lists, prices lists or personal notes. One of the features that I found interesting is that you can link sound and photos to contact records and it adds the ability to structure outlines of folders and items including text, and graphics and multimedia files. You can design your own multimedia presentation.

Another one of the features that I found interesting was the E-mail Center. Gold Mine offers a one stop E-mail Center with POP messaging as well as native support for MS Exchange 5.0. The E-mail center handles multiple e-mail accounts and allows users to handle multiple Internet addresses. Users can enjoy a combined view of all e-mail messages which I thought was a nice feature.

How many people do you know that work in today's market that work in a vacuum? The answer will be zero if any. And how many do you know that will tell you if only I could work for myself I wouldn't have the stress I do now... "no one is an island onto himself or herself", to be PC correct here. We all have people to report to and we all have people that are counting on us. Well Gold Mine says no one works in a vacuum and we all work with people around us or to which we have to report. If this is the case for you, then it is important to be in touch and you can stay in touch with Gold Mine.


Marsha

Review of Fictionmaster

A Software Review

by: Marsha Brandsdorfer

Remember when you were in school and your teacher used to write notes in your margins making suggestions and corrections in your writing? FictionMaster seems to use a similar principle. FictionMaster is an easy to use creative writing program which involves interaction with the writer and the instructor. The instructor here is the computer program, which was written by writer/playwright Sol Stein. The suggested retail price is $299, but the discount price of $179 is currently available from WritePro, 43 South Highland Avenue, Ossinging, New York 10562, telephone: 800/755-1124. The program can be used on DOS 2.0 or higher and Windows 3.11 and higher, and WritePro tells me they also have a version for the Macintosh. It is on one disc and installation is extremely easy. You use a mouse and/or key strokes to work the program.

You can transfer your writing from your own word processor into FictionMaster and you can also write directly into FictionMaster and save your work there if you like. However, since FictionMaster does not have a spell checker or thesaurus or any other fancy function and formatting keys that your word processing program might have, I suggest that when you are satisfied with your work in FictionMaster that you copy your text back into your word processing program for these other functions.

FictionMaster contains four sections and each section has topics you get to by using the F2 key on your P.C. The sections are: (1) Creating Memorable Characters, (2) Developing Page- Turning Plots, (3) The Dialogue Doctor (TM), and (4) Overcoming Obstacles to Publication.

For purposes of this review, I decided that I would choose "The Dialogue Doctor (TM)" to give the reader an idea of how this program works. Page 3 of "The Dialogue Doctor (TM)" asks me to type in or copy from my word processor some fiction dialogue to work on.

I typed in this brief fiction dialogue I wrote:

--------

"Hey, George, pass the salt. We gotta eat fast ya know, so we can get over to Rocky's."

"Sure thing, Tony. I don't want that tough guy leaving before I get a chance to knock some teeth out."

"Yea, he's a tough guy all right. He'd beat his own mother if it meant he could look like a tough guy, but he'd just look like some stupid bud with no respect for women, no respect for anyone, even himself. So why you want to go smacking him and lower yourself to his level?"

"Because I can. Because I'm bigger than him."

"Yea, but not any brighter. Thanks for the salt."

"I'll tell ya one thing, I'm not in it for the money. I'm in it to see the bozo go to jail for a long, long time. Why didn't we go to a better restaurant? You know how I hate this diner, Tony. The waitresses here are ugly. I would have preferred Max's. You know they got some nice babes there."

"Well, I would have preferred a lot of things, but you know I don't want us wasting our money or our time on some fancy restaurant."

"Well, the scenery is nicer, the food is better and we only live once."

"Eat up."

----------

Now I go to the "Index of Topics" by pressing F2. F2 moves you through the various pages and topics, while F10 and F9 only take you to the respective next page and previous page. You can go in order, or you can select any topic you want. I decided to go to "Including Thoughts in Dialogue." FictionMaster says: "Thoughts may be considered dialogue between a character and the reader. Thoughts ... (can) convey what a character really thinks as opposed to what the character is letting on to other characters."

>Sol Stein then gives an example of "thoughts" from his own novel, "Living Room." He asks if I interspersed a thought or two in my own dialogue. I hadn't, so I decide to add some "thoughts" following this part of Tony's dialogue:

--------

"Yea, but not any brighter. Thanks for the salt." Although trying not to get angry, Tony was feeling regrets that he ever allowed George in on the deal. "George, you're stupid and a big lug; I want ya out," he was thinking, but he never would say it. He knew he couldn't.

--------

Next, Sol Stein, writer of FictionMaster, talks about what he calls "zingers." He says zingers stand for brief thoughts that are insights. He says he uses them "sparingly and puts them in italics." Again he gives an example from his novel, "Living Room," and explains why he added same in his text and suggests I give it a try. I came up with the following, which follows directly after the above:

--------

"He wouldn't be able to get anyone else to take a chance on him; Tony had a bad reputation on the streets for not paying up."

--------

Next topic Sol Stein talks about is "Silent Dialogue." He says that "dialogue between two characters does not always require that both speak all the time." He suggests that "omission of speech can be used to increase the tension of exchange" and again gives examples. He also suggests "instead of a response or silence, you can substitute an action for the response." For my own dialogue, I took out the last quote by Tony where he says, "Eat up" and instead, I wrote the following:

----------

"Tony put the salt in his soup and stirred it around with his big fat spoon. He kept stirring and stirring and when he looked up he saw George starring at him. Hey man, aren't ya eating?, George inquired. Tony put some soup on the spoon and drew it to his mouth, but then changed his mind and put it back into the bowl. Let's go. I want to get out of here. Let's go to Max's."

----------

Sol Stein also allows you to practice your writing by giving you some miscellaneous exercises spread throughout the different parts. For instance, in "Overcoming Obstacles," he asks "What do you believe to be the one thing that should never be told in fiction" and then gives you multiple choice selections. In "Characterization" he asks you to name your protagonist and asks you "Is the name of your character distinctive?" Is the name of your character "easy to pronounce and remember?" He asks if your character has a nickname and suggests getting some names from a baby name book.

A major negative about the FictionMaster software is that you can only print out what you write, and none of FictionMaster's great instructions, examples, tips and text. I assume this is partly so WritePro can protect their copyright. But, at times it made me wish I had a full sized computer screen instead of my laptop, because there certainly was a lot of reading involved. If you get tired, FictionMaster, has an "auto resume" preference so after you save your document, you can return later or on another day to where you left off.

If you have questions on using FictionMaster or any of its features, there is a "Help" feature and you can print any of the easy to understand help topics.

Sol Stein's writing tips are clear and as each topic is short and precise, understanding and using his tips and suggestions are not complex at all. He gives lots of examples from his own writing and other authors. As I indicated in my above examples, he allows you to use his tips, ideas, instruction and suggestions right after reading each topic. He does suggest that practice is important. For instance on the last page of "The Dialogue Doctor (TM)," he states: "Writing dialogue is a continuing process of improvement... which is why this part of the program is designed to be used over and over." This is true, as you can use it to help you with other stories you are working on and save it under other file names.

I personally look forward to using FictionMaster again and again to help me with my own creative writing. And I don't mind this as a substitute for teachers writing in my margins.


MEETING CALENDAR

We make great effort to fulfil the calendar, but a meeting topic may sometimes change without notice. Call Larry Welling at (650) 593-9981 if you need late information, or check the club's website. The club meets the second Thursday of every month. The door opens at 7:00 p.m. and meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. at 222 Laurel St., San Carlos in the downstairs social room. Cross streets are Oak and Hull (see map on back page). Signs out front of the building will direct you to the door. Anyone is welcome, membership is not required. Please park in the lot behind the stores at Oak and El Camino...a short distance. Please do not park directly in front of the building.

May 14. The Launch of Windows 98. Provided Justice Dept. and State anti-trust suits don't hold it up, this upgrade to Windows 95 is due for release to OEM's the next day. Release to consumers is scheduled for June 25. Much controversy surrounds what some believe is Bill Gates' monopolistic position of integrating the Internet Explorer web browser with Windows 98. Some of you may remember the fine presentation we had earlier about Windows 95 from Jeff Marchi. Jeff was a Microsoft beta tester for Windows 95, and he continues with Windows 98. Jeff will discuss the new features and bug fixes in this latest upgrade. Perhaps he will have late news on whether Windows 98 will launch to the public on time. Now will be a great time for you to ask lots of questions and determine for yourself if you want to upgrade from Windows 95 to 98.

May 28. Executive Board Meeting, 7:30 p.m. in the club meeting room. All members welcome. If you have an interest in becoming our new Program Chairperson or Host, we will be most happy to discuss what is entailed for either position and get your input and answer your questions. Our Board meetings are friendly and informal and you won't be browbeat! You will even likely get coffee and a treat.

Jun 11. Free Forum Night. This will be an evening of interchange where you can ask computer questions and voice opinions about what's happening in "computerdom". If you want help with something on your computer, you are welcome to bring your computer to the meeting room and set it up on the large tables. We even have a telephone line available for your modem. Ernest may treat us with how to install Windows 95 version B and a network card from scratch. Come enjoy!


Return to Home page
Return to Newsletter page