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Vol. 15  No. 2  Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:..Mar-Apr 1999
 

CONTENTS

Linux OS ... not quite ready

Making Money in Cyberspace"  
Book Review
 
by Marsha Brandsdorfer
 
Active Worlds Universe
by Jack Burnett 

3D Graphics Come to Life with ActiveWorlds
 By Judy Oliphant 

A little humor...
 
Calendar

 

Linux OS ... not quite ready
By Bob Wallace 

It's 5:15 a.m. on the first Saturday in March. Do you know where your newsletter editor is? Starting what will be a relatively long day in putting the March-April newsletter together again, with submissions from an eclectic group of writers this month. 

SFPCC members represented here include Marsha Brandsdorfer and Judy Oliphant. An additional piece comes from a man Judy mentions at various meetings during our general conversation sessions, that being Jack Burnett, now a retired Sysop in the GT Power Network Judy and your editor have been a part of for seven years in Judy's case, and nine years this month for your editor. 

Having contributions from these individuals makes it far easier to generate the bi-monthly SFPCC Newsletter, despite occasional checks being necessary with one or another of the writers of articles to clarify the meaning of specific words and/or phrases your editor may not understand or be familiar with, particularly in specialty fields which tend to have their own buzz words and technical jargon. 

Now that your editor is working on cup of coffee number two already (it's now 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning), let's take a quick look at computer-related stories from last week. Thursday's issue of the San Francisco Examiner had an article in their Business section on one of the alternatives to Windows 95/98, that being the Linux OS, and the LinuxWorld Conference held in San Jose's Convention Center. 

Entitled as "Not ready for prime time OS," this was a very general story on Linux, one of a number of derivatives of the Unix operating system, started by Linus Torvalds, at the time a student in his native Finland, now living in Santa Clara. Torvalds is thought of so highly by Linux users that many of them were seen in the meetings wearing t-shirts with "Microscared" printed on them, and "Linus Torvalds for President" on posters everywhere. 

One surprise for your editor was learning that software providers are beginning to make their products available for Linux already, despite the fact very few numbers of users are currently interested in Linux. WordPerfect and Netscape have at least cracked that market with their software, which can only encourage other software makers to follow suit at some point. Add to this the most recent issue of PC Magazine with its own coverage of Linux as an alternate OS, and one can only wonder if Bill Gates and company are starting to get nervous up there in Redmond, Washington. 

Where this is leading this early Saturday morning is this: there are alternatives to the Windows OS on computers, although you may have to shop very smartly to learn where they may be available, even in this extremely high-tech San Francisco Bay area. Several businesses which used to offer computers on their shelves with Apple's Macintosh OS or IBM's OS/2 Warp are no longer in business. Not necessarily due to those "other" operating systems. 

Some of you may recall the "silent auction" held five or six years ago in which your editor happened across a box with IBM's OS/2 Warp, version 3.0. That box of diskettes made it back to the house that night, but had to wait for about one year or so before the OS was installed on the computer system. Now that I know how well OS/2 works, more effort should have been put into installing it sooner! 

Ernest Hintz is known throughout the club as one who enjoys trying out new software, whether that is yet another operating system for one of his computers, or a new word processor with all the bells and whistles. His latest tinkering has been with Linux, and has him to the point of suggesting already that Linux is likely to be the next big operating system software. In fact, he sees Linux being installed for personal computers within the next five years. 

Interestingly, the Examiner's story quoted one attendee as suggesting that Linux for home computers might be available sometime within the next year, but not much sooner than that. With "mainstream acceptance" now coming with Intel, IBM, Compaq Computer and Hewlett-Packard signing on to work with Linux, it's far more likely to happen at some point, given what appears to be support for this operating system from computer industry leaders. 

Going beyond that change is the report included within the news accounts of LinuxWorld that new computers shipped in 1998 with Linux installed were more than double their 1997 levels of only 7 percent. Business machines with Linux accounted for about 17 percent of the market, a significant jump for an OS many computer users know very little about yet. 

But back to OS/2 Warp for just a moment. Just a few months ago an "invitation" was sent out to users of OS/2 Warp via one of several OS/2 conferences, suggesting that IBM might take interest in making a new version if enough people expressed an interest in it. Within days they had well over 10,000 responses to that message. To date, IBM's response has been that no such update will be forthcoming, particularly for the personal computer side of the industry. 

All of this discussion on Linux vs Windows 95/98, and we've not yet said anything about Caldera's DR- DOS update, the subject of another message noted within the last month or so via the BBS Network. This is the OS that made its way from Digital Research to Corel to Caldera over the last couple of years, and now has an update that may find some interest among computer users again. 

For a very brief teaser on Caldera's DR-DOS, check this out. Includes a Web browser that can run on a 40MHz 386 with just 4 megs of RAM; ODI-based networking; Multitasking; TCP/IP, HTTP and FTP; POP3 and SMTP; Year 2000 support; and power management. 

All of this without Windows? Yes! But it may be somewhat difficult to install and get going. At least that's the impression left from several GT Network messages between your editor and Mike Powell, Sysop of  GT's 010/022 BBS in Frankfort, Kentucky, over the past couple of weeks since Caldera's DR-DOS message first showed up. On the other hand, Windows has been known to be difficult to work with as well. Much like Ernest Hintz, Mike has a knack for getting his computer to work the way he wants it to, but it does take time. 



Making Money in Cyberspace"  
Book Review  
by Marsha Brandsdorfer 

We've all heard of those books that cry out "Read me!  I have all the success secrets to making easy money."  Maybe you've even forked down your $20.00 or more to get a copy of this American dream. 

Well, what I liked about the book "Making Money in Cyberspace" (copyright 1998) by Paul and Sarah Edwards and Linda Rohrbough is that these writers are realistic in their approach in 
advising their interested readers on how to make money starting or expanding a business on the Internet.  They do not write a "quick rich scheme book" but a thorough, detailed book on the 
obstacles and the advantages on having a business on the Internet.  Phrases like "cyberspace," "information superhighway," "World Wide Web" and "on-line" are all terms to describe the Internet. 

The Internet has been gaining more and more exposure the past few years and becoming popular and useful.  When I need particular information, I use the Internet.  I can get maps and directions 
off the Internet, search for books and book reviews, job sites, Chamber of Commerce information, read articles on the Internet. 

The authors of this book explain that "the person viewing information on the Internet is more than likely to be viewing information he or she selected." Now because of this, "the level of 
concentration of an Internet surfer (or user) is much higher than that of the same person in a television viewing mode.  Direct eye contact is made with the monitor, and the viewer is actively selecting, listening to, and reading material on the screen."  (Page 19). 

Unlike "get rick quick schemes," the authors of this book show that having a business on the Internet doesn't just mean put a web site up, and wait for the money to roll in, because it doesn't work that way.  They show that, like any other business, work is involved.  There are various methods to decide on a business and ways to help a business develop and grow. 

The authors suggest that there are four main principles for building a successful business on the Internet.  These are to: specialize, keep up with your e-mail (electronic messages), which is another popular feature of the Internet, give people a reason to view and come back to your site from time-to-time, and to provide lots of information. 

The authors give an excellent example of a specific web-based business I thought was interesting. They tell the story of a man named Bob Harris, who was a retired women's shoe designer.  His wife Penny needed hip-replacement surgery in 1992 and was depressed after her surgery since she had to use metal crutches, and people were drawn to it and constantly inquiring into Penny's health condition.  To cheer Penny up, Bob designed a decorated set of crutches and an attractive customized cane.  Now, unwanted sympathy turned into interest about her attractive cane. 
People also inquired how they could obtain such a cane, so the couple went into business. 

Originally the couple sold the canes by special orders to gift shops and by mail order.  Bob's son came up with the idea of having a Web site to sell more of his canes.   A professional Web page designer developed the page for Bob and Penny using photos and art work of their canes.  They call their business "The Harris Company" and are promoting their page (http://www.walkingstick.com)  by submitting the site to search engines, brochures and articles in newspapers.  They have their Web page designer help them in responding to their e-mail.  (Pages 188, 189). 

Keeping up with your e-mail means to respond promptly to inquiries.  You should, if possible, spend a few hours every day to answer your e-mail.  To provide a reason for people to return to your web site, the authors say  "there has to be something worth coming back for.  This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including offering changing images people find compelling, handy reference information, software updates, etc." (Pages 31, 32). 

For instance, I use the web site (http://www.yahoo.com) because (a) it provides maps I can print out for when I need directions; (b) it is a search engine so I can use the site to search for other sites I am looking for;   it allows me to have free e-mail access on its site; and (d) I like to read the updated news articles which it provides. 

The authors of this book suggest another way to have people return to your site is to give something valuable away, such as free software.  Personally, I like going to web sites that give me "free information."  For instance, the law firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati has numerous articles on their web site (http://www.wsgr.com) relating to law in layman terms. These articles are very interesting to me, so I have read many of them and the site does provide updates and new information.  Their hope is, of course, to have people become knowledgeable of their large law firm and perhaps also gain new clients and more publicity. 

What kinds of businesses are on the Internet?  You could have an existing business which you expand onto the Internet.  As I mentioned above, the law firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, for instance, already exists in office buildings, but wants to expand by sharing information about the firm and articles on the law on the Internet. 

You can also have a web-based only business on the Internet.  For instance, I like going into (http://www.amazon.com) to look for books.  This web site sells books exclusively on the Internet.  They sell new books at a discount and they are sent to the buyer by mail order (snail mail).  They also have reviews and information on the books, interviews with some of the authors and you can send in your own reviews on the books you've read. 

The authors state: "The difference between those who've sold successfully on the Internet and those who haven't is more than just the amount of work put into the project.  It has to do with knowing who your customers are, making the shopping process easy for them, providing good-quality images, and establishing yourself as an expert." (Page 63). 

"Most successful web sites are built as a result of saying 'Why would I want to come to this site, buy this product or subscribe to this service?'... Knowing your customer can have a lot to do with knowing yourself."  (Page 64). 

For instance, probably the people who came up with the idea for the web-based book site (http://www.amazon.com) decided that they like reading books, would want a site where new books could be purchased at a discount and received easily by mail, and a place where customers could read reviews before they buy.  The site also has interviews with some of the authors, such as the recent interview with fiction writer John Grisham to coincide with the issuance of his new hardback novel, "The Testament." 

The authors of "Making Money in Cyberspace" suggest images are important on a web site because the Internet is a visual place and "your site expresses who you are and what you can do." (Page 67).  However, they mention that complex images may take awhile to download and then your potential clients and customers may lose interest and go elsewhere.  "Simple but elegant visual images: may be the key towards a successful site.  (Page 67).  At a book fair in Burbank a few years ago, I spoke to the designer of the web site for the Advanced Book Exchange (http://www.abebooks.com).  They have a simple symbol they use on their home page.  It shows  a little green head with white glasses reading a book.  His hair is the color red and the hair also looks like fire or flames.  I was told Advanced Book Exchange uses this symbol because it is attractive, makes its point that this site is related to books, and is not a complex, detailed graphic and therefore easy to download. 

I am using a lot of my own examples, but the authors of this book do give many of their own to illustrate points they are trying to convey.  They also mention and illustrate examples on many other aspects on running a business on the Internet.  For instance, among other factors, they suggest what to look for in searching for an ISP (Internet Service Provider) to host your web site. They give suggestions on how to build your web site and keep it interesting; using a domain name; how to make your site load faster; using search engines and links to help others find your site; promoting your site;  how to get paid; and the obstacles and advantages of credit card access, including the security issues involved with this.  They also list approximately 125 ideas for Internet businesses which range from being a web page designer, art dealer on-line, selling business stationery, developing and selling electronic greeting cards, real estate agent, teacher instructing on-line classes, therapist, technical writer, and many, many others. 

In conclusion, I think this book is clear, concise, well written and researched, and I highly recommend "Making Money in Cyberspace" to people who are considering starting a business on-line or are the least bit curious.  I found the book to be very informative, realistic with its suggestions and easy to understand.  You can purchase your copy at (http://barnesandnoble.com) 
for $12.76, plus postage and handling.   Good luck, and happy reading. 



Active Worlds Universe 

by Jack Burnett 

Enter the Active Worlds Universe and leave reality behind

That's right. The Active Worlds Community is an escape from the weight of daily work and pressures. It's a 3D world where people create their own society, the place you've always wanted to live. It can be a South Sea Island or a medieval castle, whatever your dreams dictate. All you have to do is claim land and start building. 

Everyone becomes an avatar and every avatar is beautiful or handsome. Like every place online, race, color and religion are not available to cause prejudice. Members from all over the world gather to chat, build together, date and even marry. Create your own weather. Have bright sunshine for a day at the beach, snow at Christmas or pouring rain for your rain forest. 

Some people just want to gather for chat at various locations. Regulars meet every morning over breakfast or coffee. But by far the most important part of Active Worlds is the building. The creating of every structure imaginable, fantastic landscaping of waterfalls, flowers, trees and rocks. Friendships develop and often build communities with elected officers. Towering volcanoes explode and release molten lava, a scaled replica of the Titanic and Enterprise give testimony to the dedication and vision of their builders. You can't see the stern from the bow of the Titanic! 

Even if you fly up for an overall view of structures or estates, (yes your avatar can fly. How else could you build 300 meters in the sky or 300 meters underground?). There are amusement parks with roller coasters your avatar can ride and the thrill of the ride beats any real life roller coasters in existence. 

The fun you can have in Active Worlds is limited only by your imagination. For $19.95 per year you get unlimited time in Active Worlds and for those who advance far enough in building skills there are private Worlds to rent for $160.00 per year. Owning your own world allows you to select a theme and remove all limits to what you can do. Even making your own objects for building requires only a small amount of learning, which through the Active Worlds University Free Classes is available to everyone. Beginners get free tutoring in building at the Active Worlds School. So within a couple of weeks the newest member can be building the house of their dreams. 

For anyone interested in building and creating, I cannot recommend Active Worlds enough. Start out as a visitor and build for free to make sure this is something you will enjoy many hours of pleasure. There are always established members willing to help, give tips on building and get you started fast. 

Registered members have a contact list of friends to telegram and teleport to in the blink of an eye. Teleport to anyplace you want easy using North/South/East/West coordinates. Maintain a list of favorite spots and teleport to those spots with a click of your mouse. 

After fourteen months as a member of Active Worlds, I'm still learning. And the structures I build become more elaborate and professional daily. Come check out Active Worlds and learn how to escape the boundaries of real life. See you there at www.activeWorlds.com! 

The requirements for running Active Worlds are at least a Pentium with 32 megs of memory. But for performance that won't have you pulling your hair out because of a heavy amount of graphics is a fast Pentium II with 64 megs of memory and high speed graphics card with 8 megs of memory. When I went from a Pentium 150MHz with 32 meg memory to a Pentium 400 MHz, 128 meg memory, 8 meg high speed graphics/3D accelerator/AGI card with Windows 98, the ability to run Active Worlds and enjoy all its features was significant. There was no more waiting for the heavily built areas to load, which improved the fun of running and building twenty-fold. 

I should mention briefly the facts regarding individually owned worlds. With over 400 individually owned Worlds, a few of which are owned by companies for meetings and demonstration purposes, and not available for the public to visit. However most are owned by individuals to develop a special theme and are open to the public for visiting. 

One such world that I worked in as builder, designer, tech director, tour guide and janitor :), was Bizworld. Bizworld is different than any other world because it is trying to become the equivalent of an Internet mall, commercial and profitable. Instead of buildings for beauty, buildings are stores renting to large and small businesses. For $50 per month a business gets display room for its products, ads and information in an attractive building or even custom built building. Features include a link to the company web site so the visitor/customer can make purchases, e-mail box for direct contact, furnishings and midi music chosen by company. In short, a company gets customized store, web page links and maintenance, daily or weekly updates and anything else they are willing to pay for. It's a unique concept but has yet to prove it can be profitable. 

Jack Burnett 

[Jack is a former GT Network Sysop, living in Camp Dennison, Ohio. -Ed.] 
 


3D Graphics Come to Life with ActiveWorlds  

By Judy Oliphant (Cable Car Gal) 
Internet site: www.activeworlds.com 

Have you ever wanted to just escape and run away to a faraway land, build a tree house somewhere, with not only one fireplace but two, and surrounded by mountains? Then wondered what it would be like to own a bed and breakfast by a river and your neighbor is a guy we'll call Jason40 for short. He's my virtual neighbor in Active Worlds. AW for short. 

First, I can not write about Active Worlds without mentioning two key people here. First is Jack (jackknife).  Second is Jason40, my virtual 3D teacher.  Jack and I met in GT Power some 4 and one-half years ago, but it was not until last July in Columbus, Ohio, at the Get Together that he and I met in person. And this was a real thrill. Jack and I have teased each other about football, computers, and life in general for a long time. He's 
truly a friend. He totally amazes me with his wit, his patience, and 
abilities. You see, he's disabled, without the use of his arms to type, so he speaks to his computer. 

It was after this meeting that Jack sent me some Email telling me that he was working with a piece of software called ActiveWorlds and I ought to check it out. He gave me the URL and I downloaded this and installed it and found myself walking around a virtual building with posters on the walls of women's outer garments as Monica Lewinsky as that is what I told 
the computer screen I wanted to be, but instead I was Monica Lewinsky the talking bird and I was looking for Jack.  Well!  What came next was this virtual character that was Jack alright, reaching his virtual arms out to me to give me a greeting, and asked me if I came with a bird cage. 

Jack and I spoke about Active Worlds and he showed me around. That's all it took; I was hooked. I kept coming back day after day talking to him about Columbus, Ohio, and the great time we had. Jack was a greeter and tech support person for ActiveWorlds in Bizworld, one of three on-line shopping worlds. As time passed, I was asked if I wanted to be a greeter for Bizworlds, but only if I went from Monica Lewinsky to Cable Car Gal, as I am now known to ActiveWorlds. After all, how many cigars and cages can one 
virtual character carry around with her? I went there day after day with 
question after question. Jack always answered my questions, and would tease me and say you don't want to ask me any more questions?  If I just had one question. 

Now just what is Active Worlds?  This is a totally amazing piece of 
software. It is a 3-dimensional interactive program with real-time chat on-line in one of three virtual shopping areas where you can learn how to build with 3-dimensional objects such as sofas, chairs, tables and tv set. Use panels that become walls. Panels that look like water become rivers and lakes, mailboxes and signs. 

One of the many virtual 3D worlds of ActiveWorlds is Vegas where you can play slots for fun. A fantasy is to build your dream house. Yellowstone, another area where you can build that castle with the grounds around it. Bizworld, one of the on-line shopping areas. Amart, another one of the on-line shopping areas.  There is no limit to what one can do with ActiveWorlds once we put our creativity to work, with a little coaching and some training you, too, can be building that castle in Alpha World. 

I started out taking on-line building classes from the on-line building 
school. Got pretty good at copying, and delete I had down pat. But did I have what it took to make a square that would soon turn into a kitchen with a view? 

One night I was practicing moving 3D panels around when this character showed up on my screen and said Hello!.. Hello!.. and I responded back, Hello, who are you? My name is Jason40. How are you this evening? Fine; not too swell; here, my panels don't line up. Let me help you..  8 clicks later of deleting all that I had done and thought they lined up right I got a lesson on counting mouse clicks to move these 3D panels that would make me walls. Yea, right, I said.  We only limit ourselves by our minds. If you can dream it, you can built it.  Like the field of dreams you learn how to build your own field of dreams with a bird named Monica, a dino named Dean Martin, a bird called Da Wiz and a Jason40. That told me you can do this.  Just got 8 clicks, duplicate, and move back in place. Are you sure? I asked. 

Since my early days on Active Worlds I have built a house in Afantasy, a Bed and Breakfast with a running stream in Alpha world, a Tree House with two fireplaces, gotten a wave file to make the sound of crackling fire, a phone booth became a shower with running water, a drinking fountain became a sink. I'm currently working on the Virtual home of the SFPCC. Larry will not have to worry about parking. I have taken care of this problem. A big kitchen for Sandy and Lamont, with lots of coffee just the way he wants it, and for my buddy Bob, an area for that N-scale train setup, and something for Ernest - a swing or a dog pin.  I have taken care of every detail. 

The club members will decide on the landscaping and what to do about a Grill for our yard. In closing, I hope that you will take some time and download this amazing piece of software, and if you find yourselves in Bizworld doing some on-line Easter shopping, or in Alpha world, drop by, look me up. I am Cable Car Gal. I will show you my Bed and Breakfast, or we'll practice our tree climbing skills. 

System requirements for Active Worlds is 486-166, although it may be slow. Best on a Pentium computer with 32 megs of RAM, a good sound card and video card, and an on-line connection (ISP). 


A little humor... 

Messages come and go on BBS systems, some of them tickling the funny bone until it hurts. Several of these are herewith passed along for your amusement. 

Lost in Seattle 

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle yesterday when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft's electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter's position and course to steer to the airport. 

The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a hand-written sign, and held it in the helicopter's window.  The sign said "WHERE AM I?" in large letters. 

People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a 
large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said  "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER." 
The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. 

After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER" sign helped determine their position. 

The pilot responded "I knew that had to be the MICROSOFT building because, similar to their help-lines, they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer." 


Shhhhh 

At a recent Sacramento PC Users Group meeting,  a company was demonstrating its latest speech- 
recognition software. A representative from the company was just about ready to start the demonstration and asked everyone in the room to quiet down. Just then someone in the back of the room yelled, "Format C: Return." Someone else chimed in: "Yes, Return."  Unfortunately, the software worked. 


March 11:  3D Graphics 
                     Judy Oliphant 

April 8: Video Editing 
                Dazzle.Com 

May 13: Search Engines 
                Larry Welling 

June 10: Digital Cameras 

July 8:  (No subject - open) 

August 12: Potluck Dinner 

September 9:  (No subject - open)

Check - Internet: www.sfpcc.org - for updates.

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