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by Marsha Brandsdorfer....
Review of QuickBooks Pro99
by George L. Henderson....
by Marsha Brandsdorfer
I was "volunteered" to be the alternative editor of the Peninsula Computer Club bi-monthly newsletter. Larry Welling, decided he needed a break. Since I've been contributing articles to the newsletter, through the suggestion of Larry and the polite urging and encouragement of our new President Myron Gershenson and support of Lee Hill (our webmaster), I decided I'll give it a try. So, if you don't like it, now you know personally who to blame. Only joking of course. Nevertheless, I am not sure how long I will be alternative editor. This is very time consuming. If I decide not to continue after another newsletter or two, our club newsletter will only come out three times a year through Bob Wallace instead of six, unless we can find another volunteer.
I have found putting together this newsletter to be quite interesting, although a lot of hard work. My goal for this newsletter was to cover a lot of ground, make it a special fall issue with a lot of information. I managed to do a lot of writing myself, but I also got contributors. Keith Fenwick lives in New Zealand and we have been e-mail pals for about four years. We "met" through a newsgroup on the internet. I asked Keith to be a special guest contributor to our newsletter. I hope that you will enjoy his article, "The Internet, Publishing and Palmtops." Should you wish to read more of Keith's writings, you can subscribe to his free weekly e-newsletter. Please e-mail Keith and tell him you'd like to subscribe or ask for a free sample issue first. Or e-mail me, and I can forward you one of Keith's newsletters, since I am a subscriber. Or you may wish to check out his web site. The addresses are: e- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and http://home.iprolink.co.nz/~sam/. As he explains in his article, he wrote a science-fiction novel and for free, anyone interested can download his novel and read it on their computer.
Thanks to computer club member George Henderson, for contributing his well-written and lengthy review of QuickBooks Pro99 to this newsletter. He says QuickBooks Pro99 is "the best accounting program for small businesses that is now on the market today." In his review, he brings out the point that Intuit, the company that "publishes" QuickBooks puts out "two excellent manuals" that come with the program, and he hopes that Intuit and other software companies continue to have manuals to refer to "when one runs into trouble or needs to find out how something works." I tend to agree with this concept, because just relying on the "Help" icons may not be enough.
I reviewed a program called Final Draft for this issue, and the program came with a manual which was extremely helpful.
I have a great Aunt Esther in Israel. She is in mid 80's and lives with her husband in Israel. She writes me that she bought herself a used computer, but the problem is that she has no manuals for either the computer or the software programs which are installed in the computer. She gets frustrated when things aren't working properly, although she generally seems to like using a computer. It is all very new to her for she has used a typewriter and carbon paper when she was a younger woman. I don't know what the costs are for computers in Israel, although I see that they are getting more and more reasonable in the states. Lee Hill has been urging me to buy a new computer by the new millennium. My computer is a laptop with Windows 3.11 installed, and 14.4 modem , which I bought at a computer show in Burbank about four years ago. Technology being as fast it is, I find that although my comfort lies in this computer, I am getting bypassed, because I am limited in what I can do.
I had some problems with installing Final Draft because of the limitations with my computer. First of all, Final Draft had to send me disks instead of a CD Rom, since I am not able to access CD Rom in my computer. I could upgrade this computer, but the cost of upgrading would be so costly with buying the 56K modem, CD Rom attachment, software for Windows 98 and more memory, that I might as well start with a new computer.
Anyway, getting back to Final Draft, they had to send me software called "Win32" which was required to be installed since my computer still uses Windows 3.11 instead of Windows 95 or Windows 98. I needed this software in order to "read" the Final Draft software. They first sent me this in CD format, and I had to admit to them via e-mail that although I am a member of a modern computer club, I don't have access to a CD Rom, so they sent me the program on two disks. I was then able to install Win32 and the Final Draft program which they had already sent me on disks and everything went fine. Disks of course don't hold as much information as CDs, so altogether I ended up having to install five disks in order to access this program.
Now some sidelines, although this has nothing to do with computers, my Great Aunt Esther from Israel did want me to mention her self-published book. She's constantly looking for publicity and since she's a sweet lady, I'll mention it. I read her book a few years ago and it well written. She calls it "I'm Only Four Feet 11." It is a collection of short personal anecdotes and episodes which describe that despite many hard times, she has always had a sense of humor and a good attitude. She talks about her ventures in growing up during the Depression era in New York, her family life with her husband and four children, the lost of her oldest son (but doesn't go into details here), her grandchildren, and her retirement to Jerusalem which of course, was initially a bit of a culture shock, coming from America. I'm sure if the book was continued after she bought her computer, she would have some stories about that, because she does like writing anecdotes about her computer to me. I am, however, still trying to explain the internet with her, but haven't succeeded, as I would like to write her more quickly by e-mail. The snail mail in Israel truly is slow as it takes what seems like forever for our letters to cross the seas. If you are interested in purchasing the 303 page book you can send $13.45 to Esther's daughter in Missouri, and she'll send you a copy. This includes postage. Her address is: Phyllis Shapiro, 7100 Cambridge Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63130. Or if you just feel like writing my Aunt to ask her more about the book, her address is: Esther Schlissel, P.O. Box 10294, 91102 Jerusalem, Israel. She can send you the book too, directly from Israel, but it'll take longer. Please mention my name and the computer club. She has heard about our club and has read some of the newsletters I've sent her, so we have publicity in Israel as well.
Speaking of snail mail letter writing, which is dying because of the
age of the internet, there is a magazine called "The Letter Exchange" which
I have subscribed to many years ago and have recently re-subscribed to
again. The cost is $22 a year and the publisher/editor Steve Sikora will
send you a coupon for you to place your own pen pal ad. Or you can send
for a sample copy for $9.00. The address is: The Letter Exchange,
Box 2930, Santa Rosa, California 95405. What makes this pen
pal magazine unique is Steve gives the ads a code, and he'll forward
responses for postage to the recipients, so if you don't have a post
office box address or don't want to readily give out your address, you
can have your privacy. When I lived in San Francisco eight
years ago, I wrote a pen pal who turned out to live in Cupertino, so
we eventually met and have been friends since 1992. The Letter
Exchange does have a small e-mail section incase you prefer to correspond
by e-mail. I will suggest to Steve that he have a Computer section
for people who just want to discuss computers and computer-related issues.
As I have a private mail box, the U.S. Postal Service now requires me to indicate this on my address. If you wish to write me, please indicate my address as follows in four lines: Marsha Brandsdorfer, 7 West 41st Avenue, PMB #108, San Mateo, California 94403. Don't come over to find me, as you will find only a tiny box and I don't have super powers to make myself shrink. My home e-mail address is: email@example.com I am unable to take attachments on that address. However, you can send me articles via this address and if the article is long, please break it up into several e-mail messages so that it does not bounce back to you. Also, please indicate in your subject line the order of the article(s).
I'm curious if anyone wants a letters column in our newsletter. I have not discussed this with anyone, including alternative editor Bob Wallace. But, I am open to it, to encourage people to write in comments about the newsletter, club meetings, what's going on in the computer industry, etc. Please give me your feedback on this.
I also would like to hear from people who bought computers by mail order and what their experiences were. For instance, I have a catalog called Damark (www.damark.com) that sells computers via mail order, for very reasonable prices, but I feel cautious about buying a computer through the mail. What has been your experience?
Companies have been preparing their computers for the year 2000 (Y2K
problem). In the United States, President Clinton passed a bill
that restricts lawsuits against companies that end up having problems
after January 1, 2000. The way I understand it, persons damaged
by the results of these errors cannot sue for negligence unless they
can show that the company did not try and correct the problem. If
a company tried to correct the problem beforehand and it failed, persons
cannot sue. For instance, if you have money in a bank and then
due to computer problems, the bank loses information about your bank
account, you can only sue only if you can prove that the bank knew that
this problem might occur and did nothing to prevent it. If the
bank made attempts to solve the problem and it failed, then you cannot
sue. However, let's hope that doesn't happen. I would not
want to lose money from a banking account!
Well, remember Bob Wallace does the next newsletter (November/December issue). You can write to Bob at: Bob Wallace, 4003 Branson Drive, San Mateo, California 94402; and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob has a short article in this issue giving some updated local access phone numbers for Slip.Net and FirstWorld. It sounds like these ISPs are combining forces now.
Thank you all and happy reading.
Review of QuickBooks Pro99 by George L. Henderson
Intuit has published their latest version of QuickBooks, called QuickBooks Pro99. QuickBooks is a product of Intuit, Inc., whose main office is located in Mountainview, California. The improvements and modifications are such that they will not effect any user's ability to quickly adapt to this new version. QuickBooks is still the best accounting program for small businesses that is now on the market today. Each version that comes out is making the product better and easier to use. The previous version of QuickBooks was Version 6.0, and this new version is called Version 99, which leaves a rather large gap in the sequence of numbers that QuickBooks has assigned for versions. Such a jump would make one think that this may be the end of an era, and there will be some kind of transition from what it is now, to something else. It is most likely that Windows 2000 will have something to do with all new future versions of QuickBooks, as well as all other application programs, and this version is just the last of a breed. However, QuickBooks Pro99 is designed for Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT 4.0 or higher. It is also designed to work with all older versions of Windows, most all versions of Quicken, and the latest version of Macintosh, after converting the data so as to work in QuickBooks Pro99.
Intuit has also included two excellent manuals that come with QuickBooks Pro99, which are titled "Installation and Conversion Guide" and "Making Better Business Decisions." These manuals are well written and one can easily follow all the instructions that are necessary for installing and using QuickBooks. It is highly recommended that one read the installation procedures thoroughly before installation, so as to avoid any nasty pitfalls that may be forthcoming. I would like to commend Intuit for continuing to include such excellent and informative manuals along with their application programs. It has now, unfortunately, become the exception rather than the policy of including such manuals by most companies, including Microsoft. Much of the material in the manuals is repetitive from the previous versions, but this does not matter to the user. To have a manual to refer to when one runs into trouble or needs to find out how something works, there is nothing like a reference manual. Because of such practice of including such manuals with their programs, Intuit has put themselves far ahead of all the competition. However, QuickBooks also has excellent help features throughout their program as well. I sincerely hope Intuit continues this practice in the future.
QuickBooks Pro99 requires an IBM compatible 486/66 computer, 16 MB of RAM, 32 MB recommended, 256 color VGA or SVGA, and a minimum of 55 MB of hard disk space. If one also installs the timer and Microsoft Internet Explorer, it will require an additional 49MB of hard disk space. QuickBooks is also now integrated with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel; however, it requires Microsoft Word 77 and Microsoft Excel 77 or higher if one is planning to use these features. A real nice feature, but it involves more expense for the user, because he or she has to upgrade his or her Microsoft Office to Microsoft Office 97, in order to take advantage of it.
As in prior versions of QuickBooks, if one does not use the QuickPay option, you will have no problems with the installation of QuickBooks Pro99. However, it is always highly recommended to backup all of one's data before installation just in case. As with prior versions of QuickBooks, this version also installed very smoothly without any mishaps. However, if one is using the QuickPay option in the previous versions of QuickBooks this option will unfortunately not work in QuickBooks Pro99. One will have to print out their payroll information and then set up a new payroll in QuickBooks Pro99. The instructions for doing this are laid out very carefully in Chapter 2 of the "Installation and Conversion Guide" manual. This payroll has been a consistent problem in each new version of QuickBooks for some time now. Let's hope it is now resolved.
It is very important to remember that when one installs an application program of the magnitude of QuickBooks, that all other programs should be shut down. These include one's Screen Saver, Scheduler, Virus Protection program, etc. Any program that might turn on during the installation procedure of an application program may interfere in some way with the installation process of the new application that one is installing. Such interference may cause certain files not to be loaded, only partial files to be loaded, or both. The result of this may cause the program one is installing to not function properly, or not function at all. It could also effect one's operating system so as to make one's computer inoperable. QuickBooks brings up a Dialog Box warning you of this problem, as well as most other application programs, so one should take special heed. One might be lucky and get through the installation process without a mishap, but why take a chance. If something does happen, you could have a real mess to clean up. I have been bringing up this point several times in my past reviews of how important this procedure is. The procedure is very simple and it cannot destroy one's operating system. However, by not using it, there is the possibility that one's operating system could be damaged. On behalf of our Computer Group, if anyone has trouble understanding how this is done, please contact me and I will be happy to explain it to him or her, or work him or her through the process.
There have been several new features that have been added to QuickBooks since the last version, but none of them are of such importance and value that would make someone rush out and purchase QuickBooks Pro99, with the exception of just one important earth-shaking feature -- changing all dates to four digit figures. If all that Intuit did was to change all the dates from two digits to four digits throughout this version of QuickBooks, this alone would make it an absolute must for anyone who has a prior version of QuickBooks to update his or her version to QuickBooks Pro99. This is the most important feature Intuit has done for their customers in over two years. Anyone who enters the year 2000 without updating their QuickBooks to QuickBooks Pro99 is in deep trouble, regardless if everything else in your computer is 2000 compliant. So, if you have an earlier version of QuickBooks and you are still using it, run, don't walk, to your nearest computer store and purchase QuickBooks Pro99.
Some of the other new features that have been added to QuickBooks since the last version, are itemized as follows:
1. Integrates with Microsoft Word, providing that one is using
Microsoft Work 97. It creates letters in Microsoft Word with customers
data from QuickBooks Pro 99;
As one can quickly see, there has not been a great deal of earth-shaking features that have been added in this version, except for the four digit date, which made this version essential. Intuit has been concentrating too much on payrolls and employees features in their last three or four years, and not enough on the rest of the features in QuickBooks that also need attention. In all of Intuit's interviews that they have given to selected users of QuickBooks, they have been concentrating on the payroll and employee issues. They say that they welcome all information about their program, but they do not allow enough time for the rest of their users to make suggestions of what they think are important. Intuit has a set format at their interviews in which they ask certain questions about their program and then ask those being interviewed to comment on them. They do not allow any time for those being interviewed to state their own particular problems that they have been having with QuickBooks. This is not a very good policy. There are a lot of users out there that do not have payroll and employee issues, and they would like to be heard from also.
Even though Intuit has done a masterful job of updating QuickBooks, there are several features that were not considered which I have covered in my former Reviews of QuickBooks, as well as a few quirks that seemed to have crawled into QuickBooks Pro99 that were not there before.
The correct title of the QuickBooks' "Journal" is "General Journal." There is no such report in accounting called "Journal," so I think it would be most appropriate to at least stay consistent with the terms of accounting, since this is an accounting program. QuickBooks has an excellent General Journal, with that one exception -- it's title. QuickBooks has a "General Journal Entry" dialog box in which one can make entries directly into the General Journal, which QuickBooks calls "Journal." This alone is inconsistent within QuickBooks. The term "General Journal" was invented eons ago, and has a distinct meaning, especially to accountants. It should not take a programmer more than two minutes to make this change to the program. It took me five minutes to write about it. I hope that Intuit would fix it, so I do not have to include this information in future reviews.
An important feature that has not been incorporated into QuickBooks and is badly needed is a spell checker for those portions of QuickBooks where one writes text into a memo, such as invoices, billings, etc. It would also be nice if QuickBooks would also underline all potentially misspelled words in red as one is typing, in the same manner that Microsoft Word does. There is almost nothing as embarrassing and humiliating for one's client or customer to notice misspellings on his or her invoice. It reflects upon the quality and care that one may take in his or her work, profession, or the product that he or she is furnishing. I have reported on this missing feature several times before, and I feel that it is most important to be included in the next upgrade.
Again, I hate to beat a horse to death, but this horse needs another beating. QuickBooks still does not have the ability to archive its obsolete data. It has provided for the ability to hide customers, vendors, employees, etc., who are no longer active with the firm anymore, which is a great addition, but solves only part of the problem. It is data that is backed up which is two or more years old that is becoming the problem. My data in QuickBooks is an accumulation of over five years, and it seems like it is taking an eternity to back up each day. It takes about four minutes now, and I hate to think what it will take five years from now. I have reported this problem in detail in my "Review of QuickBooks 4.0 and 5.0," and if the reader wishes more detailed information on this subject, I recommend that he or she read it in that review, rather than repeat it here again. Intuit informed me that there was a condensing data feature that would perform the same feature as archiving would. This is not true at all. In the process of condensing data, QuickBooks deletes quite a bit of detail information, just what the IRS would love to hear from you if they were auditing your books: "The computer ate up all the details!" As long as there is the IRS, I would not recommend anyone condensing their data for any reason. If I were to have proceeded with Intuit's recommendation, I would have been in deep trouble.
Another feature that I have reported on several times previously and is still missing, is to have an Uncashed Check Report included in QuickBooks. It is quite common for one to periodically check to see if a certain check has come in or not. This feature seems like a simple thing to include, and would be most valuable. This is not the same as the Missing Check Report, which is already included in QuickBooks. These uncashed checks show up in the Reconcile Report for one's checking account. It is not much effort to have the computer copy all these uncashed checks into an Uncashed Check Report. This should not take more than an hour for a programmer to set up.
I have reported in my last two reviews of QuickBooks, on the importance of QuickBooks having the ability of a detailed Personal Account. I still maintain that this is an extremely important feature that is still missing. If the reader wishes more detailed information on this subject, I recommend reading about this in my last two reviews, rather than my having to repeat it again here.
Another feature which I have reported in my last reviews is the inability to assign Account Numbers to Account Titles that are automatically created by QuickBooks. This is a feature that would make a printed report of the Balance Sheet and the Profit and Loss Statement have a professional look. Without this feature, these Account Titles have no numbers, while all the rest of the Accounts are numbered. It just appears to anyone viewing the reports that someone forgot to enter the appropriate numbers. This seems like a simple task to perform, and it would enhance one's reports greatly. However, if you are one of the lucky people who have Excel 97 installed into your computer, you can toss your report into Excel and modify the report in any fashion you would like.
When one is entering data for a new vendor or customer, one of the items he or she enters is categorizing the vendor or customer as to type, such as plumber, carpenter, airlines, bank, etc. This is an extremely useful feature, but there is nowhere in QuickBooks that one can find a list of vendors or customers separated into types of vendors and customers. There is a vendor and customer type list which lists the types, but it does not list who makes up this list. Very often, one would like to know the name of the plumber, carpenter, etc., who he or she has done business with in the past, and having such a list would be most beneficial. To try and find the name of a vendor or customer one has done business with in the past without having some kind of list like this, is an enormous task. The name is written somewhere, but where? All you know is that he was a plumber and that is not much help.
When one is entering charges that have been made to a credit card on the Enter Credit Card Charges Statement, or similar transaction, it is quite common for one to change the date on the statement to the date in which the charge was made from the credit card company's statement. Now, after one is finished entering these charges, when he or she switches to another form, such as a check, to pay a bill, the last date that one placed on the Enter Credit Card Charges Statement now appears as the date on the check and not today's date by default. It is very easy for one to complete all the entries, and click the "OK" button, without giving the date a second thought. If one should wish to review the entries, it is now filed by date rather than by its number. It is very possible that it could be buried a hundred or so checks deep in the computer somewhere, making it extremely difficult to find again. This should be corrected, by filing all the statements consecutively by number, and when one switches to a new form, today's date should be the default date, always.
In conclusion, QuickBooks has done an admirable job in developing such an accounting program as QuickBooks Pro99 for Windows. It is encouraging to see that some of the suggestions that were made in former reviews have now been incorporated into QuickBooks' latest version. I sincerely hope that Intuit will continue this practice in the future. We all benefit from a better product.
Final Draft Software Review
by Marsha Brandsdorfer
"Final Draft for Windows [Version 4.1.8] is a word processing program designed specifically for writing screenplays, sitcoms, episodics and stage plays." The software comes with a manual/book which was helpful to me in both installing the program and showing me how to use it. Installation for my computer involved obtaining from the company Win32 software to "read" the Final Draft software since I do not have a CD Rom or Windows 95. I'm still using Windows 3.11 on my machine, and Final Draft had to send me disks for installation. This just took extra steps; however, I was glad that even with the extra steps I was still able to install the program into my computer. The manual has lots of pictures and takes the user step to step.
On the Final Draft tool bar, there is what is called an "Element drop-down list." As the manual explains, "Each Element is its own 'paragraph' type, with specific margins, justification, and casing, which have, over the years, been accepted as standard script format." The manual says that when you open a new document in Final Draft, the new page starts the writer off with a "slug line." In your story, you would use this to indicate where and when the scene takes place. The manual gives an example using the different elements. Here's my example:
COMPUTER CLUB MEETING PLACE, LAUREL STREET, SAN CARLOS, CALIFORNIA. (SLUG LINE)
The webmaster of Computer Club walks into the club meeting room. He is the first one in the room and he has brought his digital camera. (ACTION)
LEE HILL (CHARACTER NAME)
(Looks around. Surprised to see no one else is in the room.) (PARENTHETICAL)
I do hope I came the right night. This is the second Thursday of the month. (DIALOGUE)
FADE OUT. (TRANSITION)
CLOSE-UP ON LEE'S FACE. (SHOT)
The slug line describes where and when the scene takes place. Slug lines are always written in all capital letters. When I tried to type with small letters, the software would not allow me to do this while I was in the slug line. Then, there is action which describes an activity and/or mentions what is happening in the scene.
The character's name precedes dialogue and indicates who is speaking. The character's name also is always written in all capital letters. The Parentheticals are directions and indicate any action taken by the speaker. Dialogue is the spoken word by the speaker. Transitions mark the end of a scene, also written in capitals. And, then the Shot, also written in capitals, is used to describe a camera angle or direction within a scene. The general element can be used for any text which does not fall within any of the other elements. Final Draft also allows the writer to make changes to the elements by selecting the Elements command in the Format menu. So, you can change items such as the line spacing and the font. Final Draft uses the tab and enter keys to automatically change paragraphs. Final Draft would take some practice. I found it a little odd for me at first, since I am used to regular word processing software, like WordPerfect and Microsoft Word. However, one must remember that the goal of this software is to aid those who want to write scripts, for this software is designed for that purpose. It takes some getting used to. It is not a difficult program, but I am glad that it comes with a manual for things are done so differently with Final Draft, you do need to be able to have a manual help you walk you through the steps. Even though I am proficient on WordPerfect and Word 97, which both have some of the same functions as Final Draft, I still needed to refer to the manual for many things. This software also has a help function to aid the user. You can also copy the help topic or print it out. For instance, I copied this information from the help regarding "ScriptNotes."
ScriptNotes are Pop-Up note windows that can contain ideas, notes or messages about a script. They can even contain snippets of the script, complete with text and paragraph formatting, that can be saved in the note for later reference or use. They can be placed anywhere in the script and can be opened up with a double-click of the mouse. A ScriptNote marker, which contains the actual note text, appears in the script as a square box containing a single identifying character. This character can be used to represent the importance of the note, the sender or some other pertinent information. All notes may be printed.
To add a scriptnote, click in the script exactly where you want the
scriptnote to appear. A scriptnote reminds me of a "comment" you
could use in WordPerfect. Scriptnotes is listed under "Document" in
the tool bar menu. Go into Scriptnotes, and then select "New Scriptnote" in
the Scriptnotes submenu.  Now a scriptnote has been added. When
I click on this , I will be able to read my notes. (Normally a scriptnote
indicator does not print out, but I have typed it here to give you an
idea of what it would like. Actually the  would be in a box, instead
of in brackets.) In a script, these are good to use so that you
can make reminders to yourself, etc. For instance, I may want to
make a scriptnote next to Lee's name above, stating I want
to make a note that my character brought his digital camera to the club
because he was anxious to show it to the other club members, which also
explains why he is disappointed that he does not see anyone at the club
meeting room. I want this scriptnote there, so that I won't
forget to bring up this issue later on in my story. The scriptnotes
do not appear on your document unless you click on the number. Final
Draft says that you can print out the scriptnotes from the "File" menu
under the submenu "Print Other."
1) noun - a list of the dishes that may be ordered (as at a restaurant)
or that are to be served (as at a banquet).
Final Draft also has a "Scene Navigator" which helps the writer in rearranging his scenes; it has a means for the writer to use a revision list. This is under the "text" bar. Each revision can be displayed in its own color (red, blue, green or yellow). This way you can see changes that have been made to your text. Excellent feature for editing purposes. The different colors do appear on your screen as long as you have a color monitor. I do have a color monitor but I do not have a color printer. The manual states that the program does have an option to print revisions in color if you have a color printer, by clicking on the "print colored revisions" checkbox under the print script mode. I could change the text below to a different color (example: red) in Final Draft. Since I know the red will not print out on my black & white printer, I could change the font, which will be able to printer out on my printer. If this text were going to be used to a real script and I knew that I was going to keep it, then when I finalized it, I could change back my font to the font I am using in the rest of my script.
I think I will call up Larry and see if he knows why no one else
The Internet, Publishing and Palmtops
by Keith Fenwick
As any novelist knows whether he writes million sellers every week or has a pile of unpublished manuscripts under his or her bed, writing the novel is the easy part. The next easy part is all the hours spent knocking the rough edges of the story. The hardest part is getting published. For some of us, despite untold submissions and re-writes, encouraging words and glowing testimonial, we're never that lucky. Despite all you hear about writers, I'm of the opinion that the likelihood of being published comes down to one thing and that thing is the luck of the draw. Now I have never considered myself a lucky person.
A long time ago I decided that self-publishing was an option for me.
Reading the first typed sheets of my initial manuscript gave me a feeling
of accomplishment that I had never
At the time I bought my first computer almost ten years ago BBSs were quite popular and the internet for the masses was something that was just becoming a part of the public consciousness. Not only did the computer provide a great tool for presenting a manuscript and an even greater tool to edit one; a whole new media for the publication and dissemination of information was opening up.
Self-publishing a book via computer shareware seemed more attractive to me than publishing a book in the conventional manner where you might print a thousand copies and end up with eternal Christmas presents for all your friends and relatives past, future, and present, stashed under your bed.
Unfortunately, I was a little before my time, even today people are reluctant to cuddle up in bed with their PC so they can read a novel. But things are changing and changing very fast. Just look at what the MP3 revolution is doing to the music industry.
The great thing about the internet is that you can create your own niche
within it's structure. Multi-national companies are doing it, government
institutions are doing it, I'm doing it, and maybe you are doing it. I'm
still trying to get people interested in reading my books. I'm
giving them away in PDF format from my home page http://home.iprolink.co.nz/~sam/ and
people are coming to the site and downloading them. But the fact
remains that reading a book on a PC is a bit of a mission.
The next evolutionary step has been the development of palmtop or mini computers. You've probably all seen them by now and covet one. There are several major brands and operating systems but most of them to my knowledge have a process by which they can connect to a PC and text files can be converted into an appropriate format to be read on the palmtop or transferred between a PC and palmtop.
Palmtops are great tools for the businessperson, far more versatile than a portable computer at a fraction of the cost. The top of the line models are able to connect to the internet via landline or mobile phone and offer many of the features of a portable computer.
More importantly, the advent of portables and their ever increasing computing power and lowering cost means that we can carry around with us large amounts of data.
By data, I mean books of course. In the very near future we won't browse book shops so much as browse internet shops like Amazon.com and download etexts or better still, peruse lists of authors or genres or whatever and simply download direct from the author. This is great for the writer because he can effectively eliminate the middleman and while he will most likely sell his novel for a fraction of the present value, he will reap most, if not all, of the rewards of his efforts. The advent of palmtops and whatever computing evolution throws up next is great for us readers as well because we can now carry not just one but untold numbers of our favorite books around with us all the time in a compact, easily accessible and interactive format.
Some companies are already developing specialized platforms for distributing
and reading e-novels; small paperback sized mini computers. Repositories
of all kinds of e-texts and some of the commercial developers of these
specialized e-readers can be found here along with my own novels http://home.iprolink.co.nz/~sam/
Personally, I favor the idea of a universal format and the much more versatile palmtop computer because there is so much more you can do with them. In the not too distant future, I envisage a platform that's not simply a mini computer but a platform that does things like act as a personal stereo, library, communications system, a base unit for controlling all your household electrical equipment and tasking roles, a personal banking or financial system, a tool for play and work. The possibilities are endless and it won't be long before we find out what some more of them are.
© Copyright K. Fenwick 1999
Keith also writes a newsletter: sams soapbox
find sams soapbox, sci fi etexts, and sams honda at:
Review of "2600 The Hacker Quarterly" Volume Sixteen, Number One and Two by Marsha Brandsdorfer
2600 The Hacker Quarterly is a quarterly magazine which has actually been around for several years, but I only got interested in it the past few months. Hackers is a term for people who like to "hack" into computers, usually just as a challenge and for fun. This magazine is written for and caters to hackers, which is slang for people who like to go where they don't belong, make trouble and have a silent giggle about it.
What do hackers do that can get them in trouble with the law? If you love technical stuff, even if you don't plan to hack computers, the publishers have given lots of examples. In issue one, there is an article called "SS7 Explained." The author Friedo (no given last name) introduces his article: "We love it. We use it, abuse it, make fun of it, and try to figure it out. It's becoming our primary method of communication, and is what connects most of us to the Internet. It's the telephone network, of course, and as hackers, it is our moral responsibility to understand it like no one else."
This article then gets very technical, explaining that your telephone is connected to a local "CO." He says that COs in your RBOC need to talk to each other. The author lost me right there and then says that CO switch analyzes to a LD, etc., etc. Definitely sounds like code to me, and you get the point. Don't worry, your telephone network is safe with me.
Reading the letters to the editor are a lot of fun. One man talks about how he went to a Radio Shack store. He says that he overheard a manager speaking to a new trainee. The manager told the trainee that the software on one of their computers is "completely secure." The reader, said he opened a DOS prompt, typed "These are not that secure," and ended up going back to shopping. Security eventually came up to him and threw him out of the store.
One man "Zenstick" writes in issue two an article called "Internal Hacking." He managed to do some hacking on his company's intranet site to find out some information about one of his co-workers. He wanted to find out his co-worker's salary. When he found out that his co-worker was making almost twice as himself, he forwarded "a copy of the statement to every development team in the organization."
"Now I know," he writes, "my boss can't tell me everyone gets paid around the same at my next meeting with him."
Although hacking computers is against the law, this magazine is freely available to anyone who wants to read about a hacker's life and gain tips on how to do hacking yourself, since in America we still have the First Amendment, the right to freedom of speech. I have no intention to do any hacking, since a) my personal knowledge of computers is mostly on how to use different software programs, and b) if I knew more, I am cynical and know that I'll end up in jail. I do find this publication very interesting, however. Some of the articles are very technical, but others are clearly in layman terms and I can always just pass over the technical information if I don't care for it.
You can purchase 2600 The Hacker Quarterly on the newsstands. I bought my copies for $5.00 each at Borders Books on 2925 El Camino Real in San Mateo. Or you can subscribe; write for information to: 2600 Subscriptions, P.O. Box 752, Middle Island, New York 11953-0752.
If you want to read reviews of other small press magazines, zines (fanzines,
self-published newsletters, comics and books), check out "Zine World." Zine
World has hundreds of zine reviews, plus store and distributor's rip-off
reports and recommendations, and the latest news of zine publishers being
hassled or arrested for what they've written. Its been published
quarterly, on time, for more than two years. $3.00 cash for a sample
copy. They ask that no checks be sent. I've been sending
them cash and haven't had any problems. The address is: Zine
World, 537 Jones Street, #2386, San Francisco, California 94102. Send
them $3 and ask for the latest issue.
I have a spelling checker.
This just goes to prove that using a spell-checker is great, but editing requires more than just that. Thanks, deer friend for helping me make my point! -- Editor.
Phone Number Changes For Slip.net Users by Bob Wallace
Slip.Net members have been calling the same telephone numbers for quite
some time. At the moment, I'm unable to recall the last time I've had
to change the access number to get on-line with Slip.Net. That appears
to be changing shortly, if my call of August 15 is any indicator.
A new home page with FirstWorld's name on the page, with a screen for "Previous
Slip.Net users" to get your attention. Included in the several "buttons" on
that screen was a telephone button that led to a listing of new telephone
numbers that will access FirstWorld directly, rather than going
In addition to new telephone numbers are the type of modem tied to specific telephone lines. Reading from north to south, new telephone numbers and the type of access provided for at that number include:
South San Francisco: (650) 870-0125 (x2)
In addition to local access telephone numbers, a new Technical Support
number is noted. In area code 650, call 870-0150 for FirstWorld Tech
September 9: McAfee Anti-Virus software. One of McAfee's representatives will discuss what a virus is, how we might get one (or more), and what to do about the virus problem to clean up our computer after coming down with one. In addition, we may learn why some of us seem to have problems in downloading the latest DAT file for the anti-virus programs we use on our computers, whether DOS, OS/2 or Windows. And with the millennium just around the corner, any specific steps we might need to take to protect our computers at the end of 1999. - Bob Wallace. [Thanks to Judy Oliphant for scheduling this speaker - Ed.]
October 14: At time of publication, scheduling had not been determined. Lee Hill suggests checking our web page for an update. Remember it is: www.sfpcc.org. By the way, Lee makes changes to the web site frequently, so it would be a good idea to look at it occasionally; also tell your coworkers and friends about our site. [Ed.]
Remember, meetings are always the second Thursday of the month at 222 Laurel Street, at 7:00 p.m. Cross streets are Oak and Hull. Please do not park directly in front of the building. You may park at the lot behind the stores at Oak and El Camino, or park down the street; parking in front of the building is reserved for residents of the complex. Look for the signs leading to the meeting room.
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