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Ionic Column

David Parry

Englishman David Parry lived in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a member of TPC from 1986. A frequent contributor to this publication, he was Newsletter Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990 and began the Ionic Column in 1992. This column has won a prize and an honorable mention in newsletter awards. To the Tokyo BBS community, he now lives in virtual cyberspace and teleports textually over the ether. On the physical level, he currently lives and works in Düsseldorf, that part of Germany that most resembles Japan.

Thanks to the usual time lag between publication and creation, I did not think of doing a round-up on 1995 back in November. It is the kind of thing that only impinges on my addled consciousness after seeing the Christmas decorations go up in the shops and the racks fill with cards portraying an obese but friendly old codger generally resident at zero latitude and longitude.

But any sort of round-up is only going to be on a personal level. I am sitting out the first euphoric wave of Windows 95, I have not got around to trying OS/2 yet, and the somewhat unexpected move to a Pentium did not bring a dramatic speed increase. In a word; 1995 was mostly more of the same for me. I am now on CompuServe, I have dabbled in the Internet, I have hunted down homepages and e-mail addresses, Lest Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot. (Maybe the TPC homepage will have a little icon at this point for Web browsers and proud owners of sound cards?)

A number of projects await me for 1996.

It is time to get a faster modem and maybe to use four-letter words such as ISDN. On the other hand, responses to my questions on the TPC BBS indicate that a 64 kbs ISDN connection is no faster than a 28.8 kbs modem due to the lack of data compression.

I access the Internet through CompuServe, which is a valid option at my current low rate of usage and with the imminent upgrading of CompuServe nodes to 28.8 kbs here in Germany, and a high likelihood of ISDN access to CompuServe as well. All the other on-line services here have ISDN access now, or announced for 1996. But I also saw a posting to the effect that CompuServe is deliberately slowing down access internally to avoid overloading the system, or something of the sort. This is the kind of thinking that made IBM great -- and cost them the PC market.

So what is the choice in modems? I had been looking hard at the Courier v.34 internal, but then heard that it was about to be discontinued, and ISDN is now a consideration as well. There is a bilingual Courier that speaks analog and ISDN, but the latter part might not work in Germany. Obviously, there is no lack of good models available locally, but I still need to find out whether ISDN is worth the not inconsiderable extra charge. I may just go back to my original choice of a v.34 Courier.

A scanner is on my wish-list for Santa. In Tokyo I had my trusty ScanJet, the new models look even better and are remarkably cheap compared to what they cost a few years ago. I don't need color, or even gray scale at the moment, but I will need a document feeder for high-volume OCR work. OCR and machine translation are two topics I could take up in greater depth at another time; suffice it to say that I have tried them both and the results are lackluster, to put it politely, but under certain conditions I think that they could both work well enough to be a valuable time saver for me.

Over here I mainly deal with German, but I sometimes get translation work in Russian. When I was in London in October, I dropped into the bookshop just off Charing Cross Road that specializes in books from eastern Europe to look for some newer and better dictionaries. Not much luck with my search, although I did find a Russian dictionary for the social sciences compiled by my former professor! A casual inquiry about Russian software elicited the address of Lexicon Software, a London-based outfit that markets a number of programs from Russia in OCR, machine translation, word processing and dictionaries on CD-ROM. They also gave me an address in the U.K. for Russian keyboards.

A request to Microsoft for information on a Russian-language driver for Windows has evidently been filed in the corporate bit bucket, but Lexicon gave me some very useful info on Windows drivers and fonts. Not surprisingly, a graphics interface and TrueType fonts make the whole thing very simple; I only want to be able to handle Russian text, and I do not read in the original messages such as "Counter-revolutionary revisionist elements liquidated from your hard disk". However, purely capitalist considerations of money mean that I will wait until I really need to go Cyrillic, and I'll start in easy stages. First a keyboard and a Windows driver, then maybe a Russian dictionary on CD-ROM or the OCR, and finally the translation program.

At the moment I don't have a decent graphics program. I had thought of getting Corel Draw 6.0, but a comparative review in the latest BYTE says it is better for existing Corel users and professional artists; I am neither. For business use BYTE recommended a similar suite of graphics programs, the Micrografx ABC Graphics Suite. It too has lots of clip art, photos and extra fonts, plus some other useful programs. But both of these are only for Windows 95, which I don't have yet, so I will also look at what is available under OS/2. A posting by Joel Roth recommended a couple of hot programs.

Another project will be OS/2. I hope that there will be at least one killer ap that justifies the cost of the operating system alone, and maybe it will be a graphics program (or suite). I would quickly get the OS/2 version of my communications program, HyperAccess, so that I can do something else while on-line. In BYTE Jerry Pournelle threw down the gauntlet to OS/2 by saying "Show me something that it can do that Windows 95 cannot". No answer, but one question: reliably?

I can see that I will have up to three systems running within a few months; OS/2, good ol' Windows 3.1 running under OS/2, and Windows 95. Where possible, I will keep the old 16-bit applications running to avoid a cash haemorrhage on upgrades, but sooner or later upgrades of existing programs, not to mention any new Windows programs that I buy now, may require Windows 95. The scanner software is just one such example.

At this point I should add that readers of this column can either contact me on the TPC BBS or else through CompuServe, ID 100575,2573. I don't have an Internet address yet, that is one of the things on the "to do" list for 1996.

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

January, 1996

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN