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Ionic Column: June 1996

by 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.

The Remains of the Day

(CeBIT '96, part 3)

CeBIT really was too big, but it looks as if I will be able to see some of the things I missed if I go to a forthcoming show in Düsseldorf in early June. Imprinta offers "Prepress and more: Technology for the media," with sections on layout design, image production, multimedia, database publishing (probably with text indexing / retrieval and optical / image databases), text and image processing, data communication (and networks), and a fair bit for the printing industry. I'm sure that much of this was at CeBIT, but I did not have time to see it.

Framed?

I hope that Adobe and / or Frame are exhibiting, as I want to winge at them about their tardy support of FrameMaker after their merger. About three weeks ago I sent out an urgent request for the European hyphenation dictionary. The standard product only hyphenates English, the sole choice being the side of the Atlantic. It does a less than satisfactory job of hyphenating German, and I have a German DTP ready for delivery. Hand-hyphenated. An e-mailed whine to Frame eventually produced a CC of a message from somebody at Adobe to somebody in Germany who was supposed to help me. I'm still waiting.

Maxed Out on Qualitas

For years I used 386 to the Max, an excellent memory manager that I preferred to QEMM. From time to time I also used QEMM, mainly because it can be used with Japanese systems. Qualitas creates work files during optimization with the extension ßAK. Not BAK, replacing the B with ASCII 225 (ß). This versatile character can be read either as beta (the second letter of the Greek alphabet) or ess-tset, the German character that is used instead of "double s" in words such as Straße (Strasse = "street").

ßSE

On Japanese systems it has another function that has to do with kanji and sends everything haywire. ßSE in the PC? The result is that you cannot use 386 to the Max for DOS/V or the like. I had pointed this out to Qualitas while in Japan, and again while I was at CeBIT, but they don't seem to be too worried about it.

Qualitas had been very helpful over the years if I had problems, and were not predatory about upgrades. When I asked about upgrading to version 7.00 from version 6.00, they said that I was welcome to do so, but it was not really necessary because I was still using DOS 5.00. On the other hand, I could get an upgrade to version 6.03 from them free from their BBS or on diskette for a very nominal price. That is the kind of treatment I appreciate. But despite that, I no longer use Max.

Deep-Sixed

A few months ago I moved over to Netroom (Helix Software). When I wanted to upgrade to DOS 6.22 last year, I decided that I would try Netroom. Firstly, because it had very good reviews, secondly, because I would probably have to pay almost as much to upgrade 386 to the Max to version 7.00, and thirdly because I wanted to use the Helix cloaked utilities, and I felt they would work better with Netroom than a third-party product.

Disk Technician (Y/N?)

I expected that a few older programs might have trouble with DOS 6.22, primarily disk or memory utilities. To date, the only problems are with one or two old diagnostic programs that have been superseded, and Disk Technician. The latter was supposed to keep your hard disk fit and healthy, but alas, the company (latterly of the same name) must have failed to do the same financially, as I have not been able to trace it. The funny thing is that I recall a statement to the effect that they had been taken over Seagate, who are still very much in business. Disk Technician refuses to run under DOS 6.xx, so now it has been archived in the cellar.

Cloak and Dagger

I have mentioned the Helix cloaked utilities in a previous column, so I will only touch on them briefly. In non-technical terms and speaking more as a user, cloaking allows programs to run in high memory, but in a way that is more efficient and reliable than simply loading them high. The utilities include a cloaked cache, mouse driver, screen accelerator and CD-ROM driver.

Lose Your CD-ROM

The cloaked cache needs a lot of memory to work properly, more than SmartDrive, but it takes up less conventional memory. The screen driver only works under DOS, so it may not be so useful these days. The mouse driver is based on the Logitech driver, but works well with Microsoft rodents. The piéce de résistance is the CD-ROM driver, which is a complete substitute for MSCDEX. It does not need to run under Netroom, but might be a little more reliable when used with its mate from Helix. That one driver is worth the price of the cloaked utilities alone, and both the utilities are Netroom are inexpensive.

The cloaked utilities slash the amount of memory required, so I got 610-620K free after loading the CD-ROM and network drivers and a lot more besides. The figure dropped after I changed to the Contour mouse driver in order to get the full programmable mouse functions, but the Contour mouse will run perfectly happily with standard Microsoft or Logitech drivers, cloaked or otherwise. Like most three-button mice, this one has a switch for two- or three-button operation.

Legal Highs

Netroom also loads Netware drivers high, without drama. This surprised me, since in general it is risky to load NETX high with other memory managers. The only two quirks relate to my Pentium and to missing drivers. Firstly, the system always hangs during optimization. The manual warns you that this may happen, and tells you to reboot. You then get a message saying that the system stopped prematurely, and would you please reboot again? Then it works. The 486/66 does not have this problem, the two (identical) Pentiums do. But it is a minor problem, and in the end the only result is that optimization takes longer.

Mouse Brings Down Network

The other problem is a bit tedious: if the mouse has been removed for some reason, the Netware drivers fail to load. The failure to load the mouse driver, due to a missing mouse, has a cascade effect on other drivers, but most notably the Novell ones. I did not have this problem with Max, but then I was unable to load the drivers high. Again, this is more of an irritation than anything else, and it is not really the fault of the program.

Looking Back

By and large I am very happy with Netroom. It extracts more free memory than any other memory manager that I know of, and is generally reliable and stable. I would not go back to 386 to the Max unless it offered something better and total compatibility with the cloaked utilities. Version 8.00 of Max is out, but while my initial impression was that it would be worth trying, my new subscription to PC Magazine saved me money right from the start. A review of Max indicated that it did not have significant improvements over older versions or the competition, and that it certainly did not do anything clever with Windows. To that extent it is misleading.

Keeping It Straight

Max 8.0 claims to straighten out Windows in the same way that RAM Doubler does. It does not. All the memory managers such as Max or QEMM do a certain amount of optimization involving Windows, but this is primarily a question of reserving or reclaiming certain areas in memory. RAM Doubler deals with one specific aspect of Windows, the System Resources. Max and the others do not touch this, as far as I have been able to fathom. In short, Max does not do it all, current advertising to the contrary. You still need RAM Doubler together with your memory manager. That said, Max is a top-line memory manager and Qualitas give good support.

Out the Window

RAM Doubler primarily recycles and reclaims memory that Windows otherwise "loses." In short, it is yet another utility that correct programming sloppiness by Microsoft. It does not "double the amount of memory in your system", as the ads initially claimed, but it does genuinely help. I notice far fewer crashes, and I can run more windows programs simultaneously. The program is not expensive and is highly recommended for die-hards like myself still using Windows 3.1. A version also exists for Windows 95, although that maintains better control over memory usage than its profligate predecessor.

Revisiting the Mouse

The Contour mouse is nice. It really is much tiring to use. Apart from the fact that I don't use the cloaked mouse driver and thus have less conventional memory available, the only other niggle is that text marked on the screen in Windows programs sometimes will not delete with the Del key and I have to hit the mouse key combination (middle + left) to delete. But that always works. Now I just have to learn the other key combinations that I have programmed so that I can copy and paste and more, all with the mouse. Cursor handling is also very good, with one or two options that I would try except for the compatibility factor; I often have to work on other PC systems, and it gets harder if there are too many differences.

Kudos for Canada

My last port of call was Corel, about five minutes before the fair closed. I had a brief but illuminating conversation was a helpful young lady about Corel Draw! and Ventura Publisher. My first question was about the forthcoming release of version 6.0 of both products, and were they specifically for Windows 95? The answer is yes. They simply will not run under older versions of Windows. Corel has decided to make a break with the 16-bit past with the latest versions. However, they offer their older programs at significantly lower prices compared to their latest ones. Given that the older programs had far more features than I could use, and many I would never need, that is not a bad deal at all.

Is Ventura in my future?

I got the impression that Ventura 5.0 was something of a maintenance release, albeit with a revised interface, and I wonder a bit if Corel are really committed to desktop publishing. I'll look out for them again at Imprinta in June to get some further comments.

One good thing about Corel Draw! is that it comes with lots of good-quality clipart. It also includes a rather limited paint program for bit-mapped files; I won't call it an editor, since the version I used occasionally in Tokyo had very limited drawing capabilities. But at the moment I find that I can edit scanned files reasonably well with the Image Pals program that came with the Trust 9600 scanner.

At the moment I am wondering what to do for a high-end drawing and graphics program. I have Micrografx Windows Draw, but it has a number of limitations. The biggest one is that it does not handle EPS files. GEM Artline does, but it does not run under Windows, so I hardly ever use it. Again, Image Pals handles EPS files, although it and Hijaak and the paint program that came with Omnipage squabble with each other over file formats and I virtually have to restrict myself to re-editing an EPS file with the program that originally produced it. The alternatives are to get one of the older versions of Corel Draw!, or to see if there is a good (and inexpensive) program for OS/2.

Ventura is another matter. It would be nice to update to version 5.00, since 4.1.1 has a number of problems that betray its roots in GEM. My main concern now with Ventura would be reprinting and updating old files. If version 5.0 is not too expensive and the interface not to difficult to learn, I would get it. But in the end I will move over to FrameMaker for productive work. I just wish its interface was less cranky and some of the features worked more predictably. In short, it is not that easy to learn, whatever the manual says.

Talking of FrameMaker, I believe that they are releasing version 5.0. I bought version 4.0 just a few months ago, and have barely scratched the surface of it. Will the upgrade be expensive? Will it be 32-bit only?

I plan to install OS/2 on my second hard disk in July, after returning from vacation in the UK. Another matter under considering is whether to get ISDN and do some serious Net-surfing, as Web homepages are just a little s-l-o-w with a 14.4 kbs modem. The prime issue for me is that many companies can be contacted via the Web, and it seems that this is also a growing route for file downloads.

Meanwhile, I have to do battle with FrameMaker until I write the next column.

Comments or feedback or more information? Contact me on Compuserve on 100575,2573.


© 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

June, 1996

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor


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