Ionic Column: August 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 printed issue and the TPC home page differed in June, because I discovered a silly mistake shortly after sending off the column to Japan. After talking about going to the Imprinta trade fair in June, it turned out that it will be in June 1997. But how often do you get a year's advance notice? More often than not, just a month or two.
FramedAfter numerous e-winges about FrameMaker, I have finally had a reply from Adobe, who took over Frame Technologies last year. It seems that I have to upgrade to version 5.0, which includes the German hyphenation dictionary that I yearn for. The new version is certified with Windows 3.1 and 95, but an OS/2 version has been abandoned.
Lost My CD-ROM
The reviews for OS/2 say that it can be difficult to install, mainly because of the problem of getting it to work with all the possible permutations and combinations of hardware. The same could be said of networking -- any networking, but especially Novell -- and for Windows 95 in many cases.
I brought back the CD-ROM version of OS/2 Warp Connect from the UK, this being the one with its own version of Windows. Installation has come to a halt, for the time being, due o the old bugbear of the CD-ROM drive. This may or may not be related to IDE channel allocation. The result is that the system cannot find my CD-ROM drive, and a last-resort workaround is to make 26 diskettes from the CD-ROM with a DOS batch file provided. My alternatives at this moment are:
As and when I get OS/2 running, it will be time to buy some new programs. I already have the Hobbes OS/2 CD-ROM from Walnut Creek, which has patches, drivers, shareware and demos of all kinds. I also bought HyperAccess³ for OS/2 (Hilgraeve), as I already have the DOS and Windows versions. The upgrade only cost me $49.95 direct from Hilgraeve. They also have a remote access program called Kopykat (for both DOS and OS/2) and plan to integrate it shortly in HyperAccess³ Pro. While they do not have a fax program, they aver that HyperAccess is designed to be "friendly" with Faxworks.
More on Windows 95
Judging by postings on TPC BS and from what I have read in BYTE and PC Magazine, it seems that the best way to deal with Windows 95 is to start from scratch. Installing it over Windows 3.1 or adding "legacy" Windows 3.1 programs seems to cause endless problems. If the auto-install option does not work, it seems that manual configuration does not always work, and editing the Registry sounds as if it is a far more complex affair than tweaking WIN.INI and SYSTEM.INI.
Since I plan to go with OS/2, which stays firmly in the Windows 3.1 fold, my concern is that new programs or program upgrades will not run on my system. As I mentioned in the previous column, this applies to the latest versions of programs from Corel. On the other hand, Corel has long had a policy of selling the old and new versions of its software simultaneously, the old ones being a real bargain. I notice also that many programs now come in two versions, 16 or 32 bit.
I Shan't Do it Now
The (Deutsche) Telekom offer for a rebate on an ISDN installation expired at the end of June. After much thought I decided against getting ISDN now. One consideration is that I probably move office within the year, and there is a fixed installation charge of 130 DM (about US$80). Another is that there is no ISDN access to the local nodes for Compuserve. It has been promised, and rival services such as T-Online (run by Telekom) have ISDN lines, but it has not been offered yet.
In the meantime, I will finally get a 28.8 kbs modem within a couple of months. It will be interesting to see how much it speeds up the Internet, which I currently access through Compuserve. For that matter, will it speed up Compuserve itself? I have read complaints that Compuserve has a certain amount of internal "sticktion" that slows everything. I also increasingly see comments to the effect that the Internet is getting bogged down by the phenomenal increase in traffic, and ISDN is no help. What is more, ISDN is not compatible internationally. It looks as if I could call up ISDN lines within Europe, but not within the USA, and probably not within Japan either. The point is moot until I do get an ISDN line, but it is yet another reason to hold back until the world standardizes.
Alternatives such as cable modems or ATM are not available yet in Europe. Cable modems offer very high data transfer rates through the same connection as for cable TV, but will not be available for a while. Except for major corporate users. The only option now is ISDN. Prices should fall in Germany once Telekom loses its monopoly at the end of the year, and pricing wins out over pure technology in the market place. One issue for me is that it is slightly cheaper to have one ISDN line instead of two conventional analog lines, so I will look at the whole matter again as and when I move.
Just as I was drafting the final version of this column, a panicked call came through from a client running a small Netware system. The telephone engineer had pulled out one plug too many, silence fell, and faces fell likewise when the server failed to boot up again. The BIOS chirped a happy missive to the effect that the hard disk controller was kaput, so I trotted off to the nearest friendly computer dealer and bought a new IDE controller. Nothing to it, thought I smugly, as I slipped in the controller card and fired the beastie up again. Still no luck; this could mean that the drive is actually to blame, since the IDE keeps its smarts on the drive itself, and poor old brain-damaged DOS neither knows nor cares where everything is located.
The system uses diskless workstations with a boot ROM, so everything is on the server. It is a devil to set up; I tried to set up a diskless workstation in the office, and finally got it to work under DOS, but not under Windows. There are two big problems with diskless workstations on a LAN; the first is that Windows has to use the server disk for its swap file and temporary file, so everything slows down. The second is that a server failure shuts everything down.
For the time being, the hapless client will get a new hard disk, but on a long-term basis they would be better off with a peer-to-peer LAN system, such as the one I saw at CeBIT. An alternative is Lantastic (Artisoft), which costs more but is almost certainly available in German. Both of those two would allow the client to stay with Windows 3.1. Two other alternatives: OS/2 Warp Connect and Windows 95, which are both capable of peer-to-peer networking. OS/2 would also allow the old software to be used and would not require more hardware. Not so Windows 95; more RAM and program upgrades would be necessary. The client wants to get newer and faster machines, which would be a necessity for the Windows 95 route, since it would be a slug on a 386/40 with 8 MB RAM. Real-world users say that Windows 95 needs a 486 or better, and 16 MB of RAM.
Would Windows 95 be reliable? From all accounts, it works well if you have programs specifically for Windows 95 and don't try to get fancy with "legacy" programs. The client only uses WinWord and a clone of Access (Starbase, or some such name), so upgrading would not be painful. I'll have more to say about that in the next Ionic.
Comments or feedback or more information? Contact me on Compuserve on 100575,2573.
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