The Midnight Writer: Jan. 1997
by Mike Lloret
Happy New Year!
Here's wishing the best of everything for you all in the newly begun Year of the Ox. 1997 is already shaping up to be a year of changes: the TPC will be holding our monthly meetings back at the Tokyo Union Church, and the BBS's physical manifestation will be moved (or may already have been, by the time you read this) to a new location.
Algorithmica Japonica is still being put together by the same staff, and we still are in constant need of contributions from you. From this issue the AJ has changed a bit, too, though, although it may be awhile before you notice it. I bought a new (slightly used) printer, a Hewlett Packard LaserJet 5L, from Todd Boyle, and that's what the AJ's camera-ready masters will be printed out on, from this issue. My Epson ActionLaser 1500 still works fine, but a combination of factors caused me to upgrade.
The Epson is only 300dpi, and came with only 1MB of memory. This was perfectly adequate for most of my personal home and work printing purposes, but doing the AJ had recently pushed its abilities to its limits, and slightly beyond them.
Several of Stuart Woodward's excellent covers just weren't done the justice they deserved by being printed in 300dpi, and especially since Publisher Paul Cipywnyk and I started using Microsoft Publisher 97 (the Windows 95-specific version), I've been having serious trouble getting the AJ in general, and the covers especially, to print properly. It took me several hours, for example, to get last month's cover to print on one page instead of spreading itself bit by bit over several pages, and I finally had to settle for 150dpi at fine resolution, with lot's of tweaking of the memory tracking, to get something that came even close to the original. Stuart is too much of a gentleman, and too nice of a fellow, to have expressed his disappointment, but that cover (and some of the graphics - filled sidebars and the like - in the articles inside) just didn't come out looking nearly as good as the originals looked on the Beast's screen.
I had just about decided to use part of my winter bonus to go buy some more memory for the printer. It's expandable to 5MB, and since most of the really time-consuming troubles were due to memery insufficiency, I was going to install another 4MB of memory to max it out. This wouldn't have taken care of the resolution problem, though, so Todd's Going Back to America Sayonara Sale came at the perfect time. I'm sure that his knowledge that the upgrade was needed mostly (OK, only) for the AJ printing was a big reason, if not the only one, for the low price he set. Thanks, Todd!
The new printer is considerably smaller than the old one and a lot quieter. It produces near-1,200dpi quality by combining 600dpi resolution with smoothing techniques called Resolution Enhancement Technology (REt), and best of all has two selectable driver modes. Like in the Epson and other printers, the printer controlling software can use PCL to communicate with the printer. It can also, however, use Host Based drivers to do most of the processing using the computer's rather than the printer's resources.
Since I went berserk a while ago and installed 80MB of RAM in The Beast, this last option means that I should have no more "insufficient memory" errors when printing one of Stuart's or Paul's graphics masterpieces. Just as one example, using the default configuration for the printer and its PCL driver set, the bottoms of the two columns on the first page of David Parry's Ionic Column in this issue printed on a separate, subsequent page. I could have tweaked the settings and gotten them to print properly, but shifting to the Host Based configuration and the driver set let me print out perfectly. As an experiment, I also printed Stuart's cover for the December issue: no comparison, much better.... I'm a believer.
New year, new printer. Shortly, I hope, a new CD-ROM drive. Stay tuned, and have a great 1997.
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