Englishman David Parry lived in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a TPC member from 1986. A frequent contributor to the AJ, 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.
Firstly, a flashback to last month's column and my woes with ISDN and fax. I'm back online, but at modem speeds. I can connect at warp speed to the support center in Berlin for AVM, makers of the my Fritz! card, and download files in great gulps. The connection to the Compuserve ISDN node is another matter, so I am not visiting any Web sites at the moment. In short, I am getting 14.4 kbs from my ISDN line. But, the fax machine works, and that is more important than a super-fast data line in the short term.
The only solution appears to be strict apartheid, by banishing the S/400 to the tribal homelands of a second PC. The reason for this is that I need to install a FOSSIL driver for ISDN, and this competes for COM4 with my trusty old Intel faxmodem. Everything works if there is only one communications device per PC.
I could try setting either the ISDN card or the faxmodem to COM2 and avoid using them both at the same time, since that would produce a real donnybrook as the two cards tussle for the COM2/COM4 pair on the same interrupt. Since my ISDN line has three numbers, it would be very easy for that to happen, and it would probably cause the communications program to crash or a system lockup. This unholy scramble could happen if I configured my system with a mailbox or mini-BBS system and set the PC fax to receive.
For a number of reasons, I want to have a mailbox facility on my system so that I can easily receive files from people not blessed with a Compuserve account. Note the word "easily"; I know about MIME encoding of binary files as ASCII data over the Internet, but it does not work in all cases in transfers between different types of systems. I have been unable to receive MIME-encoded files sent from T-Online, since they get mixed up with the e-mail message and cannot be run through the MIME decoder.
For the benefit of non-Germans, T-Online is Deutsche Telekom's online service, very similar to Compuserve or America Online, and also with Internet access. Telekom also provide the German service for America Online.
Back to the hardware. I will probably stay with the ELSA card once I have the second PC, since it seems to be easier to configure and it also has a fast modem built in. As I mentioned before, modem connections within Germany were gratifyingly fast. Evidently the problem lies somewhere between the protocols available in the ELSA modem and the ISDN system to Japan.
It must be one of the hoariest old chestnuts in the PC world, but the best way to multi-task is to use a second PC. The problem now, as far as I can tell, is that I need the FOSSIL driver with my ISDN card -- either ISDN card, and this requires a virtual COM port such as COM4, currently inhabited by my Intel S/400.
All I need is a reasonably capable PC, and I will assemble one from bits and pieces. I have been offered a Pentium motherboard with one of the old P5 60 MHz chips and PS/2 memory slots, which is all I need. I have also been offered separately a case with power supply. The main cost of a PC is often the case, power supply and monitor. I will just use a switch box to share the keyboard and monitor between the two systems.
At the expense of stating the obvious, the floating point error is totally irrelevant to any program that I am likely to use, as it only occurs in complex mathematical calculations. Word processors, DTP and graphics programs do not use floating point calculations, and neither do the very simple spreadsheets that I construct.
This would also give me a second machine to experiment with, a test bed for Windows 95 and OS/2, plus some disk space for backup of critical files. It would also make a pretty fair game machine, the more so because I would not have to worry about incompatibilities between my Gravis Phoenix joystick and the PC. I don't think there are any problems, but who knows?
Eating my words
The last AJ had my ringing denial of Windows 95. This month, I have to do a quick volte-face and admit shame-facedly that I am about to make rich Bill even richer. The reason? File compatibility.
In the office that I share, there have been a couple of major contretemps recently over file formats of various kinds, all of which are associated with new versions of software for Windows 95. It is anything but funny to have a text file that has to be sent on a customer, but which cannot be read for checking or printout, and which the customer also cannot read for some reason. File converters such as Word for Word are not bad, but my version is for Windows 3.1 and is blissfully ignorant of files from MS WinWord version 7.0. More and more files from this program are turning up, so I need to do something. "Something" means an upgrade.
Another problem is that a number of new programs only exist in a Windows 95 incarnation, one example being version 4.0 of Adobe Type Manager, the latest version of the Compuserve WinCIM access software, and a whole slew of games. The answer: the installment of the computer tithe on my earnings. Ouch!
I won't upgrade more than a few programs, primarily the mission-critical ones such as Uninstaller, WinWord, Word for Word and HiJaak. I just do not have the money. As it is, the bulk of my work will continue to be done on my main PC under Windows 3.1. I dare not attempt installing Windows 95 on it, even with Partition Magic and System Commander to keep the demons of Redmond at bay. I literally cannot afford to let loose Windows 95 on my system and risk losing a working setup. Customers with deadlines are not understanding if you tell the that Windows 95 just ate your word processor and is yet to come up with its successor.
The Hanoverian extravaganza is due again before long, but I will probably give it a miss for this year, if only because I want to make more use of what I have got. I really need to use my PC to make money instead of consuming it.
Since my "paying hobby" (translation) became somewhat vexatious this month, I did not have time to work on the cyber-porn article -- I probably ought to have it checked by a lawyer anyway! <G> Hopefully you are reading this in the March AJ, but I may have missed the deadline.
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