The Midnight Writer -- May 1997
Hisashiburi desu, ne? It's been a while since I've written this column, because for the last couple of issues Paul and I had (gasp!) more material than we had space for...a rare and wonderful situation in which I happily sacrificed my page. Once upon a time, the AJ came in different lengths - in increments of four pages - depending on how much material we had, but I've been keeping it to 16 pages to save on postage; the printing cost difference is minimal, but the postage takes a big jump when you add four pages.
It's not as if I have a great deal to say this time around. Many of you are aware that the name of this column is a pun which depends on how you pronounce "writer". You won't feel that it's too far off topic, then, for me to mention that I've traded in my Kawasaki Eliminator and my Honda FT400 motorbikes for a new Yamaha Drag Star. I'm still breaking the engine in gently for the first 1000 kilometers; just 400 to go. I'm going to try not to blow the engine up on this one as I did with the Honda.
The photo below was taken with a new Casio QV-300 digital camera which my live-in scientist/engineer bought to take on a business trip to Singapore. It was taken in bright sunlight, straight on, with the aperature open, which is the cause of the vertical lines triggered by gleams off the chrome. There probably would have been more of those lines if I hadn't bought a customized model bike...the engine, exhaust pipes, forks, etc., are almost all black. Once I gain a little competence in using the camera (after it comes back from its business trip), I'll do a review, and maybe you'll see more shots from it here in the AJ.
The only other computer-related purchase I've made lately is an Iomega ZIP drive. Having what is essentially a 100MB floppy drive is a handy thing, but as usual I'm having the odd bit of trouble getting my new toy to work. Since Beauty doesn't have a SCSI controller like The Beast does, I got the parallel port version so that the drive can be used by either system. It works fine on both systems, too, and installed very simply, indeed. Well, if you don't count a little trouble with reassigning drive letters, that is. The only problem I have with it now is that I can't get both it and my printer to work at the same time.
Well, I can get them both to work, just not the way I want. The ZIP drive has a port enabling both it and the printer to use the computer's parallel port. If I set up the printer to run in standard PCL style, it works fine. This uses the printer's memory, though, and isn't suitable for printing pages with complex graphics (such as some of Stuart Woodward's splendid covers, for which we shall have to wait a bit longer while Stuart recovers further). Host mode on the HP LJ5L allows me to use The Beast's memory rather than the printer's and print anything I want, but for some reason this prevents the ZIP drive's existence from being recognized. If I force Win95 to take notice of the Iomega drive, the printer stops working. I've sent e-mail to both companies' tech support people, but I haven't gotten an answer yet. The manual for my drive (the printer, too, for that matter) is in Japanese, but I'm 99% sure the answer isn't lurking there.
It's not a particularly serious problem, anyway, since it's easy enough to switch with an extension cable. The only trouble I'd have is if I wanted to print something from a file on one of the ZIP disks, but that could be gotten around. Really, I just want to find a solution so that I can rid myself of the feeling that I'm using technology that's beyond me.
Speaking of which, I am still contemplating replacing The Beast with a home-built machine, and I'm not sure if Sigi Rindler's account in this issue of his do-it-yourself project has encouraged or discouraged me from that near-future attempt. I received some new motivation to upgrade my computer when I discovered that Privateer 2 requires a minimum 75MHz machine. Privateer was one of my favorite games, and the sequel is winging its way to me from Singapore as I write this, but I have a feeling it's not going to work on the 66MHz Beast. I could buy an off-the-shelf system, but it seems somewhat wasteful since I've got upgraded sound and video cards, a new 12X CD-ROM drive, and three fairly new 2GB HDDs. Not to mention the Travan tape drive. We'll see.
Meanwhile, the only problem I now have of any import is that I can't get Win95 to close or restart properly. The sequence ends with "Windows protection fault; press any key", and pressing a key gives me the "It's now safe to turn off your computer" screen. Not a big deal, but it means that I can't, for example, restart in DOS mode. System Commander allows me to start in any OS I want, but for installation of software, changing screen resolution, and the like, it would be nice to be able to restart properly. I'll have to do some more "diggling" I guess. I'd hate to think that I have to reinstall Win95 again.
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