Ionic Column -- August 1997
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.
and Word Processing
Quantum vs Adaptec
Shortly after the last Ionic was put to bed, I saw a message on a Tokyo BBS that seemingly explained my SCSI problems. In short, the combination of Quantum SCSI drives and Adaptec SCSI controllers is a match made in hell. Quantum evidently feel they can play fast and loose with SCSI standards, whereas Adaptec is one of the major forces in setting them. This leaves me very irked at spending a fair bit of money on a 3.2 GB Quantum Tempest drive, only to find that it may have a birth defect.
Somebody on the TPC BBS asked about Tempest SCSI drives, so I replied with the above and more. If by any chance he takes up the invitation to buy my Tempest, I would go shopping again. What to get? Perhaps a Seagate. The Western Digital Caviar drives do not seem to have an unblemished reputation for reliability, although I do not have much evidence to go on. One thing remains clear; there is a substantial premium for SCSI-III drives (UltraSCSI or UltraWide or Fast 'n' Wide, although these appellations also get attached to SCSI-II controllers and drives, such as mine.)
But the above may not be entirely true. My tame consultant said that Adaptec and Quantum get on just fine, since Compaq uses that particular combination. This leaves me even more puzzled, and still irked. I know that one never has enough disk space, but for the moment I am making use of only a very small proportion of the riches I have available. Furthermore, I think that removable fast storage is a better answer in future, since it provides a backup function as well. I could use that to store old text files, seldom-used clipart, bulky graphics files, the lot, without clogging up my main disk.
The obvious choice is the Jaz, since magnetic media are a bit slower and less reliable; the number of bad bits is 2 or 3 orders of magnitude higher, and they are not really intended for semi-permanent use, such as I have in mind. But there are at least two alternatives to the Jaz, so I am looking out for a review of the very latest in this technology. There was a brief message on the BBS of an intriguing device which will cost as much as a Jaz and will have several gigabytes of storage on each disk. That is much bigger than I envisage needing for some time yet. But at least it might drive down the prices of existing media.
Speaking in Tongues
In last month's column I promised to cover a number of topics from the world of translation. I apologize in advance for having something less intrinsically interesting than invitations for virtual porn to offer in print, but maybe Compuserve is policing the spam-mail more strictly than before. Now and again there is the usual invitation to visit a Web site that will fire up one's hormones, which my credit card and I both ignore. Maybe I am getting old, or else my credit card is.
Away from sex and back to the stupor mundi. My translation work is strictly alphabetic, no kanji or hanzi anywhere in sight, meaning that I deal with the European languages only. As yet I have not had to deal with Russian text, either as incoming text for translation, or to type something in Russian, but I plan to set up a version of Windows with Russian fonts on a spare partition on one of my two PCs when I have the time. Note the all-important caveat, as in recent months I have been generally too busy to fiddle with my PC and have been forced to use it to earn money instead. On the whole, I regard this as a healthy trend in my relationship vis a vis the computer, which otherwise insists on mulcting a tithe of my earnings.
While I was in Japan, it was getting more common to send finished work back by modem. All that was required was ASCII text, with no formatting, unless the customer had the same word processing program. This was rare. The dominance of WordStar was over, Word Perfect was used a little, and the Windows-based programs such as Word or Ami Pro were becoming more popular. A few places that did DTP preferred Macs, which is no problem if one uses ASCII or Word. Looking at the other direction, the work was always sent to me as paper printout or by fax.
The Written Word
Even allowing for the passage of time since I left Japan, there was one major difference in Germany. Everyone here uses Word for Windows. In most cases the customer expects to have ready-formatted text, so you cannot just toss an ASCII text file back. To take this further, customers increasingly want to have their original text file overwritten so that they do not have to spend a lot of time copying text. The poor translator gets to do this for them as part of the normal price.
The only advantage of this is that more jobs are now sent to me as text files, so I do not have to suffer the caprices of the fax machine, wait impatiently for a large envelope to arrive in the mail, or struggle with barely legible faxes-with the significant exception of Russian original texts. Still, Russian text used to be worse; these days they can afford dot-matrix or laser printers instead of using worn-out manual typewriters with ribbons to match.
An extension of this is that the customer wants the original file overwritten, regardless of the format. As I mentioned just now, WinWord is the most widely used program in Europe, and nothing else comes close. Very occasionally, I get requests to overwrite files from DTP (PageMaker, QuarkXPress, FrameMaker) or presentation graphics programs. There are various ways to deal with that.
Sometimes I can bluff the customer into accepting a straightforward text translation, either from a paper printout of his file or from a "dead" version of the file in Acrobat PDF format. I got one such job recently, and expect to see a lot more of them in the future. The Acrobat reader is available as freeware from Adobe, the version of the program that actually creates such files from your application is naturally a little more pricey. Acrobat produces a graphics version of your original file, retaining all the formatting and graphics, which I can print out. I do not know the file format, but I think it is some kind of a metafile, meaning that it is a mixture of bit-mapped and vector graphics, and the fonts are probably embedded if possible-TrueType fonts can be embedded by a number of programs, and they do not take up all that much space. The result is that the file is not as big as you might expect. The nice thing is that the file displays on screen and prints out almost exactly like the original, with no distortion or loss of scaling.
An alternative to this is to produce an EPS or PostScript output file, but that has several disadvantages. Firstly, the files are huge, although they squished down to about 10% of their original size when compressed. Secondly, there are some incompatibilities in the PS and EPS formats, so there is no guarantee that you can read the file in your program. Thirdly, you have to treat it as a graphic and open it in a suitable program. In most cases you have to create a frame for it, so both the aspect ratio and the overall size change. You do not necessarily need a PostScript printer to display the result, though.
Word Not Perfect
I did get a request to overwrite a large job contained in a Word Perfect for Windows file. I did not have the program, but the customer was not to be put off. A package plopped onto my desk, containing a printout of the text and a box of diskettes, plus the magic code number to install the program. Everything installed OK, so I fired up the program and loaded the file.
The job took a whole lot of time to complete, partly because of its size and complexity, but also because the screen handling and editing functions were a bit clunky. To give one example, which is crucial for editing: WinWord has this neat function whereby the cursor spreads out, like a blob of jelly, to highlight an entire word if you have already highlighted most of the word. Word Perfect requires you to haul the cursor from the beginning to the end of the word, which requires much more concentration and a level of manual dexterity that would tax a surgeon. Overall, I found the Word Perfect interface somewhat cranky and irksome to use.
But the biggest minus was its habit of crashing from time to time. Incidentally, the job was done just before I swapped in the SCSI hard drive. If Word Perfect had been difficult on the old system, it was downright impossible on the new one. It barely gave me enough time to type in some text and save it before Windows crashed or locked up. Again incidentally, I still use Windows 3.1 despite its problems, as Windows 95 seems to be less reliable for production work.
In the next issue I will look at the question of programs and dictionaries on CD-ROM, and will take a quick look at machine translation. The reason that it will be a brief look is that I do not use machine translation, and do not plan to.
Comments or feedback or more information? Contact me on Compuserve on 100575,2573 (or DAParry@compuserve.com) or
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