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A Few Things...

Ken Cotton

A Few Things...

by Ken Cotton

I've been staying up pretty late these days. Three years ago when I was excited about BBS'ing and OS/2, it wasn't unusual for people to call me at one or two in the morning, knowing I was still up, to talk about things--computers. I finally broke them and myself of this habit sometime last year, but recently I've been slipping.

The first time in a long time was about two months ago when I stayed up all night working on getting something to our editor, in time for the August issue. The next was before the last TPC meeting when I wanted to get up to speed on what was Palm Pilot PDA news and realized how much was new since the last time I had searched. It turned out that the questions people had I could have answered without preparing for at all, but how was I to know?

This time is kind of different. I'm not going to attempt to cover anything in depth. I'll just mention what's got me going and hopefully have something useful for AJ readers.


A few neat things resulted from my preparing for the last meeting. First off, I've found that I'm using my Pilot a lot more and loving it. I've installed a bunch of applications, including a spreadsheet, drawing program and application launcher. It's really an amazing product.

Recently I read that IBM will sell the Pilot with the IBM brand name on it and will call it the WorkPad. And Texas Instruments and Sharp have also announced similar products.

If you want to talk more about the Pilot, join us in the tpc.pilot newsgroup that we set up after the last meeting. It takes seconds to set up your newsreader. If you have any problems, ask someone in the club that is doing it. They'll be glad to help. Or just call me, preferably from in front of your computer. (Afternoons are best.)

So preparing for the last meeting on the Pilot was kind of like sitting down and reading the answering machine or VCR manual and then being able to record TV programs in the middle of the night or retrieve phone messages from outside. They are little things, but can really make life a little nicer.


The second thing neat thing that has resulted from the last meeting is that I now update my home page a whole lot more. Except, it's not really a home page that I'm updating; but rather my to-do list or a scratch pad. The Web and the links I was checking were so much a part of my Pilot research it didn't make sense to enter notes into anything that didn't keep the live links.

I'm using FrontPage 97, but would just as soon switch to something a little faster and better suited for the way I used it. I'm betting that the next version of a lot of the mainstream PIMs (personal information managers) will be more HTML-aware.

It started with the Pilot page and I have since used it for a few other things that may never leave my machine for the Web. Most recently I'm planning my next trip home this way, with links to Northwest Airlines and Amtrak for schedule checking and to any hotels that I'm staying in. I also entered the linkless Tokyo travel agent information and ticket price information here for lack of a better place to put it.

I imagine that just before I leave I will just post a final version somewhere relatively hidden and send the URL to my family or anyone that I'm visiting. It beats e-mailing or faxing everyone and if I happen to lose that all-important sheet of paper that I print out 10 minutes before heading to the airport, I could easily find a place back home to visit that URL and print out another.

So remember, what you see if you stop by my site is more of a half-finished letter to my dad and notes, than your typical home page. THINK LINK!


Okay, time is moving on so I'd better get on with it. I was hoping to kind of add an update to the Internet telephony topic. I mentioned in the August issue that I 'm using Net2Phone to talk to friends and family in the states for 10-15 cents a minute. That hasn't changed. Since then Vocaltec has released version 5.0 of their Internet Phone software and it you can now call someone on a regular telephone via an ITSP. This new acronym stands for Internet Telephony Service Provider. This is a gateway that you go through that takes care of 'the last mile' of the call.

If you want phone-to-phone connectivity there are now other choices in Japan. This summer AT&T started a service that costs 99 yen for 3-minutes. That is not much lower than the callback service that I am using, so I haven't bothered to check it out. I read about another company charging 25 yen per minute and I'll probably sign up to use it when I'm outside. But for me, PC-to-phone is the way to go. I like to get as much use out of this OCN line as I can. And you just can't beat the free calls to 800 numbers.


Moving right along, I believe when I last wrote I was really excited about listening to RealAudio files. It seems that this has become a standard, which means I won't need to download, buy and learn another streaming audio product in the near future.

It's also become a part of my life and I'm willing to bet that it or something like it will be a part of yours soon, too. Just a guess. If your machine meets the usual requirements, Pentium-whatever with sound card and speakers, I highly recommend that you give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

A 28.8 modem will do the job, but keep in mind that the server on the other end decides what speed to send it you based on your bandwidth, so more is better. So whether you hear sounds like an AM radio or CD will often depend on your connection to the Net. I could get carried away telling you how great ISDN in Japan is and how I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want it, but I'll just stop here. If you'd like to talk more about it, or OCN, please contact me.

To get that CD sound, though you might need to upgrade your computer speakers. I just plugged mine into my stereo I can now see what the magazines have been talking about for months. The speakers are most likely the weak link in a PC sound system.


RealAudio files are not all that I'm listening to these days. Todd Boyle told me he had read about something called MPEG-2 Layer 3 players and files on the Net and how they people were using them to share music via the Internet. I did a bit of quick reading and checked it out. I downloaded a player and a few songs and wow! CD sound, but after compression these files are just 1MB per minute of sound. I think you'll be hearing more about this soon, too.


And that reminds me, I was at World PC Expo today and saw that Iomega is soon releasing a 2GB Jaz drive, called Jaz2 that will play the 1GB disks and a new product called Buz. Not quite sure what all the Buz does, but I'm here is what the press release says:

PC EXPO, New York City -- June 17, 1997 -- Iomega Corporation (NYSE: IOM) today announced Buz® multimedia producer, the industry's most affordable audio/video and photo capture solution to bridge the gap between consumers' multimedia content and their PCs. For an estimated street price of only $199.95 in the U.S., Buz multimedia producer is a combination video capture card, Ultra SCSI controller and software suite that offers one of the easiest ways to get home movies, photos and music from camcorders, DVD-ROMs, digital cameras, VCRs and laser disks into a personal computer.

I can't wait. From what I could see at the show, the RecordIt software they may be using MP3 for the compression. Are you ready for all of this? I am! Start digitizing now.


Finally, I'd like to talk a bit about TPC-related business. After one of the first meetings I attended about four years ago I overheard a few of the execs talking about how everyone knows that in a club like this a few people do most of the work. I know now what they meant. It's the 20-80 rule. Well, the elections are coming up and there are plenty of things that people can do to help out. And you do these things, not so much for what you get out of it, but for what you become in the process.


Darn, I'm out of time. Well, could someone e-mail me a reminder a few days before the November newsletter deadline to remind me to talk about things that I'd like to share here, including installing Win95 OSR2, organizing my hard disk and software, CD-ROM training, ISDN hardware….

Or maybe you'd like to write that one. J There is plenty of space.

[Ken has recently begun to break away from
English teaching and is now doing ISDN/OCN signups.- Mike

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

October, 1997

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN