Ken's Korner -- December 1997
by Ken Cotton
"Darn, I'm out of time. Well, could someone email me a reminder a few days before the November newsletter deadline to remind me to talk some more about things that I'd like to share here, including installing Win95 OSR2, organizing my hard disk and software, CD-ROM training, ISDN hardware…"
That's how I ended last time. I didn't mean to lie, but there's no way I'm going to cover all of those things this time. With the November meeting being held a week later than usual I had a little extra time to prepare, but as usual put this off till the last minute. In a way that's okay as things have changed in the past week.
As long as Mike, our editor, says that he's short of material, and at least a few people tell me that they are getting something out of this, then I'll continue. But don't I need a name if it's going to be a regular column. Let's I'm not the president, so I can't use Prez Sez. How about Midnight Writer. No that's taken, too, as are Inside Track and Chaos Manor, a few of my favorites. If you have any suggestions let me know.
A few people have told me that they are trying Net2Phone to make overseas calls from their computers. For those of you that missed the last newsletter, Net2Phone is is IDT's Internet to regular telephone gateway that costs 10-15 cents per minute and 800 numbers are free. I had meant to add this time that the toll free calls were limited to 20 minutes and that the software is a little buggy and it's best not to run it when you have other applications running.
Well, I may have some worse news. A few days ago I clicked 90 to talk to customer service and order another $25 dollars worth of calls. As soon as the guy said, "I see here that you are in Japan." I knew what was happening. He said something like our customers in Japan must now contact our Japanese reseller, blah, blah, blah. Whoa! I almost put my fist through my monitor.
I've heard this one before, you call a company in the states and ask them to ship a product to you and they give you the number of a local distributor. You call them they will sell you the product with a Japanese manual for around double the price.
I shouldn't get all steamed up just yet, because I don't have all the details. I checked out the sites that are linked to the Net2Phone home page and looked under USA. I see 27 and 18 Yen per minute and I don't like that. I can't really make any sense out of the English on that page either. It said something about having to join some club first. No thanks. I think it's about time I got a credit card with a US mailing address.
If anybody has any more information on this could they please let me know. I guess I'll be keeping my callback service and checking out some of the alternatives out there. AT&T had a really low price to the states in October with their @Phone service, which is phone to phone, and someone told me about a place called KCOM which is free until the end of the year. Unfortunately calls are limited to a few minutes and only during certain times of the day. I should also take a look at some of the Vocaltec internet telephony service providers, which provide a gateway to use for use with Vocaltec's Internet Phone software
There is some good news on the PC to PC Internet telephone front. Microsoft just released version 2.1 of NetMeeting and it's noticeably improved. Todd Boyle and I tried it last night for about 30 minutes. Two months ago when we tried 2.0, the delay was just long enough to make it more like talking on a CB radio than a telephone. I'm happy to say this stuff is now good enough.
As I mentioned before, both parties must have PCs equipped with a sound card, microphone and speakers. If you have all that and your machine is fast enough, please check it out. If you want to test it with someone, just send me an email and we can set a time.
Speaking of sound, another program that just keeps getting better and better is RealPlayer. I usually don't like to mess with betas, but I had heard good things about version 5.0 so I downloaded beta 1. I just noticed that beta 2 was released today. Downloaded and installed it in less than 10 minutes. Man, it keeps getting better and better. I probably watch or listen to over an hour of programming everyday. If you find some good comedy channels please pass them on.
About two years ago I joined another club in town called ICA, which stands for International Computer Association. They were giving away a Pentium notebook, donated by Dell, the first night I joined. (That's why I joined.) I didn't win, but I've continued to go to the meetings as there are a bunch of nice people there. One is TPC member and past program director Mike Kato. Mike was recently elected president. Congratulations Mike.
If you want to know more about that group just ask Mike, me or one of the other people that attend both meetings. They meet the 3rd Thursday of the month and as I write this, someone from WorldCom will be speaking at the next meeting.
Unfortunately I'm going to have to miss that meeting. Mike Kato, Darren McKellin, Pete Perkins and I will all be going to Comdex in Las Vegas. I'm looking forward to this one as I'm going to two days earlier than usual to attend some seminars sponsored by the APCUG or Association of PC Users Groups. I originally signed up to take advantage of a free Comdex show pass, but then I took a better look at the scheduled events and recognized the names of a couple of editors of Windows Magazine. Topics will range from "Effective writing of product reviews" to "How to give a good meeting." Maybe next year we can plan a little earlier in advance and get more people to go.
I'm sure Comdex will be great and you that you can get Mike Kato to tell you about it at the December meeting. Between us we ought to have a few t-shirts to give away. Our December speaker should be Mike Thompson, of Micron Electronics, but I'm not expecting him to be giving away a computer. You never know though. <g>
One booth I'm going to spend some time at is the 3COM USR PalmPilot booth. I know of two people that bought PalmPilot Pros with modems after that TPC meeting and they are very pleased. I really want to get an idea what's around the corner before I go and upgrade my chip. I got a better look at the TI and Sharp PDAs that have just come out, but think they are too big and will lack the 3rd party software that the PalmPilot has.
Anybody else getting little notices included with their NTT phone bills talking about Caller ID starting up soon here in the Tokyo area. Since I can't read it all, I'm not sure what to think. I do know that I want to be ready with a phone and/or answering machine attached to my line. I believe my PIM software, Ecco Pro 4.01 supports this, so I'll see how it works.
I thought it said that by default your number will not appear to the party you are calling and that to have that changed you must fill something out. If that's the case, I don't think that I'll bother to switch it. Guess this means no more prank phone calls for this guy.
Another service coming from NTT in December - I believe - will allow you to expand your local calling area by one area by paying an extra 200 Yen per month. Anyone that is outside the 03 area code and not satisfied with either there Internet service provider or the size of their monthly phone bill ought to look into this. It could represent quite a savings. I didn't realize how great we had it here in the 03 area code until I went looking for a provider last month for a friend who lives in Urawa, Saitama. Ouch!
Looking up above I see that I've yet to t alk about any of my promised subjects. Well how about OSR2? , I finally got around to installing it on all of my machines. Most of you have probably heard of OSR2 by now, but in case you haven't, I'll try to explain. It stands for Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2 and it is what you would most likely get with a new machine if you bought one today. It's not sold in the stores. It has newer drivers for newer hardware, bug fixes and a few enhancements over the orginal release. FAT-32 is one of the features that gets talked about a lot. Using FAT-32 allows you to use smaller cluster sizes on larger hard drives, which means less wasted space. I bought it so that I wouldn't have to go out and get all the little fixes everytime I reinstalled Windows.
I was experiencing some serious slowdowns and crashes last week. It was time for the semi annual reinstall it. It gave me a chance - or forced me - to get my data backed up and all the version number, registration information and passwords in order and get OSR2 in there. What took me a weekend I think I could now do again in a morning. A complete reinstall a few times a year makes sense these days. You'll be amazed at the speed increase.
I also read recently about an even newer release, probably the last before Windows 98, which probably adds support for some the newer stuff that is out there, including USB, AGP, MMX and TUA. If you're wondering, TUA stands for totally useless acronym. :-) I learned this one from TPC Secretary Stuart Woodward the other day and have been waiting for the chance to use it. Hahaha! Gotcha!
Well, that's all for now. No time to tell you what I think about Internet Explore 4.0-it bothers me-or this typing program I bought called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing-it's great-or even the Eudora 4.0 betas-I'm worried. I think I like playing with all this stuff more than I do writing about it, so please contact Mike and volunteer to get something to him to get into the December newsletter [January, now, actually. -Mike]. Give everyone a break from Sigi and me. I think people get way too much of us at the meetings and in the newsgroups. Now's your chance. If you see me in here next month, you'll only have yourself to blame.
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