Ionic Column -- February 1998
by David Parry
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.
The saga of the work in hand continues, but there has been progress of a sort. My first attempt to install Windows 95 with the help of a knowledgeable friend failed, and the next attempt will be in a day or two as I write. The Jaz drive has still not been set up, one of my two ISDN cards was installed (in the second PC system), and I do have a new monitor, and a new video card is due very shortly. The last two items are virtually the end of a buying spree that depleted my wallet but should see me nicely set up for the next couple of years at least. Now that I have all the hardware I need, I can try some fundamental reconfiguring of the entire system for the main PC.
One item still remains; a sound card to be installed with the Boomerang dictation system from Dictaphone. That will cause problems if I install it in the same system as the ISDN card, since both would contend for IRQ 5, but that is no problem if I have some free interrupts. However, there never seem to be enough to go round once you have added a card or two.
Talking of interrupts, there was a comment in PC Magazine to the effect that doing away with the ISA bus would eliminate the problem of interrupts, but it would make a pile of older hardware obsolete at a stroke. On the other hand, most computer hardware is more or less obsolete anyway within five years. Plus there could be considerable performance benefits from the new bus technologies. I'll add the usual caveat that it takes a while for matching hardware to be readily available, and then longer again until it is on sale at a reasonable price.
Living with speed
The AMD K6 system has been more stable with the SDRAM, but I got the biggest improvement under Windows 3.1 after eliminating a number of programs. It is highly likely that there was a DLL somewhere that was causing trouble. However, PageMaker is still not very stable on the AMD machine, so I use it on the Pentium/100 second PC. There I set up a minimal version of Windows 3.1 without Norton Desktop and only a very few programs. This makes PageMaker workable, but it can still crash from time to time. And in case you wondered, I put all the old EDO RAM into the second PC, which also has 64 MB RAM.
Help at hand
The TPC BBS may be running down in its Wildcat! incarnation, but it has gained a new lease on life as an Internet mailing list (I think that is the correct term). The P&A BBS run by Patrick Hochner in Tachikawa did the same thing, and the net result was that my phone bill shrank quite a bit. I posted comments about Windows 95 on both BBS and got back a number of helpful comments. The first point was that Windows 95 wants a clean slate to start with, and I was trying to install it in a partition that had DOS 6.22. It was suggested that I should try removing or renaming the system files so that it is a "clean" installation of DOS 7.00, which is what underlies Windows 95. I have prepared a partition for it and will make that partition active with Partition Magic for the installation, while at the same time hiding the other partitions to prevent Windows 95 going on a search and destroy mission for older software.
Another hint was that PageMaker 6.0 is notably less stable under Windows 3.1 than under Windows 95, and I shall be able to verify that shortly if all goes well. The latest version of PageMaker is 6.5, and it only runs under Windows 95. A similar situation applies to FrameMaker, where I have version 5.0 and the latest is 5.5. Each program has the two versions on the respective CD-ROM.
Thoughts of Germany
The last AJ had a new column from Kurt Keller, also a returnee to Europe after a stint in Japan, and with some interesting comments about software in German. He said that he had no trouble using Japanese WinWord because the menus all use the same keystroke macros, such as Control-B for bolding, as the English-language versions, but the German version uses Control-Shift-F. Why 'F'? Because the German word for bold is "fett" (lit. "fat"). And it gets worse. Alt-F won't get you to the File menu on a German system, but Alt-D does the trick, because the word for file is "Datei". Easy when you know how, but still somewhat confusing, since the menu items are often strangely translated. It helps a lot if you know the original English-language program when trying to navigate through Teutonic menus.
One answer might be to have a dual interface option, where the keystroke macros could work on either the English or the German commands. I know, it would be confusing, in much the same way as using a German keyboard when DOS or Windows thinks you have a US default keyboard installed. Talking of which, you will hunt in vain for a backslash on a German keyboard in the usual places. Pressing every single key won't help either, even if you press Shift as well. Down at the bottom and next to the space bar is a key marked "Alt Gr". That probably means "Alternative: German", but a better description might be "Alt Grrrrr" after a long and unsuccessful search for the backslash. Press Alt Gr and a key with three characters, a bit to the middle of where a backslash normally resides, and you are back in business. This gets quite entertaining if you run a program such as XyWrite, which remaps the keyboard and Americanizes your computing world.
One effect of the change of the menu names is that macro viruses are specific to a particular language, but there have been plenty of helpful hackers to tweak the old WinWord and Excel viruses to let them speak German.
Contact David at:
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