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Ionic Column -- March 1998

by David Parry

Englishman David Parry lived in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a member of TPC from 1986. Currently based in Düsseldorf and working as a translator, he returns to Japan electronically via the Internet. A frequent contributor to this publication, he was Newsletter Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990 and began the Ionic Column in 1992. For reasons best known, this column even won a prize and an honorable mention...

The upgrading of my system

continues in stages. Windows 95 now runs on the second PC system, the 100 MHz Intel, and seems quite stable so far. However, I have only installed PageMaker 6.0 and one or two small programs. The key to the installation was the removal of the system files for the earlier version of DOS, as I mentioned in the last column.

Just one big floppy

On looking through my collection of master disks, I notice that I do not have so many that are for Windows 95. To some extent that is because most of the newer software is now for Windows 95/NT only, and I have a number of programs that I bought or last upgraded three or four years ago. It is also noticeable that virtually all programs except the smallest now come on CD-ROM. No wonder, since a CD-ROM is much cheaper and quicker to produce than a diskette. It is also much easier to deal with one CD-ROM instead of the half a dozen or so diskettes required for programs such as WinWord or Access.

The dual standard

The era of the Windows 3.1/95 dual standard are coming to an end. Corporate users may finally take the plunge now that Windows 98 is supposedly due out soon, and a new version of Windows NT is also promised. Some users say that Windows 95 is more stable than its predecessors, others find it totally unreliable. It looks as if Microsoft is trying to make Windows 98 a consistently good performer on all kinds of different PC systems, and that is what business users want. Another issue is that much of the current software is not available for the older versions of Windows. Companies such as H-P will speed up the process by not producing drivers for their hardware for Windows 3.1.

Caught in the middle

When I bought Adobe PageMaker at the end of last year, primarily to overwrite files for translation, I ordered version 6.0 because it was the last one that could also run on Windows 3.1, assuming that I would upgrade in a few months to version 6.5 (32-bit only) for around $100-150 at US prices. When I enquired about an upgrade last week, I got a message saying that the copy of PageMaker I had bought was a special one that could not be upgraded. Needless to add, I was not aware of this when I bought it, and the vendor (CompUnique, Simi Valley, CA) is battling with Adobe on my behalf right now. Now since when did anyone sell programs that cannot be upgraded? I mean regular programs, and not remaindered goods from a company that is giving up.

Incidentally, I have had good results with CompUnique after experiencing problems with MicroWarehouse and PCs Compleat. The latter responded tardily or not at all to requests for information on pricing and availability, the former refused to sell a number of products outside the USA. CompUnique respond quickly to e-mail or faxes, and are prepared to sell anything that is legal. It is run by one Ms. Joy Robbins, whose photo is on the cover of the catalog.

By contrast, I had a more pleasant experience with the renewal of PC Magazine. I had steadfastly ignored the steady blizzard of renewal reminders that began when I had 4 or 5 months still to go, figuring that sooner or later they send out a special offer for a reduced subscription rate. They did, but it arrived about two days after I finally broke down and "re-upped", as they say on FEN. I enclosed the flyer for the special rate with a polite letter, asking if I could have the reduced rate. Back came a card saying that the subscription had been processed already, but they would extend it by 6 weeks to cover the difference in the amounts, and I would also get the proffered bait of a CD-ROM chock full of games. Now dare I hope that Adobe will be equally user-friendly?

Problem removed?

These removable drive bays can be quite handy, but I was told that some of the problems on my first PC, the AMD K6 200 MHz, might be due to the extra connectors to the drive bay that were causing problems on the SCSI bus. I took the thing out and have since had significantly fewer mysterious crashes or failures to load programs. Unfortunately, the Windows 3.1 system on that PC has become less reliable again because the drivers for the Matrox Millennium II card do not work with RAM Doubler. Editing large text files with graphics becomes something of a race to edit as much as I can and save it before Windows grinds to a halt for lack of memory. This sloppy memory management becomes increasingly irksome due to the increasing number of files I get that include graphics, and which stretch my 64 MB of SDRAM to the full. E-mail to both vendors has not produced an answer as yet. Perhaps the answer is to move on more quickly to Windows 95?

Stretched to the limit

One problem with these files with embedded graphics is that I also have to overwrite any captions on drawings and illustrations. This requires me to install whatever program the user created the file with originally, and then place great trust in a tenuous OLE link while editing the file. Since such files tend to be from a wide variety of programs, I cannot be sure of having a suitable program installed on my system. PostScript or EPS files are a problem because of the compatibility issues concerning files produced by different programs. It also means that my system is stretched to the limit for memory; here again, I have had trouble with WinWord files produced on a Windows 95 system and which I had to have split in order to be able to cram them into my veteran 3.1 system. Another reason to upgrade to Win 95, etc., etc.

Fiddling away

A bigger problem is that the translation job quickly becomes a reformatting job if it involves either tables or text in boxes overlaid onto a graphic. I invariably end up having to fiddle with resizing the box or the column width or resorting to a smaller font to get everything to fit. Add to that the possibilities for havoc by making some kind of formatting change that you cannot undo. Sad to say, this type of job is the trend of the future, since customers for translation work increasingly want their nicely formatted files to be turned into another language while preserving the appearance of the original. This involves hours of painstaking and fiddly work which it is difficult to bill fairly, and invariably means less per hour than for straight translation. It is the reason why I soft-pedal any mention of DTP work, because I found it was relatively unprofitable.

Changed but unchanged

Back to the machine translation world. There are a few programs, a very few, that can take formatted text from WinWord or PageMaker, translate the text to the best of their ability, and then put it back with the same attributes. The Unix-based Logos program that I mentioned in a past column can do that, I do not know if the more widely used Trados translation program can. The translation aid program that I was given should also do the same without affecting formatting, and I will give that a try on the new system once I have reinstalled Windows and the Windows-based programs in an attempt to cure the stability problems.

What is a round tuit?

I always say that I will get a round tuit one day, but I never seem to have time to go to the shops and find one. Indeed, I'm not sure what one looks like, just to make matters worse. Meanwhile, I chant my "I'll do it when I have a spare moment mantra and ponder the mysteries of Matsushita, who use a unique adapter cable to connect my SCSI CD-ROM drive to my new sound card. Or more precisely, the CD-ROM drive which is not connected to the sound card.

Low-tech works every time

One result of having two PCs now is that I have less desk space, fewer compatibility problems, and fewer installation problems, since just about everything runs on one or other machine. It might seem silly to have two keyboards, two monitors and two mice, but the mechanical 3-way switcher for all three devices caused frequent lockups after swapping between PCs. Plus, I don't dare risk my nice new Hitachi 19" monitor on a mechanical switching device such as that. Remember the warnings some while back about the hazards of mechanical switchers and laser printers? Video cards are definitely vulnerable to this kind of thing. Incidentally, I do not have a printer switcher, so I have to swap files onto the bigger system on diskette. I don't know if the HP LJ5 would work properly through a switcher if I use the fancy interactive option; it certainly does not work with the pass-through parallel port on the Zip drive. But it is a problem that I can live with.

CeBIT '98

The Hanoverian extravaganza is a just under a month away as I write, and I know all about it from the various PR releases that I have been translating lately. Will I go myself? Dare I risk temptation by venturing into this temple of high-tech? Would I find something really useful, such as the Contour mouse of two years ago?

I finish this month's column on a note of suspense...


Comments or feedback or more information?

Contact me on Compuserve on 100575,2573 (DAParry@compuserve.com) or http://www.core-ad.co.jp/parry.


© 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

March, 1998

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor


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