Ionic Column - July 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 to readers, this column even won a prize and an honorable mention...
Last month I reported that I had two PC systems up and running, and that the ADSL system was not working yet. The two PC systems both seem to be reliable and stable, which comes almost as a miracle after months of trouble and exasperation. And the ADSL system now works, thanks to some help from a visiting Telekom technician.
There is not a great deal to say about the PC systems, except that the Jaz drive does not work on either PC under either form of Windows. It looked as if I was closer to success with Windows 3.1, since it is easier to tell what is really happening and to make changes, but in the end I did not have the time to do more. It looks as if it is a task that requires some concentrated effort. Also, I will wait until I have installed Windows 98, which is due to arrive shortly.
All that Jaz
In the meantime I had some e-mail exchanges with Roland Hechtenberg in Japan, who stoutly maintained that the Jaz should surely be recognized as just another DOS drive, but admitted that he was speaking from dim and distant memory of using Jaz drives some time ago, adding that he had had problems with the drives becoming jammed internally when the hard drive mechanism seized up, and also that they would go to sleep, as it were, and need to be revived. A PC Magazine of a few weeks back had a quoted comment by one of the columnists to the effect that there have been numerous complaints that Iomega's Zip and Jaz drives are difficult to set up and the media are fragile. Frankly, the only reason I got them is that they are the de facto standard for file transfer using removable media, which means files that are way too big to fit on a floppy. Now their main competitor SyQuest is advertising a Jaz-like drive with greater capacity, lower prices and much cheaper media. No comment!
I Should Do it Now?
Even though ADSL now works, I still need to get the ISDN system set up again. The pilot project for ADSL simply gives you access to an ADSL node via a browser and I do not have a T-Online account, since I don't think that T-Online has access via ADSL. At any rate, there has been no mention of such a feature. Incidentally, when I asked about e-mail and file transfers with the ADSL system, the technician furrowed his brow and admitted that I was the first person to ask. So what are the other guinea pigs doing with their ADSL systems? Are they just a bunch of cool teenagers using the Web as a sort of MTV?
All the eggs in one basket?
With 2 PCs available, and the Raritan switcher due shortly, I have the option of keeping CompuServe on one PC and the ADSL on the other. Given the problem of finding enough interrupts when I reinstall the Fritz! ISDN card and the possibility of conflicts of various kinds, it might be best to run ISDN on a different PC. At any rate it would be far easier to install ISDN under Windows 95/98, and the second PC is currently a traditionally-minded Windows 3.1 system. But the update for System Commander arrived a couple of days ago, so it looks as if I will have a busy weekend soon by putting a Windows 98 partition on the second PC.
And a partition for DOS games, although someone suggested that it might be easier to run the games under Windows 95/98 to avoid the problem of setting up EMS separately. The instructions for the games say that this is certainly possible, although I wonder about stability. It might be best to simply give DOS games a partition of their own instead of copying over AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS. One quirk I encountered after setting up the Gravis Phoenix joystick with numerous additional buttons for games functions; it refused to configure the extra buttons if the Contour Mouse was running in native three-button mode, and I also had trouble with the mouse in a number of games, where the cursor skipped tirelessly between all the boxes in a menu. The Contour Mouse can be set as a two-button Microsoft mouse, which cures any such problems, but it is still a bit of a nuisance.
The first ones I set up were reissues of combat flying games, out of which a total of three did not install or suffered mouse problems. Wings of Glory hung with a cryptic error message when I tried to install it many months ago. My friend (the one who wiped my disk recently...) tried to install the game from the same CD and got the same result. Red Baron suffers from skipping mouse syndrome, regardless of which mouse is loaded. That seems to rule out WW1 aerial combat. Finally, a CD version of Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe asked for a code word from the installation manual. Unless this is hidden on the CD sleeve, I'm out of luck, because there is no such beast. But at least three of the WW2 games loaded and I spent a happy if non-productive Saturday shooting down everything in sight.
Needless to add, DOS games for standard VGA do not make good use of the newer hardware, and I would like to find the Windows versions of these games, or similar ones. But a quick peek at the software shops shows a marked preference by Joe Public for fantasy games instead of simulations. No matter, I won't be distracted from work, or so the theory goes.
Flying with ADSL
As yet I have not done a great deal with the ADSL system, but it is certainly impressive. The speed depends above all on the speed of a particular server and all the links in the system between it and my PC. If the information superhighway is not suffering from traffic jams, I can shift data by the truckload. Netscape begged me to update to the latest version, which I obligingly did. The ADSL line swallowed 6 MB in about three minutes with nary a hiccup while I smugly watched a warning prompt saying that the download might take 76 minutes with a modem. Web pages appear with gratifying rapidity as long as the server is not being overloaded. Photographs and graphics snap in with gratifying promptness. The actual handshaking to connect to a server can be somewhat quicker; some come in almost immediately, others take nearly as long as they did with a modem.
Perhaps I should try to see if I can make outgoing FTP transfers via ADSL. In a way, it is not so critical. Some of the agencies that send me large files for translation (more than 1 MB when zipped) have ISDN, and direct transfers are very fast anyway. CompuServe appears to be able to run at the full ISDN speed nowadays anyway. In any case, I need to see what I can do with a browser, since in the past I only used the one provided with CompuServe to view Web pages.
Back to Japan. If ADSL is available, it would be well worth having. It is not as fast as TV, but it is truly wonderful after watching Web pages form on screen with glacial slowness. Skimming through online catalogs was relatively quick, and reloads when one moved back were almost instantaneous. In fact, it operates at the kind of speed that is the minimum that would be acceptable to your average Joe with no experience of computers. The big difference to me is that I now feel it is worth using the Internet for more than e-mail and file transfers and I can make use of Web-based information services such as travel information and booking.
This month I will end with a request; I would welcome replies from readers with details of Web sites that deserve a visit.
Next month I hope to have some initial comments on Windows 98.
Comments or feedback or more information?
Contact me on CompuServe on 100575,2573
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