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Ionic Column November 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...

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The Ionic Column is now back to normal after taking over most of the September AJ and going to Cologne for the October issue. I can now return to the inner world of my PC and the machinations of Windows 95 and 98, which I am sure you would all rather read about instead of boring tales of air-brushed naked women. After all, I was under the impression that AJ readers prefer nerds to nudes.

This Ionic will deal with Windows 98 and some related topics, but at this point I will try to give a helping hand to the new publisher by suggesting that this is a topic which many others could discourse on, and more knowledgeably than myself at that. Why not put your thoughts on paper and send them in to Mike Lloret for publication? [ An excellent idea, David. Thanks for the suggestion to our readers. — Mike]

Over the past two months a number of the pieces for my PC jigsaw puzzle have been put into place. A move of office meant that that ADSL system had to be reinstalled, this being combined with some nifty wiring so that the two PCs are networked together with the same 10BaseT wiring that also goes to the ADSL wall socket. In theory I can surf the Net from either PC, but I plan to use only the one that is directly connected so that I can use Web utilities such as Web Whacker and avoid the problem of files being split between two PCs. That is already a problem with text files, although judicious use of System Salamander to copy files between PCs solves the problem.

The networking solution is not 100%. I can in theory run programs off the other PC, but sometimes Windows gets confused and cannot find vital files for the program in question. I also avoid calling up files in WinWord from either a floppy or the network, simply because the "memory", the list of files previously opened, causes problems if WinWord tries to access the drive again. This always gave trouble after loading a file from a floppy. I don't know why WinWord does this, and it does not do so if you reload WinWord again.

Another issue would be splitting saved e-mail over two PCs. As it is, I am considering whether to collect my mail through Outlook Express rather than CompuServe. I already do this for T-Online mail, since the T-Online interface is little more than prettified ASCII and is glacially slow into the bargain. The consultant set up my system so that both CompuServe and T-Online are dialed. At the moment I simply set it running, cancel the CompuServe connection and continue with the T-Online connection. Outlook Express sends and receives e-mail at great speed, bypassing all the startup screens and time-wasting on-screen junk so that the entire job is done very quickly. E-mail downloads from T-Online via Outlook Express are much faster than e-mail from CompuServe in the usual way, using the ISDN connection for both. I don't know if this is to do with Outlook Express or T-Online or CompuServe.

One option would be to put all e-mail from both sources into Outlook Express. I am making more use of T-Online instead of CompuServe to avoid the charge per Internet e-mail item, which adds up now that the list servers are more active. But if I do that, I will have to back up all my e-mail very carefully, because it is all too easy to wipe out all the Outlook Express files. And I mean all of them, including your old e-mail.

Making light work of icons. There is one problem with Windows 95 and 98. It integrates the removal and installation of programs into one sub-program. This reminds me of the much-touted integration of home and garden in Japan, and all I can say is that a few bugs can creep into the virtual house as well. Selecting the wrong menu item can have drastic results, rather like the Far Side cartoon of the nerdy boy in an airliner with the switch on his seat saying "Wings fall off / Wings don't fall off". I felt like that on a recent flight to England, frantically squeezing to the other side of my seat and squinting at the symbols on the buttons to operate the reading light. One error would summon an ever-smiling hostess (needless to add, I was not flying Aeroflot), change the audio channel or reprogram the on-board GPS, as far as I could tell. This was like trying to decipher Windows icons.

The sound and the fury

This installation and removal is part and parcel of the installation routine. A new installation of Windows 9x deletes from your disk those modules that you deselect in the installation, whereas Windows 3.1 just installed the new items that you chose. In other words, Windows 3.1 is incremental, whereas Windows 9x starts from scratch each time and removes surplus programs. This was an unexpected and unwelcome feature when I overlooked the warnings. I wanted to install Character Map, which seemed to have been overlooked in a previous installation, and I deselected several of the items to make the installation quicker. A big mistake. My newly-installed Outlook Express vanished with no more trace than a message saying that all files and old e-mail were being deleted. This raised my blood pressure a few points as I reviewed the ancestry and future fate of Bill Gates.

Back from the dead

Luckily there is a way to recover both your files and your composure. A reinstallation magically brings back all the old files and settings. All except the address book, which I could not locate — and still cannot. None of the files in the Outlook Express directory have suitable names or dates, so where is it squirreled away?

I had to rebuild the address book, which was not much of a problem at that stage, and found that there is no way to export the CompuServe phone book. I initially had considerable problems importing the phone book from Win CIM 2.6 on my Windows 3.1 partition into CompuServe 4.0 in the Windows 98 partition. The main problem turned out to be that the default directories offered were wrong. Outlook Express can import phone books from Netscape and other sources, but CompuServe refuses to import or export anything, as their technical support people confirmed. Amazingly, there is not even an option to print out the phone book.

CompuServe 4.0 vs. Win CIM

CompuServe 4.0 seems more robust than the older program, which frequently needed to rebuild the index for the saved e-mail. This is now stored in one huge file instead of hundreds of little files in sub-directories, which is easier to back up as long as you have a Zip drive or the like. Otherwise, I find Win CIM much easier to navigate and to understand. Windows 95 has a file handling interface that is both easier and harder to understand, being more visual, but the main problem is that it is horribly coy about letting you know which drive you are on until you mouse around. No doubt they felt they had to be Californian and use terms like folders instead of directories, or "Send" instead of "Copy", and use cutesy graphics wherever possible. The same lack of directness applies to saving files within CompuServe 3.0 and 4.0.

Saved in limbo

It is all too easy to save incoming files into some well-buried directory, and extremely hard to find them later. This happened with incoming text files from customers, which sometimes could not be found and so had to be sent again. The Find tool is not as efficient as I would like, but it is also hard to look for a new file when you do not know what name it was saved under, or what it contained, or where it might be. Win CIM always saved incoming files in a Download directory that was easy to find, and it saved them under the original file name. With Outlook Express and CompuServe 4.0, I can never feel quite sure that the file that has been received is safe until it has been saved into the one of the directories I reserve for text files. Incoming files seem to go into a strange limbo of files that have been received but not saved in a form that can be located. In short, I like the speed of Outlook Express, but wish that it had the ability to preview mail if I am looking for just one specific message or uploaded file. Just remember that it is a very good idea to back up your saved e-mail and the address book at frequent intervals.

The coming Millennium

This is not a Y2K problem, but a possible quirk in Windows 3.1. The PC system that I use for e-mail is divided into two partitions, one for Windows 3.1 and one for Windows 98. System Commander 4.0 from V Communications keeps Windows 98 in its own corner so that it cannot trash Windows 3.1, and does not seem to cause any problems. The manual includes details on setting up Win/V and Japanese Windows, the latter being in fact a question of multiple installations of Windows 95/98 rather than anything specific to the language side. I bought a second Matrox Millennium II video card, also with 8 MB RAM, so that the display would be identical on the two PCs. At the moment I have an S3 Virge with 4 MB in that PC, which I had to replace after Windows 3.1 refused to load with the Matrox card. Could it be that there is a memory problem?

Time to update?

Do I really need Windows 3.1 any longer? About the only program that will not run under Windows 9x is the older version of MS Word 6.0. My main reason for keeping that would be to check the compatibility of files produced in Office 97, although in any case files saved in RTF format can be read by any version of WinWord. The other programs run under Windows 98, even the Per:FORM form generator that I use for invoicing. It was originally written for GEM, and then converted for Windows 3.0. It still works, although like quite a number of other, older programs it does not recognize long file names or long directory names that do not conform to the rules for such names in all versions of DOS prior to 7.0. The program has been replaced, but by something that has no real advantages for me.

At the moment I am considering clearing Windows 3.1 off that disk and using nothing but Windows 98. This is the PC with a 4.3 GB SCSI disk, and I could set up all that space in one partition, with three logical drives to keep things tidy, since it is SCSI. The other PC has a 6.4 GB EIDE disk, and the first partition cannot be bigger than 2.1 GB. This is a limitation of the BIOS, and I cannot get around it. I don't know whether that applies to the other partitions as well, since I have not tried making a second partition that is bigger than 2 GB yet. My thoughts at the moment are to install System Commander on that PC with partitions for Windows 98, NT, a DOS partition for older games, and perhaps Linux. Windows NT and Linux would be set up for me by someone who is studying them and I would regard them as experimental until I became proficient enough and had a need for them.

Thoughts on 98.

The fact that I am thinking of Windows NT and Linux may provide a hint that I am less than satisfied with Windows 98. My main concern is reliability. The reason that the PC with the old Windows 95 system got upgraded at all is due to the fact that it twice destroyed itself and required a full reinstallation, and on the second occasion I installed Windows 98 instead. It seems more reliable than Windows 95 and has not had one of these self-immolating crashes yet, but lockups are fairly frequent. As yet I have virtually no drivers specifically for Windows 98; I downloaded one from Matrox but have not installed it. However, everything seems to work as well as before.

The new installation of Windows 98 on the SCSI PC went off with no problems, barring the usual tweaking of System Commander afterwards to restore the files that got trashed by Microsoft. It's all documented in the manual. The two systems are identical in use. The BBS and the online forums are full of tales of woe about Windows 98, but my consultant thinks it is a more stable piece of software than its predecessor, and I am inclined to agree on the basis of my somewhat limited experience of both. Anyone who can comment in more detail should send Mike Lloret an article.

Unfinished business

My ADSL system seems to be down more often than not. The system settings got lost, then there was the move, and now I have had a cryptic message for the past two days to the effect that I don't have access to the server. I am keeping a separate folder for URLs that people have recommended in their e-mail postings and I shall take a look when the system is up again. It is so fast than I can quickly get through a whole collection of URLs unless the entire system is very slow, but ISDN is adequately fast for just viewing Web pages that are not too complex, or to download files of up to 1 MB in size. Deutsche Telekom has not sent me a second questionnaire about ADSL, and frankly I am a bit underwhelmed by the limitations of the service provided. Biggest gripe: I cannot use it to connect to T-Online, despite what I was initially told.

The other unfinished business concerns Boomerang from Dictaphone. I bought it and have installed it, but it requires Microsoft Post Office to be installed. This is in Microsoft Outlook, and it is not part of Windows 98. Instead, you have to get it separately, or else buy Office 97. I am working on the installation at the moment and plan to get it running by the end of the month.

Comments or feedback or more information? Contact me on Compuserve on

100575,2573 (DAParry@compuserve.com) or DAParry@t-online.de 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

November, 1998

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor


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