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wpe7.jpg (1557 bytes) Wandering Ex-Prez

A Message From Ex-President Pat Hughes

Still on the road and having fun with telephone cards and keeping in touch via computers in Internet Cafés, Internet businesses, airports, libraries and friends and relatives. Let me share some comments on a couple of those sites and experiences over the past month:

Edmonton Library - the system was designed in the '80s and hasn't changed since! Text only, archaic, unfriendly... Hotmail is accessible but after 10 minutes I couldn't figure out how to Reply so I gave up. It might be free but the 20 free minutes you are allowed are better spent elsewhere!

Toronto, Prince George, Chemainus Libraries - great! Modern computers although some connections are faster than others. I am used to running 3 browsers at once to read one while the others update themselves. My main complaint is that the systems are sometimes so well protected from tampering that you cannot even run a second browser. You definitely cannot run Telnet to run a 'mail' session (text based but very fast for quickly reading messages or reviewing headers and deleting unnecessary ones).

I have been to a few Internet businesses - not cafés because they don't offer drinks or food but instead you get a desk to work at. Costs vary from C$6.00 per hour to as high as C$15.00 (I went elsewhere). Good connections and since they get your money by letting you do everything you need there is less likely to be a problem running several browsers, telnet and other programs. The biggest surprise was a few computers at the Shoppers Drug Mart! I really wish that Greyhound would get some!

By the way, for those of you familiar with Vancouver and the influence that Hong Kong has had in the past few years (and China in general for many years before that) I noticed a shop called the "Internet Tea House" on 18th & Cambie which I am curious to drop into next time I'm back. Actually, due to the current Hong Kong economy many of those that rushed over have had to sell their property in order to keep things going back home. This may help to bring property prices back down in Vancouver but this and the Asian Crisis in general are having a very big impact upon Canada in general and British Columbia in particular.

Internet terminal in Seattle Airport:

Good — Internet Terminal US$3.95 first 15 minutes and $1.95 each 15 thereafter. A little expensive but very handy because you pay with a quick swipe of your credit card. Telnet and other utilities available as well as such services as sending flowers to a friend.

Bad — U.S. (and Canada for that matter) implementation of telephone cards.

It is nice to see telephone cards in use but as I travel around Europe And North America I have seen the following differences that are both good and bad when compared to Japanese telephone cards:

a) Very stiff and thick (sometimes with what looks like a chip embedded in them). They work but are a bit thicker than credit cards. When you get used to the thin, flexible Japanese telephone cards this seems a bit awkward.

b) Often I found the card was not recognized by the telephone and I had to input a lot of numbers. For example (from the back of the card):

  • - Service number 1-888-636-8911

  • - PIN number 938 480 0517

  • - Number dialling 1-250-246-1234

That adds up to 32 numbers!! Also you have to listen to some prompting which confused the Japanese guy beside me who didn't get as far as "press 9 for service in Japanese". His comment on the system: "Ayashii" and I would agree that it is strange and not very friendly!

c) When your card runs out you can phone up the service number and get more time by giving them your credit card number. Of course if you had your credit card you probably would have just stuck that into the machine in the first place.

I have yet to try other methods of communications software available on the Internet such as Avatars, Chat and Netmeeting. These are not that new and probably some (many?) of you are already familiar with them. If so then

it might make it interesting to arrange for some of those who have left Japan to catch up with a few friends back there during a TPC meeting sometime. Just a thought... perhaps I will actually get around to putting it into action before I go back to Japan again! :-)

Actually I was in Japan when I finished writing this! Which is to say that I was late for the "15th of the month" deadline once again and I do apologize — as I do almost every month .

The purpose of the quick (6 days) trip was to bring my computer over to Canada for my parents. I wanted to get them on the net and when I was looking around at Pentium and Pentium II level computers I remembered that I had a Gateway 166 sitting back in Japan that wasn't being used. The 17" monitor alone was almost worth the price of the trip (C$853.00 or roughly ¥75,000) and the 166 MHz machine will meet their 'net surfing needs for some time to come I think.

Mind you I went shopping with a friend in Toronto and we found a good new system there for C$630 (¥56,000) which seemed like a good deal to me. He and his wife were very impressed with the speed when they dis-connected their perfectly good old monitor from their IBM PS/1 486SX 4MB system running Windows 3.1 and re-connected it to the new PII Celeron 300 MHz with 32MB SDRAM running Windows 95B. Very impressed! Not hard to imagine.

I of course encouraged this upgrade not only to help them but because I found their system so frustrating to run when checking e-mail - it really did take 8 minutes for a page to load! No exaggeration!!

In fact I did a lot of upgrading and tuning as I travelled:

  • showed a couple of Windows tricks to a friend in Copenhagen

  • buddy’s new system in Toronto

  • got my brother up to speed on his new Windows laptop (they recently moved over from a Mac and though they had no really bad things to say about Macs the decision was prompted by the cost of hardware and the wish to learn another more mainstream OS)

  • boosted the speed of a system by inserting another 32 MBytes (from 48 MB) in Edmonton

  • persuaded my sister's Mac to save the password when dialling up the ISP in Prince George

  • got my other sister back on-line in Smithers by reminding her that even though there might not be an ISP there they can call long distance to Prince George using the special evening call prices

  • couple of pointers to a friend in Kelowna as well as getting his Scrolling Mouse to work

  • last but not least getting my folks on-line in Chemainus on Vancouver Island.

What impressed and amused me was the different uses by various friends:

  • Puzzles, card games across the net and 'Mind Aerobics' at

  • Hockey games throughout North America — all games live every night and you can click among which you want to listen to. I don't recall the exact address but it may have been accessed from

  • Hockey and Football pools

So far those friends with kids seem to mostly allow their computers to be used for games (shooting and colouring book types) and not the Internet. However the kids are learning — I saw my 6-year-old niece help her 3-year-old sister fill out a certificate "to a great Uncle" and then print it out for me. Not bad for little kids!

The cutest setup was my friend who kept a disconnected keyboard on the front edge of the desk to let his little daughter Simone push the keys just like daddy while he actually used another keyboard that is further back on the desk.

Right then — that just leaves only me without a computer! I guess I will have to look for work sometime next year so that I can communicate with my family and friends! But first a bit more travelling.

Until next time/country/internet café...

Pat. for the next while...

My responses will be late as I hunt for cafés - sorry! :-)

© 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

December, 1998

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN