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Ionic Column      in exile

by David Parry

Englishman David Parry lived in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a member of TPC from 1986. Currently working as a translator in Düsseldorf, he returns to Japan electronically via the Internet. A frequent contributor and Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990, he began the Ionic Column in 1992, now the winner of two awards.

It's time to set fingers to keyboard again. While Japan is enjoying the rainy season, I am enjoying the much less humid climate of lower Rhenania. The banks of the Rhine are not exactly sun-baked, but warm enough for your warm- blooded correspondent.

Hot games
And talking of blood, as it were, my blood pressure rose a point or dozen in the past three weeks after a mysterious prankster borrowed my e-mail handle for some online shopping. Luckily, said online wretch does not know my credit card number, or perhaps is wary of being collared for fraud and theft if any of these purchases are paid for. The first sign of this was a mysterious parcel to be collected from the post office, for a payment of a paltry 978 DM (about US$600 currently). I obediently trotted over to the post office and was shown a large box that came from a certain Orion. "Never heard of them, and I don't buy anything COD anyway, I always use my credit card." The clerk merely gave a shrug of Gallic proportions and said that it was no skin off his anatomy if I sent it back. Which I did, and then noticed a week-old e-mail message from Orion on my PC, thanking me for the order. Not guilty as charged, I replied, and quickly surfed to the Orion Website to see what might have been in the box. No doubt it would have been interesting; perhaps latex underwear for those intimate rubbery moments, or the extra-long extra- high-power vibrator for madame, or a beginner's bondage and discipline set with whip, thigh boots and handcuffs. But I digress, since I never opened the box.

Hot sun
Next came a letter from a travel agency in Frankfurt, with details of my holiday for two in the sun. All of a sudden I had been paired up with a certain Kelly Campbell, of the female persuasion, and age 33, for some hot times in the Caribbean sun. I rang up and explained that evidently someone had got hold of my e-mail address and had placed a booking in my name. And, above all, I was not about to plonk down 3,000 DM for a week in the Dominican Republic. The strange part about this booking was that my cellphone number appeared in the middle of the address, and the booking also listed my correct age. The person at the other end of the phone explained that they had asked for and been given my date of birth, which the person evidently knew from somewhere.

This immediately made me suspect a data leakage at Deutsche Telekom, since I had had trouble with them when I originally arrived in Germany. Or before; somebody had ostensibly used my phone for three days when I was in England. I had ordered a cellphone in early May, just before going on holiday to Poland, and the only people who knew my new number were the translation agencies that I contacted. The phone itself came in very handy during the trip, but I don't use it much otherwise.

Hot water
Then came another request for confirmation of an online order, this time from a big German mail order house. This time the merry prankster had ordered a washing machine and dryer under my name. The order was quickly cancelled, but I began to wonder to what extent the e-commerce sites are plagued with spoof orders like this. At least I had not paid for these things, as it seems to be quite difficult to get credit card transactions cancelled and the money back. Part of this is the problem of proving that it was fraud instead of a sudden change of heart about the purchase. The whole issue of secure e-commerce transactions, verification of identity and digital signatures was covered in the article that I translated over a year ago and meant to comment on in an Ionic. I will, one day soon, since the article will not be out of date that quickly.

Hot blood
And the online Till Eulenspiegel decided to boost my social life as well. Suddenly a couple of requests to confirm my online ad for dating services turned up. One of them must have been posted before I could stop them, since I got a list of likely candidates. The whole thing seemed to be done like a German school report, so after the pseudonym and a brief description of the lucky lady came a list of preferences with a numeric rating on a scale of 0 to 6. I am still trying to figure out the true meaning behind "Condom 0" and Condom 6", and which one denotes the bareback rider. It was all a bit of a laugh, but this time the contact person on the Website took a look at the log file and quoted me an e-mail address. Whoever this person is, he or she is a local, since the ISP in question is one for the Düsseldorf area only. On the other hand, T-Online serves all of Germany, so gives no hint at all as to where I live.

Most of the major German cities have a large ISP, the Düsseldorf one being tied up first with Mannesmann Arcor and now with Vodafone after they got bought out. Vodafone is said to have little interest in landline telephony, so maybe that part of their business will disappear before too long. is even more anonymous, since there are nodes around the world and the central computer is in the USA.

Back to the more mundane world of everyday computing. I plan to do some serious computer setup work at the end of the month when my colleague returns from holiday, top priority being to get the network up and running, and then to sort out the e-mail and Internet banking. These are the sort of thing that should not take long, but somehow often do.

The new dongle
Another job will be to install the new version of Trados on the big new hard disk. The parallel port dongle arrived today as a replacement for the troublesome USB dongle that took up so much of my time with troubleshooting. I just hope that the problem is not in the system as a whole on that hard disk, otherwise I will have to go back to using the old system on the smaller disk. That has problems of its own, such as frequent hangups of Microsoft Word and/or Servant Salamander. I had wondered if that was due to bad sectors on the disk, or some of memory tangle, and one reason for using a clean system on a new disk was to put an end to this nuisance.

And now some useful info from online.

"tom" <> wrote in message
I'm looking for a mid-level AGP video card and there sure is a lot to choose from out there. The system is not used for games or streaming video, rather, minimal graphics rendering such as image editing and Internet. Briefly, I reviewed the following and am looking for comments from users:
> Guillemont 3D Prophet II MX
> Asus AGP-V7100/2V1D
> NVIDIA GeForce2 MX
> Creative Labs 3D Blaster RIVA TNT2

Reply by Rick Mortellra

Hmm, even the lowliest 3,000 yen AGP card out here now should suffice for you then.

Anyway, these are all NVIDIA cards using either the GeForce2 MX or the RIVA TNT chipsets. So no matter who the maker is, they all should perform about the same. Best to focus on price, features and bundled software. I like MX cards by Inno3D. FYI, the lowly new MX-200's are comparable to the fastest TNT in performance with better features available too. The GeForce2 MX is a generation ahead of RIVA TNT and not much more expensive so it doesn't make much sense to buy a TNT card now. Also, the original 32MB MX performs almost as well as the newer 64MB MX-400 at less cost, IF you can still find one.

The key feature that determines performance for the MX chipset is memory speed, not the GPU clock or the amount of video memory. Most MX cards use either 5.5ns or 6ns memory so most memory can only hit about 200Mhz at best. Recognizing this, some brands are coming to market now with 4ns memory allowing a speed of 240Mhz. Regardless, you'll still get motion picture quality framerates in excess of 30fps with even the cheapest MX card.

You didn't mention what your CPU speed is but if it is anything over 750Mhz you'll be doing yourself a favor by moving up to at least a Geforce2 GTS or Ultra or an ATI Radeon card though. A MX card will be a bottleneck to the performance of the CPU.

And, finally, if you have not seen this already, some info on a past TPC president. I quote from Paul Cipywnyk:

Roger Boisvert is interviewed in the June 25, 2001 edition of the magazine Canadian Business. It's a three-page interview entitled "Orienteering" -- get it?
Anyway.... the subtitle is "How Roger Boisvert found infamy and fortune in the scattershot world of high-tech Japan."
It's basically a history of commercial Internet services in Japan, followed by RB's more recent forays into the VC business.
Nice to see a Tokyo Canuck appear in a Canadian mag....
Paul Cipywnyk
URL is:

That's all for this month.

© 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

July, 2001

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

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