Ionic Column     in exile
by David Parry
Englishman David Parry lived, worked and played in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a member of TPC from
1986. He was Newsletter Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990. The Ionic Column has been going since
early 1992. It even won a prize and an honorable mention back in 1992. Currently based in Düsseldorf
and working as a translator, David Parry returns to Japan electronically via the Internet.
The Ionic is back on schedule after the hiatus in August due to the holiday in July. I
keep promising to myself to write some very general filler material that could be used if
I am away, but it is hard enough to make a living and devote some spare thoughts to the
Ionic, let alone before the deadline. But if a future Ionic seems either a bit timeless or
plain anachronistic, you will know what happened behind. As they say, you really don't
want to see how sausages and laws are made, and software can be pretty messy as well, but
take my word that you really do not want to take a peep behind the scenes when the
publishorial team is in action. Not after dinner. Or before dinner. Or within several
hours of even then lightest refreshment. But then I am just doing my bit to ensure that
nobody would ever dream of volunteering to help out.
At the moment I am digesting some of the lessons from the three weeks in Poland in view of
a planned ten-day trip in October that will be devoted almost entirely to work. The
scenery will change, but the work has to continue. So I have some more comments about the
new cyber-industry of telecommuting. Text-based work such as editing, DTP and translation
is ideal for this approach, since it can all be done electronically through data transfer.
Nowadays that almost invariably means the Internet, since nobody does direct modem or ISDN
transfers, and translation companies seldom bother now to set up a mini-BBS system for
file uploads and downloads. My somewhat elderly external modem sits forlornly on a shelf
in the office, waiting in case its moment comes. But I avoid using it. Why?
The no-tell motel
In the old days of DOS, adding extra hardware was like a one-night stand. You could have
everything set up ready, plug in and do your stuff, and then toss it out afterwards.
Windows is clingy. Windows wants commitment. Windows does not like quickies. DOS never
worried about what was connected at any time. I could keep a data transfer program such as
HyperAccess on the disk, ready configured with the right parameters for the modem, and
then I could plug in the external modem when I needed it. Windows is an eagle-eyed motel
porter that spots any unauthorized visitors at once and demands that they be registered.
And you have to go through the hoops again if the hardware is removed.
You can't leave the program sitting there, you have to check it out. So much for
preconfigured alternatives. And that is the not so short answer as to why I don't use my
external modem unless I really have to. I had debated whether to exile the modem to
Silesia, and perhaps it might have coped better with the Polish phone system, but internal
modems are so cheap that I will buy one there that is guaranteed to work there.
I got to thinking about DOS again after a hiatus at work meant that I had about two days
of unexpected and payment-free leisure. The break in the pressure of work was pleasant,
the prospect of lost earnings decidedly less so. Anyway, I decided to tidy up my data in
the free moments that had suddenly become available. A glance at the sprawling mass of
diskettes showed that I could devote my attentions there, arguably perhaps for the last
time in view of how little I use diskettes nowadays. The first job was to find what data
was on a number of diskettes that had had once-important files copied onto them, but no
label had followed the data, so I had to go in and open the files to see what was there.
Predictably, I was able to reclaim a number of diskettes that had duplicate or time-
expired data, and a number of other lost souls were brought back into the fold with proper
labeling. One of these years I need to check all the "boot disks" and "rescue disks" that
I have; both Norton and Partition Magic insist on making "rescue disks" to bring a dead
system back to life, usually if the hard disk is moribund and has decided that its true
vocation in life is as a high-tech paperweight. A good idea, but the things multiply like
cockroaches in summer after a few installations and reinstallations and it is hard to know
exactly which version is the latest and greatest.
And knowing what is on a disk or CD is critical. Before leaving for Poland last time, I
made up a CD with all the text files and utilities that I thought I could possibly need,
but inevitably something got left out.
Back to life on the lower Rhine. Looking at a number of the diskettes with archival text
of various kinds, including translations, I decided that it would be a good idea to
transfer the files from LHArced files (.LZH extension, for those with long memories) to
ZIP archives, since LHArc was a DOS program, and presumably still is, since I have never
heard of a Windows version and PKZIP rules supreme among the general purpose compression
programs. It occurred to me that I might well be unable to unsquish my LHArced files one
day in the perhaps not so distant future when a future version of Windows will no longer
support the old DOS programs. In fact, Windows 2000 was initially claimed to have done
away with DOS, but it is still there for booting up, and you can run programs in the
little box that pops up if you click on the Run button in the left-hand toolbar. But no
option is provided to boot into DOS, or if there is, it is well hidden. I won't reveal
where it is, if it is still there, since I don't intend further to use it. I still use the
Q&A database, and initially had problems getting it to open in a full screen window,
but somebody on TPC kindly pointed out what settings I have to use.
Long live LHArc
PKZIP can work with other archiving programs, since it has the option to call up other
programs to handle formats such as ARJ. I simply entered the details to let PKZIP know
where to find LHARC, and it all worked. Two caveats: I cannot open LHARced files from
within Servant Salamander (or Windows Explorer either, I would assume, since they work in
the same way) by clicking on the line with the filename, nor can I call up the program
with any special parameters. But that is not a big issue for what is going to be a one-way
conversion. One problem I did hit was probably related to a DOS limit of 127 characters
for the entire command line. LHArc is a strict traditionalist and handles files in the
good ol' 8.3 format, but the 127 characters apply to the pathing as well. Some of the
directories had got quite deep down, and the program objected. Being lazy, I did not
bother to see what happens if you try to compress or uncompress files with long filenames
using LHArc, but I have little doubt that you lose something.
Battle of the zippers
Once the files were freed from their archival prison, I popped them back into confinement
with PKZIP. It was interesting to see that the files were a little smaller when using the
maximum compression option with PKZIP. Years ago I recall running a comparison between the
two programs, and LHArc had the edge, but it is not all that important in these days of
mega-gigabyte hard disks with more space than Texas, or so it seems. When copying the data
back to the diskettes, It was all too clear at which point I had had to change over to
Windows and WinWord, just by looking at the total size of the data per year. Thus 1997 was
the last year in which I could back up my translation work to diskettes, even in archived
form, and it took 15 diskettes to do it. For obvious reasons, I have not attempted to
archive work from subsequent years onto diskettes, and not least because there are often
individual files that are too big for a diskette, even when compressed. The long-distant
days of DOS and XyWrite and tiny text files spanned the years from 1986 to 1993 on one
diskette. I also did a major shuffling and renaming of the data on my hard disk to make it
easier to find old translation files for subsequent reference or even a run through
WinAlign to create translation memories for Trados.
File bloat of the useful kind
In some cases I expanded meaningful filenames such as "NIL-TL70.doc" to "Nilos Vulcaniser
hardener TL70.doc" to make it easier to find files that had been squirreled away and to
recycle them. A manual version of Trados, if you will. The limit of 64 characters is more
than enough to create a meaningful name; my past problems with longer filenames was due to
names that had probably been auto-generated within SAP, and which in any case only
presented a problem when I tried to burn them onto a CD.
A little before this unexpected spell of leisure, I saw a post online by Stuart Woodward
about a program called "THE Rename" - the capitalisation is that of the author of the
program, one Herve Thouzard. It can be downloaded from:
The program allows you to clean up the capitalisation of filenames, which is useful if you
use a program such as Servant Salamander that allows you to view filenames either as
always upper case, always lower case, or as created. The latter view lets you pick out DOS-
era files very quickly, since they are always upper case, but this is not always the most
legible form. The program can also apply a counter to a filename, either adding a number
or replacing one or more characters with numbers. An ideal solution for programs that
generate sequential files, of course. It turned out to be quite easy to make simple
changes such as capitalising the first letter only, but extremely hard to get the program
to capitalise the first letter if it followed a number, or to capitalise a specific
letter, such as the fourth from the end. This may or may have been covered by the
programming options, but on perusing the online help I was left with the impression that
it was not possible. Since the program can handle batches of files, and recursively as
well, you can convert entire directories and subdirectories in a very short time. One nice
touch is a preview feature to see what happens before you actually commit yourself. The
program is free, and worth every penny and more!
Part of the tidying-up involved recycling the backup diskettes to make what is probably a
lifetime supply of 3.5" diskettes, and throwing out a number of manuals into the recycling
bin for paper. As each one landed in the bin with a thud and I reflected on the passing of
programs that had either been shelfware from day one, or else had a history of desperate
need and hard use and hard study, it struck me that I was throwing out some of the most
expensive books I have ever bought. It also occurred to me that I would have problems
reinstalling most of the programs. By and large, a Pentium with more memory works just
fine with the old DOS and Windows 3.1 veterans, although some games might not work or
would run at warp speed, but I found it was extremely hard work trying to set up a small 1
GB hard disk (since sold) with DOS 6.22 to run some of the older games. It took a while to
get back into the groove, so to speak, and to figure out all the tweaks and settings for
the memory managers and to create expanded memory. I gave that up as a bad job and will
try to run some of the programs under Windows instead, but it is not exactly a high
priority project; nothing that has to do with games quite matches the endless fascination
of my paying hobby.
Perhaps out of nostalgia, I kept the disks and manuals for Ventura Publisher. Offhand, I
can't remember if I still have the disks for the GEM versions of Ventura Publisher, but it
would be extremely difficult to set up GEM again, and the biggest problem would be fonts.
I think that GEM had a few fonts of its own, but the AJ was printed using fonts from my
long-since-sold and probably junked LaserMaster CAPCard. Even if I could find this
venerable piece of hardware and all the diskettes that came with it, it would be difficult
to install it. To the best of my recollection, I did not use it under Windows 3.1, and one
reason could be that there were no drivers for it. Ditto for the big LaserView 19"
monochrome monitor that I had at the time; that too ended up on the junk pile. So I would
have to set up Windows 3.0, assuming that I still had the disks somewhere, and they would
of course be 5.25" diskettes. The shelf in the office is graced with two old disk drives
for that size, but I hope that I do not have to use them again.
I did reprint some old files with relatively straightforward formatting, such as address
labels, using Ventura Publisher 5.0 some years ago, but that is a Windows 3.x program and
I do not have a newer version of it. Some of the fonts would be different, so I would have
to use the nearest equivalents and thus the spacing on the page would be different. And we
sweated blood to get the column breaks and lengths just right! In short, it would not be a
trivial task to try to reprint the old newsletters from around 1990, and I would not get
exactly the same appearance.
Data for posterity
The same problem applies to old digital formats of all kinds. Will we be able to read them
in the future? While tidying up the clipart directories, I had a yen to examine an .IMG
file, which as it happens was the format used internally by Ventura Publisher for all
graphics. Microsoft Paint did not want to know, and cannot view this format. It makes you
wonder how many other graphics formats will quietly vanish over time, no longer readable
unless you happen to have the right program or converter. And this is the situation in
just over a decade; what will happen fifty years from now? Somebody commented that the
digital cameras in use now produce photos that nobody will be able to view at some stage
in the future. Inkjet printouts do not last all that long, diskettes tend to develop "bit
rot" and files become unreadable, even CDs may not last as long as was once thought. Save
your text as ASCII and make your printouts with a laser printer, preferably on acid-free
paper if you can find it, if you wish to be remembered down the ages.
A look ahead
Enough ruminating on the past. What lies ahead? As I have stated several times in this
column, Windows leaves a lot to be desired, and the predatory pricing of XP and other M$
products makes me wonder if I will jump off the Redmond bandwagon at some stage. In the
next column I will reprint parts of an online exchange that I had with Marc Prior, a
translator living near Cologne, who saw the Ionic online and sent me some comments. This
answered a number of queries that I had about Linux, and I strongly recommend that anyone
thinking about using Linux should look at his site. Especially if you are a translator
working with Linux, or planning to do so at some future stage, or if you wish to use WINE
or Office Crossover. And if you still think WINE is something that comes in a bottle from
Bordeaux, then Marc can enlighten you in the nicest possible way.
Marc's "Linux for Translators" Website is at
Highly recommended, and you don't need to wait until next month for my (second-hand) words of wisdom.
Comments or feedback or more information? A burning desire to be quoted in print?
Contact me at
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October , 2002
The Newsletter of the
Tokyo PC Users Group
Tokyo PC Users Group,
Post Office Box 103,
Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN