What software do you really need to get the most from your computer? An ever-changing list, it sometimes seems. Member Bill Blackwell brought his machine to our last meeting, seeking help with his anti-virus software (Dr. Solomon's). He'd downloaded a program update or new definitions and still needed something more to install the changes. The programs were "zipped" and needed to be unzipped before they could be installed. Time to download the latest unzipper from PKWARE, NicoMac, Mijenix, Symantec, etc.
I've been using Norton's Antivirus (NAV) line for several years. I appreciate its ability to download upgrades from the Internet, called LiveUpdate, process the virus definition files, and be ready to go at the conclusion of the download session. Norton intercepted about ten macro viruses that have attached themselves to Microsoft Word and Excel files folks have sent to me via email.
Yesterday, I was discussing virus problems with a colleague from work, and we were regretting the inability to check a single file with the current version 5.0 of NAV. I decided to check the technical support pages of the Symantec web site to see what I was missing. Older versions allowed you to point at the file - now you have to click on Scan and select Folder or File. Alternatively, you can start Windows Explorer, and right click on a folder or file. A drop down menu box includes an option to "Scan with Norton Anti-virus."
So there are really lots of options - as always, it helps to read the manual. In partial defense - at work, our firm has a site license agreement with Symantec, meaning we can load the product on any number of PCs. But, without placing a purchase order, one can only download software. It takes time, effort, and money to get a manual, and read all about how the software's supposed to work. As we've discussed at any number of meetings - software isn't always intuitive, especially when the interface changes between versions! And of course, as I did some research for this column, Symantec is about to unleash Norton Anti-Virus 2000!
The manual also reminded me about NAV's Rescue Disks. NAV and other Symantec products have the user create a series of disks that can be used when you have a virus or disk problem, and with luck get on the trail to getting your system back running. With an automated process, you create a bootable disk set that includes operating system files, autoexec.bat, config.sys, bios information, and the NAV program and virus definitions to help you bring your system back. The Rescue Disk set needs to be updated each time you update virus definitions, or update your hardware or operating systems. Prudence requires that you still need to back up your data!
I took some newsletters of other computer clubs home from our last meeting, since Ron Schmidt was unable to attend. Some of these contained URLs for a variety of interesting web sites, some of which really bring back memories. Take the Obsolete Computer Museum at: http://www.ncsc.dni.us/fun/user/tcc/cmuseum/cmuseum.htm
Pictures from some classics, indeed. Other members of NCTCUG started in the computer hobby before I did, given the club's origins with the introduction of the Tandy Model I in 1977. After getting my Model III as part of a National Radio Institute correspondence course in 1981, I joined the Amateur Computer User Group of New Jersey, and got to see lots of S-100 machines, as well as Apples and Tandys, Commodores, etc. What brought back the most memories were the Epsons, which several ACGNJ members contributed to in working on the operating system, VALDOCS. Unfortunately, like the early Tandy machines which ran on TRSDOS, NEWDOS, LDOS, etc. the proprietary operating systems doomed them to failure in the face of the IBM / Microsoft "standard."
How about "A Complete Illustrated Guide to PC Hardware" at: http://www.mkdata.dk/click/start.htm This is an understandable explanation of computer hardware, by an obviously dedicated individual. I didn't find any background / credentials, but it's certainly a labor of love. Stop by and learn about something you always wanted to know.
Then there's a portal site I hadn't stumble across before called "Essential Links" at: http://www.el.com
Are you really frustrated, and need to expel all that pent-up emotion? How about The Illustrated Guide to Breaking Your Computer - http://members.aol.com/spoons1000/break/index.html
Try the above links now - I'll try to scan the whole list from one of the pages from The Digital Viking, the newsletter of the Twin Cities PC User Group. From the scan, I'll create a web document with appropriate links on our NCTCUG web site - but like all such things, I have to find the time to actually do it <grin>!
About six weeks ago, my HP 2P Laserjet that I bought in February of ‘90 started acting up, refusing to print and giving an “Error message 12" on its LCD readout. The manual references three problems - no LJ EP-L cartridge (the heart of the printer, holding the toner and the sensitized imaging drum), one of the printer’s doors being open, or the fan being defective. Fan works, door was closed, and the cartridge was certainly installed. By opening and closing the machine, I got it to work on about three occasions, but then, no joy. I remembered Jim Rhodes talking about DejaNews, a search engine for Internet news groups. I went to: www.dejanews.com, inserted “HP 2P error 12" in the search criteria. Bingo, I found a short list of messages on that topic, and contacted someone who’d asked the same question about a month before. He pointed me to some things to try and parts sources, some of which have fairly detailed descriptions of error messages and probable defective parts. I’ll leave the discussion of actually fixing the printer to a Pizza Sig - it’s now back in business, in a standby capacity.
Of course - being temporarily “laser-less” presented an opportunity. Perhaps the time for an upgrade? I used the net for research, and was astonished at the variety of lasers available. Basically, they stack up in three tiers: Personal printers, at a price point of about $450 and below; SOHO - or small office, home office, priced generally from about $800 - 400; and Work group printers, in the $700 and up range. There’s some overlap in price range and capabilities, but the functionality available for the money is amazing. I lusted after the HP 2100 - a newly introduced model, with resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi! It costs around $700, but I encountered some push back from my better half, and decided to sacrifice resolution for fiscal responsibility.
I wound up purchasing a NEC Superscript 870, which is a 600 x 600 dpi unit, and is available in retail outlets for $349. Both CNET and ZDNet awarded this printer their “best buy” or equivalent status in their on-line reviews. The printer comes with 2 meg installed, and accommodates a standard 72 pin simm for up to 16 megs more memory. When I bought the IIP, the tab came to just over $1500 - $949 printer, $247 for 2 meg memory, $297 for a 25 in 1 font cartridge. Included software for the NEC printer incorporates Adobe PrintGear technology. This allows some unique features, including printing 2, 4, 6, 9 or 16 pages per sheet, and enlarging documents to poster sizes of 2x2, 3x3, 4x4, 5x5, or 6x6 sheets. Manual two sided printing, watermarks, and booklet printing operations are also provided with this software.
Having saved all that money on a printer <grin>, I felt it time to treat myself to some new multimedia speakers for the computer. I picked up the Cambridge Soundworks model, and am absolutely amazed at the sound coming out of two tiny cubes 3" on a side. The system includes a subwoofer, which you bury on the floor, and slide up against the wall to get the best bass. Reviewers have said this system doesn’t provide the sound pressure levels that gamers like - if they need it that loud, their hearing is obviously seriously impaired! Check out Cambridge’s web site, www.hifi.com* - you can get this system in black for $50 off - supposedly for a March Madness sale - but perhaps the discount’s still available - you’ll absolutely be glad you bought them! Audio pioneer Henry Kloss is the guiding light behind the Cambridge company - and has been involved in most of the speaker companies doing good work since the 1950's - Acoustic Research (AR), KLH, and Advent. I’m very pleased with the speaker system, and find a new music CD to insert in the computer’s CD drive at every opportunity!
* Since this article was written, it appears the web site (www.hifi.com) has been spun off from the Cambridge Soundworks manufacturing operations, as a consumer electronics e-business.
Digital Photography, Scanning and Printing Web Sites
At the January meeting, Jim Rhodes showed us the Toshiba PDR-5 digital camera that Santa delivered to the Rhodes homestead. This camera produces images at 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 resolutions, which are stored on a 2 meg Smartmedia card, and will hold 20 pictures at the higher resolution. You can find information on Toshiba’s cameras on the Internet at: http://www.toshiba.com/taisisd/dsc/set1.htm
Jim took a number of pictures at the meeting, and mailed them to me Friday afternoon. I spent several hours using Adobe Photo Deluxe, version 2, cropping the pictures, removing the flashbulb shine from attendee’s glasses, and creating a page for them on the group’s website. See the mug shots at: http://www.lookhere.com/nctcug/mtgphoto.html
I’ve been trying to learn about scanning and digital photography to complement my webpage-building activities. Like any such effort, all it takes is time, which always seems to be in far-too-short supply. If you’re interested in scanning, a good source of information was discovered by Ron Schmidt, at: http://www.scantips.com They’ve got a great deal ( $49 vs. $99 list) on a discounted copy of Xerox’s Pagis Pro 2.0 software. The Pagis Pro 2.0 package includes Textbridge Pro 98 OCR software, the Pagis scanning suite utilities, and the MGI PhotoSuite graphics color editor.
After I finish this column, I’m going to order this package to upgrade my scanner’s OCR capabilities and photo editing capability. The killer ap in the photo world is Adobe Photoshop, but it’s truly a professional tool, with lots of companies providing extensions enhancing the filters and effects. It’s so powerful, there are many week-long courses available (at large tuition fees) to teach its use. I’ve been looking for courses in the lower end products, so I can get beyond the basics, without suddenly paying college-level tuition!
From my magazine reading, I learned about Canon’s Web Record, which allows printing out the content of web sites in a variety of formats. A great tool for a Webmeister like myself, it allows printing pages in snaking columns three wide in landscape mode. The printed material is readable, so Web Record allows review of web material in hard copy without killing half the world’s trees. Learn more about this product from: http://www.software.canon.com/
When you order the product, you wind up at the BuyComp site: http://www.buy.com where the cost will be $25 plus shipping - there’s a rebate coupon included in the package, I believe for $10 - I sent mine in (I hope!) and can’t remember the details. I hope to demonstrate Web Record at the January Internet SIG - see you there - and on the Compucenter Listserv!