Main Line Commodore Users Group Newsletter

Supporting : Amiga - C64/128 - PC/Linux

**** NOVEMBER 1998 ******************************* ISSUE #198 ****

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - NOV 07

NOTE! REGULAR MEETING DATE!


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
MAIN LINE 64/128/PC USERS - Room 110

We had a successful meeting overall last month, with a lot of good discussion time. This month, following announcements and feedback from attendees, we'll have our Commodore Q & A. We strongly urge our 8-bit using members to bring their needs to the meeting where more than one mind can be applied to easing your own! We have some thoughts to share about the future, too.

Since our on-line access attempts did not come off last month, we'll be checking things out to see if we can get thru. Depending on the results, we may take some meeting time to make up for a bit of lost ground. However, for the main thrust of the PC session this month, see the item immediately below.

[continued on page 3]

MAIN LINE AMIGA USERS - Room 210

Our October meeting was better attended than in the past several months, and quickly turned into a general discussion which lasted the entire meeting.

For November we will probably continue with more of the same if the group interest seems to be of that bent. We always have the Catalyzer video to turn to for a tutorial on ImageFX if interest in a general discussion seems to wane.

I would like to remind everyone that it is again time to renew your club membership. Remember that it is only a measly $15, just enough to pay for copies of this newsletter to mailed to your home every month. So, take the time now to fill in the form on the back of this

[continued on p.6]


DIRECTIONS FOR THE PC SESSIONS

The operating system - and software - associated with the modern PC does provide a wealth of capability. Unfortunately, there is a concommittant wealth of problems! We plan to devote time in the next couple of meeting to the subject of recovering from emergencies. See the articles this month (p.5) and last (p.4) for starters.....

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GEOS User's Tip#2

CRASH REPAIR! by Maurice Randall

There's nothing more aggravating than to be in the middle of a project and your machine suddenly decides to take a 'BRK'. That pun was intended. The BRK (pronounced break) instruction is a machine language instruction recognized by our 6502 series processors. When you're computing along and the processor in your computer encounters this BRK instruction bad things can happen. The worst that can happen is you might lose all the work you just performed.

Let's say you're working on a geoWrite document and all of a sudden a dialogue box pops up with that awful message "System error at" along with some other information that is meaningless to most people. The only time you'll see this dialogue box is when the BRK instruction is encountered. In a properly written GEOS program, this shouldn't happen. We need to reboot the machine now and fix this problem. So why did it happen while using geoWrite, or any other program that you might normally use in GEOS?

There's two possible answers. Either something is wrong with your copy of geoWrite, or something is wrong in some part of the GEOS operating system. Maybe geoWrite just performed an operation that called upon the offending routine within the operating system. The good news is you probably only lost the new changes you made to the page you were working on. When you change pages in a geoWrite document, the current page is updated to the disk before beginning the new page. So, you haven't lost the entire document fortunately. If this seems to happen with other programs and not just geoWrite, then you might want to suspect the operating system.

How do we fix this so it doesn't happen again? Before we can determine the repair, we have to take a look at our setup. As you know by now, we can have many different setups in terms of the computer and all the equipment attached to it. Let's hope the problem is simple. Maybe we've just got a bad copy of geoWrite. That's easy enough to fix, get a disk that has a good copy of geoWrite and recopy it to the disk or partition with the copy we were working with.

If the problem lies in the operating system, the fix is going to be a little tougher, maybe. If you're using RBOOT to always get back into GEOS because you have a battery backed ram system, then maybe this is the time to reboot freshly from disk. The portion of the operating system stored in the ram will be replaced when you do this and the problem will be fixed. However, if the problem is on your boot disk, then it won't go away at all. You'll have to keep this in mind if you still have the crashing problem.

Always try to think of all the possible things that might be the source of the trouble. What have you done differently that might be giving you these problems? It always worked so nice before, but keeps failing now. Did you add something to your system? Did you run a program recently that you haven't used in a long time? Maybe you recently used a program and every time you use it you start having problems. Think of what the cause might be. Sometimes it's obvious, but most of the time you have to really think about it. Usually it's real simple to fix once you know the cause of your trouble.

When you get to the point where you just can't seem to find the source of your problem, try eliminating a few things. Maybe you've just got a corrupted disk with files being overwritten by other files. This can really goof things up. If there's nothing on the disk important, or if you've already got good backups of everything on the disk, then just reformat it and refill the disk with the files you want.

FINDING BAD FILES

How do we tell if we have corrupted and overlapping files? Many times validating will reveal this. Try validating the disk from within GEOS. If the validate routines find a bad file, you'll get some sort of an error report and the validating will stop. The disk is not fixed at this point, you're just being warned that it has a serious problem. If validating fails, you might actually be better off than if the validating succeeds. I know that doesn't sound right, but sometimes validating can get all the block allocation corrected but still leave a bad file with errors in it on the disk. Validating can't fix everything.

But if validating fails, at least we can now fix it ourselves. This might take awhile, but if you want to fix it you gotta do it. Begin by filecopying every file to another disk. If any of the files fail to copy, then you can suspect that file to be part of your problem. You'll have to delete the bad file at this point. Try filecopying the remainder of the files now. Once this is done, you've at least saved the files that could be saved, so far.

We still don't know if every file we just copied is ok or not. We need to find the bad files and get rid of them. If you've already deleted one or more bad files that couldn't be copied, do the validate again. If validating succeeds, then we've found all the bad files that we could with filecopying and validating. These two operations are capable of finding certain errors, but not all errors.

If validating still fails, it's time to start deleting suspect files. Start by deleting an application that you can easily replace such as geoWrite. Now validate again. Keep on deleting a file and validating until the validate is successful. At that point, the last file you deleted was definitely bad. But here's another problem. What if you had two or more bad files and the other bad file was already deleted when you finally deleted the second bad one and got a good validate? You may have deleted a bad file without knowing it was bad.

In any case, we know of at least one bad file that was previously filecopied to another disk. You can delete that file from that disk or try other means of repairing it if it's an important data file. If it's just geoWrite, get rid of it since you have a good copy somewhere, right?

Keeping frequent backups of your important work is mandatory. Don't get caught with 8 hours of wasted work. It's very frustrating to have to go back and redo everything from scratch.

FINDING AN OS PROBLEM

If your corruption is within your operating system, you may or may not have big troubles. If you've been booting up GEOS from your original GEOS System disk, shame on you! Creative Micro Designs has a nice utility called "geoMakeBoot" that makes boot disks for you. The added advantage of this utility is you can create boot disks for your 1581 or FD drive or even your RamLink or HD. No GEOS user should be without this.

If your original system disk is bad and fails to boot, you know for sure the disk is bad. But it might boot up ok and then give you troubles after bootup. In this case a little detective work is needed. Get your backup system disk and boot from that. If your problems go away, you know you have a bad boot disk.

[continued next month]


DIRECTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER MEETING ROOMS

Meetings in the St. Augustine Center at Villanova University. The 8- bit and PC sessions will be in Room 110 and the AMIGA meeting in Room 210.

Enter from the ITHAN AVENUE main gate, then proceed to the 2-level parking building adjacent to St. Augustine, on the Ithan Avenue side.

NOTE: maps on our webpage - http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/index.html

------------------------------------------------------------------
64/128/PC/Amiga Meetings  1998/99  Steering Committee Meetings
                     December 05                       December 09
                     January 09 *                      January 13
                     February 06                       February 10
     * = second Saturday     ** = third Wednesday
******************************************************************
 EDITOR: Emil J. Volcheck, Jr.   1046 General Allen Lane
                                 West Chester, PA 19382-8030
(Produced with C-128/SCPU 128, RAMlink, HD-40/85, 1571, FD-4000, THE
WRITE STUFF 128, XETEC Super Grafix, Canon BJ-200ex, Swiftlink and
Motorola 288 modem)

           MLCUG BBS: 610-828-1359 (300 --> 28800 bps), 24 hr/day
                 WWW: http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/index.html
           PUBLICITY: Robyn Josephs 565-4058
         DISK ORDERS: Charlie Curran 446-5239; Bill Bacon 441-5908
   VILLANOVA SPONSOR: Prof. Frank Maloney, Dept. of Astronomy

MLCUG STEERING COMMITTEE:

           PRESIDENT: Emil Volcheck     388-1581
           SECRETARY: Charles Curran    446-5239
   TREASURER/MEMBERS: Dewitt Stewart    623-5145
     AMIGA SIG/SYSOP: John Deker        828-7897
            INTERNET: Peter Whinnery    284-5234
            DATABASE: Layton Fireng     688-2080
            AT LARGE: Tom Johnson       525-3440

########################################
ANNOUNCEMENTS & SPECIALS
########################################

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR! - yes, another year has rolled around and the dues renewal period has arrived! Since we are managing to keep a reasonable bank balance - and the costs for the newsletter have held about the same - we should be able to hold the dues at the $15 level. That will be true if we GET ENOUGH RENEWALS; so turn to page 10 - fill out the renewal form and send it along with your check to Stew Stewart!

As of October 14th, we had 7-8 renewals (better than same time last year) and we hope that will continue. Only if we get a high renewal level will we be able to continue to provide support for users of our various systems (Commodore, Amiga and PC).


Dear Abby Intervenes

Dear Abby: there is a genuine tragedy awaiting "Wondering Mom" and anyone else who thinks that storing precious family information on a computer disk is the perfect high-tech solution to the problem of combining preservation and privacy.

By the time her 2 1/2 year old daughter is old enough to care about her grandfather's autobiography, no one outside a couple of computer museums will be able to retrieve it from the disk - if she's incredibly lucky. I've been using computers for 20 years, and I have multiple generations of disks gathering dust now that, for all practical purposes, are unreadable. The hardware changes. The software changes. Beware!

If "Wondering Mom" wants to save that document, she should print it out now, giving thought to the printer and print cartridge, on 100% cotton or linen rag buffered paper with a neutral pH and store it in a non- destructive archival folder in a dark, safe place, like a safe deposit vault. Dennis Grafflin, Professor of History, Bates College, Lewiston ME.

Dear Professor Grafflin: Thank you for offering your computer expertise, and warning my readers not to blindly expect technology to solve their archival problems. In many instances, paper is still the way to go.

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Seen in my Doctor's office:

"Please be Patient with us! Due to the Year 2000 We are in the process of changing our computer. You may have Delays in checking-in or checking-out. We appreciate your understanding."


YEAR 2000 UPDATE

By now, all of you have at least heard of the Year 2000 (aka Y2K) problem. And, by now, it is more than a geek issue, since the news media headline it, the artists do comic strips about it and the political cartoonists are having a field day with it. Below are a number of recent items:

First, last month the Inquirer ran a story entitled: "Schools are no exception concerning the Y2K bug". It enumerated many difficulties for the school systems (like being sure the teachers get paid!) - focusing on the Philadelphia School District (and the some $15 million for a Y2K contract)!

Second, my latest bank statement included a writeup on what it is doing to make sure that Y2K does not mess up my account (or any others). It also noted the efforts to make sure that none of its co-horts and suppliers would mess up either. How is YOUR BANK doing?

Third, where I work, we received a substantial brochure from our liability insurance company of information on assessing the extent of the problem for businesses, including software & hardware assessments. Also, approaches to assuring that your suppliers are not going to screw the works by not being as diligent as you are!

Fourth, the legal profession is going full bore to take advantage of the situation and do the American thing - SUE! To give you the flavor of the article (which I got on a 50th reunion visit from the Omaha World-Herald, reprinting from the Los Angeles Times), here is the key quote: "Lawyers, of course, are going to come out beautifully. There will be hundreds of thousands of these cases." by Brian Parker, the attorney who filed the first Y2K lawsuit!


$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
$ TRADING POST $
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

FOR SALE: MLCUG has a lot of hardware and software that is available for you to purchase at very attractive prices! By the time you get this newsletter, the listing should be updated and POSTED on both our BBS and our webpage. This new listing has ALL items priced. Check out either of the site postings. For items, you can contact Charles Curran to make arrangements to purchase (610-446-5239).

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64/128/PC MEETING
******************************

For the October meeting we had 13-14 attendees in the 8-bit/PC section - who fostered some very lively discussions! (Got to figure out some way to rein them in <grin>). We covered quite a bit of ground in the announcements (especially on Y2K stuff - see elsewhere in this issue) and lots of Q & A in the discussions.

Unfortunately, Murphy made a couple of visits, as in the previous month, and fouled our intentions. Firstly, the cell phone modem setup which we planned to use for demoing and refreshing folks on our BBS troubled. It had worked the Thursday before the meeting - and immediately before the meeting - BUT at the crucial demo moment we could not make a workable contact!!! Secondly, thru some communication difficulties, we could not get the username and password setup needed to get to the internet thru the VU ethernet system. We are hoping for better luck in future attempts!!!


YOUR FORTUNE FOR TODAY 9 megs for the secretaries fair, 7 megs for the hackers scarce, 5 megs for the grads in smoky lairs, 3 megs for the system source; 1 disk to rule them all, 1 disk to bind them, 1 disk to hold the files, And in the darkness grind 'em ******************************
POWER PROBLEM PROTECTION

While the season for strong thunderstorms is essentially behind us - and we had a potfull of them this latest season - we are NOT out of the woods when it comes to unreliable power.

Since you are addicted to your computer, loss of companionship is an important consideration. So, you should take steps to protect yourself from that loss (as well as the other considerations, like burned up hardware or messed up software and lost files!).

NATURALLY, every one of you is using a surge protector on your computer system, right? (They do not hurt to be on your other electronics gear, too). But, is that surge protector a good one? And, does it protect your phone line (and modem), too?

If you have that, then you may want to start looking around for a good price on a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). They can regularly be got for less than $100. Recently, yours truly, picked up a couple of them on a Staples Office Store clearance - for only $60 each. They were APC Back-UPS Office units. Not biggies, but about 250VA that will provide 5-10 minutes of operation for a computer, monitor and modem (you'll want the latter in case you are on-line when the power evaporates). This should be enough time to get off-line and save anything important you may have underway.

If we get a return of the rougher winter, then power undependability may be what you'll want to avoid .....

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How Specifications Live Forever

The US Standard Railroad Gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 ft., 8.5". That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used, you might ask? Because that's the way they build them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

OK, why did "they" use that same gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing. OK, why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other wheel spacing, the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts. So, who built those old rutted roads?

The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The same roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? The initial ruts which everyone had to use, for fear of breaking their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made by Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Thus, we have the answer to the original question. The US Standard Railroad Gauge of 4 ft., 8.5" derives from the original specification for an Imperial Rome army war chariot.

Specifications and Bureaucracies live forever! So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's aUU came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accomodate the back-ends of two war horses!

[credit (?) for this gem goes to former member, Bob Barton, as lifted from the MLMUG listserv]

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BOOT/EMERGENCY/RESCUE DISKS - II

[continued from October]

B. WINDOWS 95 - ALTERNATES

If you would like the CHANCE to actually recover and restore Win95, rather than do a re-install, you may be able to do so with a RESCUE disk. This will require any one of many utilities in the marketplace that have such a capability. Here are two examples:

1. Emergency Recovery Utility

This short utility can be downloaded from the Microsoft web or ftp site or the MLCUG BBS. Create a directory on your C: drive called "ERD" and put the downloaded file (ERU95ZIP.EXE) in it. Run this file and the utility will be stored in the same subdirectory.

Whenever desired - especially JUST before installing new software - save your critical system files via:

- START
- RUN
- type in C:\ERD\ERU
- OK

Follow the prompts to create the backup set in the ERD directory. The directory will look something like:

The ERU utility files:

ERD      EXE    50,376  07-11-95  9:50a
ERD      EUE    50,376  07-11-95  9:50a
ERD      INF       368  08-27-98  9:16a
ERU      EXE    46,592  07-11-95  9:50a
ERU      INF     1,363  07-11-95  9:50a

The backed up file set:

AUTOEXEC BUT       837  07-08-98  2:44p
COMMAND  CUM    93,812  08-24-96 11:11a
CONFIG   SUS       708  07-08-98  2:44p
IO       SUS   214,836  08-24-96 11:11a
MSDOS    SUS     1,696  05-17-98  8:21p
PROTOCOL IUI       122  07-07-97 10:10a
SYSTEM   DUT 1,211,896  08-27-98  9:07a
SYSTEM   IUI     1,885  08-27-98  9:06a
USER     DUT   175,136  08-27-98  9:14a
WIN      IUI     9,343  07-19-98 11:04a

You may be able to restore from these backups, even if Windows will not boot. To do so, you can either:

1. use your Win95 startup disk (created last month!) to boot to the DOS prompt. Then type:

C:\ERD\ERD <CR>

2. or as the PC boots up, press the F8 key when you see the "loading Windows 95" comment appear. You will then be at the Win95 boot menu; so select "Boot to command prompt". If that is successful, then you can type the above command.

3. in either case, just follow the prompts to restore the files.

If you are LUCKY, your computer will now boot to Windows 95.

[to be continued next issue]


IMAGINE IF INSTEAD OF CRYPTIC, GEEKY TEXT STRINGS, YOUR COMPUTER PRODUCED ERROR MESSAGES IN HAIKU!

"The Tao that is seen Is not the true Tao, until You bring fresh toner."


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By John Deker, AMIGA SIG Leader

newsletter. You can either remit at this month's meeting or follow the instructions on the application and mail your application & check to Dewitt Stewart.

MEETING OVERVIEW

Since our October meeting turned into a general discussion of various topics, I won't even attempt to cover the details here. I will say that we did touch on software issues related to playing MPEG audio files, RealAudio files, and the use of the AHI (I like to think this stands for Audio Hardware Interface) driver. AHI does for audio what RTG (ReTargetable Graphics) software like Picasso96 and Cybergraphix did for video boards, and yes, you can use AHI with the standard Amiga audio chips. You don't need to have a sound board to make use of AHI.

Besides the discussion of audio players and AHI, we took a brief look at a couple of file search utilities, one being the search routine built into Directory Opus.

For the primary benefit of Jim Hagan, we did some looking at THOR, a very powerful shareware emailer and newsreader. Besides being the typical mailer / newsreader, THOR can also interface with the Aminet Amiga file collection on the Internet by sending an event, an email request, to Aminet to request a file to be downloaded as just another email.

AMIGA ISSUES

Just today I received issue 16 of The Amiga Informer. Several of the articles in this issue reflect the same topics as found recently in the Amiga oriented electronic media. The most significant articles cover the loss of CU AMIGA, the British Amiga magazine. The closure of this magazine is presented as representative of continued problems in the Amiga market. On the plus side, there have been several articles on the forthcoming OS 3.5 upgrade.

CU AMIGA CEASES

The worlds largest selling Amiga magazine, UK based CU-Amiga ceased publication with the October '98 issue. The magazine recently fell into a state of unprofitability with no end in sight for the Amiga's troubles. Because of this the magazine staff and publisher decided to cease publication. Days later French-based AmigaNews, a well respected publication that has served France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Quebec for over a decade, announced it too was closing shop for similar reasons. However, all is not lost. AmigaNews will likely continue to keep French users up to date with a web-based publication (www.amiganews.com). Amiga Format, the remaining UK glossy magazine, publicly stated they will continue, and the passing of CU Amiga should boost sales for Format. UK developers have also pledged their support for the Amiga in the wake of CU's closing.

OS 3.5 UPGRADE

It's definite and bulletproof. There will be an OS 3.5 upgrade. So far this is what is known to be in the upgrade:

  1. CD Filing System
  2. Retargetable Graphics and Retargetable Audio (RTG & RTA)
  3. Support for PowerPC co-processors
  4. Internet ready
  5. Improved interface
  6. Support for large hard drives
  7. Enhanced Shell

The upgrade is software only and will only be available on CDROM. It is expected to be available at the Gateway Amiga Show in St. Louis in March of 1999.

The minimum system requirements will be a 68020, hard drive, CDROM drive, 4 MB of RAM, and OS 3.1 ROMs. The recommended system will include a 68030 and 8 MB of RAM. Obviously, better performance will include a 68040 or better with graphics card and sound card.

By placing heavier emphasis on performance oriented hardware -- CDROM, RTG & RTA, and faster processors -- Amiga Inc. is signaling the direction they want the Amiga to go. They are telling both users and developers to support the Open Standards for graphics and audio to be able to produce a more powerful and capable Amiga when OS5 arrives.

FUTURE MEETINGS

If you have either software or hardware for your Amiga that has taken your fancy, please bring it to our attention. I'm sure your specific interests will be of interest to others. Let me know if this is the case at the next meeting, or leave me email on our BBS. Remember, a user group is only as rewarding as the sum of the efforts of its individual members.

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