Main Line Computer Users Group - April 1999 Issue 203

**** APRIL 1999 ********************************* ISSUE #203 ****

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - APR 3rd

COME JOIN US FOR FUN & LEARNING!

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THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS

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MAIN LINE 64/128/PC USERS - Room 110

Since more and more folks are adding more and more computers to their homes, there is an increasing interest in sharing resources associated with that growing population. The Home Network is becoming a significant business arena; so we decided to give some attention to it for this April meeting.

Our Amiga SIG leader, John Deker had been planning to show his SIG how he had set up his own home network. Now, he'll do the show for a joint gathering of the Amiga SIG and the 64/128/PC group. He'll have a short announcement session in room 210 (as we'll have in room 110), then the Amiga folk will join us to see how to go about gearing up a PC and an Amiga for home networking, sans fancy netware!

[continued on page 2]

MAIN LINE AMIGA USERS - Room 210

At our March meeting we finished viewing the last part of the CatalyzerII video. For those who don't know, the Catalyzer videos are an easy way to discover some of the many features buried within ImageFX, one of the premier graphics manipulation appl ications available for the Amiga. In general, software videos are an ideal introduction for the novice and a great way for the intermediate user to extend his or her awareness of the still many untapped features within a software package.

During the second half of the meeting, the Amiga group joined the C64/128/PC group to take a look at Pete Whinnery's presentation of Radiance running under Linux. See Emil's article elsewhere in

[continued]

COMMENTARY ...

As has been mentioned in issues past - including those surrounding our 15th anniversary "celebration" two years ago, user group participation has dropped off - in spite of the VAST INCREASE in the number of computer owners and users! This drop off has been especially true for the "orphan" computers - like the Commodore 8-bit systems. However, it is also very true for the PC/clone systems (yet, there are 10 times as many users of them as a few years ago). One exception may be the Macintosh, which has had a resurgence in the last couple of years (with the 1998 wonder, the iMac, becoming the largest selling personal computer). Another may be the alternative OS, Linux, which has been garnering increased use - and who knows where it might lead.

But, turning back to Commodore, here there is no doubt about the drop off. This extends to publications, as well as (new) products.

But, if you want to continue to use your Commodore system, you'll want to continue to get and give support for it. Obviously, we think that MLCUG can provide that help, but I'd like to call your attention to another very helpful reservoir of interest and help. That is the user group called "Meeting 64/128 Users Through the Mail". As the name indicates, the group does not hold meetings, but does all its work thru its bi-monthly newsletter and the thru-the-mail efforts of its many dedicated members.

I've been a member of the group for many years - being an early-on joiner - even when MLCUG was thriving, because it sounded like a good idea. So, from personal experience, I can commend it to your attention. You can contact them at:

Rolf Miller, Treasurer 492 Anacapa Street Ventura CA 93001

The dues for 1999 are $12.00 (and basically, as in MLCUG, pay to publish the newsletter).

I'll have some issues of their newsletter, Commodore MAILINK, at the upcoming meetings for your perusal.

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Announcemnets & Comments
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NEW BANNER - the banner on page 1 has been modified to reflect the range of platforms that MLCUG is presently supporting (helping, we hope!). Charles Curran assisted me in putting it together. At the printing, the banner was put together in ClarisWor ks, on a Macintosh, and printed on an Epson Stylus Color inkjet printer (with the rest of the newsletter printed on a Canon BJ-200ex inkjet printer). If any of our members would like to try putting it into Fun Graphics Machine, so it could be rendered in TWS Illustrator II-A (like our old banner), I'd welcome the assist. Meanwhile, I hope it will convey a broader message to local computer users - in spite of the almost total lack of places nearby that support the Amiga and Commodore parts of our domain. ..

YEAR 2000 UPDATES - as most of you know, we have collected the Microsoft Y2K updates for their various operating systems. It has turned out that the update for Windows 98 - formerly considered Y2K compliant - is a biggie (about 4 MB in size)!

We recently got a CD from Microsoft with that update on it. So, any members who are running Windows 98 are welcome to take advantage of this update mode. I've been informed that we should receive future updates (should any significant ones pop out).

As a reminder, the updates for Win95, Win311 and Win31 are available for downloading on the MLCUG BBS.

MEMBERSHIP STATUS - at the end of March we are at the 41 member renewal level - hopefully we'll grow a bit more thru the year. This is about the break even point for dues to cover the newsletter publication and mailing cost, our rule-of-thumb goal for some years now. We would like to seek more local users to help - and be helped by (we can ALL use some help sometimes!).

So, if you know someone who has recently joined computing - or recently converted to a PC or Amiga, please let them know about us. We'll have extra copies of our newsletter at the meetings to help you spread the good word!

Also, we are looking for ways to let users know that we can provide support to a number of platforms; so we may be able to help them. Or, since user groups are reciprocal, THEY may be able to help US help others! If readers have any suggestions on sp reading the word, please feedback to the Steering Committee members.

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FOR APRIL

Well, I did want to put in something contemporary APRIL - but not FOOLish! Hence, this offering:

The local bar was so sure that its bartender was the strongest man around that they offered a standing $1000 bet. The bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass and hand the lemon to a patron. Anyone who could squeeze ONE mo re drop of juice out would win the money. Many people had tried over time - weight lifters, longshoremen, etc. - but nobody could do it.

One day a scrawny little man came in, wearing thick glasses and a polyester suit and said, in a tiny, squeaky voice, "I'd like to try the bet". After the laughs had died down, the bartender said "OK", grabbed a lemon and squeezed away. He then handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to the little man.

But, the crowd's laughter turned to total silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and SIX drops of juice fell into the glass.

As the crowd cheered, the bartender paid the $1000; and asked the little man, "what do you do for a living? Are you a lumberjack, a weight lifter or what?" The man replied, "I work for the IRS".

[from the Franklin County Rockhounder, original source unknown]

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TRENTON COMPUTER FESTIVAL

The 1999 TCF will be held on Saturday and Sunday, May 1st and 2nd. For the first time it will be sited at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison NJ. They expect hundreds of indoor vendors in the 140,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. AND, they will h ave a 1000 space outdoor flea market (now that ought to take some time to cover???)!

The festival will be managed by KGP Productions, the company that runs regular computer shows around here (like the Valley Forge Convention Center).

Further information via:

1-800-631-0062

www.tcf99.com

www.tcf-nj.org

If any member gathers any further info, please bring it to the April club meeting to share. AND, if any of you plan to attend, let me know; so we can tap you for a post-festival report!

Note: since our May meeting has been reset to the SECOND SATURDAY - May 8th - there will NOT be a conflict between your allegiance to MLCUG and TCF '99!!!

------------------
What if Dr. Seuss
Wrote a Computer Manual!
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1) If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port, and the bus is interrupted as a very last resort, and the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort, then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.

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WANTED: cooling fan for 128D computer. If you have one - with instructions (I hope), please call Emil at 610-388-1581, or leave email on the BBS. (1)

FOR SALE: C-64 and a Seikosha printer, in original boxes. If interested, call Bobbie at 610-356-9682. (3)

FOR SALE: do you have a need to replace some ailing Commodore part? Are you looking for a particular piece of Commodore software? Or do you need to replace a master disk for Commodore software that no longer works - but you'd like it to?

A listing is up and running on the MLCUG webpage - and we plan to update it in the next month or so. If you do not see what you want there, then, contact our inventory manager, Charles Curran. Between his stash of club inventory - or another stash in Emil's hands - we may be able to fill that need.

Similarly, if you have a problem or need relating to Amiga hardware or software, be sure to head in the direction of our Amiga leader, John Deker.

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CMD and Y2K

[by Emil Volcheck]

Users of Commodore 8-bit systems have not been particularly worried about how Y2K would affect their hardware - since Real Time Clocks (RTC) and Basic Input/Output Systems (BIOS) are absent from their systems.

However, many Commodore users have purchased and use peripherals that DO CONTAIN an RTC. These include many products from Creative Micro Designs (CMD), such as; the FD-2000/4000 floppy drives, the HD series of SCSI hard drives, the Smart Mouse and the RAMlink.

Being a bit curious along these lines, I've put some of the CMD RTCs thru a few quick checks. The results can be summarized as follows:

- 12/31/99 rolls over to 1/1/00

- 2/28/00 rolls over to 2/29/00

- 12/31/00 rolls over to 1/1/01

The RTC does not know about centuries; so what 99, 00 and 01 are is not relevant for the timekeeping. For our purposes, clearly 99 is 1999, 00 is 2000 and 01 is 2001 - and everything checks out. The above rollovers are the correct responses for that assumption.

So, as long as you keep the centuries straight within the actual programs you use - any that might be date sensitive that is - the RTC will provide an appropriate time base.

Should you need to use a date like 1900 or 1820, you'll have to use 4-digit years - that YOU properly keep track of. This is just like the big guys - whose computations can not deal with 2-digit dates any better than any 8-bit program. After all, no matter how you cut it - with 2-digits you can NOT cover more than a 100 year time span!!!

However, as you may be aware, not all software manages 2-digit dates in the same way. So, you have to know how, specifically your specific program does the 2-digit date bit.

Since not all programs take the same path with 2-digit years, you will need to be particularly cautious if you transfer date-related info from one program to another. Data transporter BEWARE!

Oh, yes - and remember, you can/should check your own RTC(s) as mine may not represent yours!

Nuff said for this time round.....

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64/128/PC MEETING
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For the March meeting, we had our webmaster, Pete Whinnery, as prime presenter. His program was preceded by a good discussion and Q & A. As most of you know, Pete is a regular and extensive user of the Linux operating system. Some months ago, he had taken us thru a demo of installing Linux on the club PC - in parallel with the existing Windows 95 OS. The PC allows you to select which OS you wish to use. However, we had not really been shown any applications that make use of Linux as the OS, or wha t you might actually want to use it for.

But this time, Pete brought in his Linux box (a PC he had assembled from purchased parts and has Linux on it as the OS). This is the system he uses for his real work - as a lighting and scene designer for theatrical productions. He had told us of usi ng apps that run under Linux to aid in the set design and that's what he showed us at the March meeting.

The major application that he uses is called RADIANCE - and it is a powerful program for computing lighting patterns given all kinds of light sources, locations and scene layouts. However, it is normally a command line driven program. Much of the inp ut can be repetitive and tedious to type.

So, Pete learned to program in a Linux compatible language called PERL. With PERL he developed GUI type applications to eliminate all the repetitive stuff, including the need for a lot of typing! Great! He showed us the operation of Radiance, his GU I's and some brief samples of what the program code looks like for PERL (to these eyes, it has a very close resemblance to C. Pete finds it easier to program than C, however).

All in all, Pete gave us an excellent show - and everything worked! Amazing when the computers do that!

Our thanks to Pete for another excellent demonstration - especially out of the ordinary....

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ERU AGAIN!

[by Emil Volcheck]

Several issues ago, I had a series of three articles on emergency recovery. The second in that series dealt with a utility provided by Microsoft - the EMERGENCY RECOVERY UTILITY - for Windows 95 and 98.

At the time of writing, I had had good use of ERU and, hence, recommended it. I'd now like to really reinforce that recommendation.

A few days ago, I attempted to install a PCI card in my desktop system. Anticipating that things might NOT go right (wonder why I felt that way?), I made a fresh set of recovery disks (using RECOVER-IT 95 - the subject of the third article in the abov e series). Then, just before shutting down to do the install, I ran ERU - saving the files to a zip disk.

To make a long story short, the card did not work properly and I had to abort - after I (or the install software) had made quite a few system changes.

However, running the recovery phase of ERU brought everything back to just the way it was before my failed project!

Since ERU takes only a minute or so to run - even to a zip disk - it is a simple, but potent safety precaution. You can do it just before attempting any kind of system change, or major program installation.

Take the care; so you don't have to weep!

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What if Dr. Seuss
Wrote a Computer Manual!
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2) If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash, and the double-click icon puts your window in the trash, and your data is corrupted cause the index doesn't hash, then your situation's hopeless and your system's gonna crash!

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MAIN LINE AMIGA USER HAPPENINGS

by John Deker

At our March meeting we finished viewing the last part of the Catalyzer_II video. For those who don't know, the Catalyzer videos are an easy way to discover some of the many features buried within ImageFX, one of the premier graphics manipulation applica tions available for the Amiga. In general, software videos are an ideal introduction for the novice and a great way for the intermediate user to extend his or her awareness of the still many untapped features within a software package.

During the second half of the meeting, the Amiga group joined the C64/128/PC group to take a look at Pete Whinnery's presentation of Radiance running under Linux. See Emil's article elsewhere in this newsletter for details of that presentation. Also, I've provided a small write-up below that hints at the possibility of running similar software on the Amiga. It would seem possible because versions of Radiance & PERL are available for the Amiga. See the specifics later in this article for details .

For our April meeting, we'll be closing any discussions and questions that may still remain about ImageFX and the Catalyzer video. At this time, I'm anticipating following the discussion with a mini LAN demonstration. The LAN demonstration will consi st of an A1200 connected to a PC via an Ethernet connection. We'll take a look at how to connect an Amiga equipped with AmiTCP to a Win95 operating system.

MEETING OVERVIEW

We started our meeting with a brief discussion on the status of things Amiga. As a follow-up to last month's meeting concerning Ted Dean's problem with installing the latest version of DOpus (Magellan_II), Ted has still not gotten his Amiga back from Software Hut. It seems that their tech staff is very busy. Hopefully Ted will have gotten his machine back by next meeting, and we'll know whether his problems with DOpus have been resolved.

Following our brief discussion of things Amiga, we viewed the end of the Catalyzer_II video which we did not finish viewing last month. Apparently, unknown to us, we had viewed almost the entire video. So, we finished watching the video rather quickl y, like in 20 minutes.

With these events out of the way, and the group having made the decision during the early stages of the meeting to attend Pete Whinnery's presentation of Radiance running under Linux, we migrated downstairs to join the C64/128/PC group members in time for Pete's presentation.

See Emil's article elsewhere in this newsletter for a summary of Pete's presentation. One thing I would like to mention here is that we found that Pete was using us as a pilot run for more serious presentation in the academic world. Despite being a p ilot run, Pete had an excellent delivery on an interesting topic. Thanks, Pete.

As a follow-up to Pete's presentation, I was curious as to whether versions of Radiance and PERL were available for the Amiga. Radiance is a 3D graphics rendering package, and PERL is the programming language that Pete used to build his GUI (Graphical User Interface) for Radiance. I found Amiga versions of both software packages on Aminet. Aminet is an Internet archive of Amiga software. There are several mirror sites throughout the world. The main Aminet site can be found at Washington University at

http://ftp.wustl.edu/~aminet/

I recommend using the Aminet search utility to find both Radiance and PERL. See the SOFTWARE WORTH MENTIONING section below for further details about the respective file names.

One problem with the Radiance binary archive on Aminet is that it doesn't include any documentation. I found an Internet site that does have enough Radiance documentation to get me started. There is a very basic tutorial located at

http://radsite.lbl.gov/radiance/refer/tutorial.html

Other more comprehensive documentation also exists at that site, some of it as PDF (Portable Document Format) files.

It will probably be sometime after tax season before I get time to work with the Radiance and PERL software. If you have the inclination to try your hand at running the software, be my guest. I would love to hear about your experiences.

SOFTWARE WORTH MENTIONING

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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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