Main Line Computer Users Group - May 2000 Issue 215

**** MAY 2000 ************************************ ISSUE #216 ****

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - MAY 13 th


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

As in recent meetings, we will take the first part of the meeting to go round the table - for attendees to pass on information they'd like to share with the rest of us. Also, we'll take the opportunity for folks to bring up problems they've encountered. If they've solved them, they can tell us how. If not, we can attempt to solve them - or provide pointers to possible solutions. A chance for everyone!

Following this, prez Emil Volcheck will discuss the process of installing or re-installing Windows 95. He has done this a couple of dozen times in the last year or so and has tips, etc. to pass on. There is a checklist on the BBS you can grab before the meeting, if you wish.

[continued]

MAIN LINE AMIGA USERS - John's Place

REMINDER

We will no longer meet regularly at Villanova University. Instead we will continue to meet at 2210 Lantern Lane in Lafayette Hill. We will also be trying to start our meetings a half hour earlier at 9:00AM instead of 9:30AM. So, please note the change of starting time.


Our small elite group of Amiga enthusiasts and hobbyists convened in April for our normal monthly meeting. This time we made good on our goal of installing a variant of the Unix OS on Amiga hardware. Because of the maximum availability of various hardware drivers, we selected to install Linux as our Unix variant of choice.

[continued]


TIME FOR xDSL ?

Unless you are a total hermit - and use your computer for games and avoid all other forms of information - you will have noticed that many outfits are promoting some form of DSL phone service for direct and fast connection to the internet. Your editor just recently subscribed to such a service. I thought it would be informative to recount my current and future experiences with the technology. So, p.2 has a summary of the process of installation and first couple of weeks of useage. Assuming the service works well - and I stay with it - I'll provide future updates as appropriate!

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AN xDSL STORY

by Emil Volcheck

GETTING STARTED

Well, at 14:00, April 17, 2000, an IDSL line became operable at my home.

Since I live pretty far from a DSL Central Office (CO), I did not expect to be able to have such a service. However, Conectiv Communications offers a special variety of DSL called IDSL - and as far as I have found, they are the only purveyors of this breed. It is a lower thruput variety of the xDSL family - with a max of about 144 Kbps (compared to 1.5 Mbps or higher for ADSL or SDSL). But, it offers the always on and dedicated line that is a feature of DSL technology.

Since I turned out to be customer #4 for the service in Chester County, I thought I would share my experiences here. Mayhap others, who have ADSL or such, would share theirs - and we can get some dialogue going at our meetings?

Since Conectiv leases their lines from Bell-Atlantic, BA installs the phone line and provides the CO facilities. Conectiv then provides the DSL hardware inside your home and installs their hardware in the BA CO. This gives a situation with good possibilities for problems working with two vendors who may not be altogether friendly. My installation suffered from significant problems with BA getting a proper installation of the special phone line setup that IDSL needs. It took about 4 visits from the BA installers and 2 visits, plus telephone hand holding from Conectiv before it all got together.

But, it finally got running. For the initial setup, a DSL "modem" (which is actually a Cisco Systems model 802 router) connected to the special phone line and one PC was connected to the router via an ethernet card. A multi-port hub (actually a 5-port 10/100 switch) was standing by to connect other computers in the house; so they can share the DSL service. I'll report on how that went, a bit later.

VERY NICE BENEFIT OF THE "ALWAYS-ON" FEATURE OF DSL

One can set the SETI software to automatically - when finished computing a data unit - contact the SETI server, send the calculation results then download a new packet and go back to computing. The packet download takes about 20 seconds or so with our slow speed DSL (vs. about two minutes for dialup).

If I could get all the computers I have running SETI on that mode, I'd probably increase productivity by 50-100%

With about a week's service, the IDSL seems to be doing its job just fine.

I now have one computer, the DSL router and our ethernet hub on a UPS for protection of its continuous on operation.

Time to start getting sensitive to the internet insecurity of this system!

BEGINNING TO WORK LIKE IT SHOULD

After some fits and starts - too long to chronicle here - my IDSL hookup from Conectiv appears to be working fine.

Have three PCs and a Macintosh connected thru a 10/100 5-port switch to the Cisco Systems model 802 DSL router.

Three of the computers are running SETI when not doing something else - and they are set for automatic data upload/download to the SETI server. That is working very well; so I do not have to closely watch them to get the data updated without delay - nice! Now if I could get all the other computers in the project to do that!

SUMMARY FOR APRIL

While my experience is brief, it looks like if you are too far from a CO for ADSL or SDSL to work, this long range IDSL may be a viable option.

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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COMPUTER HELP !! - any one who tells you that computers are simple, easy-to-use and user-friendly probably doesn't make much use of a computer! Even when we started to use our Commodore computers, we rapidly found that they had minds of their own and stubbornly refused to do what we wanted - only what we told them to do (even when we told them something different that what we WANTED!)!

With most of us making significant use of newer beasts, the truism is even truer. Hence the need for continued help. Obviously, we feel that your local user group is an ideal (but NOT total) source of such help. But, while the number of computer users has gone up immensely, the membership in user groups has gone down - even in user groups that support the ubiquitous PC!

Regardless of the cause of this disconnect, another (also not well enough used) source of help is the magazine. And, at last month's meeting, folks were reminded of a very helpful magazine targeted at the PC user - novice to experienced - called "Smart Computing" (formerly called PC Novice). It offers a wide range of helpful tips, reviews, etc. - and has a strong tutorial bent. There is very little advertising (most of it being for their own publications); so the editorial content is high. Not sure how they survive, but they have been around for more than a few years.

An alternate publication, with many of the same virtues is called "Practical Windows". It is a slimmer publication, almost totally free of ads (again one wonders if they will be able to stay afloat?), and targeted a bit more toward the novice. Tho, even non-novices will find much of interest. Each issue is accompanied by a CD-ROM disk - which contains copies of all the freeware and shareware programs discussed in the issue, along with some of the programs developed by the PW columnist(s). It also always carries copies of common utilities like PKzip. This CD makes PW a very fine resource for the PC user.

Both publications are worth your effort and either, or both, are worth your cost of a subscription. As my earlier comments indicate - users need help and these are very good resources.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
@                                     @
@ How about an aid for your faithful  @
@ editor?  In the form of an article  @
@ for YOUR newsletter?  It can be a   @
@ short or long one - in one or many  @
@ parts.  It can be a tip, review or  @
@ harangue (polite, of course) on the @
@ software, hardware or technology of @
@ your interest and choice.           @
@                                     @
@ You can get it to me by snail mail, @
@ on a floppy or zip - by email to    @
@ emilv@ccil.org - by email on the    @
@ MLCUG BBS (in the message body or   @
@ as an attached file - it can take a @
@ file of ANY kind).                  @
@                                     @
@ With that much latitude, I'm sure   @
@ that every MLCUG member surely has  @
@ an item of value to pass on to the  @
@ rest of us.  How about it?????      @
@                                     @
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MAIN LINE SCHOOL NIGHT

[Here's a first response to my appeal last month for member contributions to the newsletter]

An excellent source to improve your knowledge of PCs and Macintosh computers

In the Spring 2000 catalog there were a total of 37 Courses being presented, some courses, such as Introduction to Microsoft Windows, had as many as 7 different classes. Classes are held at the Conestoga High School, Harriton High School, (Beaumont Community), Lower Merion High School and Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor. Most classes run for an Hour with a couple that run for an hour and a half. The course length in most cases is 5 weeks which might prevent getting a real in depth exposure. However there are a few courses that run for 10 weeks. The cost of the courses run from $28.00 to $76.00.

The School has a Web site - WWW.mainlineschoolnight.org - although I haven't tried hitting the site Im sure there should be a lot of detailed information regarding the courses. The mailing address is MLSN, 260 Gulph Creek Road, Radnor, PA 19087-4519 610-687-4560.

I am presently enrolled in PC Upgrade and Repair CO2029 which is being conducted at the Lower Merion High School, Tuesday Night from 7 to 8, for a total of 5 nights. There are 20 students in the class which is conducted by Ms. Rebeka Karrant, Field Engineer, Electrical Department, Villanova University.

The course is described as follows in the catalog: -

What's the difference between SCI and IDE? PCI and ISA? What is L2 Cache? Learn the basics of PC- compatible upgrade and repair while you gain a working knowledge of the architecture of the IBM PC. Find out how to install hard drives; videos, sound and I/O adapter cards; RAM and more

Sure sounds like a lot to learn in a 5 hour cycle! The text book consists of 45 pages of printed text that Rebeka had developed in giving the course, HARD FACTS ABOUT HARDWARE and cost $7.00 but purchase in not mandatory. Students are invited to bring in their own PCs should they want any help in making an upgrade or to open up the case under an experienced guide. I brought an IBM 286 Horizontal Dinosaur in that Rebeka was able to open up and show the class what the insides of a PC looked like.

Interesting side lights - Rebeka was very positive in recommending the DELL line of computers - GATEWAY was at the bottom of the list. She thought that GATEWAY had fallen behind in the last couple of years.

She spoke very highly of SMART COMPUTING as a monthly magazine along with the Guide & Learing Series

In Rebekas Computer Hardware Bibliography she top rated Upgrading and Repairing PCs (11th Edition) by Scott Mueller, Que Books. Being a push over for books and manuals I ordered this through Borders.com and it took about four days for delivery with a total cost of $45.94 including shipping. The same book would have cost $51.99 plus sales tax at Microcenter and I would have had to carry the 1,628 page, 6# goliath home. I started this little project after the second session of the course and I am now at the point where the course has been completed.

At the third session Ms. Rebeka distributed the past copies of the MLCUG club bulletins. I had attached a label created through LAZLABL program announcing that the next meeting of the club would be on Saturday, May 13, 2000 and that they were invited to attend for a Look See without feeling any obligation to become members. One of the class indicated an interest but couldn't make the next meeting.

The fourth session of the class I think was a little blow to Ms. Rebeka as only 8 members of the class of 20 showed up. She had an array of floppy drives, hard drives and CD-ROM drives that were passed around the class. One of the class members brought in an IBM APTIVA which the class was able to observe after the case was removed. Not having seen very many Motherboards I was impressed to see that the CPU chip had a sinkhead and a small fan on the top to help keep it cool.One of the things that Rebeka tried to impress on the class was the importance of keeping the PC free of dust.

The fifth and final session of the course was held tonight and the attendance increased to a total of 10. Most of the time was spent on talking about the various hardware components. Rebeka had an old motherboard which was passed around the class. Unfortunately time ran out and two of the students who had brought in their PCs for inspection lost out.

I think some of the students might have been a little disappointed in that the actual hands on and touching of the various components was rather limited. The scope of the course was just too broad to be covered in the time frame of 5 hours.

[submitted by Martin Caulfield]

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WIN TIP OF THE MONTH

Troubleshooting the Boot (Win 9x)

If Windows fails to boot properly, press F8 while it boots for the Windows StartUp menu, and pick the Logged (\BOOTLOG.TXT) option. It attempts a normal boot but records the status of every step Windows takes during the process. You can use this option to log a failed boot. Then, reboot to Safe mode if necessary and use a text editor to open BOOTLOG.TXT (in your root directory). Search for "fail" to find the boot steps Windows had trouble with. Failed steps are often excellent clues to the cause of the problem.

[another tip]

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

FOR SALE: the club has an increasingly large inventory of Commodore stuff - software, computers, disk drives, monitors, printers, etc. We have recently been getting a number of sales via the info posted on the MLCUG web page. But, those sales have just scratched the surface of our inventory!

So, if you are in need of replacements or augmentation, please contact Charles Curran - he has most of the stuff and the prices are VERY reasonable!!!

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PC/128/64 MEETING
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We started the April meeting with about an hour of round-the-table announcements, followed by Q&A (ie. problem solving, we hope!)! This format again provided the opportunity for every attendee to get a word(s) in edgewise! And, we appear to be providing help - the MAIN reason for the club's existence...

For the "meeting program", we again turned things over to member John Murphy. John did a followup on the C-64/C-128 emulator demo of last month. This time, he concentrated on two utilities that let you get your Commodore files onto the hard drive of a PC so that they can be used by the emulators.

The first demo was a program called "Star Commander". This utility will allow you to copy the contents of 1541, 1571, etc. disks as disk images to your hard drive. It requires that you have a special cable - the "1541 cable" - that has a Commodore serial connector (DIN-6) on one end and a DB-25 connector - for the printer port - on the other end. The cables are available for purchase, or you can make your own as the pinout info is readily available. John can provide it to anyone interested.

Star Commander is pretty slow - as it talks to your 1541/71 disk drive at the normal (slow) speed that we were all used to before the advent of JiffyDOS and other disk speed up systems. But, it is pretty versatile.

The second demo was a program called "1581COPY". This utility will copy a 1581 disk to a .d81 disk image on your hard drive. It uses your built-in 3.5 floppy drive; so it requires nothing special except installing the software driver!!

Unlike Star Commander, 1581copy is FAST (!). It copies the complete contents of a 1581 disk in less than 45 seconds! This is faster than your PC normally formats a disk - quite satisfactory. Whether the disk is full, or has only a few files, makes no difference, as an image of all the tracks and sectors is produced on the hard drive.

An emulator like the WinVICE that John showed in March can use all the formats that either of these programs use. Personally, the ease of using 1581 disks, no special cable and the speed of copying make 1581COPY preferred in my book. Only if your software requires the specific format of a 1541 disk make it necessary to use the Star Commander cum cable.

If you have software to try out, look for these utilities on the BBS. And let us know how you make out - with your favorite Commodore program(s)!!!

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WIN TIP OF THE MONTH

Good Things in Small Packages (Win9x)

Are those icons that are cluttering your desktop getting you down? Bring them down to size and give yourself more room. Right-click on the Desktop and select Properties. Click on the Appearance tab, then the Item drop-down menu. Select Icon, then pick a size of 16 (the default is 32). Click on OK. (This works best if you make the words under the icons as short as possible)

P.S: I tried a setting of 24 - worked OK. You can choose the size in units of one pixel, apparently.EJV.

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DOS CAN BE VERY HELPFUL!

by Emil Volcheck

Last month, I touted the virtues of the DOS "doskey" utility to make simple macros to do repetitive things (like the diskcopy function that I illustrated). However, it is possible to use doskey to make many simple macros available whenever you have moved to a DOS prompt.

The secret is to add the following two lines to your autoexec.bat file (in the root directory of your C: drive):

C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\DOSKEY C:\BATCH\macros.bat

You will have had to create a BATCH directory and installed a "macros.bat" batch file therein. This batch file - when run during startup - creates the library of macros via the doskey utility.

For each macro that you desire, the macro.bat file should contain a line that - when executed - invokes doskey to make the macro. Here is what a sample of such a batch file would look like:

@ECHO OFF rem DOSKEY macros batch file rem Created 5/3/00 rem Last update: 5/3/00

DOSKEY VCOPY=diskcopy a: a: /v

Each line like the last one creates the macro command - in this case the vcopy (verifies diskcopy) command that I illustrated last time.

So, if you make use of the DOS environment at all, you should find macros to be quite helpful. And, if you use any, why not tell use about them - a short article for the newsletter will always be welcomed (hint! hint!)!!

MAIN LINE AMIGA USER HAPPENINGS

by John Deker

Our small elite group of Amiga enthusiasts and hobbyists convened in April for our normal monthly meeting. This time we made good on our goal of installing a variant of the Unix OS on Amiga hardware. Because of the maximum availability of various hardware drivers, we selected to install Linux as our Unix variant of choice.

For our May meeting we will try to continue from our ending point in April. In April we had just enough time to complete the installation, but not enough time to boot-up Linux for a demonstration of the newly installed system. So, May will hopefully be a time to cover the initial basics of running and configuring a Unix operating system.

THE FUTURE OF OUR AMIGA SIG MEETINGS

As you probably know by now, the Amiga SIG will no longer meet regularly at Villanova University. Instead we will continue to meet at 2210 Lantern Lane in Lafayette Hill. We will also be trying to start our meetings a half hour earlier at 9:00AM instead of 9:30AM. So, please note the change of starting time.

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MEETING REVIEW...

PREPPING DRIVES BIGGER THAN 4GB

I am still one of those Amiga users who have refrained from unquestioningly upgrading my Amiga OS from version 3.1 to 3.5. If you are one of those who have kept tabs on what others are saying about OS3.5, you too may be a bit hesitant to make the change. OS3.5 has changed the way the color palette is handled which does occasionally cause some minor problems. In addition there have been many other subtle changes which occasionally cause somebody grief with their software.

On the plus side, OS3.5 handles hard drives bigger than 4GB and partitions greater than 2GB. Having OS3.1, the first hurdle during our meeting was to prep the virgin 4.3GB hard drive we had for the Linux installation that was to follow. In our initial attempt to prep the drive, we tried using the Amiga's OS3.1 HDTOOLBOX. When HDTOOLBOX tried to read the drive parameters, it immediately GURU'd the system. Since I'm an advocate and user of PFS (Professional File System), we next tried the PFS3 HDINSTTOOLS utility. It performed flawlessly in reading the drive's parameters and writing them to the RDB (Rigid Disk Block). However, we had difficulty setting up the partition type identifiers. So, we switched back to using HDTOOLBOX which was now able to identify the 4.3GB drive from the RDB information, and used it to setup the custom partition identifiers needed for the installation of Linux.

In preparation for Linux, we created a 1.8GB working partition and a 132MB swap partition, both with their individual custom partition identifiers written to the RDB. All the installation work was done on an external portable SCSI hard drive. The idea was to setup Linux so as to be able to connect and boot from the hard drive on a couple of different Amigas - a Blizzard 1260 equipped A1200 with a NE2000 compatible Ethernet PCMCIA card and a Blizzard 2060 equipped A2000 with PicassoII video board, GVP I/O board, and Ariadne ethernet board. The hard drive was selected to be big enough to allow multiple Linux boot partitions if necessary.

OFF-THE-CUFF A1200 LINUX INSTALL

Our installation of Linux was very much an off-the-cuff installation. Everyone at the meeting got to see first hand some of the potential installation pitfalls. I had done next to no preparation other than read and review the 2 CDROM jewel case jackets for compatibility related concerns. At our disposal, we had 2 CDROM packages from which to choose what Unix variant we wanted to install.

The first CDROM package was the LINUX UNOFFICIAL REDHAT 5.1 ported by Jes Sorensen for the Amiga. This was the older CDROM.

The second package was THE AMIGA UNIX COMPENDIUM V1.2. This is a package of 3 CDROMS - Linux for the PowerPC, Linux for m68k, and NetBSD. As mentioned previously, we chose to install Linux for m68k because it seemed the most compatible to the hardware of our Amiga and had a more simplified set of installation instructions and installer software.

Installation on my Blizzard 1260 equipped A1200 went relatively smoothly except for two exceptions mentioned below. Later that same day I tried re-installing Linux while using my A2000. I encountered several other problems during that attempt. See the POST MEETING section further below for details.

First exception, the on-screen installation instructions were occasionally confusing to us Unix dummies, but we guessed our way through realizing we could always redo the installation.

Second exception, we initially tried to install the newer 2.3.16 version, but encountered an apparent system lockup. Our work-around was to install the 2.0.33pl1 version which luckily worked just fine.

One word of caution, the installation asks if you want the installer to do a thorough check of the hard drive partitions before installing any software. This isn't a problem for the smaller swap partition, but the bigger working partition can take awhile. You may opt to not check the working partition to save some time and risk the small probability of later having a problem.

CALLING TED DEAN

While we were waiting for the Linux to install, we made a long distance call to Ted Dean in Arizona to see how things were going for him after his recent move. We spoke with Ted for several minutes on a speaker phone. Ted seemed in good spirits considering the stresses of moving.

NEW SITE FOR APDF

At the end of the meeting, we covered the latest Amiga software for handling PDF (Portable Document Formatted) files. APDF is a spinoff from XPDF and is now at version 2.2. Links to download it can be found at the:

http://www.vapor.com

web site along with a link to the decryption module at:

ftp://ftp.meanmachine.ch/pub/amiga/apdf/ApdfDecrypt_68k.lzx

POST MEETING FINDINGS...

A2000 LINUX INSTALL

Hours after our monthly meeting, I re-installed Linux, but this time using my A2000. During this installation I encountered some additional problems.

First, I found that the installation process always seemed to lock up. What I discovered was that my video display was really in a locked up mode. The solution was to first put my Amiga in a native screen mode display rather than execute the installation from my PicassoII Cybergraphix screen mode.

Second, Linux balked at my Jaz drive with the cartridge removed. The solution was to insert the cartridge or turn the drive off completely.

Third, Linux got confused and couldn't find the installation CDROM when I had both of my CDROM drives running. The solution was to turn off the second CDROM drive.

UP & RUNNING

Once Linux was installed on my A2000, I was hesitant to run it. My hesitation arose from my knowledge that Linux has a definitive shutdown process, but I didn't know what that was and I knew it was important to follow the process if I did not want to corrupt the software. After some research, I discovered mention of the SHUTDOWN command in the documentation. The SHUTDOWN command requires some arguments. Currently, I use the following command syntax issued in lower case to shutdown:

SHUTDOWN -R NOW

Finally knowing how to shut it down, I booted Linux and logged in as ROOT, creating a password in the process. A lot of text flies by on the screen during the boot process only to finally leave you staring at an unfriendly command prompt. How disconcerting in this day and age of many friendlier operating systems. Being familiar with CP/M, MSDOS, and the Amiga's CLI made navigating and executing a few simple commands not much of a problem for me, but I still hesitated at jumping into this system too fast wanting to leave some of the excitement for the next SIG meeting.

Having read parts of the old A3000 Commodore Unix book in the past, I knew there was supposed to be an online help manual called MAN, but it did not exist. Eventually, after reading more of the documents on the Linux CDROM, I discovered that the system does not create the MAN during installation and that the MAKEWHATIS command creates it. In fact, I believe this command may need to be executed after any software installation or upgrade to assure that any new documentation gets integrated into the MAN, but this and other details are better left for discussion and presentation at the next meeting.

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.

DIRECTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER MEETING ROOM

Meetings are in the St. Augustine Center at Villanova University. The 8-bit and PC sessions will be in Room 110 (Amigans at John Deker's house).

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/


64/128/PC/Amiga Meetings  2000  Steering Committee Meetings

May 13 May 17 June 10 June 21 July 8 July 19 * = first Saturday ** = second Wednesday ********************************************************** EDITOR: Emil J. Volcheck, Jr. 1046 General Allen Lane West Chester, PA 19382-8030 (Produced with C-128D/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 --> 33600 bps ), 24 hr/day WWW: http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/ PUBLICITY: Robyn Josephs 610-565-4058 DISK ORDERS: Charlie Curran 610-446-5239 VILLANOVA SPONSOR: Prof. Frank Maloney, Dept. of Astronomy MLCUG STEERING COMMITTEE: PRESIDENT: Emil Volcheck 610-388-1581 SECRETARY: Charles Curran 610-446-5239 TREAS/MEMBERS: Dewitt Stewart 610-623-5145 SYSOP/AMIGA SIG: John Deker 610-828-7897 INTERNET/Linux:Peter Whinnery 610-284-5234 DATABASE: Layton Fireng 610-688-2080 AT LARGE: Tom Johnson 610-525-3440 AT LARGE: John Murphy 610-935-4398