Main Line Computer Users Group - June 2000 Issue 217

**** JUNE 2000 *********************************** ISSUE #217 ****

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - JUN 10 th


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

We'll start off by taking the opportunity to go round the table - for attendees to pass on information they'd like to share with the rest of us. Also, in a second go round, attendees can bring up problems they have 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 to help and get helped!

Then, assuming our internet connection remains alive, we can attempt to provide some guidance to attractive and useful websites. Hopefully, each of you who uses the web can provide a lead (which we can illustrate live!) to one or more useful websites. Come prepared to help us explore the web!

[continued]

MAIN LINE AMIGA USERS - John's Place

Our May meeting was kind of a wandering in the wilderness. We discussed various aspects of JAVA and LINUX without any specific agenda or focus at times. Hopefully the few faithful attendees re-learned that not all new software installations are successful in terms of expected outcome, but then that's what makes the computing hobby a challenge at times. The long term objective is to overcome initial failures, and is one of the reasons our club exists to help each other.

Currently our June agenda is non-existent, but there is hope we'll put together at least a vague agenda in time for the next meeting. At a minimum we'll have a Q&A session.

[continued]


?DSL FOR YOU ?

Your editor's personal experience with "long distance" = lower speed IDSL continues to be good. Like air conditioning in your car, once you have it, you wonder how you did without! I'm taking this opportunity to solicit the experiences of others. Are any other member currently using any form of DSL, i.e. generically xDSL? Whether x = A, S or I, please let me know - and also who you have the service with; and how that service is performing. For example, my service is nominally limited to 144 Kbps, but downloads of compressed files occasionally appear faster than that. How about yours?

***************************
AN xDSL STORY- PART II

by Emil Volcheck

SUMMARY TO DATE

Since the April 17th nominal startup time, with one possible short time exception, my IDSL service has not had an outage; and the internet has been continuously accessible 24/7/365.2422. That's the best ISP service that I have ever experienced!

As best I can estimate, the connect rate that was advertised - 144 Kbps - has definitely been achieved, possibly exceeeded slightly. So, I reckon others can expect to do well with this type of service, if they are too far from a telephone central office to qualify for regular ADSL or SDSL service.

REVIEW & UPDATE

The setup installed in my home consists of the following elements:

1. IDSL phone line from the downtown West Chester PA Bell-Atlantic Central Office - as a separate line - to my home at a distance of 5.5+ miles (well beyond the 2-3 mile normal DSL limit).

2. A Cisco Systems model 802 router - that sports a single ethernet port and a single ISDN port - connected to the phone jack in the house.

3. A Linksys 10/100 Mbps, autosensing, ethernet switch. It is a 5-port switch, with an uplink port to connect to additional ehternet switches or hubs. This uplink port is connected via a CAT5 crossover cable to the ethernet port on the router. The uplink port is shared with one of the five other ports; so one has four ports available for devices on the ethernet.

4. Four computers are connected to those four posts on the ethernet switch:

- IBM Aptiva (4-ft cable) - Mac Performa (25 ft cable) - Russell PC (25 ft cable) - Home built PC (50 ft cable)

The last connection actually goes to an RJ-45 2-port manual switch that provides for two PCs to use the port (but not together, darn!). So, there are actually five computers that can utilize the system.

All these connects are plug-and-go - just like your phone lines. You can plug a cable in, or unplug, without needing to shut the devices down. This is a real convenience when you're fiddling!

As I mentioned in my report last month, since I live so far from the phone company central office, I had to settle for this low speed version of DSL, that has an advertised limit of 144 Kbps (vs. a nominal 53 Kbps for the fastest modem, tho not everyone is able to realize this speed). For most web stuff, this is a more than adequate rate, as the net tends to be a bit clogged and make the actual rate that you can get quite a bit less.

The place folks focus on is the rate that you can get files to download - the faster, the better (especially as file sizes keep getting bigger!!). Over the course of the last 18 months, our average download rate with a modem has been about 2.7 K bytes/sec. ; so this is my standard of comparison.

With the IDSL connection, downloads typically start in the 2-3 K range, then work up as the download progresses. It normally takes about 2-300 K file size for the rate to stabilize. On the larger downloads, our IDSL experience has ranged from about 10 K (4X modem) to about 17 K (6X modem) - not light speed, but definitely better.

OPINION

When you combine the elements of: always-on, no wait for a dialup connection to be established, NEVER a busy signal and much speedier performance; the service is worth the cost.

For those who are closer to a CO, you can get much more speed and lower cost; so you ought to give it a whirl!!

########################################
ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
########################################

The following is a news item that I thought would be of interest to our members:

GATES GRANT - recently, the Chester County Library system received a grant from the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation to improve their computing center. A condition of the grant is that the library would have to cease any useage charges for the center's systems.

As a result, the Library management has announced that, in the future, there will no longer be such useage charges. I think they will still charge for consumables - like printer paper (presumably to discourage using the center for "free" publishing!).

When word of this grant got to the local Mac club, one of its more active (and activist?) members sent the following email:

Begin Quote

The recent grant to upgrade your computers for the public is great news. I hope that you will bear in mind that there are many Macintosh users in the area. The Main Line Macintosh Users Group meets monthly at Paoli Hospital. There are over 200 members.

Whom do you advise our letting the financial powers that be know of this population? I read that a Paul Sullivan is the head of the Board. Is it possible to contact the Board effectively by email or do you advise writing them?

Mimi Connelly of Devon coeli@aol.com

Here is the reply from the reference department at Chester County Library. Mimi Connelly

Dear Ms. Coeli:

I was glad to get your message about the many Macintosh users in the area because it gives me a chance to let you know more about the Library's Public Computing Center, which serves both Mac and PC users. The news article about the Gates Grant gave the impression that the Center is solely a PC center, and that is not the case. The Center has two Macs, both with scanners and good printers. There are fewer Macs than PCs in the Center because there is less demand for them. More information about the Public Computing Center, including its hours, is available at: www.ccls.org/MyWeb3/index.htm, or by phone at 610- 280-2666.

If you would like to contact the Library Board about the Macintosh users in our community, the person to write to is Stephen Long, Board Chairman, at the Library's address. Or, if you prefer e-mail, you could send a message to me and I will forward it. (Paul Sullivan is chair of the Friends of the Library Board and is not involved in decisions about budgets and resources.)

Thank you for taking the time to send us a message about this, and I invite you to visit the Center and see more of what is available.

Toni Hoffacker, Director END QUOTE

Those of you who hail from or visit in Chester County might want to make the effort to buzz over and visit the Center.

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WIN TIP OF THE MONTH

What about all those Drivers (Win 9x)?

Do you have an assortment of floppy disks and CD-ROMs with the drivers on them for your various devices (like the CD-ROM drive, the zip drive, the network card, the modem, the video, the sound card and even the motherboard)?

Do you also have a CD-R or CD-RW drive?

Then, you may have another option. That is, make yourself up a combo CD with ALL THE DRIVERS on one CD. With 650 MB available, it will be more than enough for all the drivers (not necessarily for all the auxiliary or extra stuff they put on those CDs).

Then, you can boot from the Win 98 startup disk which gives you access to your CD drive and you can then install - or re-install - whatever you need. That startup disk will work on your Win95 machine; so you can do the same thing.

And, if you have a CD-RW drive, you can even update your combo CD very easily. Sound interesting? Give it a whirl and tell us about your experiences with the concept.....

Next Tip

#@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ 
@                                     @ 
@ 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?????      @ 
@                                     @ 
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ 

***************************

HERE'S WHAT I GOT !!

Last issue, I printed the first contribution resulting from my appeal for items from the members - dying to get into print. I was gratified to get a quick response and looked forward to a flood of items!

So, the next paragraph has the next item I received:

[the paragraph]

Get the hint?

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SETI UPDATE

By Emil Volcheck

Around the middle of November 1999, I started a single computer on the massive SETI computation project. It is one of three or so computation projects that involve a large number of computer owners using their own computers to help create a giant computing engine. As of this writing the SETI program - with over two (2) million participants - holds the position of the largest computation project ever!

On May 28 2000, I sent in the results for my 500th data packet - since that first one back in November. With that benchmark, I came to the 97.577th percentile of participants. With so many folks involved, and with so many having a lot of compute power being applied, progress up the percentile ladder comes at a dearer and dearer price!

For example - at packet 400, I reached the 97.169% level. In fact, I was already at 92.077% with only a 100 packets!

I reckon this will be the last of the monthly updates, as there will now be little news to report. Assuming that I hit the 98% one of these days, I'll let you know what that takes.

I'm still collecting information on the performance of different PCs. Lately, I got some prelininary data from a PC that is running a 700 MHz AMD Athlon CPU with 128 MB of RAM! It looks like it can do a packet in about 8.5 hours. With that much horsepower available, I think you get a better idea of the difficulty of the computation ......

Anyone have info to add to the story???

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

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 (610-446-5239 or ccurran@icdc.com) - he has most of the stuff and the prices are VERY reasonable!!!

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

We again started the May meeting with about an hour of round-the-table announcements, followed by Q&A (i.e. 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 program, Emil Volcheck gave us a review of his experiences in installing or re-installing Windows 95. Since he has quite a few PCs that he has been upgrading where he works, this has become a rather common exercise. So, he has developed an approach to uniformize the installations and to help remember just what all needs to be done.

The procedure is embodied in a checklist that he showed at the meeting (you can download a copy of the spreadsheet file from the MLCUG BBS (it is in the Clone Utilities library as an MS Works .wks file) which you should be able to import into your favorite spreadsheet software and customize it for your own predilections!

Emil noted that the few initial steps are quite critical in his opinion. They go as follows:

1. if at all possible, start with a completely clean system. His preferred route to that is to backup everything citical on the system. Then boot from a floppy and run the "fdisk" utility with "large disk" support (translate that to FAT32). He normally partitions the hard drive into a C: and a D: drive - then formats the two partitions.

2. set up a CABS directory (folder) on the D: drive and copy the Windows 95B setup files (a convenient way to do this is with a parallel port zip drive that has those files on a 100 MB zip disk).

3. switch to the D:\CABS directory and run the SETUP.EXE file to start the Windows 95 installation. Usually, he uses the CUSTOM setup option to get the components he wants to install and avoid installing components that normally install, but which he does not want.

4. once the installation is finished and the computer successfully (we hope!) boots into Windows, he runs the 11/98 version of the Windows 95 Y2K updater. This is a relatively small (256K) program that fixes the date related problems, but keeps the installation lean and clean. The later version(s) of the Y2K updater make a lot more changes and complications; so he avoids them.

At this point, one can proceed with the installation pretty much as one desires. The published checklist is obviously oriented towards astronomy, since Emil's workplace is an observatory. You can/should set the list up for your needs - using his version as a guideline.

The checklist also serves as a very handy place to keep serial numbers, registration keys, etc. in one spot; so you KNOW WHERE THEY ARE! Nuff said!!!

***************************

WIN TIP OF THE MONTH - EASY

Making a Desktop Icon (Win9x)

If you'd like program icons on your dektop, instead of having to browse thru the Start menu, then try:

RIGHT-click the Start button, choose OPEN, DOUBLE-click the PROGRAMS icon, then DOUBLE-click a FOLDER. When you navigate to the desired program icon, RIGHT- click and DRAG the icon onto the desktop. Release the RIGHT mouse button and choose COPY. You're done.

[reprinted from the BATCHFILE newsletter of EPCC]

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DOS CAN BE VERY HELPFUL!

by Emil Volcheck

Last month, we took advantage of a BATCH file that is frequently present on your PC - the AUTOEXEC.BAT file - to enable DOSKEY macros. And another batch file - MACROS.BAT - that actually generates those macros.

Both of the are simple examples of "Personal Programming". The sort of thing we talked about in our February meeting. You can get mighty complex with batch file programming - as many did when DOS and Win 3.xx were the primary OSes for PCs. Such programming has fallen by the wayside with most users, many of whom have not noticed the DOS prompt, let alone do anything with it!

But, it can still come in handy. Here's another very simple example of a useful batch file:

@ECHO OFF 

rem  BACKUP SELECTED FILES 
rem  from the "Myfiles" directory to 
rem  a floppy disk, copying only files 
rem  that are new or have been 
rem  modified since the last run. 

C: 
CD\ 
XCOPY C:\MYFILES\*.* A: /M/V 
This uses the DOS command, XCOPY, plus the /M switch which copies only new or modified files and the /V switch which verifies the quality of the copy. In addition to copying only the new/modified files, the /M switch causes the archive bit (what's that?) to be changed to show that the file has been backed up. Then it will NOT be copied again - unless it again gets changed.

I've been using such backup batch files for many years now. It's a LOT quicker and simpler than running a backup utility. Oh, and I forgot to mention, you can just as easily have the backup go to a zip disk - or other removable - if you need more storage space than a floppy provides.

MAIN LINE AMIGA USER HAPPENINGS

by John Deker

Our May meeting was kind of a wandering in the wilderness. We discussed various aspects of JAVA and LINUX without any specific agenda or focus at times. Hopefully the few faithful attendees re-learned that not all new software installations are successful in terms of expected outcome, but then that's what makes the computing hobby a challenge at times. The long term objective is to overcome initial failures, and is one of the reasons our club exists to help each other.

Currently our June agenda is non-existent, but there is hope we'll put together at least a vague agenda in time for the next meeting. At a minimum we'll have a Q&A session.

SUMMER 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.

During our last meeting we discussed our summer schedule. Since the SIG is so small it is important that members keep each other informed of their vacation schedules. I don't want to schedule a meeting that has no attendees. As it is right now, non of the attendees at the last meeting have a vacation conflict with the summer schedule. I ask that members keep the SIG leader informed if there is a change which would cause a conflict. Thank you.

TED DEAN EMAIL

Members wishing to stay in contact with Ted by email can reach him at:

mailto:tc35d29@uswest.net

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MEETING REVIEW...

BOOT TO AMIGA SHELL ONLY

Not that many people would want their Amiga to boot to just a FULLY CONFIGURED Shell environment without the Amiga Workbench, but we killed some time early in last month's meeting talking about how this could be accomplished. It is indeed very easy to do. You only need to "remark out" two lines at the end of S:STARTUP-SEQUENCE. Change the following standard lines:

C:LoadWB
EndCLI >NIL:

to:

;C:LoadWB
;EndCLI >NIL:

Note the addition of the semicolons at the beginning of each line.

AMIGA JAVA

As far as I know, there isn't a good working version of JAVA for the Amiga. Bill Bacon has been searching for an Amiga JAVA since last Fall when he took a course in JAVA programming at the local community college. We took some time during the early part of the meeting to review the status of JAVA for the Amiga. The most promising Amiga JAVA release to date has been the one from the "Politikill's JAVA For Amiga Page!" at

http://members.tripod.com/~Politikill/.

Politikill's Java is a Unix port written by a person with the last name of Pootle. Since the meeting, another Web site has hinted at a promise of further JAVA development for the Amiga. This site can be found on the Amiga Java Environment Web page at

http://www.merlancia.com/aje/.

Running Pootle's Java port on the Amiga has turned out to be mostly a mixed bag of failure's and one apparent success. First the instructions seemingly leave something to be desired. One of the instructions is to increase the Shell stack size to 64000 using the Shell icon stack setting, but this did not seem to work for me when I typed the stack command at the Shell prompt and got a response indicating the stack size was much smaller. I corrected this problem by putting the stack command within S:SHELL-STARTUP. Also, setting up the CLASSPATH environment variable as described did not work for me. I corrected this like I did the stack command. My CLASSPATH variable in ENV: is now defined as:

Java:share/kaffe/

and the Java part of my S:SHELL-STARTUP file now looks like:

;begin JAVA stuff
STACK 64000
ASSIGN JAVA: Work:Languages/Java
ALIAS javac "Java:bin/kaffe sun.tools.javac.Main []"
ALIAS java "Java:bin/kaffe []"
PATH Java: add
SET CLASSPATH $classpath
;end JAVA stuff

Even so, both of my Amiga's just crash and burn when I try to run the Java compiler, but somehow Bill Bacon is able to get his Amiga to compile a simple Java source file. However, Bill was not able to get the compiled program to run. So, that's the current status of Java on the Amiga as we know it.

THE CURVE

Getting on the Linux learning curve is not an easy thing to do. With the current state of Amiga Linux installations you quickly come to the point of scratching your head and wondering what to do next. The major part of the problem is the documentation, or more appropriately the apparent lack of it on the available Amiga CDROM installations. The newcomer will need to aggressively search the literature both on disk and on the Internet, and digest documentation written by Geeks who forget what it means to be a neophyte. I get the impression that the Unix Geeks figure if they learned Unix the hard way then everyone else should too.

Needless to say, I'm not a pleased "user" of Linux nor enthralled by all the hype that surrounds it. Maybe I just haven't stumbled on some well written and comprehensive documentation. All I know is that the learning curve seems steeper than the C64/128, CP/M, and MSDOS. By comparison GEOS, Amiga OS, Mac, and variations of Windows were a snap to learn, navigate, and manipulate.

The only Unix variant that has impressed me so far has been the PC demo download from QNX. If this system were the NG (next generation) Amiga, I would hop on the proverbial bandwagon. The QNX Web site can be found at http://www.qnx.com.

MORE THAN PROCESSOR SPEED

I've frequently read that PC users are amazed at the responsiveness of a well equipped Amiga. In a recent demo during the last year I was asked about the speed of my Amiga's CPU. In my own use, I'm surprised at how sluggish and sometimes unresponsive 450MHz PC's seem compared to my 50MHz Amiga.

The standard of performance measure in the PC world has been the speed of the on-board CPU. Only recently are PC users seemingly becoming more aware that processor speed does not alone make for a pleasing to use computer. PC makers have been slow to adopt the basics that made the Amiga a GREAT computer from the day it was introduced to the market. Much of this resistance has been in the name of backward compatability, but the reality has more likely been issues of cost and a willingness to "steal" money from users by misleading them down the performance path by hyping on CPU speed as the only answer.

Now, don't get responsiveness confused with speed. The two terms can be as confusing as if I tell you that the 1975 Plymouth Duster 360 was the QUICKEST American car sold in that year and the 1975 Chevrolet Corvette was the FASTEST American car sold that same year. I leave it to you, the reader, to figure out the difference in terms. Needless to say, responsiveness and speed do NOT necessarily reside in the same machine.

So what has made the Amiga such a responsive computer these past 15 years? The truth is an efficient OS integrated with a solid hardware design. The virtues of the AmigaOS have been getting a lot of hype in the Amiga press for some time. Gateway and now the new Amiga Inc. have virtually ignored the hardware in their NG Amiga proposals. Why? Because designing custom hardware and bringing it to market for a small user base is expensive! Designing just a new cross-platform AmigaOS for off-the-shelf hardware is a lot less risky, but is it enough to give the NG AmigaOS a niche in the market and just possibly make it a Win-PC beater? That question may get an answer someday.

In my opinion, the responsiveness of the Amiga over the past 15 years can be credited to efficiently engineered programming making minimum demands on hardware. The AmigaOS does not use a slow disk cache! The classic Amiga GUI was designed with EFFICIENCY and NOT PRETTY in mind. Why use 256 or more colors and the associated RAM addressing for programs that can do everything fine with just 16 colors and use less RAM in the process? EACH Amiga program can define how many screen colors and how much associated RAM to use. Can any other PC do this independent of the OS? Credit also goes to 15 year old hardware design that uses custom coprocessors for sound and video, a dual pre-emptive bus system that allows parallel simultaneous tasking, and a well integrated interrupt system. Ask an Amiga user the last time he gave thought to the system interrupts. Most Amiga users will tell you they wonder if they exist on their machine and cannot understand why PC's still use such an archaic inflexible hardware design in this area.

Bottom line, my 50MHz Amigas are generally more responsive than my 450MHz PC at work and even more so than my 233MHz PC at home. In terms of raw computing power needed for rendering a graphic scene, the PC's beat my Amiga. However, my Amiga is still my computer of choice for everyday computing activities, and its responsiveness is what makes me prefer it to a PC.

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).

[Map goes here]

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 

June 10 June 21 July 8 July 19 August 12 August 16 * = 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- 935-439