Main Line Commodore User Group

Newsletter


March 2006 Issue 286

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - MAR 11th


UPCOMING MEETING:

Let's hope the weather pans out a bit better for us this month - leading to a really good turnout for the meeting!

Following the Q & A, we'll get into a topic that is the reason I'm hoping for that good turnout. The subject is one that all of us (including yours truly) could do better with:

"Organizing and Protecting Personal Files" By 'personal', I mean files that YOU create, or are created at your direction. Most of us (should be all of us) have the capability to reinstall their OS or have the CDs, or downloads, to reinstall our programs. But, there is no ready, comes-with-your computer, way to deal with your own stuff. Hope you all come! [EJV]

After our roughly noon break, the Advanced topic session will be tackling the subject of 'virtual machines' and the software "VMware". Presenter will be Pete Whinnery.


Low attendance?

These last few months have been a string of lower than 'average' meeting attendances. So, I've been asking myself:

"Are we doing/not doing something that is keeping the meeting attendance down?

We have mentioned that the weather might be doing it, but of that I'm not sure. (go to p.2)

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

Low attendance? (from p.1) - Since the main bulk of our members have renewed that membership, they must see some value in the group. But not enough to come to meetings?

If it isn't the weather, how about contacting me, or any member of the Steering Committee (the contact info is on page 7 of this issue), and let us know what might bring YOU out! [EJV]

Our Club Status - with the start of the New Year past us, we can assess how we've done on the renewal front. As of this writing, we have 36 renewal members, plus a couple of new member prospects. If you run into folks who might be interested in our group, don't hesitate, just turn them into prospects - who get our newsletter free for 3 months to give them a feel for what we do and, hopefully, how we can help them.

OUR WEB SITE (hosted by Bee.net) - a reminder that our faithful webmaster, Pete Whinnery, has been updating the web page format and will be most appreciative of feedback on it. Also, he'd like ideas to further improve this web site; so don't hesitate to suggest things you feel will help make it better.....

REGULAR REMINDERS

1) our email listserv is run for the member's benefit; so please do not hesitate to post notices or problems to it. If we can't solve the problem remotely, we can be alerted to it ahead of a meeting where more hands-on may do the job.

2) attendees know that we have a very fast internet connection from the VU meeting room (we have hit 800+ KBps, that's really moving - tho past performance is no guarantee of the future!). If you have a BIG download, you can bring along a CD-R/RW and get it quickly done before or after the main meeting.

3) a half dozen or so of the regular attendees usually partake of lunch at the Country Squire Diner in Havertown at Route 3 and 320. So, after the meeting, why not join us? It is a good time to get a little more help (or give it) and just have fun chewing over our common interests.

***************************************
LAST MONTH'S MEETING

For our February meeting, we just missed the big one! Our 15 attendees left partly after the main meeting with little sign of snow, while those who stayed for the 'Advanced' meeting left about 1:30 PM with very, very light snow. Four of us had lunch at the Country Squire restaurant, as usual, and found the snow really just getting started to pick up, about 3 PM. So, I reckon everyone made it home in good time and with no really hazardous conditions to contend with!

For those who did come, we had over an hour and a half of questions, answers, problem solving and discussion. A few highlites:

Ralph H gave a testimonial for keeping personal medical records on a flash drive that you keep with you. He has found that at least his medical people can just plug the flash drive into their office PC and have all his info right at hand. Since the cost of USB drives (the 2 GB size is now below $100) is steadily dropping, more of you may want to take Ralph's suggestion.

While on the subject of flash drives, Marty C brought in one of the flexible USB connectors - about 2-inches long - that you can attach to the USB connector of your flash drive and keep the strain of many pluggings and un-pluggings from deteriorating the wires just inside the drive body. Coincidentally, Emil had just put one of those widgets (a 'Flex USB' device) to the flash drive he brought to the meeting. It got passed around for folks to see just how it looks and works. A side benefit is the flex connector lets you move the flash drive around to clear obstacles or avoid interference in the vicinity of the USB port.

Rich T mentioned that he had updated to the 'Norton Internet Security Suite 2005' and was getting good results with it. John M mentioned that he was using the avast! anti-virus freeware product with good results (John D has been favoring this freeware product for some months now).

Pete W told us that he has been having good luck with printing from a Linux box (via Samba) to a printer on a Windows XP box over long distances. If you have a need for such capability, you might post on the listserv.

Layton F recently got a new Powerspec PC that did not have a floppy drive. He wanted to install and use one, but could not get the BIOS to recognize the drive had been installed. A contact with tech support identified two spots in the BIOS that had to be set. Once that was done, the new drive is working OK.

Note: another option for these newer computers is the USB external floppy drive. They seem to work very nicely, are bootable (just like a regular floppy) and are a bit faster at data transfer. I'm using them with two PCs that came without floppy drives and have been pleased with how they work: EJV.

A SIGN OF THE TIMES: "Backup my hard drive? I don't even know how to put it in reverse!" - provided by John M at the February meeting.

MAIN MEETING TOPIC:

As announced, the program for February was "Designing Web Pages", presented by our webmaster, Pete Whinnery. To conduct this story, Pete connected with the club's web site and used his notes that are posted there. You can check what he had to say by using the link on the home page - it's in the 'Presentations and Topics' section, the first link. You'll also be able to listen to the discussion when the audio file is posted in a few days - watch for it!!

That link on our web site actually points to a model web page that Pete made up to illustrate some of the concepts that he discussed. In particular, you'll see when you go to the page, he has a 'site menu' on the left side of the screen that remains stationary while the material on the rest of the page - the right side of the screen - can be scrolled up and down as we are used to seeing.

Another extra is the link in the menu to a 'print version' which re-formats the page so that the material can be printed out without losing all the space on the left that is needed for the menu.

That link is:: http://mlcug.org/webpages.html

The most important concept - that you'll note immediately - is the emphasis on CONTENT.

Pete told us that his personal approach to web page design is a minimalist one that helps make it usable by any browser, including the text-based 'Lynx' browser. This is how he got started with our home page, when many MLCUG members were still using their Commodore computers and the Lynx browser was the best they could use.

However, minimalist has to be balanced by other considerations. As you'll see when you look at the page itself, there is a need to have a page contain elements that will, hopefully, keep the viewer from immediately passing it by. And, for getting the user to return in the future. This point engendered some discussion about 'eye candy' and such-like. But, Pete is firmly against eye candy like blinking text, animated graphics that wander around the page and such (he didn't mention sirens, but he's probably a bit chary of those, too ).

In talking about writing style and the importance of content, Pete prefers the classical style of 'tell em what you're going to tell them', then 'tell em' and finally 'tell em what you told them'!

Among other items covered were: validation (the sample page has been validated as noted at the very bottom of the page by W3C), tools to use in writing web pages (simple text editors, fancy WYSIWYG editors, even word processors that offer a 'save as html' option) and FTP programs that allow you to move page content back and forth between your computer and the server that hosts your page(s).

One of the most useful techniques - that Pete indicated very high appreciation for - is called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Before tackling this topic, we took a short break; and marked the end of the main meeting.

ADVANCED TOPIC

When we picked back up again, Pete spent the rest of the session on the CSS subject. He described what it is and a couple of ways that it can be implemented in a web page. One neat way to see this is to take advantage of a couple of mods that Pete made to the page (if you are using Firefox or Mozilla).

Point your Mozilla or Firefox browser to the page, then click the 'View' menu item, click the item that mentions 'Style'. You'll see a little menu with three choices. Click each one to see how the appearance of the page changes.

All-in-all, we had a very informative (as usual) meeting. Remember to keep your eyes, and web browser, tuned to the MLCUG web site for more.

Our thanks to Pete for another job well-done. [Emil Volcheck]

***************************************
MISSED THE MEETING?

Remember that recordings of the meetings (made and worked up for the web by John M) are online for you to download and listen to. Go to our web site (http://mlcug.org/) and scroll a bit down the page to locate the audio files. As of this writing, these audio files go back to last August and are accessible from the web site, as MP3 files. You can listen any time you choose!

***************************************
A TIDBIT!

WORMS ATTACK NEW APPLE SYSTEM

A worm is waiting to slither into the Apple and another is already crawling around, the first computer worms designed to attack Apple's newest operating system, Macintosh OS X.

The worms - computer viruses that self-propagate - are significant because Apple's Macintosh computers have been viewed as more secure than PCs running Microsoft Windows.

The Inqtana virus, discovered Friday, spreads via the Bluetooth wireless capability. But Apple has already fixed the security hole that Inqtana seeks to exploit.

The OSX/Leap-A virus, detected Thursday on a forum popular among Mac users, spreads via instant messaging once a user downloads and installs it. There's no vulnerability that can be fixed to stop Leap-A; users just shouldn't download files from unknown sources, experts said. "Apple always advises Macintosh users to only accept files from Web sites they know and trust," an Apple spokesman said.

The viruses appear to be innocuous, defined as level 1 by Symantec, a company that makes antivirus software, with level 5 the most severe.

Two apparently unrelated Apple viruses in two days could portend more attacks, experts said, "It's sort of a wake-up call for Apple users," said Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer of the Internet Storm Center; an early-warning service for malicious computer attacks.

Apple's move to the Intel chip could further jeopardize Macintosh computers because virus writers have had years of experience writing malicious code exploiting the chip's vulnerabilities, said Dean Turner, senior manager for Symantec Security Response.

Some Macintosh users are in denial that the system is vulnerable, said Graham Cluley, consultant for Sophos, a computer security company with U.S. headquarters in Boston. "Some of them have to take their heads out of the sand a bit." By Richard J. Dalton Jr., Newsday, from: Sunday News Journal, Feb. 19, 2006

***************************************
The 72 dpi "Standard"

For images viewed on a computer monitor, the conventional wisdom has it that an image of higher resolution than 72 dpi will have no visible benefit to the viewer. Well, where did that 72 dpi value come from and is it still correct?

My personal guess is that the 72 dpi originated back in the old Apple II/TRS-80/Commodore days and the monitors available back then.

Let's run some numbers. But, first, let's remember that the human eye when viewing any modern monitor is easily able to discern the scan lines of pixels that make up the actual image. In modern monitors, the 'dot pitch' or spacing of these lines or groups of pixels varies from a low quality end of 0.31 mm to around 0.25 mm in higher-end consumer monitors.

Translated to dpi, common monitor resolutions are as follows:

	Monitor Resolution	DPI
	------------------	---
*		0.35 mm		 72
		0.31		 82
**		0.297 		 86
***		0.28  		 91
		0.27  		 94
		0.25  		100

* this resolution is not atypical of the monitors 
    of 10+ years ago.
** this resolution is very typical of the current 
    line of 15" LCD flat panel monitors.
*** this resolution was/is the common value for 
    consumer grade 15 and 17" CRT monitors.
The higher resolutions are seen in larger flat panel and higher end CRT monitors.

Oh yes, as far as the eye can see, a monitor resolution of around 0.12 mm, or 200 dpi, would likely be needed before the eye might no longer distinguish the pixels. So, for the large part of the last ten years, a better (in my view) of the standard for image viewing would be closer to 95 dpi than 72. [EJV]

***************************************
LANDMARKS IN U.S. VIDEO GAME HISTORY

Sep 1972 A Pong machine is installed at Andy Capp's Tavern in Sunnyvale, Calif. Suddenly, it's everywhere.

Oct 1977 Atari 2600 debuts. Arcade games move to the living room.

1985 Nintendo Entertainment System arrives and makes stars of the Super Mario Bros.

1986 Nintendo is in 1.9 million homes.

1989 The Sega Genesis console debuts. It achieves mass popularity three years later with Sonic the Hedgehog.

1990 Nintendo claims more than 80 percent of the video game market. Polls show that more children know Mario than Mickey Mouse.

Dec 10 1993 Violent first-person shooter game Doom released. It is later cited in lawsuits for allegedly influencing teen gunmen in West Paducah, KY, and Littleton, CO, school massacres. The suits were dismissed. [more next month]

        MLCUG Meetings  2006           Steering Committee Meetings

	March 11 				March 15  
        April 8                                 April 12
        May 13					May 17
  
   * = SECOND Wednesday		** = FOURTH Wednesday