1. Welcome & What's been happening
2. Ask the Doc...
3. Making News Recnetly
4. Software Review
5. Web Sites of Interest
6. Book Review of the Month
1. WELCOME & WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING
The update to our web site is now complete, thank you to those people who provided feedback.
Some interesting news of late is that Telstra are trialling Macro Scheduler for deployment across several thousand desktops in the near future when they roll out their Windows NT upgrade. They'll be using it to automate many of the mundane and repetitive tasks that their users need to perform on a regular basis.
Also of note is that the Western Australian Fisheries department is implementing the TypingMaster touch typing tutor software in all their offices across the entire state. They'll be using both the networked edition and the stand alone workstation editions. They're looking to boost the productivity of their staff in a different manner to Telstra, but boosting it just the same - less time for staff to do the same keyboard oriented tasks. Something I'm sure we'd all appreciate!
There are several minor updates and bug fixes to some of our products currently under way. We'll have a full wrap up of them all next month when the last couple of authors get the updates completed. Look for updated versions of Macro Scheduler, ClipMagic, TypingMaster, Repligator, Space Watch Pro, Voyager and a new windows version of the Boxer Text editor (it is something special!).
As always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions please fell free to drop us a line.
2. ASK THE DOC...
JeremyH asked: "I'd like to be able to display some of my graphics files as a Screen Saver, but can't find anything to do it".
Jeremy actually purchased WallMaster Pro which can be used in a similar way, but, without the need of a screen saver (it can display your files without the system needing to be idle). It also has many other more powerful built in capabilities such as image editing and effects. However, if all you are after is a screen saver that can display your files then have a look at this program from a friend from way back...
WWSaver32 from Don Bradner at Arcatapet Pet Software (he runs a Pet Shop too!) offers a unique way to arrange sets of images as a custom screen saver. WWSaver32 is a Windows 95 or NT screen saver. Images used by the screen saver may be in .JPG, .GIF, or .PNG formats, as well as .BMP. ICO, .TGA, .PCX and .TIF. Display options include the ability to position each image on the screen or to have the image enlarge or contract to fill the screen or a space you define. You can associate .WAV files with individual images, with the sound playing at each image change. Multiple lists of images in any directory may be maintained and selected.
More details here:
Each Edition we select one of the requests to research and report back to everyone what we recommend. So save yourself some legwork (fingerwork?) and solve some computing ills at the same time - Ask the Doc soon.
3. MAKING NEWS RECENTLY
Macro Scheduler - Telstra trial
TypingMaster - Fisheries Western Australia, Christchurch Polytechnic (a large University in New Zealand)
Voyager - PC@thority (Jan)
If you see a write-up of one of our products somewhere, please send us a quick email to say what it was and where you saw it.
4. SOFTWARE REVIEW
Net Vampire - File Downloader
Net Vampire is a universal download manager you can use to find, schedule and download files from FTP and Web servers. Just drag the link from your browser to a small floating window, and the program will get the file for you.
Net Vampire can also find alternate locations of the file (if named exactly the same on other sites) on the Internet, test the sites for accessibility and speed, establish a dial-up connection when scheduled and start downloading. You don't have to worry about busy servers and connection failures - the program will keep trying to connect to the server until a connection can be established and resume download from the point it reached previously. It can handle multiple files at the same time, and it does it all FAST too!
[ Editor's note: for a more visual FTP downloading program you may also like to check out our Magellan]
In this day and age of HUGE multiple MB files this is a real boon to those of us that download lots of files and often find links that continue to drop out or are so heavily overloaded that they become unreliable. For instance; I was able to download the NT4 SP4 patch file almost as soon as it came out (about 13MB in size!) but it took *17* (yes 17!) attempts. Net vampire took care of it all for me - I just left it running over night and in the morning there was the complete file ready to install. I wonder how many other people just gave up?
On download completion, Net Vampire will notify you with a text message or with a sound, open the received file or launch your virus checker, disconnect the modem or even shut down your system, you have total control over how it behaves once the jobs are completed.
Net Vampire is easy to use. Even though the program has numerous options, you don't need to use or understand most of them for simple downloads. The power to configure is there if you ever need it though.
Best of all it is FREE! Yes, that is right no registration fee required. How can that be you ask? Well, Net Vampire is one of a new breed of application loosely called AdWare. It is supported not by registrations but by displaying a small advertisement at the top of one of the windows. That advert is a clickable link (much like on web pages) to a web site. I would prefer an option to "register" and have this "feature" removed, however, it doesn't affect the performance of the program and is a small price to pay for such a handy program.
All the details are available here:
I give it an 8.
5. WEB SITES OF INTEREST
Shareware Link sites
Looking for some lists of places you can find shareware titles? Try checking these sites out! They feature an always changing list of sites/products maybe something there will catch your eye...
200 Shareware and Freeware Link list - http://www.200sharewarelinks.com/
Top 200 Shareware Links - http://www.win-shareware.com/Links200.html
Computer Acronyms, Emoticons and File Extensions
Ever wanted to know just what the heck "FWIW" means? Or maybe what other "Emoticons" you can type such as |:-0 (look at it sideways with your head titled to the left). There is also a growing list of file extensions and what applications they belong to. Maybe you've seen an .ODF file on your system at some stage and wondered where in the heck it came from? Well, here is a good place to start looking.
Information on the upcoming Intel Pentium III chip
The Intel® Pentium® III processor, available at 500 and 450MHz, as well as a 550MHz model due out by June, is Intel's latest processor for desktop PCs. Although they don't seem to be as fast in percentage terms as their clock speed might otherwise indicate from what I've been able to find out so far.
INTEL building a 550-MHZ PENTIUM III
The Speed of light is... 60KMH?
BOSTON -- A moonbeam zips to Earth in little more than a second. However, scientists have managed to slow the speed of light to a leisurely 60kmh, a pace that would get a motorist pulled over for driving too slow!
(Note: you'll have to "log in" to the New York Times site to read the complete article. No problem there, it is free - you just need to answer a few survey questions first. Lots of other interesting info to be found there as well)..
6. BOOK REVIEW
Why does software cost so much?
(And other puzzles of the information age)
Dorset House Publishing
$US29.95 from www.amazon.com
This book is not so much about explaining why a copy of Microsoft Office might cost ~$800, but, more about what happens in the process of creating a software product. It shows why there are all manner of blow outs during the production process that escalate the end costs and delay delivery. There is more to this "story" (as it is told in almost novel fashion as a group of essays) than just seeing why this happens. The author leads us through a hypothetical situation in which the characters in the story have impossible tasks and ridiculous obstacles in their way and yet in the end some of them triumph.
To get to that end point, though, there are many trials and tribulations that the "manager" (the story is told through his eyes) and his underlings must endure. Be it the grossly out of touch slave driver of a minister responsible for the overseeing of the budget for the projects. He at one point was demanding the manager "force" the staff to work every day of the week and as many hours a day as they could stay awake for. Not wanting to upset (any further) either the minister nor his staff, he had the official time keeper fake the records so that it looked like the staff we're really working long hours. At the same time he brought in a policy of forcing staff to NOT work any overtime at all, at least in the early to mid part of the projects.
Some of the suggestions and ideas that are tried throughout the story go against what is considered "the way you do these things" and I'm not sure that you would actually try all of them in real life either ;-) However, they do make you stop and think about just blindly accepting that you should do something in a certain manner just because that is way it is always done. That, I think, was one of the real key message in this book for me. Also as was pointed out a few times - when you have a tight deadline to meet, the only way to meet it is to REMOVE some things on the critical path and NOT add more. No more staff, no more time spent worrying or trying to work (overtime had a negative effect in this instance!). The solution was to find things that didn't need to be there, strip them away, and provide the staff what they needed when they needed it - and get any idiotic managers (as opposed to those that understand the management process) out of the way. That point is best displayed with this quote from essay 5:
"Management is set of catalytic activities that enable people to work productively and happily. Like a catalyst in chemistry, the manager's contribution is not itself transformed into product, but it is entirely necessary for the transformation of others' efforts into product"
If your "manager" (or even if you are a manager yourself) is not doing that, is not making *your* job easier to do, then they are NOT managing!
At just over 200 pages it is a an easy read and can be read in one sitting, if you get as engrossed as I often do when reading a book that is.
I give it a 9 - Yes, I did like it :-)
Long ago, when sailing ships ruled the waves, a captain and his crew were in danger of being boarded by a pirate ship. As the crew became frantic, the captain bellowed to his First Mate, "Bring me my red shirt!"
The First Mate quickly retrieved the captain's red shirt, which the captain put on and led the crew to battle the pirate boarding party. Although some casualties occurred among the crew, the pirates were repelled.
Later that day, the lookout screamed that there were two pirate vessels sending boarding parties. The crew cowered in fear, but the captain, calm as ever bellowed, "Bring me my red shirt!"
And once again the battle was on. The Captain and his crew repelled both boarding parties, however this time more casualties occurred. Weary from the battles, the men sat around on deck that night recounting the day's occurrences when an ensign looked to the Captain and asked, "Sir, why did you call for your red shirt before the battle?"
The Captain, giving the ensign a look that only a captain can give, exhorted, "If I am wounded in battle, the red shirt does not show the wound and thus, you men will continue to fight unafraid...
The men sat in silence marveling at the courage of such a man. As dawn came the next morning, the lookout screamed that there were pirate ships, 10 of them, all with boarding parties on their way. The men became silent and looked to the Captain, their leader, for his usual command. The Captain, calm as ever, bellowed, "Bring me my brown pants!"
Once upon a time, there lived a man who had a terrible passion for baked beans. He loved them, but they always had an embarrassing and somewhat lively reaction on him. One day he met a girl and fell in love. When it was apparent that they would marry, he thought to himself, She'll never go through with the marriage with me carrying on like this, so he made the supreme sacrifice and gave up beans. Shortly after that they were married.
A few months later, on the way home from work, his car broke down and since they lived in the country, he called his wife and told her that he would be late because he had to walk. On his way home, he passed a small cafe and the wonderful aroma of baked beans overwhelmed him.
Since he still had several miles to walk he figured he could walk off any ill affects before he got home. So he went in and ordered, and before leaving had three extra large helpings of baked beans. All the way home he putt-putted. He putt-putted down one hill and putt-putted up the next. By the time he arrive home he felt reasonably safe.
His wife met him at the door and seemed somewhat excited. She exclaimed, Darling, I have the most wonderful surprise for you for dinner tonight!. She put a blindfold on him, and led him to his chair at the head of the table and made him promise not to peak. At this point he was beginning to feel another one coming on. Just as his wife was about to remove the blindfold, the telephone rang. She again made him promise not to peek until she returned, and she went to answer the telephone.
While she was gone, he seized the opportunity. He shifted his weight to one leg and let go. It was not only loud, but ripe as a rotten egg. He had a hard time breathing, so he felt for his napkin and fanned the air about him. He had just started to feel better, when another urge came on. He raised his leg and rriiipppp!. It sounded like a diesel engine revving, and smelled worse. To keep from gagging, he tried fanning his arms a while, hoping the smell would dissipate. Things had just about returned to normal when he felt another urge coming. He shifted his weight to his other leg and let go. This was a real blue ribbon winner; the windows shook, the dishes on the table rattled and a minute later the flowers on the table were dead. While keeping an ear tuned in on the conversation in the hallway, and keeping his promise of staying blindfolded, he carried on like this for the next ten minutes, farting and then fanning each time with his napkin.
When he heard the phone farewells (indicating the end of his loneliness and freedom) he neatly laid his napkin on his lap and folded his hands on top of it. Smiling contentedly, he was the picture of innocence when his wife walked in.
Apologizing for taking so long, she asked if he had peeked at the dinner table. After assuring her he had not peeked, she removed the blindfold and yelled, Surprise!
To his shock and horror, there were twelve dinner guests seated around the table for his surprise birthday party."