Newsletter Comments from SCScompA
Newsletter Date: May 1, 2000
I have been on the road for much of April, taking an annual golf-oriented vacation in Scotland.
This month's newsletter is highly influenced with matters that came up during that trip, but is still related to our home computer systems: Laptop and PC.
Contact me regarding any matter in this newsletter that causes you concern or you want to otherwise discuss.
eMail to: SCScompA@aol.com
Laptop Use While on the Road in UK/Scotland
I use the laptop daily during our vacations. I use it for the following purposes:
- Write a "log" of my travels.
I use Microsoft Word for this purpose.
I enjoy summarizing what has occurred each day that I feel, eventually, I would like to remember. Sometimes if I don't write a log/summary of a day's activities, when I try to think back on the trip, I can't remember some matters that, as time goes by, will give me a smile.
The log/summary has immediate value, for discussing with family/friends what has happened during the vacation -- and, the log/summary is of value years later when we reflect back on what happened in earlier vacations.
- Monitor eMail for personal and business reasons.
I use America Online on the laptop, as I do on the home PC. America Online has good connectivity in UK/Scotland and the surcharge of about $3.50 per hour per month is reasonable.
Due to line connection costs in UK/Scotland (as compared with local call costs while we are home in the USA) we tend to:
- Write eMail messages ahead of time ("offline") and send the messages with the "Send Later" function offered by America Online.
- Read eMail messages into the laptop without responding directly to the eMail if a response is required except if the eMail is a critical matter. Offline, then, we re-read the eMail in detail and reply with the "Send Later" option.
- Limiting any web browsing to only critical matters.
Using the Web while keeping the above items in mind makes it very easy/affordable/fun/valuable to use the laptop online during a vacation.
- Digital picture review/documentation.
Daily, during our vacations, we make good use of our digital camera (an Olympus) that has support for reading the digital pictures into the laptop using a floppy-disk adapter.
Having quick access (daily, in our case) to pictures is not only fun -- but, also, practical. I know very soon if I have "missed" a particular item I wanted to document and what the quality of the pictures I take is.
I use the Camedia slide-show support to take a quick review of the pictures I copy off the camera onto the laptop.
I also build a simple htm file to display/comment-on the pictures.
Well, sometimes during the vacation the weather is such that a "day-in" is appropriate and I play some games on the laptop.
Games I used most during this recent trip were Freecell, Hearts, and Cribbage. (Hearts and Cribbage from the Hoyle Classic Card Games CD).
If you have any questions or want a SCScompA lab exercise showing use of the laptop on any of the above matters, let me know (SCScompA@aol.com).
Digital Camera Examples: Pictures of Orchids
In addition to using the digital camera for vacation picture-taking in April, we had occasion to celebrate the "blooming" of some of our home's orchid flowers.
If you view the following htm file, you will see some examples. The first picture shown is an example of taking multiple pictures and putting them together into one displayable image (JPG in this case). Later on in this newsletter we discuss a different example of putting multiple pictures together as a "panorama".
To view the orchid pictures taken this month, click on:
Comments Regarding America Online Use in April, 2000
During the trip, as I mentioned in an earlier entry in this newsletter, I used the laptop for Internet phone line connection during April, 2000, in UK and Scotland. This works fine -- as long as you have access to a phone line and a UK phone-line connector (which I have from previous trips). However, there times when the phone line was not available -- but, I wanted to have access to eMail and the Internet. The answer, during a good portion of the trip, was a Web cafe. The Web cafe we found was 100 yards away from where we were staying in North Berwick, Scotland. Very convenient!
If you are in North Berwick and have need of getting on the Internet, the Web cafe at "Lothian Computer Systems & Internet Cafe", 6 Church Road, North Berwick, worked fine for us.
We would write our notes on the laptop in our hotel room, move the notes to a floppy disk, and use the floppy disk for cut/paste to the eMail note once we logged onto America Online from the Web cafe machine. Likewise, when we read eMail while on the Web cafe machine, we cut/paste the note to the floppy disk for later review when we returned to the hotel room and to our laptop.
The America Online support from the Web cafe Internet connection worked fine. Since we don't usually use such access to America Online I had not pre-configured certain matters (such as address books or stock portfolio information). Next time, I will pre-configure the Internet connection for my user on America Online's Web page prior to leaving home for an extended period in case once again we have access to a Web cafe and not direct phone line access.
The America Online Beta (early testing version) of support for Windows 2000 has performed well. VERY well. I am very pleased with what I have seen and used so far and look forward to continued use of America Online on Windows 2000. The version I am using works well on the laptop as well as on the PC while running on Windows 2000.
The same version is supported on Windows NT and Windows 98.
I do not know when the Beta version will be officially released; but, in my testing I can only assume it will not be long from now - it performs very well for my purposes.
One thing I was "unhappy" with:
- Whenever you use beta (early support) code, a user recognizes that it is early code and can/probably-will have problems. I understand that.
However, I asked AOL ahead of time if the Beta version would work in UK. I never had a response from them (this was what caused me to be unhappy).
The Beta version did not work with the UK/Scotland servers and it caused me some inconvenience that would have been less if AOL had responded to my query.
I mention this not for purpose of overly criticizing AOL. I mention it, only, out of frustration and as an example of why a user has to be careful when using Beta code.
I am still pleased with AOL and their Beta program. I, only, wish that their support people had responded to my query.
I know that we have discussed "backup" in earlier newsletters and lab exercises. However, this important topic comes even more into the "PC world" when travelling.
Especially when a digital camera is involved.
During the 4 weeks we were on the road in UK/Scotland, we took many pictures on the digital camera. The procedure I used for backing them up was:
Let me know if you need assistance in any of the above steps.
- Take the day or day's pictures on the digital camera. Sometimes, review a picture or a few of the pictures during the day on the small 1+-inch display on the camera.
- When convenient (normally, back at the hotel in the evening), remove from the digital camera the chip which holds the pictures. Place the chip into the Flashcard floppy disk adapter. (I use this approach rather than downloading directly from the camera to the laptop or PC).
- Using the laptop or PC's support for the Flashcard floppy disk adapter, copy the files to a specific directory on the laptop/PC named such that you can later easily find the day's pictures. Good naming conventions can save you trouble later on! For example, use a folder name containing the day's date and places you visited that day. For example: "Apr 21 2000 North Berwick West Golf Course".
- Take a quick review of the pictures on the laptop, using CAMEDIA software slideshow-style support. This is easy to do if you have kept the day's pictures in a folder with a name you can easily find. The slideshow support of CAMEDIA gives a quick overview of what pictures you have taken.
- Copy, using WinZip (for example) the laptop/PC's folder which contains the pictures to normal 3 1/2-inch floppies you have brought with you in your luggage -- or, which you purchase during your trip. In my case, I ended up purchasing two boxes (20 floppies) to hold the over 400 photos we took during the trip and the 25-meg disk space used by the pictures.
We have a lot of pictures to condense, when we return home, into a "presentation" to share with friends/family members. We select a few of the pictures for printing on our PC's color printer.
Development costs for the 400+ photos? Zero.
Time spent reviewing/putting the pictures together into a "meaningful" presentation? Who knows.... But, it is fun to do! To put together the presentations, I use PaintShop Pro (changing picture size, cropping pictures, adjusting color brightness, putting multiple pictures into one display image, etc.) and point to the pictures using a simple htm file.
- Once the pictures are on the laptop/PC and have been reviewed and backup on external floppies, erase the pictures from the camera's chip.
Repeat the procedure the next day or days!
- After you return to your home, move the pictures from the laptop directory (or from the external floppies) to your main PC for putting together the final presentation and printing selecting pictures.
We move data from the laptop to the PC (and visa versa) using an in-home Ethernet network.
- Optionally: Select a few of the digital images for placement onto an external floppy and give that floppy to your local photography studio for making professional pictures and negatives.
Comment Regarding Sending a Word Document Over the Internet
While on the road in April, I sent a Microsoft Word document a number of times across the Internet (attached to an America Online eMail).
One of the ids on the distribution list was a corporate id. What I mean by that is: The eMail and the attached Word document passed across a "public" network (America Online and the Internet) to an id on a private corporate network.
OK. If the private corporate network allows this: Fine. The corporate network has a "gateway" from its private network to the public Internet. Again: OK.
However, most (dare I say: All?) corporate networks would "take a look at" what files are being sent from the public network to it. Also, perhaps, the contents of the eMail message. Again: OK. Similar to the fact that a private enterprise would have the right to investigate what comes through the corporate snail-mail (regular, land) procedures. We could discuss employee rights for many days -- but, I am of the view that an employer has a right/requirement to do such investigations of eMail and attached files. In any case:
- As my Word document passed through the corporate network investigation step (generally known as "crossing a Firewall"), the Word document triggered a Virus entry to the investigator.
The investigator followed up on this by contacting the person I sent the eMail and attached Word document. Good! Eventually, the investigator contacted me (who sent the eMail and attached document). Good!
Apparently, Microsoft Word, when I started the document I sent, asks if the Word document is going to include any "macros". Although my documents do NOT contain macros -- the Word document triggers a firewall possible-Virus indicator, since the firewall does not know if there are macros "inside" the Word document and cannot easily investigate the macro if it is there.
This is all goodness, from my point of view. The private network and its investigator/firewall did its job and I only point out that such a thing may happen if you send a Microsoft Word document across the Internet to a private network.
I assured the investigator that my Word document did not contain any macros/viruses as far as I knew -- but, I removed the Word document as an attached item to the private network.
Examples of Using Digital Camera Pictures: Placing Multiple Pictures Into One Image
Sometimes, as when we were on the April trip and we took over 400 pictures, we want to view multiple pictures at one time. One way to do this was shown in the earlier "Orchids" portion of this newsletter. There, we simply took five separate picture images and placed them into one image that could be viewed or distributed to family/friends as one "file" (image). In the orchid example, we showed the five images as distinct parts of the single (combined image) picture.
Another reason for us to place separate images together is to view a panorama-style picture.
To create the separate picture images, we "click" a particular spot on the horizon (for example), move the camera slightly in one direction and take another picture, move again in the same direction and take the next picture, and so on. Not a professional approach -- but, it works and is fun to do and, later, to see the results.
Once the pictures are taken and moved to the PC (either as scanned images or digital camera images as in this month's case) we can use PaintShop Pro or some similar software to help us place the individual pictures into one "panorama" landscape picture.
Then, we can display the pictures either using software such as CAMEDIA or build an htm file that calls the picture images.
To see an example of six pictures taken from our recent Scotland trip and put together in panoramic view, click on:
Let me know if you can identify the place in Scotland where these pictures were taken!
Freecell Game/Deal of the Month
We continue, in our household, doing Freecell deals from 1-to-32000! We will NOT accomplish this task. We know that. However, as we go along in our for-fun-effort, yet frustration... I will mention once in awhile specific Freecell deals we find challenging.
Note: If you are running your PC on Windows 98, it is possible you have to specifically install Freecell. Just install Accessories/Games.
Let me know if this Freecell game and the number of times we had to restart to solve the deal is about what you find. If you are going to attack deals 1-to-32000 and want to interact with us in that regard, let me know what thousand-or-so you are going to start with. For now, we are attacking 1-to-1000 and I would recommend you start with 1001! We are up to deals around 600. At the rate we are going (a little more than 100 deals a month) it will only take us 24 more years to complete the 32000 deals without your help. If you let us know what you have completed, it will take us less time!
Let me know how YOU do!
If you want to see our list of Freecell Deals 1-thru-what we are working on now and our comments on how many times we had to restart the deal to find a solution, let me know -- or click on:
SCScompA Freecell Table of Completed Deals
To contact me about anything on this Web page, please:
send mail to: SCScompA@aol.com
Or send snail-mail to:
P.O. Box 58223
Raleigh NC 27658
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