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Published 29-Mar-2001
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All this week's Wiz!

  The Old Days  

"If the airline industry had progressed as quickly as the computer industry, then the 747 would have been flying in 1917". Now this statement wasn't made a couple of years ago - no, it was being made in the late 1970's. So when you look back at what computers were like and what they were doing, you don't have to go back that many years. In fact, unlike other technologies, there are people still living who saw and used computers at a time when the technology was in its infancy.

One aspect of our lives today is that we all can personally get access to computers - they're no longer hidden within the bowels of some organisation's basement. So have a bit of fun and take away a sense of wonderment when you visit the sites for this week. Just remember when you're looking at photos of the old machines that they stand about 1.8m (6 feet) high but you'll see the progression to smaller and more powerful systems during the 1980's.

The YAPP site in particular has some good hardware details about Digital Equipment's minicomputer range. The 11/70 model was the most powerful for many years and the 11/34 model was extremely popular, being sold worldwide in the thousands.

The term "minicomputer" was applied to machines such as these because they didn't cost millions of dollars nor require the huge resources of power, space and cooling (often water-cooling) of the current mainframes. Thus for the first time, small businesses could set up and run a machine such as an PDP11/34, costing just tens of thousands.

More importantly, the DEC range of time-sharing minis brought a far more significant change to the way computing was carried out: for the first time, for a whole range of computer users, computing became interactive. That is, users themselves ran programs from their terminals, did their word-processing, printed their own documents, entered data into the accounting package, produced reports, even wrote their own programs, ran them and edited them. This was a huge change from the working methods on mainframes such as IBM's where there was no real-time interaction - jobs were given to the computer as a series of commands and users' jobs waited in a queue until they were completed. If the job was unsuccessful, it was was submitted again to the queue and the user waited for its completion.

webWiz has a special affinity for the PDP11/34 so pardon the bias in this week's sites. However, the history of the PDP-11 and the Digital Equipment Corporation makes interesting reading in the context of the history of computing over the past forty years or so.

  Mail on the Run  

webWiz should take more notice of entries he puts into the webDirectory! Main2Web is one such site because here you can access your email from any browser when you're away from home or office. All you need do is enter your email address and your password. Then you'll have access to new posts which you can read and/or delete. As well, you can send new messages while online.

By the way, Mail2Web is a handy solution to those occasions when somebody has posted you with a very large attachement that you're not interested in and will take ages to download to your normal mail client. Just login to Mail2Web and delete the offending post from there.

  IE Service Pack  

Service packs are available for both IE version 5.01 (SP2) and version 5.5 (SP1). These packs either update your current copy of IE or will do a full install. After installation, you'll have the latest performance and security enhancements and bug fixes. Users of version 5.01 will also have the latest version (V5.5) of Outlook Express installed. A useful feature of this version of OE is that you can integrate your Hotmail account to provide more convenient access.

Just note that IE 5.01 service pack 2 is only available as a download from the Windows update site; you'll need a couple of hours online to get it all but it's worth the time and effort.

  Windows Registry  

Let's be a bit technical for a moment and hopefully save you some heartache. Windows keeps all its settings in a registry file. Software you install also keep their settings there. In normal operation, Windows 95 can fall over itself from time to time with registry errors - you may be told when you're starting your machine or while it's running. Because your machine may not function properly as a result, the only option was to re-install Windows. No more, there is a solution!

The main problem with the registry in Windows 95 occurs when there are large chunks of data, and because of a bug in the registry editor program, there is no way forward. However, some enterprising programmers patched a later version of the registry program so it could run under Windows 95 and clean out the troublesome areas.

So take a look at the sites for this week and especially download the SmallReg4 documentation and the patched registry editor program. As well, read the Microsoft support article on registry errors.

Windows 98/Me users are better off because you've got a registry checker application as part of System Tools. It's certainly worthwhile though to read up on what it can do.

Please note that these recovery techniques apply to "normal operation" and you're on your own if you're editing the registry directly to apply tweaks you've come across. If you want to make changes to Windows, it's better to use a utility such as TweakUI (make sure your copy is compatible with your version of Windows).

Note that webWiz will one day get around to writing up the steps to follow to re-install Windows 95 without you having to format your hard drive (which seems to be a common way for many to use but it's not necessary most of the time). In the meantime, if you want to re-install Win95 without formatting (and so losing all your data), mail me at webmaster@webdotwiz.zzn.com.

  Would You Believe  

Here are a couple of news stories that have come across webWiz's desktop lately. There's the report about disposable mobile phones being available soon, the success of small, family shops in cyberspace in contrast to the large etailers, and more details being released about Microsoft's Xbox console.

These stories and more are readily available if, for example, you've got a Hotmail account where you can subscribe and unsubscribe to as many newsletters as you want. It's just a handy way to keep an eye out for interesting news items and developments in your interest areas.

  webSnippets  

Looking for reading and reference materials? Try the Public's Library at www.ibiblio.org which describes itself as "The Collection of Collections". It's advisable to use the index into areas such as literature, art, politics, science and cultural studies.

To finish being technical with Windows for the while, webWiz would suggest that Windows 95 users take advantage of a couple of updates that have been available for some time: Winsock 2 and dialup networking. Installation of both these updates will give you better security and performance over the original versions installed; they're not such big downloads either from the Windows 95 download site.

Last, but not least, visit the Easter Eggs site at www.eeggs.com. This site is not referring to traditional Easter eggs but those inserted into music, videos and computer programs by their authors to play a little joke on us or give us a game to while away our Easter break.

 
 
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