Computer magazines go online.
Practicing professionals in any field know it is absolutely essential to keep up with the latest advances by reading professional journals. Despite all the predictions that Computer technology would lead to the demise of the printed word, print media continues to flourish.
But computer technology, or more specifically telecommunications, can be used to complement printed materials. Several publishers of computer-specific titles are now enhancing their printed offerings with online resources.
Online access to periodicals usually means bibliographic searching, and, in some cases, full-text retrieval. This is valuable, of course, but the online counterparts described here offer some additional features that make keeping up with the latest journals less passive and more interactive.
In the early days of microcomputing, when software selection was more limited, computer magazines often published type-in program listings. Those of us who were determined enough often spent hours keying in such listings and then more hours proofreading before we could get them up and running. Public domain and shareware programs have come a long way since then and are now available on disk through user groups and mail order companies.
Despite this, several computer magazines still publish type-in listings of useful programs, including batch files, utilities, and macros. BYTE magazine publishes such listings and has been making them available online for downloading for quite some time through its BIX and BYTEnet online services. BDC is a subscription service, while BYTEnet is free except for the cost of the phone call.
Recently BYTE announced a new service, Demolink, that offers both BYTE program listings and demonstration versions of new commercial software.
BYTEnet is available only through a phone call to Lexington, Massachusetts, but Demolink is available at $2 per hour during off peak hours (5 P.M. - 8 A.M. week nights, all day Saturday and Sunday) through local numbers in several cities (see Figure 1). Phone BIX at 800- 227-2983 for more information.
The telecommunications settings are the standard BBS settings of eight data bits, one stop bit, and no parity. Either 1200 or 2400 baud is available. Simply enter "DEMOLINK" at the first prompt and follow the simple directions to select and download either BYTE listings or demo software.
All downloads use the XMODEM CRC protocol, so as long as your telecommunications software supports this protocol, and nearly all of them do, you should have no problems.
When I logged on to the service in early April, I found demos for Lotus Magellan, Borland's Quattro Pro, and the BIX online service. Also, as promised, there were program listings from the printed magazine.
ZiffNet on CompuServe PC Magazine and PC Week from Ziff Communications have been available through the CompuServe Information Service for some time as PCMagNet. PC/Computing has been added as PC/ Contact, and the entire area is now referred to as ZiffNet.
The main menu for ZiffNet lets you preview what's been added to the service in the past week, read the latest news from PC Week, access the forums of PCMagNet and PC/Contact, search for and download utilities or other software from the ZiffNet Library, and research possible purchases through Ziff Communications' Computer Library or the PC Magazine Product Review Index.
The various forums in ZiffNet are particularly interesting since they offer readers the chance to participate in discussions with the editors and writers of these magazines. If you think a columnist has raised an important issue, or missed the point entirely, you can go online, voice your opinion and most likely receive a response. No more waiting several months to see if your letter to the editor appears in print. Continuing discussions are referred to as "threads" and especially interesting theads will be noted under the What's New option of the main menu.
Executives from the PC industry sometimes join these discussions. Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computers, was part of a discussion on Dell laptops when I was last on the service.
The PC Magazine forums include the Utilities/Tips Forum, Editorial Forum, Programming Forum, and After Hours Forum. PC Week sponsors the Corporate Buyers Forum while PCI Computing's forum is PC/Contact. Each forum has its own message area and software libraries. Utility programs published in the magazines as well as numerous shareware programs can be found in these libraries .
Computer Library is actually two products and is not just PC-specific. The Computer Database Plus section of Computer Library indexes over 150 publications while the Computer Directory is a product database.
Macintosh Magazines Online Readers of Macintosh-specific magazines shouldn't think the online world is ignoring them. Ziff Communications, provider of Ziffnet, also sponsors Zmac through CompuServe for readers of MacWEEK and MacUser.
On Zmac you can read the latest news from MacWEEK, download utility and other software developed by MacUser, participate in forums devoted to both publications, and search reference databases for product information and technical support.
There are two forums for discussion, the MacUser and MacWEEK forums, where you can debate Macintosh issues with the editors, writers, and readers of these magazines. There is also a Download & Support Forum, where you will find shareware programs and helpful software developed by MacUser including utilities, templates, stacks, and more.
The message area of this forum is the place to post questions if you need technical expertise. I recently had some problems when I was trying to install System 6.0.5 on my SE/30 at work. I posted a plea for help and within a day had the explanation I needed.
There are four reference databases available through Zmac. The Buyer's Guide lists the various products reported on by both magazines and includes company contact information The Tech Support Database is an index to the tips and hints that have appeared in the help columns.
The last reference database is the MacUser/MacWEEK Index, which can he searched for any article that has appeared in either since 1987. This can be quite useful when you are looking for that article you know you read, but can't quite remember where or when.
MacWorld on America Online MacWorld magazine offers its online counterpart on America Online. This consumer-related service from Quantum has a graphical interface so you must use proprietary software to access the service.
Figure 2 shows the MacWorld opening screen. Selections are made by clicking the icons on the screen. As you can see, the current issue is featured prominently, but it is also possible to browse or search past issues by clicking on the appropriate arrow in the upper right-hand comer of the screen
The icons at the bottom of the screen are used to read announcements for new products not yet reviewed by MacWorld, display a list of the latest versions of popular software, and obtain contact information for hardware and software vendors.
The In Touch with MacWorld icon takes you to the bulletin board section, where you can post your comments and questions. The Resource Center contains a Est of software best sellers, information on how to contact MacWorld, and the software library. The graphical interface makes the service easy to use, even for novices.
Enhancement, Not Replacement
While there have been many predictions that computers will mean the end of the printed word, its demise does not seem imminent. I think we will be eagerly awaiting the next issue of our favorite magazines for some time to come.
Telecommunications is being used to bring an immediacy and interaction that our printed materials have been lacking. Now we can get sneak previews of the latest news or ask questions and debate issues in real time. The online extensions of computer-related publications enhance their usefulness to us.
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|Publication:||Computers in Libraries|
|Date:||Jun 1, 1991|
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