Systems librarian and automation review.
The last time the printer repair guy was here, he told us his customers love these old workhorse Teletype machines. They just keep cranking out the characters, year after year, with hardly a complaint. They are not very fast, a mere 300 lines per minute, but they chum out overdue notices as well as the next printer. And you can almost read the type.
Of course, the very presence of the repairman may contradict that reliability claim, but he only comes around once or twice a year, sometimes just to poke around. After all, printers have more moving parts than the rest of the computer system put together, so it's not surprising they need periodic adjustment.
The Right Choice
This time we'd called in AT&T, the company that services the printer, because of a faulty print band. One of our operators had changed a ribbon, and it didn't get back on quite the right way. To get a ribbon back on requires more twists and turns than a politician's promise, and one of the jigs was supposed to be a jag.
The problem allowed a couple of the type elements on the print band to slip out. This caused a chain reaction to the point where we were missing quite a few characters. We'd nearly figured out the character sequence on the band when we realized some of the characters were not just out of the carriage, but missing altogether. So why get mired in black ink? Call AT&T, Re Right Choice." Let them get dirty.
We're supposed to change the ribbon e a week, but when it's my weekend, I just skip it and "let" Sue, the computer room supervisor do it. I tell her I always wear my best suit on Sundays and I don't want to get my white shirt messy. So far she's let me off the hook on this one, not caring to make an issue of it. Rank has its privileges.
AT&T has our printer maintenance contract by virtue of the fact that our vendor wanted to dump printer maintenance several years ago. At that time our vendor subcontracted the printers to the telephone company since AT&T apparently knew more about printers, anyway. (Does this seem as strange to you as it does to me?) Since AT&T has held the subcontract, they have been every bit as faithful and prompt as Bill Mazaresse, the best field engineer who ever lived, who works for our vendor directly.
All was not well in printer maintenance, however, as George (Bill's boss) explained it to us. It seems AT&T wanted to gouge our vendor by doubling the maintenance rates on these old TrY 40 workhorse printers. Therefore, our vendor, in an attempt to prevent passing through this gouge from AT&T to us, refused to renew the maintenance contract to AT&T. Of course, there is also the small matter of our vendor being limited to price increases of 10 percent or the CPI, whichever is less. That meant they would have had to absorb most of the increase.
The net result was that as of 1991, we would no longer have any maintenance contract on OUT printer - unless, of course, we wished to buy a brand new one from our vendor. They would maintain it directly, without going through AT&T, at least for a couple of years, when we would probably repeat this little scenario.
Alas, we had already committed to purchasing three new disk drives in 1991 to replace our aging 300NS DC washing machines.
We are not a rich library district, so committing to such a purchase pretty well wiped out our claim to tax dollars. The Children's Services Department still wants their cut and so does the Outreach Department. The branches need help, and administration wants to hire a personnel manager to take care of people like me. So, no printer for 1991. And it looked like no printer service in 1991, either.
We called AT&T on their toll-free line.
Ut% yeah. We've got this printer on contract through another parry and we want to get a service contract on it for 1991 and pay you directly."
They looked us up in their huge database and scrutinized the library's record for payment. They immediately discovered we have MERLIN, the AT&T phone system, and they figured out we always pay one month late. I talked at length with the lady on the other end of the phone. She asked me to give her some time to "work on this."
"Uh, I suppose this is gonna cost me double what I've been paying through my own vendor, huh?" I said.
"Don't assume that," she said. "AT&T is very competitive." I felt like I was watching an ad on TV.
I hung up and hoped for the best.
Meanwhile I called George to ask him for an extension, if not on the printer, then on the proprietary controller card that connects the printer to Deep Thought.
"Give it to us for another year until we can afford a printer," I said. We're already buying three new disk drives in 91."
George thought about this request and then called me back to report, rather gleefully I thought, that he wouldn't consider it. After all, we had axed terminal maintenance from our contract ages ago, and George had reluctantly allowed us to do it, despite the loss of revenue. Now we were asking him to make an exception and actually cover something, and he made the most of it.
"It's rather interesting to have the shoe on the other foot this time," he said. "No," he added.
There was an underlying current of "Ha ha, I got you." However, we did discuss the fact that it was unlikely the printer controller card would go bad in a year and the fact that we could probably buy a spare card from our vendor or another site.
Printer maintenance had not been extraordinarily high through our vendor. It cost us $69 per month. I had visions of the "new, improved" contract with AT&T costing several hundred dollars per month, an amount I dared not ignore. The budget for 1991 was already in and approved, of course.
George's comment about the shoe being on the other foot ran through my mind continually. Over the last five years I had managed to screw him out of about $50,000 in lost maintenance fees for terminals by doing it all in-house for about half as much. He must have been pretty happy about this.
AT&T called. I wasn't in. Gulping, I called back.
Yeah I suppose you want on-site service for just one printer?" It was a new person this time. They had called in a heavy.
"Uh, yeah. Just one lonely printer." I got my second wind, though. "You know, those AT&T service guys are really good. I really like them."
"Oh, good," said AT&T. "We're always happy when we hear things like that. We'll be sure and tell him. Now, you're located near Seattle, is that right?"
Who knew where I was calling? It could have been Connecticut.
"Yeah, across the water," I admitted
"What water?" he said.
"Uh, Puget Sound."
"Well, is there a bridge or what?"
"Well, no, there is the small matter of a ferry boat to get over here." (It takes an hour, plus waiting time. But, hey! You could always drive an extra 60 miles through Tacoma!) "But you can drive around," I said.
Hmm," said AT&T. "Our maintenance office is in Kirkland."
1% joy! Kirkland is on the other side of Seattle across Lake Washington. We just had a massive flood and windstorm and one of the floating bridges sank. There are only four roads into Seattle, and two of them are bridges. Manhattan has more roads onto that island than Seattle has roads into the city. It's a mess over there. Now there were two bodies of water to cross.
Listen," I said. "Does it count that I always hang up on Sprint when they call wanting our long distance?" I neglected to mention that we use the State Controlled Area Network system for most long distance calls.
No," said AT&T.
"So, how much is this going to cost me?" I trembled.
"Well, it looks like $60.00 per month if you have only one printer."
"$60.00 per month?!"
"Oh is that too much for you?"
"Well I think we can handle it," I said.
We Know Where You Live ! A recent NOVA program described how direct marketing methods pinpoint potential sales by classifying the population of the United States into forty different groups characterized by income level neighborhood, and a host of other factors. The show described how private companies have gathered a massive dossier on each of us. They know more about us than we might ever have imagined. We highly recommend viewing this show, called "We Know Where You Live."
The entire issue is one of targeted marketing. Direct mail is expensive, so why waste your advertising dollars on people who are not likely prospects? Instead, you target your advertising to people who have a proven propensity for your product. For example, if you buy something from Sharper Image or DAK, you have revealed some of your preferences. Because the companies sell their mailing lists, other companies gain potential clients as well.
One of the interesting points of target marketing concerns Prodigy, the joint EBM and Sears venture to bring online services into the home. We've mentioned Prodigy before, and we suggested that it was unworthy of your money. It's supposed to be like CompuServe, another online service, but it is heavily oriented to the beginning computer user in the upscale American family.
Prodigy costs a little over $12 per month for unlimited use. It is theoretically subsidized by advertisers who pay Prodigy, just as they would a TV station, to place their ads before viewers.
The bottom portion of the Prodigy screen presents an ever-changing ad billboard for many different products, from cameras to cars. If you purchase a product through Prodigy, they get a cut from the merchant as well. Prodgy's financing is much like that of a newspaper. You subscribe at a low monthly rate, but the newspaper makes its money through the advertisers.
It turns out this billboard is targeted to you, specifically, based on the areas of Prodigy you have used. If you peruse a photography forum, you will get ads on cameras. Prodigy tracks exactly what you are doing and gradually builds a profile of your use. This profile is then used by the advertisers to sell their products or services.
This is all transparent to the user. It is safe to say most people do not know about this technique. They are unwitting participants in a sophisticated advertising system.
Big Brother Online
There are other aspects of Prodigy that deserve some attention. The system not only tracks users, and what they do, it also governs what they can and cannot say on the network. It will censor bulletin board postings, and there is some evidence, though Prodigy denies it, that user mail is read as well. In fact, the experiences reported by numerous Prodigy users would indicate this system is the closest we have to a totalitarian online system which accepts no criticism, a Saddam Hussein of the online world.
To be fair, we must emphasize that Prodigy denies reading anyone's mail, but they definitely do read bulletin board postings. They consider these to be editorial content, and they brook no criticism of their advertisers or the system itself.
The trouble all started a couple of months ago when Prodigy raised its rates and tacked on a twenty-five cent surcharge for electronic mail above thirty messages in one month. Since users were solicited with the idea that Prodigy was a fixed-fee system, this outraged a number of users who felt the system had gone back on its word.
Prodigy answered the charges by stating that some people were abusing the electronic mail system by issuing thousands of messages per month, something Prodigy had not anticipated. They say only 3 to 5 percent of users send more than thirty messages per month, and these they were attempting to stop, or at least begin to recover costs.
Okay so far. It's a difference of opinion. Prodigy changed the rules, and people were angry. But then what happened?
A couple of users groups formed to take Prodigy to task. They attempted to post messages criticizing Prodigy for its action. These messages were removed. Then the user groups began sending messages to advertisers, all online, of course, protesting Prodigy's actions.
Prodigy decided that some users were "harassing" other users by attempting to organize a protest of the new fees. Their reaction was to terminate the accounts of a dozen users without any sort of due process. When contacted by the ACLU, Prodigy decided they could let this Dirty Dozen back in, but only if they signed letters promising they wouldn't "abuse" the system. In other words, they had to be good little boys and girls or else.
The guidelines Prodigy has formulated include a rule prohibiting users from contacting advertisers except to make a query about an order. They also prohibit users from writing to other users requesting they, in turn, write letters. They prohibit mass mailings to other users as well.
These rules would indicate that Prodigy does read mail, but Prodigy explains their knowledge by saying they only read the message headers, which can give away the fact that you have addressed your letter to more than one user.
Another Prodigy rule states you cannot mention another user in a public message. PC Week recently reported on a user who was refused permission to post a message in a coin-collecting forum asking for a Roosevelt dime. A Prodigy representative explained the "no name" rule. But who was the person named? Roosevelt Dime, according to Prodigy. But "Roosevelt dime" refers to a coin. No, says Prodigy, it could refer to a halfback for the Chicago Bears.
I quit Prodigy right after I dialed in to take a look around. The lowbrow service, slow response time, and weak offerings were enough to make me quit immediately. But Prodigy wrote to me as a canceled subscriber urging me to rejoin. This prompted me to tell them what I thought of their censorship behavior. In their communication to me, Prodigy explained the issue of censorship from their point of view:
[W]e will not allow the boards
to be used for posts recommending
boycotts of our advertisers
or attempts to crash the
service. We reserve the right to
reject any public message that
we wish .... Commercial services
such as Prodigy or CompuServe
are not to be considered open
Whether or not Prodigy believes it, online systems are public forums. Certainly this is true of CompuServe, Genie, and any number of other bulletin boards across the country.
But Prodigy envisions itself as a family-oriented system where we can all pretend Ozzie and Harriet are still alive. As a commercial service, they can legally prohibit members from voicing their opinions. They can actually get away with this behavior. William Zachmann, a columnist for PC Week, a trade weekly, put it this way:
The powers-that-be at Prodigy
sought to portray the protesters as
some sort of malicious lunatic
fringe quite unlike the nice,
normal, patriotic, decent, clean,
conformist, boring, 1950s-style
Middle American Families that
Prodigy fantasizes to be its real users.
That, of course, merely shows
how out of touch with reality the
powers at Prodigy are.
Their fundamental problem is
that they believe Prodigy ought
to be what they intended when
they built it. They fail to understand
that a new medium such as
an online service has a dynamic-even
a life-of its own,
quite independent of the interests
of its creators. ...
"First and foremost, on-line services
are a communications medium.
They are a way for people to
encounter other people electronically.
They create a radically new
social medium that will prove to
be at least as important (and as
revolutionary) as the telephone, radio,
(PC Week, 12/10/90, p.76)
Prodigy may be an online service, but it is quite obvious that its foremost orientation is as a medium of advertising, including targeted marketing techniques mentioned earlier. It doesn't have the breadth of offerings of a Genie or Compuserve. For example, Prodigy has announced a great expansion of its information services by including Grolier's online encyclopedia. To them, Grolier's is "advanced information." Its stifling of free expression means it is lacking in that area as well.
Prodigy is losing money, serious money, right now. It isn't profitable, never has been, and won't be for a long time. Without the financial clout of Sears and IBM, it would be gone already.
With policies like these, it deserves to be. Prodigy is an online service that can be skipped entirely. We all get plenty of junk mail already.
The Keyboard Prayer
A little late for the holidays, maybe, but this passed across my desk not long ago. Our program who art in Memory, Hello be Thy Name.
Thy Operating System come, Thy Commands be done, at the Printer as it is on the screen. Give us this Day our Daily Data, and forgive us our I/O errors, as we forgive those whose logic circuits are faulty. Lead us not into frustration, and deliver us from Power Surges, for Thine is the Algorithm, and the Application, and the Solution, looping forever and ever. Return.
Avoiding Screen Burn
Any of you who have Infotrac stations in your library know what happens to CRT screens when they show the same thing over and over. Before long the screen takes on the image, whether the computCT is turned on or not. The image has become permanently burned in. Needless to say, this detracts from everything else to be displayed on the screen.
The folks at Information Access tried to solve this by varying the image between light on dark and dark on light. Every few minutes the screen reversed itself. This was supposed to vary the image enough so that it didn't become permanent.
It didn't work, and now the stations show the Infotrac introductory screen at all times. Me same is true with our system terminals, which look as if they are permanently locked into CHARGE mode, and our control terminals, with their strange "!KQ" banner permanently emblazoned on the screen.
This problem was once thought to be more prevalent in inexpensive computers. Radio Shack Trash-80 computers were well known for showing their Tandy logo long after the customer brought a floor model home.
Ironically, the problem is probably more common today in expensive monitors than in the inexpensive varieties. This is because the phosphors that do the dirty work of lighting up the screen are stronger" in that they have a more persistent "bite" on the CRT screen itself. The resolution of these screens is getting very, very good, and the high-impact phosphors are one of the reasons why.
These screens can be very expensive. Unlike a $69 Hercules-compatible monochrome monitor, a high-resolution desktop publishing monitor can cost more than $2,000. It's an investment worth protecting.
The InfoTrac solution of varying the intensity of a monitor will not work over the long term. What does work is a ".screen blanker."
One of our readers wrote in recently to ask if I knew of any good screen blankers. (Unfortunately, I've misplaced the letter, so, with my apologies, he must remain anonymous.) Further, he wanted a screen blanker that was not memory resident.
As far as I know, there is no such animal. Screen blankers must be memory resident because of the way they work. The good news is that there are quite a few of them available. Even better news, screen blankers are now on the give-away disk list. You, too, can have half a dozen screen blankers free of charge just by sending in a disk. See the Free Disk Offer for details.
Screen blankers are small programs that sit in memory and wait for you to do nothing. When there is no keyboard activity for a specified length of time, the blanker takes over and turns off the screen. The press of a key will bring the screen back to life, as if nothing had ever happened.
Screen blankers work by counting time between keyboard uses so you can see why they must be memory resident. If they're not counting, they won't know whether to blank the screen or not.
The average screen blanker takes only a small amount of memory, so you can afford to use one without fear of running out of memory. Those detailed below take from 223 to 3,824 bytes. As you might expect, the more bytes, the longer the features list of the program.
Screen blanking also may come as part of a larger package for computer control. Wonder Plus (Bourbaki Systems), for example, includes a screen blanker as part of the overall DOS control package. You can set the time-out range easily from within the program.
If you insist on manual control, turn the monitor off or turn the contrast down. That's simple to do, although it also can be the source of numerous trouble calls. Our first question about a nonworking monitor is always, "Is the contrast turned up?"
What follows are thumbnail sketches of a few of the screen blankers we have collected. They are either public domain or low-cost shareware products.
Published by Ocean Software, 357 Richmond Ave., San Jose, CA 95128. Suggested registration is a whopping $1.50. Used in conjunction with a keyboard locking program, which also must be resident for this system to work. Total memory requirement is 1,728 bytes. The blanker is set for three minutes, or you can invoke blanking by using Alt-K as a hot key.
By Signature Software, P.O. Box 11755, Richmond, VA 23230; 804-287-5053). This one is compatible with all screens, including Hercules, CGA, EGA, and VGA. It has a five-minute default, but this can be changed. The hot key is AltRight/Shift. There is a utility program that allows you to change options. Suggested registration fee is $14.95.
From Cove Software Group, P.O. Box 1072, Columbia, MD 21044; (301) 9929371; CompuServe 76703,2002. This version is 2.31 (April 13, 1989). It is a little different from the others in that it is used as a device driver. You must modify your CONFIG.SYS file with the program BURNDEV.SYS. Once this is done, you can use the BURNOUT program to modify the operation of the system. This is usually done by a string of parameters arranged in the CONFIG.SYS file.
Another interesting trait of the program is its ability to monitor screen activity. If you have a program that uses a "ticker," the screen won't blank, OT it will - you choose. BURNOUT also has the capability of using either a software method or a hardware method to blank the screen. The extensive documentation that comes with the program explains all the details. Basically they are offering two ways to perform the blanking function because of compatibility problems with hardware blanking and some types of video cards.
Ctrl-Left-Shift forces blanking. You also can force blanking under program control. It takes 2,400 bytes of memory. This is the one we're using on our VGA monitor.
No information comes with this one. It takes 223 bytes, the least of any in our group. I can report that it works, but I don't know who did it or how. It was contributed by Fred Brindley of Bucks County Library in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, who also sent us the BROWSE program described below.
Here's another mysterious one. It takes 640 bytes. We have no other infonnation on the program.
VGA Utility 1.17 has a copyright of 1985-89, but we don't know by whom. It is designed for VGA screens, but it does have a CGA emulation. It takes 3,824 bytes and installs itself a little differently than the other programs in this category. When you run VGA, a menu of options appears that allows you to set various characteristics, such as time-out values and emulation. Screen Standards One of these programs is bound to work for whatever screen you have, with the possible exception of weird monitors that use a proprietary protocol. Some out there are truly strange. Our WLN terminals use a Persyst BoB board, for example, which is incompatible with all known protocols. The Persyst board's strong suit is the ability to allow a software character set, such as ALA's, to inhabit special memory chips on the board itself. (New and Improved) Free Disk Offer I have now given away over 1,000 disks! Here's how it works. If you would like a copy of any disk listed below, please send a blank, formatted disk. I now accept ANY type of MS-DOS disk. Include a selfaddressed, stamped return mailer or I keep your disks! The disks are free, but I do not want to do anything other than copy onto a disk, stuff it in the mailer, and throw it in the mail bag. International subscribers: please enclose adequate postal reply coupons for the weight of the disks you want returned.
Warning: I've been giving away disks for a couple of years. Unfortunately, I have detected a pattern. Please, please pay attention to the requirements.
* You can't stuff a disk into a legal
envelope. (One person thought that
was possible, so the disk was cut in
half and sent it back to him.)
* You can't mail disks without
stamps. I have a growing pile of
disks sent without return postage. If
you sent for a disk and it hasn't been
returned, this may by the reason.
And if you write asking why, I shall
gleefully point out this sentence.
* Please format your disks before you
send them. This makes the copy process
* Please use adequate protection for
your disks. Save yourself trouble
and buy disk mailers. I used to nm a
post office cancelling machine in a
former life, and a cancelled disk is
not a pretty sight.
* Offer #1: The Humor disk. Full of little tricks and traps to amaze your friends and stifle your enemies. These public domain programs offer just a little bit of foolishness to make life between back-ups more interesting. This disk is in PKZIP format, an archiving method that crunches many different programs into one large file, smaller than the total of the individual files. If you've never encountered this method of distribution, you can experiment with it here.
Offer #2: The famous Jake Hoffman CD-ROM Batch File Extravaganza (affectionately known as "The Hoffman Hack") is the current best-seller. Jake has figured out how to deal with different CD-ROM programs that want different configuration files. With these example programs you can construct a menu of operations which makes the entire process work on automatic pilot. No more whining about CD-ROM disc conflicts.
It's been fixed and here's the solution, free. It takes one disk. Also included is a demo of the Saywhat!? screen program. Jake is now microcomputer coordinator for the State of Idaho. IBM and Microsoft both wanted this disk. Get yours and join them.
Offer 3: Acquisitions Tracker spreadsheet template for Lotus 1-2-3 (Quattro, etc.), full of macros. This template tracks acquisitions budget categories. It's very easy to use. Also included is the Budget Fixer Upper template for Lotus 1-2-3, which makes a $3 million budget a piece of cake. Considering a cost-of-living raise that's half a percent higher? Just plug it in. The system takes into consideration all percentage calculations (such as FICA and retirement systems) to show you the difference such a decision makes. It calculates step raises in appropriate months and prints a salary grid. It covers both expenditures and revenues with the BARS System (Budget, Accounting and Reporting System, used by many states). There are automatic graphs and a lot of neat stuff. It's been improved recently with more efficient formulas. This one doesn't have macros, so you better know Lotus to use it.
Offer 4: Utilities. This disk is full of public domain utility programs that allow you to explore your system. There are several memory checker utilities, for example, that allow you to examine the full memory map of an MS-DOS computer. Other utilities check performance, manipulate text files, and otherwise make life easier. It now includes BROWSE, my favorite utility.
Offer #5: Procomm, the telecommunications program. This is the last shareware version before it went commercial. A first-rate program - better than pay TV.
Offer #6: PKZIP Version 1. 1. This is the best archive cruncher program around. This is shareware; try it for free. Directions are on the disk.
Offer 7: Blankers. Consists of half a dozen screen-blanking utilities for different types of monitors. Prevent burn-in. Save your screens now before it's too late.
Send your disks to: Michael Schuyler, Systems Librarian, 9160 Fox Cove Lane NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 981 10. Do not send your disks to Meckler Corporation.
Sorry, I cannot accept purchase orders for these disks. They're all free, and I don't want any money changing hands.
Several years ago I used this capability in an attempt to create a Cyrillic character set with Microsoft Word. There is a standard for such things, so I created the entire Russian alphabet with the software provided. "Microsoft Wordski" might have been a hit but unfortunately I ran into an elaborate Word high-ASCH substitution scheme that stymied the project.
There is a small sticker on the back of the Persyst board visible through the PC: Warning, BoB board." The warning is in place because, if you hook a normal monitor to this board, the monitor will be destroyed.
This is not all that unusual. I personally saw a perfectly good IBM monochrome monitor go up in smoke when an engineer attached it to a CGA board manufactured by his company. Smoke came rolling out of the monitor accompanied by a shrill scream. As a person next to me explained it, it was the smoke that made the monitor work, since as soon as the smoke left, the monitor stopped working.
Other proprietary schemes may include desktop publishing monitors or some of the newest VGA schemes of very high resolution. I wouldn't be surprised if none of these screen blankers worked on a high-resolution desktop publishing system.
CGA is the oldest color adapter. It stands for "Color Graphics Adapter" and was the only color standard for IBM machines for quite some time. The Hercules standard came about because the original EBM monochrome adapter could not do graphics. Hercules figured out how to do this, marketed an alternative, and remains the industry standard for monochrome. Today, most monochrome adapters, and especially those sold with cheap clones, are Hercules compatible.
EGA stands for "Enhanced Graphics Adapter." This newer standard was to supplant CGA by offering crisper colors, more of them, and a resolution up to 640 x 400, much better than the typical 200 vertical resolution of the CGA adapters. Of course, using one of these adapters meant you probably could not use your old color monitor, because its resolution was fixed. We have an old Princeton HX-12, for example, which has a fixed maximum resolution of 690 x 240. It would work horizontally, but is incompatible vertically with an EGA monitor.
People began groaning about this problem, so NEC came up with the "Multi-Sync" color monitor. It offered a wide range of compatibility with various adapter cards, both present and future, thus solving the obsolescence problem. "Multi-synchs" have been both copied and improved since they were first introduced. Now NEC makes several models.
Today the "standard" is VGA. The once high-resolution CGA is now relegated to the backward status of "no-res" while EGA is considered "lo-res."
VGA stands for "Video Graphic Array." Though the standard VGA resolution of 640 x 480 is only marginally better than EGA, super-VGA adapters combined with multi-sync technology have boosted resolution up to 1280 x 960. We have a NEC 4D Multi-Sync which can perform at this level along with a new E3M standard, the 8514A, which, of course, is incompatible with everything else.
Even better resolution is on the horizon. If you're willing to spend the dollars, there are monitors on the market which offer resolution very close to camera quality. At some point in the future, resolution on monitors will be measured just like fonts, in dots per inch. For those of us whose eyes tire after a day of staring at various monitors, this will be welcome relief, indeed. BROWSE Suppose you want to view a file, one likely to be composed of text only, like a batch file or something you just downloaded. How do you view it? You type, "TYPE <filename>" and read the screen as it flashes past.
If it's less than twenty or so lines, you get to read the whole thing. If it's more, it will scroll off the screen, so you attempt to stop it with Controls or some other strange combination.
Naturally, you fail and are forced to type the file again. If it's a really long file, you have to play cat-and-mouse with it until you can read the whole thing.
Enter BROWSE (also contributed by Fred Brindley). This is just" a small program that has become my favorite utility in only a few days. Now, instead of typing "TYPE <filename>", I type, "BROWSE <filename>". The program flashes the file on the screen and allows me to view it without any scrolling. Both up and down arrow keys work, and so do the Page Up and Page Down keys. This means I can peruse the file at length with no hassle at all. The TYPE command has gone the way of vacuum tubes and Apple IIs.
Other programs will do this. Wonder Plus has a file view utility, for example, but to use it, the entire program must be in memory. The advantage of BROWSE is that it is small, easily invoked, and terminated with the press of the [Escape] key.
I've stuck BROWSE in my DOS directory, accessible anywhere via the PATH command. BROWSE is now included in the UTILITY disk give-away so you can have it free, too. Just see the sidebar for details. Thanks again, Fred.
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|Title Annotation:||repair and maintenance of computer systems|
|Publication:||Computers in Libraries|
|Date:||Feb 1, 1991|
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