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The PC corner.

This quarter's column relates to some of my experiences, both good and bad, with my conversion to Windows 95 at the office. I'll also discuss the pros and cons of Windows 95 vs. the new Windows NT 4.0 and the soon-to-be-released Windows 97. Finally, I am continuing the "Hint of the Quarter" and the "Problem of the Quarter" features.

CompuServe has finally gotten around to implementing a new address system that actually allows the use of alphabetic characters in their customers' e-mails. My new e-mail address is jhqualls@compuserve.com. Those of you who have my old numeric address in your e-mail system can continue using it, as it is still valid. Also, CompuServe has not switched over completely, so my outgoing mail will continue to have my old numeric mail address on the i.d. line, at least for a while. Ain't progress wonderful?

CONVERTING TO WINDOWS 95

I finally bit the bullet and decided to convert my Pentium 100 at work to Windows 95. I have plenty of RAM (16 megs) and disk space (800 megs), but the Ministry is still experimenting with Windows 95 and had been having some compatibility problems with their Novell local area network. However, these problems now seem to be fixed, and I volunteered to try out 95.

I had several reasons for wanting to switch over to 95. Although there were no Windows 95 "killer apps" that I just had to have, the 95 version of Word for Windows (Word 7.0) had some nice features. Also, I was having some problems running the Oxford World Model in Windows 3.1, and I wanted to see if 95 would do a better job of running it. Finally, I do feel that the 95 interface is going to be the standard of the future, and I didn't want to fall behind the curve in learning how to use it.

Because of the problems they had been having with the LAN, the Ministry's systems people recommended that I keep Windows 3.1 installed on my machine. In order to do that, they had to install 95 in a separate subdirectory. This turned out to be somewhat of a headache, because I had to reinstall all of my Windows 3.1 software (such as EViews and my old version of Word 6.0). However, it may have been a blessing in disguise, because I discovered there are some nice features in Windows 3.1 that might have been lost if I had loaded 95 over it. I refer here to such items as fonts that aren't available in the standard version of 95. Also, it's nice to have the much-maligned 3.1 File Manager around, because I haven't yet been able to figure out how to use the 95 Navigator program to do the same things.

Having 3.1 around also was handy when I found out that I couldn't print on the network printer from DOS programs under 95. Our systems people have found a work-around on that problem, but it took them a while to figure it out. In the interim it was certainly nice to be able to bring up 3.1 and run the DOS programs. Now that the problem is fixed, I have not found it necessary to bring up 3.1, but it is nice to know that it is there if I need it in the future.

I have been using Windows 95 for over a month now, and I really, really like it. With the task bar always visible at the bottom of the screen, it is much easier and less confusing to have several programs running at once. The shortcut menu that is available by clicking the right mouse button is a great time saver, as is the ability to set up shortcuts to all of my frequently used programs.

One of the best features of 95 is that DOS programs definitely run better. A DOS program running in a window in 3.1 was a pretty hideous-looking affair, but it looks much better in 95. In addition, 95 is more robust and crash-resistant when running "ill-behaved" DOS programs. The Oxford World Model, written in DOS 16 meg protected mode, is just such a program. Although it usually started up OK in 3.1, any abnormal end-of-job would result in it hanging up the next time I tried to run it. Also, it would hang up for no apparent reason with an "out of memory message" after I had run the program four or five times. Because each model solution requires a separate running, this would happen quite often.

Although the Oxford program would not usually crash 3.1 completely, I would have to shut down everything, get out of 3.1, and start it up again. This required logging off of our LAN and logging back on again. All in all, it was a real pain in the wazoo. In fact, it would get so bad at times that I would not even bring up Windows at all and just run the Oxford model directly from the DOS pointy. Unfortunately, this meant that I couldn't log onto our LAN or receive any LAN e-mail while I was doing this. All in all, it was a very unsatisfactory situation. All of that is now behind me with Windows 95. So far (knock on wood), the Oxford program haven't crashed 95 once. Like the Energizer bunny, it just runs and runs and runs. Other DOS programs also seem to do better. For instance, my beloved Lotus 1-2-3 Release 2.3 now has a full 16 mb of expanded memory in which to run. I didn't have to do a thing to get this much memory - it just appeared as if by magic when I set up the DOS program information file for it.

As in all conversions of this type, everything is not sweetness and light. I do not like some of the look and feel features of 95. For instance, the pull-down menus at the top of the screen don't usually require a click to activate. I find myself getting the wrong menu unless I carefully pull the arrow straight down once I get into the menu I want. Also, I have developed a real dislike for the RUN button on the task bar. It is hard to find the program that I want, and I have never been able to figure out exactly when I need to click on a name and when I don't. I have set up short-cuts to most of the programs I need, and on a good day, I only need to click the RUN button to shut down the computer when I go home. Perhaps I can figure out how to set up a shortcut to that function, also!

Overall, however, my move to Windows 95 has been a good one. For those of you who have been toying with the idea of switching, I would encourage you to try it. Just remember that you really need 16 megs of RAM and at least a 486/50 to make it run reasonably well. However, you might want to wait until Windows 97 comes out later this year to make your move. The following section discusses this Windows update, along with the latest version of the Windows NT family.

WINDOWS 95 VS. WINDOWS NT 4.0 VS. WINDOWS 97

Many corporate users have opted to stay with Windows 3.1, in hopes that the new version of Windows NT (4.0) will prove to be a better alternative. Well, the shipping version of NT 4.0 has been released, and it has turned out to be the classic good news/bad news story. The following summarizes an article on NT 4.0 that appeared in the January issue of PC World.

First, the good news. The new NT 4.0 now has the same look and feel of Windows 95, rather than that of the antiquated 3.1. It also seems to run in 16 meg machines without a significant deterioration in performance. It continues to offer better crash protection and more robust security provisions than does 95. It handles CPU-intensive multitasking operations much better. For those of us who like the security blanket of our old operating system it has a utility that allows you to choose between two or even three operating systems each time you start your PC.

Now for the bad news. NT 4.0 does not have the much-vaunted Plug and Play capability of Windows 95. For an individual user, that is a real drawback. Although P&P does not always operate perfectly, it is a quantum leap forward and makes adding hardware and software much easier. However, an even more serious problem is that NT 4.0 has real incompatibility problems with a lot of hardware and software. Apparently, it requires special hardware drivers, and many tape backup units and page scanners simply won't run on it.

Even more disturbing is the fact that software accessing the video display directly (as do a lot of DOS programs Eke Lotus 2.x and the Oxford Model) won't run on NT 4.0, at least according to the December PC World article. As long as this restriction exist, I am ruling out any consideration of NT 4.0 for either my office or home computer. Actually, NT doesn't make much sense on a home computer anyway. It is really set up for corporate workgroups and LANS.

A better choice for those of you upgrading from Windows 3.1 might be to wait until Windows 97 is released, which is expected to take place around mid-1997. Actually, if you have bought a PC recently, the version of 95 on it may already contain some of the new features that will be in 97, as Microsoft has been continually making incremental upgrades to 95. Windows 97 will put these upgrades, along with some new features and a plethora of updated hardware drives, into a package that will be marketed as an upgrade to both 3.1 and 95. By the way, Windows 97 is the unofficial designation used by the trade press. Microsoft's internal code name for the product is Memphis. They have not yet announced what they will end up calling it when it is released.

The new features will include the "FAT32" file system, which conserves disk space and allows for an increase in the maximum size of hard disks to 2 terabytes (2,000 billion bytes!). Under the present FAT (file allocation table) system if your hard drive is over 512 megabytes, every file on it takes up a minimum of 16 kilobytes. The new system reduces this amount considerably. One word of warning, though - FAT32 is incompatible with disk compression routines.

Windows 97 (or whatever it ends up being called) will also have a more "web-like" interface option (Web View), which is supposed to replace file icons and the tree-and-list file system with a system of hyperlinks and view windows that will allegedly give it the look and feel of a well-designed Web page. Real time ticker displays and even television feeds are also supposed to be included in the package.

If you are interested in upgrading your current PC's operating system to Windows 95, 1 would definitely advise waiting until this new software comes out. The current version of 95 on dealers' shelves is an older version that does not have any of the upgraded features being shipped on new PCs.

HINT OF THE QUARTER

When I first started using Word for Windows, I was plagued by a peculiar problem with double spaces after periods that ended sentences. I know, I shouldn't use double spaces anymore. All of the style manuals say that it's a carryover from the bad old days of typewriters and is not necessary now in this age of modem word processors. I disagree - if anything, double spaces after the end of sentences are even more necessary, as some of the proportional/full justification schemes in modem word processors really jam characters and periods together. I much prefer double spaces at the end of sentences, and I bet that a lot of you out there do too. Old habits die hard.

In any case, I found that, if the sentence-ending period fell at the end of a fully justified line, the two spaces after the period were causing the line to be indented slightly to the left, so that it did not line up exactly with the margins above and below it. However, this problem seemed to be erratic, only appearing in some documents, but not in others.

After much fiddling, I finally found out what was causing the problem. In the Tools menu, select the Options submenu. Then select the Compatibility folder. This contains a list of options that you can select or deselect. You have to move to the bottom of this list by sliding the scroll button down. The very last option is called "Wrap trailing spaces to next line." If that box is checked, you will have the same problem I encountered. Remove the check from the box, and the offending line with the two spaces at its end will be justified normally. You might also want to make this the default by clicking the Default button after you change it.

PROBLEM OF THE QUARTER

I have several Lotus 1-2-3 worksheets that I would like to convert to Excel workbooks. Many of the Lotus worksheets contain different sections that I would like to relocate on separate Excel sheets within one workbook. For instance, when I do a monthly-to-quarterly conversion, I prefer to put the quarterly data on a separate sheet from the monthly data. Unfortunately, when you try to cut the quarterly data from one Excel sheet and paste it onto another, all cell references are lost. You then have to go through and reconstruct the formula in every cell that refers to the other sheet. Needless to say, that is an arduous task.

What I am looking for is an easy way to do this. If the formulas are constructed using the sheet name as part of the cell reference, then the section can be moved and the correct reference will be retained in the new sheet. However, if you don't include a sheet name as part of the reference. it is impossible to relocate the cell or cells to different sheets within the same workbook. Does anyone out there have an idea on how I can get around this problem? If you do, drop me an e-mail at jhqualls@compuserve.com.

John H. Qualls is Senior Economist, National Center for Financial and Economic Information, Ministry of Finance, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
COPYRIGHT 1997 The National Association for Business Economists
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:use of the Windows 95 operating system
Author:Qualls, John H.
Publication:Business Economics
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Apr 1, 1997
Words:2468
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