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Diary of System and Website Development
Part 3 (October 1996 - March 1997)
Internet Explorer 3.0: In testing out the speed and reliability of Modems it was desirable to carry out some big downloads so I took the chance to upgrade some of my software. The really big download was Internet Explorer 3.0 (IE3). I waited a few weeks after the final version was available then downloaded at 0600 - it took over and hour with typical download rates of 2.2 - 2.5 Kbytes/sec a little slower than I have come to expect but acceptable from a busy site. The final version is very good and I have gradually stopped using Netscape and yesterday changed the default associations. The transition has been eased by the fact that IE3 picked up all my Netscape Bookmarks and added them to the Favorites list I had created with IE2.
The integration of IE2 into Windows 95 was always good and IE3 is even better. There is no need for helpers and applications to be set up. The associations are all there from Windows and can be changed from within Windows or IE3. The connections to the Internet Service Provider are also accessible from within IE3 so one can change the telephone number, the modem or the Dial up Connection without leaving. The Favorites system is as convenient to use as Netscape's Bookmarks with pull down lists as from the Start button. They seem slightly more clumsy to reorganize and I have not found how to put a simple add on a single button as in Netscape. The other button/facility which is missing is a "load graphics for this page only" button - you have to go into Tools and turn the graphics loading on and off whilst I preferred to run without graphics being loaded and click for individual pages. The other touch I miss is the indicator showing the transfer rate in Netscape - even if this did over read on files under 500K it did tell you when to give up and come back at a quieter time.
Overall Internet Explorer 3.0 is the clear winner in the Browser stakes with much better integration and presentation. It also seems robust whilst I have had Netscape fall over many times. The security on IE3 has obviously been at the top of the agenda and many options for warnings etc exist - in its default mode it can seem a bit overprotective but everything can be turned on and off - every warning screen has a tick box for "do not show again" although it can be turned on through the options menu.
WinZip 6.1a I have also been updating WinZip. The latest version, which is a beta has UUencode built in can be downloaded from the WinZip site in 16 and 32 bit versions. It will decode all the standard formats, UUencode, XXencode, MIME and BinHex and encode your archive in a single step. I have used both the Windows 95 32 bit version and the Windows 3.1 16 bit version and they are both very convenient to use. In Windows 95 you can drag and drop a UUencoded Archive onto the WinZip icon and with one more double click you can open a Word Document in the Archive.
Paint Shop Pro 4.1: I have also upgraded to the latest version of Paint Shop pro but have had very little time to evaluate it. The new features seem to get round the few shortfalls and it looks like another winner.
PowerPoint Presentations in IE3: I discovered whilst browsing the Microsoft Web site that there is an ActiveX viewer for powerPoint presentations. The package can also create full animated presentation at a couple of key clicks from PowerPoint in a compressed form for the Web and once the viewer is loaded then the presentation can be viewed full screen. This is much better than the IA and the files are a fraction of the size although the viewer is an initial download of 850K. It can be downloaded from http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/downloadDetails/axplayer.htm Location of player updated in June 1999 but watch for further changes The following are the two presentations which Pauline gave at the OU which you can try out. If you do not have a suitable Browser or the viewer loaded or it will tell you. If you left click on the presentation you go forwards - if you right click you can change the size, end or go back. It may ask you if you want to open or save the presentation if you have security checks enabled.
Microsoft Service Pack 1 for Windows 95: - this is a nice way of describing the set of bug fixes and various other fixes and enhancements I discovered are available from Microsoft. It obviously seemed sensible to install the Service pack and any further upgrades that effect my usage - some only effect those on networks or using particular drivers.
Installing the Service Pack and other fixes: The main Service Pack and the other upgrades are simple to install as they are just .EXE files which you download and run. The Service pack is about 1.2Mbytes and the others are in the range of 150 to 250 Kbytes. I have installed the Service pack 1 downloaded from the Microsoft Web Site Updates Page It is supplemented with various addition fixes for separate problems available on the same page - I only installed those that were of direct relevance namely the updates for Kernel32, OLE32, Password handling and the Fax Cover Page fix that I had already found. There are a few others but they seemed to be to do with networks and there seemed to be no point in repairing things which were not broken in my case.
Enhancements to Windows 95: There are also a number of upgrades available on the same page and I loaded two - the Microsoft Exchange update and the new Internet Mail. One useful enhancement which is automatically installed with the Service Pack is an Update Tool which you access from the Start Button and then pointing to Programs|Accessories|System tools and clicking the Update Information Tool. This tells you what updates have been installed on the system.
Windows Messaging: This is an update to Microsoft Exchange and is a 3 Mbyte download. The renaming is, I understand, to avoid confusion with the more comprehensive Exchange server and client under Windows NT. It is supposed to speed up the loading, fix various bugs and offer some extra facilities. I am not yet convinced that it is worth while in my case as the combination of CompuServe Mail and Microsoft Exchange served me well. On the plus side Messaging seems to have gained a few useful facilities not previously available in Exchange or maybe I had missed them. There is, for example, a very good search available which will find all messages from a person or all those to somebody in the various folders and optionally subfolders.
Windows Messaging Installation Problems: Now we come to the downside of replacing Exchange with Messaging. The install only does part of the job as the links on the desktop to Inbox etc. are not changed and still point to the old EXCHNG32.EXE. Worse still the Associations are not set either so you have a strange mixture. You also have to be very careful in changing the associations as there are parameters on the command line so just browsing for the new location only gets one part way. I got in such a mess that I had to remove Exchange using Add/Remove programs and reload it along with various other programs such as Mail and Fax then update again to Messaging before I could get it all set up properly. My advice is to find the new directory and write down its short filename and then edit the .MSG associations for Message Open and Message Print. This way you do not lose the all important parameters or have to work out what needs to be in "inverted commas"s. Setting up Inbox was by right clicking on the icon and changing under properties in the same way. At present I have left all the original files in the c:\windows\exchange folder but eventually it should be possible to delete them. I will probably rename the folder first as a check that I have not missed any associations. All the above is not insurmountable however there is a further problem for those using CompuServe as not all the features of CompuServe Mail for Microsoft Exchange are supported by Windows Messaging - the major shortfall being that remote mail is not available. I do not use that feature often and then only when I access directly from WinCim and want to leave my mail ready to download to Exchange/Messaging so it is not a problem for me.
Internet Mail and Internet Newsreader: At the end of all the changes I have made I find I have a new Internet Mail Service and Internet Newsreader accessible from the Start button and also from within Internet Explorer 3.0 which I also presume provides the Internet mail transport for Messaging if I installed it in my profile. I am also not sure which of the facilities came with Windows Messaging, what came as part of installing Internet Explorer 3.0 and what was the a separate update to Internet Mail. I find that if Internet Mail is used stand alone or as a transport within Messaging/Exchange you have to specify both a POP3 server for receiving mail and an SMTP server for sending mail. Within Explorer you only need specify the SMTP server for sending mail. I have only checked the Newsreader very quickly so have nothing to report at present
Internet Mail Address Book and Folders: There is an address book built into Internet Mail which is not common with Windows Messaging although it is possible to import your address book. The tabs are however different and it made a mess of the addresses in Exchange which were set up for CompuServe Mail adding an extra @compuserve.com to the end. Internet Mail has a set of fixed folders plus those you define but no subfolders are allowed. The messages are a different format and can only be accessed within Internet Mail. You can export messages from these folders to Microsoft Exchange/Messaging and also import from Exchange/Messaging. It is clearly useful to have a way of sending Email from within your Browser but it is a shame that the address lists and message formats are not the same. It also seems to have the ability to send UUencoded or MIME attachments which Messaging does not have (or perhaps it now does if Internet Mail is installed as the Mail Service in Windows Messaging). As you may gather I am slightly confused at present. As far as I am concerned Internet Mail will only be used at present as a last resort to get mail out through an SMTP link when CompuServe goes down. It is worth noting that CompuServe plan to change to standard POP3 and SMTP servers in the next year at which point I will re-evaluate the options.
PIPEX DIAL Assessment: It is now exactly a week since I loaded PIPEX Dial tempted by it's ability to offer Email access via any Web browser round the world. It is now time to provide a preliminary assessment of how good it is.
Installation: The installation went very smoothly from the CD ROM provided. I allowed it to modify my Autoexec.bat file as requested but left the modification to Config.sys to do myself. It would be helpful to the naive user if the instructions in the CD ROM case had given advance warning of the changes it would need to make to the system.
Registration: Again very quick and easy with the default modem used - I think I has to set the port and that was all. I was not asked for a card as the software automatically expires after 28 days. You then seem to have to pay a connection fee regardless of the fact you are up and running!
Configuration: All looked very simple even if you needed to set up the modem type and commands - I left the default modem but set all the rates as high as possible. It asked to download software updates which I allowed. They took little time and left a message in the outbox to send to Pipex that the updates had been carried out.
Registration of Alias: This is done on the Pipex web site as are most of the communications with Pipex. The site is well laid out and the alias registration was easy. It took a day to be activated.
DialSpace: This is free 1 Mbyte of web page. Again registration was easy but there was no warning that it again took a while to be accessible. I may have been too fast as I got there only 1 hour after the initial load and it would not allow me to registration! I mailed the help link and got a quick standard "holding" reply but no proper response. It was possible to register the next day and again it took till a specified time the following day to become live. The Pipex site had a lot of useful information and FAQs which would be very good for a first time user. It also suggested using a Freeware FTP program to upload and had a link to download it. I downloaded from the main site so I could get a full install and I am impressed with WS_FTP.
Loading the home page: I used WS_FTP and it went very smoothly - I did one trial of the first few pages and then checked. This then showed that, as they warned, the PIPEX Dialspace server is case sensitive so I had to rename all my pages to be lower case names and edit most of the links to match. Tedious but only took just over an hour because I loaded batches of files and did a string search in WebEdit. The uploading was then done in one batch. The other feature was that the homepage has to be called index.htm on PIPEX whilst it is homepage.htm on CompuServe. I have two identical pages loaded which works fine.
Email: The internal Email uses Netscape and is adequate for a new user. I wanted to use my existing system of Windows Messaging (what used to be called Exchange). I loaded the Internet Mail transport mechanism in place of the CompuServe Mail for Microsoft Exchange and it all worked fine as soon as I had configured it. I also set up the independent Microsoft Internet Mail which again was fine and handles attachments in binary and text automatically in the MIME mode. This also configured ready for Internet Explorers mail although it has the option of using Windows Messaging or Internet Mail in Internet Explorer.
Dial Up Networking: The PIPEX web site gives full instructions on this - the best instructions that I have seen. I took the shortcuts I had used previously but found for the first time that I had to set the DNS specifically and I also used the other recommendations for the connection from the PIPEX page and it worked immediately. The script for the script file was available on the page for editing in and again the scripting worked first time. Total time to get a link active on the desktop was about an hour with some time wasted through not following their instructions initially to set the DNS addresses.
Interactions with CompuServe: Both coexist at the basic level and there is no need to play around with Winsock.dll. It is not possible to have both transport mechanisms loaded in Messaging/Exchange without problems and anomalies on the return address etc. The way round is to set up two profiles using the same Personal Address Book and Personal Folders. One can set Messaging to ask which profile when you start up.
Other Interactions: I had a lockup when I ran a legacy DOS program for interchange of data with my HP95 palmtop. This was cured when I changed back the autoexec.bat and config.sys files. This means that the PIPEX supplied software will no longer run.
Other anomalies: I can not access any of the index pages for DialSpace using the Netscape Navigator 2.02 supplied with PIPEX and their 16 bit software without a GPF in Navigator. I have tried the suggestion on their pages of setting a FILES=100 in Config.sys without any change. The pages are fine from IE3 and Netscape Navigator 3 via the 32 bit DUN PIPEX connection or any other ISP via DUN.
Time to set up system: I have not kept a complete log but I guess that the times to get to the same functionality as I have with CompuServe including creating an extra DUN, changing my default service in Internet Explorer 3, adding a service to Messaging, setting up Internet mail, Registering an Alias, Registering a web site, changing all my web pages and uploading my site has been under 5 hours spread over the week. To that I should possibly add another hour to download and get to grips with WS_FTP. There was sufficient information for any user of Windows 95 to get to that point in the PIPEX pages. There is a very impressive level and clarity of support information available. If I had been happy with a 16 bit system using Netscape Navigator 2.02 I would have been live in an hour.
Speed and access: I have been able to get a connection quickly although there was one period when Email did not seem to work for a short period. Internet access speed has been high and download rates impressive. I saw rates of 7Kbytes/sec over a 600Kbyte download of an .htm file. This implies 2:1 data compression and a theoretical max speed link. Downloads of binaries have risen to 2.4Kbytes/sec in a normal weekday evening. I have not done comparative tests but my impression is that it is up with or better than Demon, I-Way and the OU links and much better than CompuServe at peak times. The only one which may be ahead at peak times is MSN based on watching a friends system. Off peak there was little to chose in my earlier comprehensive tests which showed CompuServe a short neck ahead and I have not done the tests yet to provide evidence that PIPEX can displace CompuServe.
Support: Having written this assessment it seemed time to ring PIPEX and see how well good their support was and if they had answers to the three problems above - Autoexec.bat/config.sys incompatibilities with HP APP95 legacy DOS software, access to their own Dialspace index pages using the Netscape Navigator they provided and use with CompuServe in Microsoft Exchange. The number provided passed me to a different support number which was not active on a Sunday but stated that the telephone support was only for those who had not got up and running to the extent of using Email. This whole text was therefore Emailed to them for comment.
Transfer speed comparisons: PIPEX has seemed very fast subjectively so on Sunday Morning it seemed time to put it to the test. The site chosen was the JASC site in the USA and the file was the new PaintShop Pro beta 4.12 which is 3.11 MBytes. Checks with WinZip show it is fully compressed. PIPEX achieved the download in 20 minutes a rate of 2.60Kbytes/sec - very good late on a Sunday Morning. I tried again with the OU link which gave me 23 minutes at 2.25Kbytes/sec. I did not have time to fully download with CompuServe nor did I want to pay the CompuServe charges so I time two sections of 300Kbytes which, to my surprise, gave rates of 2.00 and 2.55Kbytes/sec showing that even at a peak time CompuServe is very competitive. I have never understood why it is knocked so much by people - the Reading Node always connects first time and the only problems have been with the access to the mailbox which nobody else complains about. The differences are close enough to be within natural variability but tends to confirm the subjective impression that PIPEX does have a significant edge as you would expect with its links to the USA and being on the Internet Backbone.
Microsoft Web Publishing Wizard: This seems to be a program to avoid. It was mentioned in one of the CompuServe Fora for uploading to web pages including CompuServe's Ourworld. It is completely inflexible as it will only load single files or directories or directories with subdirectories - no selections allowed. It also has no option to delete files which is a disastrous omission. I had hoped it might be a way round the lack directory structure on CompuServe which is all the CompuServe Home Page Wizard allows but I can not risk creating directories I can not delete! I just hope that it will uninstall properly - this is the first really bad bit of software I have downloaded from Microsoft and it was a 2Mbyte download. But see below for fresh info.
CompuServe Web Space Increased in Size to 5 Mbytes: I am going to have to start to upload lots of graphics to fill that up. It is much more than the PIPEX space although much less flexible because of the lack of directory structure.
Pipex EWeb - Pros and Cons: The main reason I started the trial of Pipex was the promise that one could acces ones Email anywhere in the world from almost any Web Browser linked to the Web without any modifications or software loading onto the "borrowed" machine. This sounds too good to be true and it is not suprising that there are a number of limitations and points to be watched. The way it works is that one just goes to "http://www.eweb.dial.pipex.com/ where you have a form to fill in with your main account name and password and various optional parameters. This then provides a table of messages waiting and allows you to select and display the messages. The first caution is that most WWW browsers use a page cache. If you do not wish somone else to read your email then close the browser when you have finished with it as Pipex warn you. You must also delete the entries in the cache if you know how to find them. You are also vulnerable to a key stroke recorder if you use a machine in a "cafe".The next shortfall is that there is no mechanism to Reply directly to any messages and if you use the normal Email on the machine to send messages it will fill in the normal users Email address. It should be possible to provide another form with the main parameters filled in for an Email Reply or Forward. Another shortfall which could easily be fixed is the way attachments are handled. The Encoded text is not left intact in the HTML file and has BR codes at the end of many lines. This means that it is not possible to save the message in a file and use a program such as XferPro to extract it as it falls over on all the invalid lines. This is a great idea which only needs a minimum amount of additional work to make truly useful. The inability to get at Encoded attachments considerably reduces its value for away working with just a couple of disks. I suspect that others will get onto the bandwagon and avoid the pitfalls and I do not expect it will take Pipex long to realise this and modify their site!
proc main waitfor "ogin:" transmit $USERID ,raw transmit "^M" waitfor "assword: " transmit $PASSWORD ,raw transmit "^M" waitfor "otocol" transmit "ppp" ,raw transmit "^M" endprocThey now work fine and my suspicion is that it is the enclosing of text strings in "" which is important and that an updated script handler has been loaded as part of CSi or the CSi service pack which I have now loaded. The script handler .dll is still from Microsoft but a more recent version and it seems that it is more demanding.