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Diary of System and Website Development
Part 4 (April - December 1997)
XferPro 32 bit: The real step forwards is that there is now a 32 bit version of from Sabasoft. The earlier version has taken everything I have thrown at it to decode and is an excellent small simple to use and very effective piece of software. The new version seemed just the same as the old when I first ran it and I wondered what the difference was apart from being installed in the registry. It was only when I looked in the help files I realised that the interfaces and ease of use are significantly improved. For example it now comes up on the right click menus with decode and encode options. It will also access a MAPI compliant Inbox (such as my Exchange/Messaging client) and give a list of all messages and those with attachments to decode. It will also has an option to send files as Email which I have not yet tried - it is my policy to do a tape back-up before exploring to far! XferPro is certainly is one of my essential utilities and the new Version will be registered as soon as I have finished evaluating it.
Software Registration through CompuServe: I have just registered WinZip 6.2 through the Compuserve GO SWREG route which is a bit clumsy but does not need one to send a credit card number as it is added to the CompuServe bill at the end of the month. It is much easier if you know the registration number of the software (402 for WinZip 6.2 for Windows 95). Even so I was online for over 5 minutes.Registration for changes in an Web page: One of the ways I know that I lost Email was that I was missing a number of messages saying Web pages have changed. I get these messages for pages which I have registered with the free NetMind URL-minder. Every time a page I have registered changes I get a message sent by Email. The following link will allow you to register changes - try it for this page or our homepage! . The messages you receive will always contain all the information on how to cancel or make other changes and I have received no obvious unsolicited mail etc. because of using it to find changes to the Slipstick Exchange Centre site. The last Email noted that the Slipstick page where I discovered this service had over 2000 users who had registered with NetMind's URL-minder.
Video capture: The cost of transferring onto photo CD is significant so I have also been looking at video capture as I have a lot of overlapping video and many shots which are not on film. Hauppauge advertise a TV/Teletext board which promises to be able to capture individual images at 320 x 240 which would be just right for a web page. The PCI bus version seems a very modest price of £89 plus VAT but the catch seems to be that, as they enigmatically put it "Compatible with high end video cards supporting Microsoft's DirectDraw Drivers".DirectDraw Drivers: I eventually found allow a common interface for direct access to video card memory via the PCI bus by cards such as the Hauppauge card which can be a bus master. Nobody seems to know what cards or machines over a few months old support DirectDraw. I eventually found drivers on the Hauppauge site (under software updates) for Generic S3 type video controllers and cards using them which I downloaded. Windows 95 is fairly clever at identifying hardware and compatible drivers and told me 4 of the drivers were compatible with my hardware so I loaded the one most similar in name to that already loaded which was again a generic driver and all seems to be fine with no apparent changes to my graphic display or hang ups on any program so far. I have since found the Number 9 Web site which also has drivers. I can now think about going out and buying a Hauppauge WinTV PCI card with some hope it will work on the system.
It goes without saying that I did a full system backup to tape before loading the driver and by immediately doing a differential backup I could find the new drivers and they have been written by Microsoft. Now I know what they are called I can search the Microsoft site for updates etc. Searches of the Microsoft site and through AltaVista gave very little useful. AltaVista only had a few thousand hits for DirectDraw which seemed very low and I never found the Number Nine web site all I could get were suppliers. The video card is actually a Number Nine Vision 330 card but Windows tells me that the Number Nine 330 driver which came with Windows is not compatible!
Microsoft WebPost: One of the main problems with CompuServe as providers of Web space has been that the CompuServe Hpwiz software for uploading (publishing) to the Web did not allow one to have a directory structure. I have recently seen a site which did have a directory which I really need for the images. I therefore had a look back at the Microsoft site which had provided the WebPost Software that I had previously been severely under impressed with. The generation had changed so I downloaded and tried again. It still has no useful documentation that I can find and the help files are minimal. I tried it and it does work although there seems to be a transition part way through from standard Microsoft Wizard forms to very much the old CompuServe HpWiz interface - the main difference is that when you specify what to upload you specify a directory (the main directory containing your files to upload) and also tick a box saying "include subdirectories".
In operation it checks to see if the files on the site have changed before uploading so you can specify everything without wasting time uploading unnecessary files and it creates the subdirectories needed. Like the CompuServe HpWiz it tells you if there are files on the site in the main or subdirectories which are not in the upload list and checks if they should be deleted - I do not know what it does about empty directories. The problem last time was that it did not tell me about files I did not need leaving no way to delete in a sub-directory. It can also be started by right clicking on a selection of files in Explorer - not yet tested by me. In other words it now does all one needs for uploading and unlike CompuServe's Hpwiz it does not open an old fashioned CIS connection which requires a suitable Winsock but uses the normal default DUN connection - very strange in my case as I found I was uploading to CompuServe via a different ISP! There is also a beta of a version which does some extra directory mapping which I may look at if I can find some documentation - Microsoft just refer to the User group which happens to be on MSN!The Picture Gallery:The end of the story is that I have just tripled the size of the site by uploading the New Zealand Picture Gallery which lives in its own directory. The speed seems very acceptable and the buttons fill in faster than you can look at them. I have split it into North and South islands so the map and buttons are pretty well in view at the same time if you have an 800 x 640 display. I have made extensive use of Paint Shop Pro version 4.12 - a new version that I found during my trawl to update software and one worthy of full evaluation. It made the creation of icons and labeling them very easy as was the labeling of the maps of South and North island. Xerox PARC Map Viewer The map outline itself came from the Xerox PARC Map Viewer which is a World-Wide Web HTTP server that accepts requests for a World or USA map and returns an HTML document including an image of the requested map as a .GIF image. It is well worth a look at this service which has no mentions of copyright and is, in any case, a dynamic response. I found it by an AltaVista search for New Zealand Maps and the example of how to use the Xerox PARC Map Viewer just happens to be a New Zealand map - I only had to change the size to what I wanted for the outline which included lakes and rivers. A new look for the site: As viewers may notice I have decided to define a background for the pages rather than have the boring gray. This was quite difficult as there are so many terrible backdrops against which you can not read the text. I therefore created one by defining a light background colour and then lightly over-painting in a slightly darker having define a type of "paper" onto which I was painting to give a texture. This was then fine tuned in hue, brightness and contrast to give the result you see which matches closely our House Style in printer paper for our letters - all helps to give a consistent professional impression. The whole process was a bit like scumbling (the art of artificial wood graining) on our Narrowboat Corinna. The basic tile is very small 70 x 70 so it is very quick to download.
Hauppauge WIN/TV PCI Video Card We are now back from an extended break on Corinna and I have another long holiday to document. Before going I had started to set the system up so I could add a Hauppauge WIN/TV PCI card to grab singe frames off the video camera to obtain pictures. See the Hauppauge site for full details of the card. This is much cheaper than use of a camera followed by batch transfer onto CD ROM. The card was £85 + VAT from Novatronics who I have used for purchasing Memory and my HP 690c Printer. Installation turned out to be easy and quick, however I had done some preparation before - see above for the search for DirectDraw Drivers to ensure my video card was compatible. First the system was backed up to tape. The case on the Dell is easy to open and the card was eventually eased into the slot and shut up. On turn on Windows 95 identified new hardware and asked for the CD ROM to be loaded - the only slight problem people might have is that the various setup programs are in sub-directories which are not identified in the instructions. It then ran a check and told me the system was all compatible and no new drivers were needed. The system was up and running in minutes after a reboot and loading the rest of the software applications. There are three applications provided for the card.
Backup Philosophy: There has been a gradual change in the file structure associated with my Backup Philosophy. The directory called My Backups largely contained redundant information which was copied in using a batch file. This has been abandoned and My Backups will in future contain only true backups of our HP95 and HP200 plus a few earlier editions of templates etc. Copies of source disks of programs are in a directory under My Programs.
Technical "How to" Articles. There has been a reorganisation of the site with a new link on the home page to a page of Technical "How to" Articles. The link to Search Engines and Directories - How to get a listing has been removed and that is now one of the technical articles. Others are Modem Optimisation, setting up PPP and Installing Windows 95 along with the Backup and Communications philosophy.They mostly originated in Diary of a Home Page as detailed documentation of various steps in setting up the computer, it's software, it's communications and the site itself. Some were, or still are considered important enough to be referenced on the Home Page. They form an essential part of the documentation of our own system and how to rebuild it in the case of disasters and hopefully prevent us and our friends reinventing wheels. The intention is to pull more sections out of Diary of a Home Page so the can be easily accessed as reference articles or to put links to the relevant paragraph on the Index page. The changes have been reflected in the Homepage and in the First Visit to the site page.
A new Machine: I have just completed a major upgrade to a friends machine. We bought a new mini tower complete with PS, TX motherboard and floppy drive installed for £99 and added a new AMD K6 166 MMX compatible processor for &81. I have reused his 425 Mbyte hard drive, 16 Mbytes of page mode RAM and his video card from the Tiny which has provided him with good service for the last 3 years. This "barebones" system is sold by Novatronics as is the processor. I have used them for my memory, printer and Win/TV card and they have given excellent service and are very helpful on the telephone and in the shop. The motherboard had a large number of links which needed setting for the particular processor but the instructions - although short - gave all the information needed except for the processor voltage settings which I found on the processor case! The links were set and the video board, hard drive and memory transferred and the machine booted from a floppy in only a couple of hours.Installing/upgrading W95 without a CD drive: At this point I had to find a way of installing W95 without a CD drive. It turned out to be simplest to remove the drive and make it a slave in my system for long enough to copy the installation directories from his new CD onto the hard drive and run them from DOS. It would not install over the Windows 3.1 system so the drive had to be reformatted having copied the rest of the data to a backup tape. I have since learnt that erasing all the win.com files is sufficient and starting the install from a boot floppy. Note that if you buy Windows 95 with a new machine or with OEM components such as a motherboard or hard drive you will probably get the latest service release 2.0 upgrades which is also known as OSR2. It all worked fine except for an annoying bit of garbage text displayed by the video board until W95 gets to configure it fully - a problem with the board as it does not occur when I plug in my video card. The system seems very fast until it comes to scrolling where the old video card slows it down.
Version 4 Browsers and OSR2: I got back from another period on our narrowboat to find that the Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 and Netscape Navigator 4.03 are available free on front cover CDs such as .NET. IE 4 is supposed to make major changes to the system especially if one installs the Active Desktop so it seemed sensible to have a dry run on my spare disk drive. I though this would also give an opportunity to have a dry run at upgrading to the latest Windows 95 service pack 2.0 which is sent out with all new OEM machines. This has all the fixes of Service pack 1 plus Windows Messaging and a few other updates the most important to OEMs being a 32bit file system option capable of formatting and supporting drives larger than 2 Gbyte which also has lower overheads. This feature is not backward compatible so I left the drive formatted with the original file system.Loading OSR2: OSR2 is intended for OEM machines so does not need to load over earlier versions. I loaded this time onto an empty machine but if you want to update an earlier version the trick is to load from a DOS prompt (I have used the recovery floppy) after renaming all files called win.com which are used to identify the presence of earlier versions. This leaves many of your configuration settings intact. The Win.com files can not be changed from within Windows as they are in use! As this is basically an upgrade the setup procedures accepts your existing serial number. The new version is only on CD so you may have to load the W95 and Drivers directory from the CD onto your hard drive by making it a slave drive on a machine with a CD drive - you will need to keep them on the drive so accessories/drivers can be added and removed.
Internet Explorer 4 - Active Desktop: IE4 installed from the CD without incident although it is very slow to load. I chose to install the active desktop option. This transforms the machine giving much of the features of the Windows 98 promised next year. If Active Desktop is fully enabled the Desktop, Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer become much more consistent and have a Web View feel about them to the extent that in the default option the single click to select and double click to execute is replaced by selection by hovering and execution with a single click as in a web browser. I rapidly turned that off before I had a disaster! It has taken a couple of hours to find my way round and get to know how to reconfigure the system to be a compromise I find acceptable. I already see the advantages of much of the new approach and find myself changing back again to use the new features. In particular the changes to the toolbar are very good. You can now have a set of quick launch buttons on the toolbar much like the Office 95 toolbar which always got in the way. Windows Explorer is now much more like Internet Explorer with back buttons and access to favorites lists etc.
Internet Explorer 4 - Browser: The changes to IE4 are also significant with all the facilities for the push technology content etc. Fortunately it can all be configured to what you want to display. One gain is a much better status display which tells you how far through the list of downloads you are on a page ie 15 out of 23 images loaded etc as well as the more familiar progress bars. It also seems much faster to load up.
Netscape Navigator 4.03: At long last this is free and the new version seems cleaner and better than the previous versions and again has an improved favorites list with a lot of preloaded sites. It is also much quicker to load from a single 8 Mbyte self extracting install file. I could not detect any major changes to the associations which used to give problems when both IE and Netscape browsers were installed. I need to see on the real machine with existing sets of favorites before I closing the issue. I will probably install both in due course.
Further Assessment of IE4 - Active Desktop I have now installed IE4 on the real machine and I am very pleased so far. Some of the most important benefits are:
Further Experience with Internet Explorer 4: Another couple of weeks of use of IE4 has not shown up any serious problems with the Browser or the Active Desktop - I would not go back and already miss the facilities when I use other machines. Offline operation is a joy and I have started to use the Subscription facility to good effect - it goes most of the way to having an offline reader. It is very easy - when you click to add to favorites it is one of the options which takes you through a short Wizard. You can set it all up offline.
IE4 Updates and additions - Scheduler: When one goes to the updates page an ActiveX control is downloaded which checks what is installed and lists all enhancements and updates available with download time estimates - you tick the boxes and everything is taken care of apart from a reboot of the machine at the end. I wish the same applied to all software. I downloaded the Scheduler which allows programs to be run at selected times dependent on various conditions and at selected days of the week, times etc etc which is perfect for backups.
IE4 Updates and additions - Web Publishing Wizard: I downloaded the Web Publisher in the same update run but found initially that it conflicted with my stand alone version - if you can read this the problem has been resolved! I got round the problem by reloading the previous version which was stored away safely along with all the other programs I have loaded on the machine. It installed over the top of the new version without uninstalling - at various points it asked if I wanted to replace files which had more recent dates and version numbers and I said yes rather than follow the advice of leaving the new versions. Everything then seemed to work except that I could not complete the publishing as I got error messages back from the server which looked as if it was not available. After a couple of days I had a look in the Compuserve Forums including one devoted to Our World (GO OWFORUM) which firstly told me there were big problems with the server and secondly that I was not alone in the Web Post troubles. The new version of Web Post 1.5 is known not to work with Compuserve and Microsoft are working on it. Most people seem to have had to go into the registry to clear all references (around 50) after uninstalling version 1.5 and trying to load 1.1. I seem to have been lucky in my approach of installing over the top. I have put a message in the forum with my experience.
IE4 Scheduling Colorado Backup for the HP T1000E tape drive: I had an odd problem here as the new scheduler was fine with everything I tried apart from running the Backup Set files for Colorado Backup. It seems to be a problem with the backup software as it will not run in the expected way from the Start Menu either. I found that it works fine if the Backup Set has a short filename - a long filename in quotes does not work nor does the xxxxx~n.xxx - very strange ! The Colorado Backup is a very sensitive program and hangs at the slightest opportunity especially if tapes are changed without closing and reopening, I must look for updates. It also needs to have the virus checker off if the tape is to consistently stream.