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Diary of System and Website Development
Part 4 (April - December 1997)

Saturday 12th April 1997

Software updates: We have been away for several months so the first priority has been to check for updates on the installed software base, in particular the Virus checker. The pace of change seems to have been slightly slower than previously but I have still needed to download McAfee Virus Scan Version 3 from CompuServe, Adobe Acrobat version 3, Update Microsoft Internet Explorer to version 3.02 (the security fix) which is a 3.6 Mbyte download to update from version 3.01 (10.6 Mbytes which fortunately is now on the front cover CDs of magazines). The only one of my utilities which has not changed is WinZip which is still version 6.2 and not even any Betas in the pipeline.

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.

Thursday 24th April 1997

Images for Web Pages: I have spent a lot of time working out how to put the photographs from the New Zealand trip onto the site. We ended up with 800 or so photographs fit to go into our albums so the selection process has been major but even so we ended up with over 50 which are worth digitizing. I decided that I will have one or more small maps of NZ with the sites marked and associated "Icons" with small versions of each picture in the photo gallery which can then be used to download the main picture - possibly with associated text to make it a "postcard" from that part of the holiday. A half resolution Photo CD image is 384 x 256 pixels which ends up as just less than 20K as a JPEG image. Icons could be 45 x 30 taking 1K or 60 x 40 taking 2K. I looked at having the Icons on the map as hot zones but it would be technology for technologies sake. A block of images with hot zones could save some space but you would have to wait for it all to download so little benefits again.

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!

27th April 1997

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.

20th August 1997

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.

Experience of collecting Images: I have ended up mostly using the video clip capture software to get to my images for the Web. There is no built in facility to save individual images in a clip but Paint Shop Pro version 4.12 has an excellent, easy to set up multiple screen capture facility which can grab objects or Windows. I just take a slow speed video clip off the tape, select and capture the first image using the hotkey, repeat for more clips/images and then go back to Paintshop Pro, trim them to size and save in GIF or JPEG. Paintshop Pro also allows one to adjust colours, resize and do any other processing the images need. Overall it is more controlled and takes no longer than taking several attempts to catch the exact frame with the built in grab in the TV program. I have yet to compare the quality of the two approaches - it ought to be determined by the video camera which is probably only good for 250 horizontal elements on playback and is non interlaced providing a maximum of 312 vertical lines which is very compatible with pictures for the Web.

3rd September 1997

Updates to the Site: I have put in a few changes to the pages to reflect the changes in software and hardware in the Our Computer System - Rationale and Specification section.

Visitors: The counter keeps going up at an increasing rate so somebody must be accessing the site although there are less Emails and responses to our form. It is getting to be time to review the rationale for the site and performance measured against our Mission Statement

Specification of a new machine: The other activity over the last few days has been the specification for a friend of a computer system to replace his aging 486 66MHz system and preparing for the transfer of his existing business software which is mostly DOS based. The specification was derived as with our system based on requirements - largely for an improvement in speed as his applications grew in size of data. I will update the page covering our own system to reflect a replacement specification and cover this activity.

Reinstalling Windows 95: I have also been practicing reinstalling and rebuilding systems because it is imperative that his system is robust and that we know all the backup procedures work. I have been using the spare drive on my system by changing the jumpers to make it the master. The jumper settings were obtained by a search of the manufacturers databases using the Alta Vista Search Engine to look for the Manufacturers and Drive name.

Reconfiguring Windows 95: The whole rebuild and configuration topic is worth a separate page. Most people use the bits of Windows they need and do not know where to find all the configuration tabs when they find their rebuilt system has dollars on the keyboard and the wrong size paper. Many useful tips are on the new page Rebuilding a Windows 95 System which starts at making boot disks and then goes through the important steps in configuration and restoring dictionaries, fax cover sheets, favorites lists etc from backup tapes.

Compuserve and Binary attachments: Compuserve have brought in changes which make sending and receiving Binary attachments much easier. Incoming mail with attachments now seems to end up in my Inbox in Exchange as Icons on which one can click. Similarly outgoing Binary attachments can just be dragged into the message and off they go. i have not looked at exactly how this is all done - I assume it is all MIME compliant.

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.

5th September 1997

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.

27th September 1997

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.

26th October 1997

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.

28th October 1997

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 Assessment of IE4 - Browser: here again there have been very major enhancements with features such as Channels and the ability to Subscribe to sites and have automatic checks for changes at regular times when you are online. I have not investigated that side yet but the changes in the basic browser are also very important. Some are: Summary The above can only give a flavour of some of the enhancements - it has to be tried to be appreciated. The previous changes between versions of IE and Navigator have been small - this transforms the way one will work with true off line facilities, vastly better history and favorites and a huge viewing area yet with a faster feel.

9th November 1997

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.

11th November 1997

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.

21st November 1997

Computing: An Object Oriented Approach Pauline is expecting to teach the New OU M206 Course Computing: An Object Oriented Approach. Details of the Course are on the OU Site at http://www.open.ac.uk/StudentWeb/M206. This Course is completely "electronic" and makes extensive use of the Internet for delivery and marking. This means upgrades to our machine and we have a new objective of full connectivity on the boat. On the hardware side we will have to have a sound card - one area where we have not yet reached the original specification of Our Computer laid down at the start. It also seemed an appropriate time to upgrade to Microsoft Office 97 which most of the students will be using. I have also tried out Outlook 97 which forms part of the Office 97 suite and is a worthwhile improvement on Exchange/Messaging and integrates the functions of Schedule + which we never used in anger.

Creative SoundBlaster AWE64 value: After a number of enquires round friends who are into the Audio side I chose an AWE64 sound card - the come in two flavours Gold and Value. The Value version is about half the price and still has a good set of software and some onboard memory for SoundFonts so this was chosen. This was fitted easily into a spare ISA slot (the card is quite short) the only problem being that a cable to link the CD drive is not included. I was offered one at about £12.50 which I declined and made one up. Windows 95 detected the new card and the handlers and the standard software suite was loaded from the AWE64 CD without problems. Webphone is included but not loaded yet. The software suite is very comprehensive and I have only scratched the surface as all we need for the OU is basic audio.

25th November 1997

Office 97 Upgrade The other upgrade has been to Microsoft Office 97 including Outlook. We obtained the Student version of Office 97 Pro at a very favourable price as Tutors qualify for the discounted price. It all installed with no problems at all and has retained all the configuration of Toolbars etc in Word from the previous version. The templates and files are automatically converted to the new file format and saved when you use them the first time. The various Office Assistants I had loaded for Internet use are now built in as is the PowerPoint ActiveX presentation production. I was pleased to find that it is Service Release 1 which saves correctly into Word 95 format. The Install had removed most of the previous version but had a few shortcuts to directories containing some of the custom templates. I moved them to the new folders and renamed the old Office 95 Folder structure and ran for a few days to make sure I had not missed anything before deleting it. I also checked that the Outlook Fax Patch (awfxcg32.dll) was still in place in C:\Windows\System from the earlier install of Outlook.

First Impressions of Office 97 The transition has been a non event. There are a number of useful new features. Pauline likes the Office Assistant "Paperclip". I find Outlook alone worth the change. The downside is that the machine is slowing up - I can hear far more hard drive access than before and more memory is going to be needed particularly if Outlook is to remain loaded and Word used a lot. It looks like an increase from 24 to 48 Mbytes is needed.

18th December 1997

OU Software: We have just been updating and installing the OU software. The OU uses FirstClass for Email and Conferencing. Pauline has not liked using FirstClass in the past as there was no Offline Working and phone bills could build up fast. The latest version has an offline mode which runs a "Personal Server" allows one to Replicate mail and selected conferences as in an offline reader which is an improvement. One can also connect via a TCP/IP link as well as direct dial up which is useful but it crashes if the link is not running before the software is started for online working.

Pauline teaches two courses which use FirstClass on different servers which has meant installing two copies of the Software wasting space and the copies both have to be in Folders directly below C:\. I am also finding that other parts of the OU software for M206 refuse to run unless they are in the default directories under C:\ so our system is becoming very untidy. We plan to set up new pages to cover the OU so I will not go into further details here.

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