THE LATEST COMPUTING NEWS (98/05/05)
Okay...this 'news' is waaay overdue, but here it is anyway...it's still interesting...
Below you will read about my ASUS 97TX-XE board and how it appeared incompatible with my trusty old IBM keyboard. Well, that was then and this is now. To make a long story very short, the ASUS board was defective...not only that, but a SECOND identical board was identically defective. I know this for sure because I replaced or switched EVERY single component, including the case, power supply and keyboard, and got the identical problem with both ASUS boards. Then I went out and purchased an AOpen AX5T motherboard, installed all my new and old components...and it worked first time, and every time thereafter.
After some unhappy discussions with my parts supplier (who will remain nameless, since it wasn't his fault) the news came out that ASUS had had a number of problems with this board, but wasn't owning up to it...therefore no refund. Fortunately, my supplier's supplier was willing to relace the ASUS with another Pentium class motherboard, so I wasn't entirely ripped off for the money I spent, even if I did take a loss on the deal.
Moral of the story? Even top quality hardware can be defective and cause you big problems. When you build a new system (or buy one) always be on the lookout for problems and troubleshoot them relentlessly during the warrantee period. It ain't necessarily wonky software or your inexperience causing the problem.
FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS (98/05/05)
Well gang, let's face it...upgrading a PC is a never-ending quest. I continue to be an AMD K6 fan...the K6+3D CPU looks like it's gonna be hell on wheels, and I'm quite satisfied to stick with Socket 7 motherboards for at least one more upgrade cycle (Take THAT, Intel!) So far the 100 MHz Socket 7 motherboards are just coming out of development, and I imagine it will be close to the end of the year before the careful consumer will know just what s/he is looking for, so I'll be going slow on this one. Also, Matrox has just announced the G-200 2D/3D AGP video cards...these look like they'll be pretty damn' hot, and a good bet for a hotsnort system (as long as I can get OS/2 2-D drivers for it...my query is into Matrox right now).
The other big development... My ISP (also the local phone company and my employer) is bringing ADSL service online for home users. ADSL (in case you don't know) is a very high-speed full-time connection that will make even 56.6 dialup modems look as quaint as a 300BPS connection. It isn't available in my area yet, but should arrive within a month or two. When the install happens, I also plan to create a home LAN so both computers will work together, as well as through the ADSL modem. When it's done, I'll update this again...
ABOUT MY COMPUTER (Sept. 7/97)
I was so impressed by the AMD K6 CPU that I bought two of them...a 200MHz for Jessica's computer and a 233MHz jobbie for myself. So far as I can tell, the K6 has no noticeable deficiencies compared to Intel's equivalent product, and the lower cost allowed me to opt for top-quality motherboards.
Jessica now has an Asus 97VX mobo (I would have preferred an HX but these were not available from my supplier) with 64Megs of EDO RAM, a Matrox Mystique 220 video card, a GVC 28.8 external modem and a AOpen 32 Pro Wavetable soundcard. For a monitor she has a TVM MediaScan 5A; the hard drive is a Quantum Fireball 2.1 Gig . All these are wrapped up in a top quality YY11xxd (that's all I can find as a brand name) full tower case that weighs a ton.
For myself, I splurged on an ASUS 97TX-XE motherboard, a 32Meg DIMM and a new CLM676 ATX case (this last was not a good choice, as it turned out...for a few bucks more I could have done considerably better. A case is NOT just a case, evidently.) Into it I loaded my 2.5 Gig Quantum Fireball HD, 4 Meg Matrox Millenium Video card, a recently purchased GoldStar 8x CD drive and my AdLib MSC 32 WAVE PNP soundcard and my trusy Boca Research 28.8 internal modem. My monitor is a Samsung SyncMaster 17GLsi...an exceptionally fine unit.
The new setup works VERY well (check here for benchmarks, courtesy of SysBench 0.9.1d), and I'll be tweaking it further to get the best possible performance...(busmastering...whazzat?) We still have the LexMark Optra E and like it very much, as well as the IOMega Zip drive, which I find too slow to retain much enthusiasm for. Still, it works well enough and I DID get my rebate check (after 6 months!)
The ATX motherboard design is almost childishly easy to install and connect...it's nice to see that some progress was made since the days of the AT. Software setup on both ASUS boards was a touch trickier however...for a while it seemed as though Jessica's CD-Rom drive had disappeared, until I caught on about freeing up legacy hardware IRQs in the mobo PNP BIOS. Similarly, my beloved old IBM 101-key slab-o'-concrete keyboard gave my new system fits (okay, gave ME fits) until I replaced it with a backup..fortunately, Forge Business Systems here in town still have 'a few thousand' of these wonderfully solid keyboards available with PS/2 connectors, so I'll be picking up a proper replacement soon (thefreakingspacebaronmybackupkeyboarddoesn'tworkunlessIhitit REALLY hard...).
ALL of the above hardware is mentioned by way of recommendation (except for the CLM ATX case which is merely 'okay'). I've had good luck with nearly all the hardware I've encountered...a bit of research can really pay off when it comes to finding good stuff.
My operating system of choice is OS/2 Warp Version 4 (aka Merlin), and I highly recommend it. I didn't buy Warp V. 4 the instant it became available but rather very soon after. There were some minor challenges to install the new code, but the new version is so markedly improved in terms of speed and usefulness, that any difficulties (mainly involving the reinstallation of video drivers for my antiquated Trident card, since replaced) were more than worth the effort. OS/2 Warp continues to be a highly successful and satisfactory choice of operating system for me.
I use Warp exclusively with OS/2 native applications on an all-HPFS drive (I do have a couple of Windows progs running under WinOS/2 on an experimental basis). So far I have had no difficulty locating native OS/2 applications that fulfill my computing needs. My main writing tool is the Describe word processor and for internetting I use ProNews/2 (beta) from Panacea Software and the latest version of PMmail, along with Netscape Explorer for OS/2(and I'm eagerly awaiting their Version 4 for OS/2 sometime in Q4 97).... Among the various WPS utilities available I use Dragtext and Mike Shillingford's amazingly useful X-It2 and X-File. I also like CMDHere and WarpEnhancer, and the somewhat less useful (but pretty and fun) CandyBarz. I wrote this web page using an OS/2 shareware html editor called Picardy 3 Ver 0.61. Several of the .jpg images found here are translated from Kodak PhotoCD with JView Pro...a system I plan to use increasingly in the future.
Generally I find the shareware mentioned on The 'Must-Have' Shareware Webpage listing to be excellent choices for OS/2, not to mention the Hobbes FTP archive ...the motherlode of OS/2 shareware. While it's true that commercial shrinkwrapped software for OS/2 is fairly rare, shareware is easily available, and generally of excellent quality.
Sadly, due to IBM's inability (or unwillingness) to support Win95 applications on Warp, we will be putting a Win95 partition on Jessica's computer so that she can run some of her work software...most notably WordPerfect for Windows. As well, I have no doubt that a few of the latest games that run only under Win95 will also appear there...most notably Tomb Raider 2, Riven, and Quake II. FIE on IBM and COREL, not to mention EIDOS, idsoftware and Broderbund for making this necessary. (I'll be buying a USED copy of WIN95...Microsoft doesn't get a red cent from me until I get the upgrade notice for MS-DOS 6 that I was promised so long ago...)
Well, I suppose it was inevitable... Jessica has gone all Windows 95 on her system now...there wasn't enough of interest to her on the OS/2 side to justify maintaining a partition for it. Reasonable enough, since she was spending 95% of her time in Win95 anyway, and uses it exclusively at work. I have to admit that so far Win95 has worked pretty well for her, since neither of us are inclined to fiddle with her system or overload its capabilities. It's not an OS for anyone who wants to do any power computing, however... The Win95 upgrade I bought was secondhand...C$75 from a used software place in Montreal. Take THAT, Bill Gates!
For more information about OS/2, please check out IBM's OS/2 Product Family Page.
PLEASE REGISTER YOUR SHAREWARE. Especially if it's OS/2 shareware. Recently I received (by accident) a list of all the registered users of a very popular and well-thought-of WPS utility. Without naming names (the author asked me not to), I will simply say that the software author's take from his excellent, well known and highly regarded utility program would equal about two, or maybe three paycheques for a decently well-paid programmer. It's usually thought that only about 6% of shareware users actually register the products they use. If this figure was 50%, my sharewave author friend would have made the equivalent of about 7 or 8 months wages ... thus giving him not just a monetary incentive, but much precious time to work on new projects ...thus enriching us all with more native OS/2 software.
I regard this as not only a great shame, but also dangerous to the future of OS/2. If a good OS/2 programmer cannot make a business of his product, he'll likely go to work for somebody that will pay him a decent wage. Odds are excellent that that programmer will not be writing OS/2 software.
PLEASE REGISTER YOUR SHAREWARE. If OS/2 is to have a future, OS/2 programmers will have to be able to make a good living writing software.
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