Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    The easy reach of e-mail cards and letters keeps this columnist on his (digital) toes

    by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #330  February 20, 1996 High Tech Office  column

    One of the joys of having a published e-mail address is that readers can communicate with me without having to go through the switchboard or the editor. And they do--sometimes to inform me of a local company that's working in an area I've written about, sometimes to ask questions, sometimes to get on my case. Here are a few examples.

    Michelle Bain asked where she could get the Beautiful BC Screen Saver, mentioned in my Christmas Shopping column. It's too late now for a holiday present, but this nice piece of software can be downloaded for free on the Internet from the provincial Ministry of Tourism at Lacking an Internet connection, a call to 1-800-663-7611 will get it mailed to you on floppy disk for a nominal $5.95--your taxes at work. (By the way, part of the joy of e-mail is that I was able to reply directly to Michelle before Christmas.)

    And while you're getting things on the Web, Nicole Okun would like to point you to the Buy and Sell's Web site, including the weekly free ads from its Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island editions. Check

    Stephen DeGabriele at M & J Woodcrafts in Delta wondered about my statement in the January 2 issue that some 16-bit DOS or Windows software might not run under OS/2. He pointed out that everything that he'd tried under that operating system had run just fine.

    In my reply, I agreed that OS/2, in fact, is more compatible with standard DOS and Windows (16-bit) software than Microsoft's high-powered Windows NT operating system, but that some DOS game-players in particular have reported problems with it. It won't, moreover, run any of the up-and-coming generation of 32-bit Windows 95 or Windows NT programs. (But all in all, OS/2 is a very stable and capable operating system that many believe has been unable to properly show off its strengths in the shadow of the Microsoft marketing machine.)

    E-mail encourages conversation, so Stephen wrote back, suggesting that the next version of OS/2, code-named Merlin, promises additional options for DOS support, and that IBM has secured contracts for OS/2 ranging from Toshiba to the U.S. Marines, promising a hopeful future for users of that system.

    Kristine Ohori wanted to know: "Will the Internet replace CD-ROM as a medium for the publication of anything (perhaps everything) that CDs are used for?"

    "Aha!" I thought. "A potential column idea," but the short answer is, not yet. At least while most users access the Internet via 14.4- or 28.8-kbs modems, speed is too slow. For now, CD-ROMs are a far superior method for accessing large (static) databases. Compare the Encarta CD-ROM encyclopedia on your own machine with getting it via modem over Microsoft Network. The same is true for accessing sound or video, or full-colour photos, to say nothing of playing games. Plans to make high-speed Internet access widely available could change all this, however.

    Mark Greene replied to my column on Intel's new Pentium Pro processor, in which I pointed out that this new high-end processor provides no benefits for Windows 95 users and recommended they think carefully before upgrading. He says he is currently running his wholesale business on a "maxed-out 386," with 16 terminals running SCO Unix and Impact Award software, a package designed for wholesalers and manufacturers. He wonders whether the Pentium Pro might be a realistic alternative for him, as he's feeling the need for more computer power.

    Yes, Mark, Unix is a fully 32-bit operating system (unlike Windows 95, which has kept a great deal of older 16-bit code for compatibility with older DOS and Windows software). It, along with your Impact software, should be able to make full use of the Pentium Pro's power.

    In a future column, I'll share some of the backlog from local companies that have written to point out the work that they've done in areas I've covered.

    So keep those e-mail cards and letters coming--just try to direct your e-mail to I'm surprised at what a good job Mindlink has done with e-mail that mangles my name: Michelle Bain's message got to me, even with my name spelled "zizman," although it's clearly not as good as my credit union, which has cashed cheques made out to "Alan Zimmerman"--presumably Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman)'s kid brother.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan