Welcome back to TCJ! I say that only because time is moving on and each issue is now taking some time to happen. Dave would love to move things faster than he is, but the rate of money coming into TCJ is rather slow. When I was editor, I would just dig deep into my pocket and find an extra thousand or so and keep on moving. Of course I never did get that money back and had to drop out as editor because of it. Dave however has no pockets to pull from and thus must print when he finally has the money. I would love to help out and have a few times, but my own expenses have grown and I must make up for three years of losses. That of course explains why I am working on UNIX systems and doing C. I have almost recovered from the loss of sleep, free time, and money, only to look back and wish I could have made it work. Our time as the magazine supporting collectors is still around the corner, but systems like NT have people considering the old alternatives. WINNT Needing to pay for food and such has caused me to do regular programming on UNIX platforms. We use Win95 and WinNT platforms to run our tools on. These tools enable us to talk to the HP-Unix platforms and do our programming tasks. It gives me a chance to compare and understand better the advantages of simple and complex systems. To show how much I have been converted to Unix, my fingers now work very automatically to move the cursor around in VI, the Unix editor. Vi is a little simple but very straight forward editor. On almost all platforms every Unix programmer or administrator must know how to use it. Some even love it, I am not there yet. It is however some of these little Unix tools that can give you a good feeling about using that platform. The tools usually work (hear that M/S), a manual is on-line, and when you usually have a problem, someone has already created a tools for you. It also explains why so many Unix tools are ending up on PC's. Now I have moved my own box at work from NT3.51 to NT4.0. I liked 3.51 better, mostly for it's regular windows setup (like 3.1). The new win95 desktop I find a drag, especially all the layers one must go through to change something. That of course depends on if you are allowed to change them at all. They have changed many tool names, removed some, replaced others. I have tried to add a parallel port hard drive to the box several times now, all without success. It says it is there, works, is running, but I am unable to get a drive letter. Now under DOS I use the fdisk program to find out if I had a drive that was not setup correctly and thus was the reason it wasn't being seen. Fdisk is no where to be found in NT, nor can I find a way to test for an unformatted hard drive. It may be there, they just don't want you to find it without having gone to one of their special thousand dollar schools. At this point I say give me Linux or plain old DOS, even CP/M would be better than this nonsense. But I have one item to top even this mess. MMX Well Intel has their new CPU (the MMX or Pentium Pro, which is more Media Hype than horsepower upgrade) out and got one in the wings as well. I was reading an article in EETimes that caught my eye about the new CPU's. The units have power management built in, not to mention millions of transistors. This means they can idle back and save power when possible. These units also are run on anywhere from 1.8 to 3.5 volts depending on CPU speed, current needs, and tested performance at a given voltage. To do that a 4 or 5 bit signal is supplied to tell the power supply what voltage to select. Two things came to mind, one the added complexity and a problem talked about in the article. I felt the complexity is partly to enable a better yield on the parts, as some chips were being chucked that fell outside some of the design parameters. However if the voltage is kept a bit low or hi these once rejected chips will now work just fine, or at least they think so. I am not sure it's worth the extra hassles and possible component costs and failures. Those cost and problems were of course the main concern. You see the part can drop current usage to around 300 mills. But hit a key and zap your up to 12 Amps, yup 12 AMPS! That is a big change for any power supply, not to mention a whole lot of amps for a single CPU chip. I am not sure what gets me more, the switching from nothing to full power, or the fact that full power is 12 amps. You need some pretty big traces to handle those amps, not to mention the BIG spike such a current change will cause elsewhere in the system. Talk about a few design nightmares. The Real World Reading about all these changes makes me feel good about some of my other projects. I am still doing some 68HC11 work on the side. It is mostly C and moving along rather smoothly. I got a good laugh out of an article in a C support magazine. The writer was talking about doing embedded C++ and how a reduced set was needed. The funny part was how he started the article. He mentioned how most embedded products are too limited for C and especially C++. This of course didn't stop him from continuing on talking about using C++ for embedded work. It is true a few organizations are using C and C++ for embedded systems, it is just those embedded products are very expensive and usually have DOD stamped all over them. I still have problems with people who use the same term for million dollar projects and those in which the whole product will cost less then ten dollars. We need a new list of terms so people can understand there is a big difference between these two extremes of the concept. To me embedded systems generally have a cost of well under $100 and are not a major design concern or cost. Industrial real time control systems on the other hand are typically a major part of the cost. Maybe another idea is one that Dave keeps using, it's embedded if one person can do the design work, while it is an industrial controller if it takes a full staff to design and support the product. What terms might you think are best to separate these two very different fields of work. Send me an e-mail and I will list the ideas next time. Product Failure For those who wonder what has happened with our own CDROM project, I can say it is moving along slowly. I now have up and running a CCS and a GodBout S-100 system with 8 inch disks. Between the two I hope to start going back through all my old disks and some recently acquired disks looking for items of interests. My main interest is source to BIOS and utilities. So far I have a good collection, but few have been moved to my hard drive for cataloging. Over the years I have heard many stories about users turning on their old systems only to get nothing. Well it finally happened to me the other day. I hadn't used several units in about three or four months and moved them into position to help with the disk cataloging. I tried three of the Z100's that had worked earlier and one was still connected to the 8 inch drives I was also going to use for copying. Well you can probably guess that not a one of the units would boot up. A couple had video problems, one just wouldn't boot no matter what. I finally gave up for now and dug out an older terminal and used that to test the S-100 systems with. My idea had been to use a Z-100 for a terminal with the occasional copy when one of the S-100 systems wouldn't read the 8" disk. The Z-100 also can copy from CP/M disk to MSDOS disk using one of their own utilities. Later checking showed the problem to be water damage that eaten away some of the traces and messed up one of the sockets. Where the water came from, I have no idea, but what a mess. I now have a better understanding of the frustration so many of you have told me about. However don't think using PC's will keep it from happening. I got a panic call from an old friend who has some knowledge of computers. His major skill set is two-way radio which he did till he retired recently. He has played with computers some, but does not yet have the full grasp of what can go wrong. I have tried to help him resolve problems with windows which only frustrated him more as we often hit one wall or another. This problem had to do with adding a second printer, in this case one of the newer Epson. When attempting to send data to it, he got back a paper out message, no matter what. My friend had gotten a second parallel port card for his PC. When trying that card, nothing work, and thus a phone call to me. I re-checked all he did and drug the printer home where it tested just fine. I went back the next day and tried a few more things. First I checked the new parallel card and decided all the jumpers needed to be opposite from what the tech at the store told him. I used MSD and had a different, or OK status report on the two printer ports. Now that we knew the PC tech was wrong and one problems was conflicting port addresses, we tried the printers again. After a few minor tests, all started to work properly. The problem it seems starts with his old parallel port which gives a paper out error on the Epson no matter what, a mis-configured second board, and not enough experience to know that most computer store techs have trouble using the correct end of a screwdriver. I guess at this point I need to do my normal complaint and say how bad it is and all, but I did that far too many times already, so I will just let it pass. Till Next Time Speaking of passing, I just ran out of space, so hope your trials and tribulations are minor ones, and keep hacking. Bill.