USEFUL STUFF

by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, June 1993

YOU DO THAT VOODOO

The "Voodoo" series of books by Kay Yarborough Nelson (Ventana Press, Chapel Hill, SC) is amazing. Ms. Yarborough uses an overall theme of "Anything that I don't understand completely is magic, and I'll never understand computers. I just try to get some work out of them - and probably you do, too." This incredibly refreshing outlook permeates the whole series of books, presenting the reader with the "Tips and Tricks with an Attitude" as promised by the common subtitle.

Having read, reread, and - more importantly - used three of the series, "Voodoo DOS", "Voodoo Windows", and "Voodoo Wordperfect", I have become a great fan of the author. I have also skimmed, but not thoroughly read (YET!) "Voodoo Wordperfect", and "Voodoo Mac", and they hold the promise of similar quality.

My expectations for the first of the series that I read, "Voodoo Windows" were low, having worked with Windows extensively over the last few years. Wrong! I found so many valuable tips and tricks that I spent several hours implementing and experimenting with them. My Windows now looks and runs like no other. It is customized to the hilt. The amazing part is that I enjoyed reading the book. The "Attitude" mentioned in the subtitle came through in the form of irreverent humor and a genuine sense of wonder about the subject matter.

The author presents material that is complicated and obscure enough to intrigue the hard-core techno-geek. (Let's see - pen . . . penlight . . . utility knife . . . collapsible pointer . . . notepad. Whew! Thank God, no pocket protector - Wow! That was close. I guess the therapy is working.) The key factor is that the information is offered with no assumptions as to prior experience. A beginner can easily use the tips, too.

"Voodoo DOS" was only slightly less valuable to me. (I was experimenting with MS-DOS's predecessor, CP/M before MS-DOS was even a glimmer in Billionaire Bill's acquisional eye, so there was slightly less room for improvement.) "Voodoo Wordperfect for Windows" was extremely helpful, since I had just transitioned to the product. Both were as readable as the first. I can't wait to get to the rest of the series. At $19.95 a pop, these books should not be missed.

WINSOME WINCIM

All right. There's no printed documentation. Three-fourths of all of the icons and menu-based commands jump directly to dialing with no warning, without asking for confirmation, and with no sure way to abort the call short of turning off your modem. An inauspicious start, to be sure, but WINCIM (Windows Compuserve Information Manager) is a worthwhile program.

Anyone involved with Netware should already have a Compuserve account - it's the only way to survive. With WINCIM, you cannot only survive - you can thrive. It's actually fun to have simultaneous access to several sections within Compuserve and to switch among them at will. You can download multiple files, read your mail, and browse through forum message at the same time.

As you traverse the message threads you can display their pattern in graphical tree format. If you mark individual messages or threads, WINCIM will offer to download the marked items. This feature allows the money-saving technique of off-line reading. Offline message creation and replying are also available. If you plan to return to the same section repeatedly, just add that area to your "Favorite Places" list. After that, just click on it and you'll be there.

WINCIM is a valuable tool for Windows-based access to Compuserve. Just order it while online (GO WINCIM) to save lots of time and money.

THE ULTIMATE UNDO

The idea behind Uninstaller (MicroHelp, Inc., Marietta, GA) is so obvious that I'm surprised that no one else has thought of it. Have you ever had a Windows application that you wanted to remove? Maybe you didn't like it. Maybe the upgrade installation program is buggy and you want to install the new version from scratch. You might have damaged files and want to reinstall a program from scratch to overcome errors. Or, maybe you wanted to test a program (for a review?) and get rid of it after the evaluation. Most windows programs won't automatically remove themselves and manual removal is normally incomplete and can even be hazardous. That's where Uninstaller comes in to play.

Uninstaller analyzes Windows program files to find what other program files they access and what segments of .INI (Windows initialization parameter) files affect them. It then offers to remove these programs and .INI options either one by one or in groups. Each step is carefully documented with context sensitive help accompanied by warnings when necessary. A final option to abort is given at any point where a change becomes unrecoverable. Even multiple programs from a single vendor that access common families of subprograms can be tracked down and safely eliminated.

My primary computer is constantly used to evaluate products, and is therefore littered with leftover pieces of Windows programs. Uninstaller found and removed them in minutes. It also easily eliminated some complete programs that were awaiting disposal. I netted many more megabytes of free space than I had expected, all without errors.

The program has some neat tricks for LANs, too. When uninstalling a LAN-based program, it can leave behind a dummy program (called a stub) to prevent individual workstations from getting error messages when trying to access a removed program. Instead of an error message, a warning is displayed explaining that the application in question is no longer available on the LAN. It then offers the option to clean up the Windows on the local hard disk. When all of the workstations have been cleared the administrator can manually request the removal of the stub.

This program is essential for anyone who evaluates Windows programs and quite desirable for any Windows users.

Strange Bedfellows

A few years ago, an organization was founded to meet the needs of LAN VARs (Value Added Reseller) and Lan-oriented systems integrators. The organization grew, to the benefit of its members. Then they started allowing anyone in who had any LAN authorizations - even those from tiny LAN companies who have no criteria for authorization save a state issued sales tax number. Later, they allowed stores that were little more than mail order houses and warehouse outlets to join the organization. Now I have learned that LANDA, the LAN Dealers Association is merging with NOMDA, the National Office Machine Dealers Association. At this rate I expect to hear of an upcoming merger of the American Cancer Society with a major tobacco company.

                                    1993, Wayne M. Krakau