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12/96 Letters

Readers paint a picure of the future: We look at the Y2K crisis, the use of the
Web in shcools,Windows 95 vs. NT and the fate of free speech on the Internet.

Keeping It Simple

I enjoyed Martin Heller's story about his failed adventure with Quicken and online banking ("Don't Mention the I-Word," Programming Windows, September). Here's the answer to the question he posed about how the ordinary user manages these days. Rule #1: Keep it simple. Rule #2: Proceed with caution. When we finally find something that works well enough and is reliable enough, we hang on to it with a two-handed death grip, and we don't let go until a newer version proves beyond a reasonable doubt that it will reliably do what the previous version did. We cannot afford to tinker.
Mark Yannone via the Internet

I was intrigued by Martin Heller's "Don't Mention the I-Word" piece. Many of us who set various computer-related goals only a few months ago were swept away by the flash flood of the Net. The pre-flood world of computing was already threatening to drown anyone who played the jack-of-all-trades system analyst/administrator/programmer role. Now it's demanding that I become proficient on a few more fronts, such as HTML, VBScript and PERL. I want to believe that I can handle it all, but I'm afraid thinking that way is a sure sign of amateurism. Professionalism in the small-business environment may no longer mean that one learns and implements, but rather that one learns how to hire others to implement.
Bruce Tabor via the Internet

The new millenium

After reading Mike Elgan's article about computers' inability to handle the new century ("It's the End of the World As We Know It," The Explorer, October), I checked my system, and as stated in the article I got a date of 1980. I did, however, do more checking. I have Windows 3.1 and I checked the calendar that came with it. I can find no problems with the dates and days not matching. February 29, 2000, fell on the proper day. Why can't we all just manually set the date for Saturday, January 1, 2000, and let the computer go from there?
Mark E. Gatti via the Internet

Editor's reply: That works fine until you reboot. The CMOS in most early PCs has a two-digit date. You can set the date in software to whatever you like, but when you reboot after January 1, 2000, for example, DOS will check the CMOS date and be told it's the year 1900. DOS resolves the conflict by setting the date to the beginning of time (which for DOS is January 4, 1980). This happens every time the system is booted.

Mike Elgan wrote a great column on the Y2K crisis. There is, however, another crisis on the horizon to which the press has given very little attention. It promises to make Y2K look like a Sunday walk in the park. Sometime around 2008, experts predict that the phone system will need to switch to four-digit area codes. How much software for PCs and mainframes-not to mention phone switches, routers, etc.-has three-digit area codes built into it?
Dan Nolte via the Internet

Anybody else notice this?

Looking at the Top Ten Best-Selling Windows Software (Newstrends, September), I am struck by the fact that six of the 10 are programs devoted to avoiding disasters or cleaning them up. Is there a message here?
Marc Diamondvia the Internet

Did you ever wonder why you have to hit the Connect button in order to hook up via the Dial-Up Networking feature in Windows 95? With the latest version of Internet Explorer, you also have to hit that silly little button, even to check your mail. Now I guess I'll have to click on the Connect button at least nine or 10 more times a day.
Matt Carpenter via the Internet

I was on MSN filling out an online form to receive the sneak preview of the next version of the service. I was using Netscape 3.0 to browse. When I finished the form and sent it, I received an error from the system to the effect that the client was sending bad data. I tried every conceivable modification to the data and couldn't get it to send. Then I loaded up Microsoft's IE 3.0 and it went through on the first shot with identical data. I even went back to try again with Netscape and it still wouldn't work. I can't be the first to stumble across this, can I?
Richard C. Valdez via the Internet

Caught in a Web dilemma

I appreciated Newt Gingrich's column (Dialog Box, October) concerning the private sector's involvement in wiring schools for Internet access. To help educate our children, I believe we need a program that provides government assistance where needed, but allows the local citizens to provide the direction and problem-solving abilities that have made them successful. No caring individual can resist a direct request for help, especially when it involves the sharing of his or her own special skills to make a difference in a child's life.
Don G. Venneman Cumberland, RI

Newt Gingrich notes his role in bringing the Internet to two elementary schools and challenges us to do the same. Should we? I think not. We need to get computers out of elementary schools, and focus on the basics. All resources should be concentrated in the upper grades. Powerful tools are useless without the underlying skills to utilize them.
Kevin M. Arvin via the Internet

Pleading the First

There is a small but crucial error in Cheryl Currid's column "Somebody Out There Is Watching You" (Windows at Work, September). It is inaccurate to say that "federal judges blocked the banning of obscene material from the Internet." Obscene material-that which meets the legal definition of obscenity set out in Miller v. California and subsequent cases-may be banned from the Internet just as it may be banned from any other medium. What the federal judges decided was that the government may not regulate the content of otherwise-protected speech on the Internet. The essence of the decision to which Currid alludes is simply that the Internet will be treated with the same deference generally available for print media, and not subjected to the watered-down First Amendment status granted to broadcast media.
Rod McCarvel via the Internet

To NT or not to NT?

In his column on NT (Start, September), Fred Langa didn't talk about 32-bit software as something to consider in deciding whether to move to NT. There may be 16-bit apps that aren't available in 32-bit versions. There may be neat desktop environments that will have to be abandoned because they don't run on NT. In general, there isn't much that's neat about NT. It is just a business-class workhorse with no frills. NT 4.0 takes much of the "personal" out of personal computer. I will stay with Win95 until I can no longer tolerate the loss of productivity I encounter while trying to hold it together in usable configuration. When that happens, I will be prepared to make sacrifices in functionality.
Bob Lewis via the Internet

Somebody would have to hold a gun to my head to get me to deploy NT. I see the NT vs. Win95 problem pretty simply. My clients' small networks on Windows 95 install and run brainlessly, with no on-site administration needed; friends who run NT say that getting NT servers deployed and configured is a pain, and they require care and feeding. Calls from my clients regarding technical matters have gone from almost weekly to almost none; everybody I know who's using NT requires lots of support. Plug and Play in Win95 still has a way to go, but it's phenomenal compared to 3.1; NT, as Fred points out, is still weak here. For a single-user, client-style workstation, I think 95 has a lot to offer, so I continue to recommend it.
Will Fastie via the Internet


The "Form-idable Function" article in the October issue erroneously stated that AT&T WorldNet Service provides home page creation. In fact, it does not offer this feature at this time. AT&T does offer Web hosting through AT&T Easy World Wide Web Services, which provides Microsoft FrontPage Web design software.

We want to hear from you! Please send your letter and phone number, to: Letters, WINDOWS Magazine, One Jericho Plaza, Jericho, NY 11753, or by e-mail to We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

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