TECHLINE by Curtis Schleich and Sam Redding

Lincoln Public Library provides high-tech access in Carnegie comfort

[OCT. 21, 2000]  You may picture yourself reclining in a soft leather chair beneath high oak-trimmed walls, with sunlight streaming through classically-arched windows, reading Tennyson. That impression of reader's paradise can still be realized at Lincoln Public Library, a beautifully-maintained Carnegie building facing ancient maples in Latham Park.

 

You may also see yourself chasing a storehouse of information held in a million locations around the world through high-speed, wireless Internet access. That image is also a reality at Lincoln Public Library.

 


[Librarian Richard Sumrall peruses LDN's website via a wireless-web computer]

Looking for a hard-to-find book? Search the entire 1.5 million titles on the Rolling Prairie Library System and have the book delivered to the Lincoln library. Access major university libraries' electronic card catalogs from the comfort of the Carnegie building in Lincoln. Find your ancestors on Lincoln Public Library's extensive collection of genealogy CDs. Read Lincoln Daily News or any of hundreds of newspapers that now have websites.

 


[Richard Sumrall stands proudly by the new Lincoln Public Library sign]

 

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Lincoln Public Library, according to library director Richard Sumrall, has built a state-of-the-art computer system, with wireless Internet access, to serve our community. "The future is here," said Sumrall at a Chamber of Commerce technology mixer held at the library this week, "and it is in Lincoln."

 


TECHLINE by Jim Youngquist

Something for nothing?

Third section

[SEPT. 16, 2000]  The internet has enhanced and blessed the lives of many. The ability to communicate and obtain information in an instant without great expense has brought even long-term computer holdouts and computer deniers to purchase systems to gain access to the great riches offered on the net. And internet users have found one other blessing of the internet age: access to the treasure of their imaginations free programs and software.

(First section: There's a hidden cost to playing the internet free-program game. Your Windows PC is wide open and vulnerable in two major areas. The first vulnerability your PC has is in the system REGISTRY.)

(Second section: There is a second dangerous result of this free-file age. Computer programs have become fat in comparison with their predecessors the result of poor planning, competition to push products out the door before they are done, and the adoption of a lazy programming model.) 

As a side note, a third problem occurs often as a result of downloading and installing programs. Not all programs can get along with each other. Quite often certain programs will conflict with other programs, and the result will be Error and Warning messages as well as lockups and system slowdowns. This program incompatibility can slow down your internet connection, make your computer run sluggish or make Windows stop running completely.

 

These three problems come about because of the general structure and program environment Windows has to offer. Currently there is no answer to the third problem of program incompatibility. The first and second problems can be resolved in part by following these guidelines:

1. Download and install fewer programs. Be choosy about the applications you subject Windows to. Fewer intrusions into Window's REGISTRY and DLL areas means less chances for REGISTRY or DLL corruption.

 

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2. Make complete backups of the REGISTRY and your files to tape or another backup device often so you can recover in case of failure.

3. Consult a computer professional or your local computer vendor for advice on whether a particular program has known bad effects.

4. Do not attempt procedures on your PC which you have inadequate knowledge about.

5. Be prepared mentally and emotionally to have your PC repaired or to replace Windows yourself if REGISTRY or DLL corruption or program incompatibilities render your PC useless.

There is some good news on the forefront. Some leading PC advocates, such as .NET are leading the way out of this mess by convincing program developers to abandon the current scheme of using the Windows REGISTRY to store their program settings and instead use a program-independent system of recording and retaining important settings. They are also recommending the abandonment of using shared DLL's for a system of proprietary libraries, thereby eliminating that conflict as well. It is believed that future versions of Windows will abandon the REGISTRY and the use of shared DLLs completely.

There is no answer for sloppy programming though, and the word FREE should serve as a big red flag for computer users, because that kind of FREE can be really costly in the long run.

 

[Jim Youngquist]

 


TECHLINE by Jim Youngquist

Something for nothing?

Second section

[SEPT. 15, 2000]  The internet has enhanced and blessed the lives of many. The ability to communicate and obtain information in an instant without great expense has brought even long-term computer holdouts and computer deniers to purchase systems to gain access to the great riches offered on the net. And internet users have found one other blessing of the internet age: access to the treasure of their imaginations free programs and software.

(First section: There's a hidden cost to playing the internet free-program game. Your Windows PC is wide open and vulnerable in two major areas. The first vulnerability your PC has is in the system REGISTRY.)

There is a second dangerous result of this free-file age. Computer programs have become fat in comparison with their predecessors the result of poor planning, competition to push products out the door before they are done, and the adoption of a lazy programming model. The problem starts with the tools available today to construct programs, not with most of the programming itself (it's the people who program the tools rather than the people who program the programs). This is one of the reasons you need faster and faster computers because the programs, although more sophisticated, are obese and awkward.

 

In an attempt to make programs unmanageable, Microsoft has engineered a different model of sharing certain program elements. We agree that sharing can be good under certain circumstances. The way that Windows shares these elements is by putting certain common functions into libraries on the computer, and programs regularly borrow from these libraries to perform their functions. These libraries are known as DLL (distributed link library) files. Most of the DLL files are stored in a common area under the Windows directory and are available to all the programs installed on your system. Each DLL file has a unique name and contributes unique functions.

 

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These unique DLL files become outdated as enhanced functionality is required, and a new version of the DLL file is installed along with new software. The problem comes when the new DLL fails to provide adequate support for older and existing programs. If a new DLL replaces an older working DLL, the result can often be catastrophic.

There is usually a question associated with every Uninstall session: "Do you want to remove the shared program components?" This is asking you if you want to remove the DLL's which other programs may rely on. Removing shared DLL's can result in pulling the support rug out from under your faithful, trusted and working programs. If you don't know what you are doing, answer "NO, I don't want to remove them" to that question.

(Note: This article will conclude on Saturday.)

[Jim Youngquist]

 

(To third section)


Preserving your PC Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about the dangers to computer equipment from lightning and surges. In Part 2, we discussed the problems encountered from computer viruses. In Part 3, we will explore another consequence of the internet age.

Something for nothing?

First section

[SEPT. 14, 2000]  The internet has enhanced and blessed the lives of many. The ability to communicate and obtain information in an instant without great expense has brought even long-term computer holdouts and computer deniers to purchase systems to gain access to the great riches offered on the net. And internet users have found one other blessing of the internet age: access to the treasure of their imaginations free programs and software.

There are free programs on the internet to enhance your internet experience. Browsers and browser plug-ins, email programs and email managers, alternative communications packages to chat and hold voice conversations are available to download over your internet connection at no cost or offered at a fraction of what would have been their pre-internet age pricing. The list of internet enhancements goes on and on, the inventions of this new age.

In addition to internet-associated programs, there are programs of every kind on the net for every other purpose. Word processors and spreadsheets, screensavers, file managers, first-aid programs, virus checkers and, of course, games, just to name a few. Some of these programs are worth the time to download, some are mere distractions, and some are a total waste of time. You never know whether a downloaded FREE program is going to be great or a dud until you have downloaded and finished the installation. But the point is, there's a lot of software out there, and it can be yours right now for the low, low price of $0. Hmmmm, the price and the terms seem to be just right!

There is, however, a hidden cost to playing the internet free-program game. Your Windows PC is wide open and vulnerable in two major areas, and unlike attack from viruses, which can also be spread via file downloads from the internet this hidden cost is not an intentional attempt to cause damage or wreak havoc.

The first vulnerability your PC has is in the system REGISTRY, a place where Windows 9X, NT, 2000 and ME keeps most of its settings and information. Much of your program information is kept in the registry, as well as color and font settings, the size and last known position of every window you had open, the location of help and dialog boxes, as well as all your file association information. In a previous article I warned you that the REGISTRY was very important, and regular REGISTRY backup was an essential element in maintaining or redeeming your PC's health.

 

 

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The REGISTRY is vulnerable, in part, because of the way Microsoft engineered it. You see, the REGISTRY was actually present as an infant in Windows 3.1, and with the advent of Windows 95 it because the adult guardian of your Windows experience. Many PC experts argue that the REGISTRY is a very poor guardian because of its inherent flaws and vulnerabilities. They speak out because REGISTRY corruption is a common experience among Windows users.

A REGISTRY is corrupted when there are inadequate or conflicting entries directing Windows behavior. For example, one REGISTRY setting can turn on a function while another registry setting prevents that same function. The result is that a program which previously functioned perfectly now is hobbled and is rendered less than useful. Uninstalling the hindered program usually removes all the REGISTRY settings for that program but does not correct the problem because the instruction to prevent the needed function is not part of that program's REGISTRY settings.

Installing and uninstalling programs can corrupt your REGISTRY by leaving behind or accidentally deleting needed REGISTRY entries, or by inserting REGISTRY entries that conflict with the entries for other programs. With the volume and diversity of programs available to the public for free on the internet, new-program installation is a daily thing for many computer users. And REGISTRY corruption is one of the more common problems we see in our repair facility.

 

Many of the programs offered for low or no cost on the internet are wonderful pieces of software engineering. They truly have been worthwhile in my computing experience, and I continue to search for the next free gem which will take me on another adventure and solve another yet-unknown problem that I have. But there are other programs out there which are not quite perfect or finished or without problems, and these are the stuff good registries die for. But you never know whether a downloaded free program will behave or be destructive until it is already installed. And then it is too late.

(Note: This article will continue with postings on Friday and Saturday.

[Jim Youngquist]

 

(To second section)