dacs.doc electric

Random Access
July 2002

Bruce Preseton, moderator


Members who are unable to attend the General Meeting may submit questions to "askdacs@aol.com" by the day prior to the meeting. We will attempt to get an answer for you. Please provide enough detail, as we will not be able to ask for additional information.

Q. A business associate emails an Excel spreadsheet to me periodically; when I open it up, the sheet is much larger than my screen--so much so, that I can't get at the scroll bars on the right or at the bottom. Is there a way to get it to resize to fit my screen?

A. Not built into Word, or many applications. The best you can do is to grab a resizing corner that is visible, say at the upper left, and drag down and to the right, so that it is near the center of the screen. Then grab the window's title bar and drag the whole window to the upper left corner. Repeat until you can see the whole sheet.

Q. Does anyone know anything about Paladium?

A. Other than that it is part of Microsoft's security plan, and that Intel has ‘signed on’, no.  There is a lot of rumor and inuendo.

Q. Can I create a document in Word, and then "Send To" an e-mail recipient? My send-to is set up to go to Outlook; I'd really like to be able to specify Outlook Express.

A. During the discussion, several ideas were suggested, but upon testing after the meeting it appears that you can only send to the default email application. The problem is that the Send To entry in your personal settings folder (for Windows 2000, Me, XP) or in the \WINDOWS\SEND TO folder (for others) is not a creatable entry. It is a file of 0 size, although it is of type "MAPImail". You might be able to play with file extensions in Windows Explorer / Tools / Folder Options, and see if it is associated with your mail application there.

Q. Could you talk about what affects image quality when you print a photo image?

A. Starting with the basics--for good photos you need good paper. Think of regular paper (such as used in copiers, laser printers, etc.) as being much like a paper towel. Think of the drop of ink being placed on the paper as writing with a felt-tip pen. The ink will ‘wick’ into the paper and disperse, blending with adjacent colors. To prevent this, photo-quality paper has a very thin coating of clay which prevents the ink from wicking. Next, consider the resolution of the printer and the image. A typical photo quality printer can support 1,400 dots per inch. If you are printing across the width of the paper, you have 8x10 paper; at 1,400 resolution, then your image would have (8"x1400 ) by (10" x 1400) or about 11,200 by 14,000  pixels in it. If you are working with 32-bit color, that would be about 4MB in size.  If your camera doesn’t supply that much information, then the printer driver is going to have to interpolate (or estimate) what color the missing pixels should be. So, if you are looking for quality, you have to have the data to support it.  The next thing that affects quality is the quality of the printer driver--does it estimate so as to get better speed? and things like that...

Q. Is that why the same file when printed on the same printer looks better when printed from my Mac than from my PC?

A. Given the same data, they should come out the same. So it is either the photo-imaging software being different, the printer driver being different, or the settings in the printer control panel being different.  On a PC, be sure to go to FILE, then PRINT so that you can examine the settings. Usually, just clicking the print button in an application goes to the default settings.

Q. I received an e-mail that has a little icon associated with it--the icon looks like an envelope with a paperclip on it.  What is that?

A. That is an attached file.  To get at it, you usually double-click it and the file will be opened by the associated application.  This presumes that you have the application that created the file. If you don’t, there are some ‘viewer’ programs that will let you examine/read the file, but not modify it. A word of warning: never open an attached file unless you are expecting it. There are viruses out there that will send themselves as attachments, and forge the sender’s name by reading it from the sender’s address book. Just because you know who sent it isn’t enough. Lastly, if the sender incorrectly stripped the extension off when sending the file, you will have to find out what it is before you can open it with the appropriate application program.

Q. Is there much of a difference between modems?  I can’t get a good connection.

A. There are two broad categories of modems - those with controller chips, and those without.  When a modem is asked to work at speeds above about 14kbps it is pushing the limits of what can be sent over a voice-grade line.  To get faster speeds, the data is "compressed".  A simplistic example:  If you are sending a report that has two columns, and there are a lot of blanks between the two columns on a line--instead of sending, say, 50 blanks, the modem will send a special character that says "repeat the next character," the character, and then the repeat count. Thus, instead of sending 50 characters, it sends 3.  If there is a controller in the modem, then the compression is performed by the controller.  If there is no controller, then the compression (and decompression) is performed by the device driver for the modem, which implies that the work must be done by your computer’s central processor. This can take time. For a binary file transfer, it may require your computer to work fairly hard. External modems will always have a controller.  Internal modems may or may not have a controller. If the modem says ‘WinModem’ it means that it is controllerless--and will work only on a Windows machine where the device driver does the work.

Q. Similar question--is there much variation between telephone lines?

A. Yes--a voice grade telephone line is only ‘conditioned’ to support data transmission speeds of 28K.  At one time this was more than sufficient, as other forms of data communications, such as fax, only used 9.6K.  Conditioning refers to putting circuitry on the line to cut down echo, crosstalk (leakage of one conversation onto another circuit) and loss of signal strength. However, over time, the quality of a line may deteriorate as connections in the line (the splice blocks that you may see after every 5th or so pole) oxidize, etc. When you establish a connection, the two modems involved ‘negotiate’ the connection to determine how fast they may exchange data--this is the hissing, honking and beeping that you hear through the modem's speaker.  Once the modems have negotiated a connection, if they detect errors, they may have to ‘retrain’ which involves negotiating a slower connection.  It is rare that they will work up to a faster connection than the speed established at connection time. To get a nominal 56K connection, you must have a high quality phone line.  US Robotics has a line test BBS system that you can call to measure the quality of your line--note that it is not a web site that you access through the internet, as that would not measure your connection speed--you must dial it directly.  You may read about it the page that comes up on this search: <http://www.usr.com/support/s-search-results.asp?search-section=%2Fsupport&search-terms =line+test&searcg.x=10&search.y=16>  If you get a report that your line quality is bad, call your telephone company and tell them about it.  If you have ‘numbers’ that is much more convincing to them than just a general complaint.

Q. The drive activity light on my drive is continuously on.  Why would this be?

A. There are several things this could be. First, if you are running memory-intensive applications (such as a photo-editor, or a CAD program); then, if you don't have enough real memory (RAM), then Windows will use ‘virtual memory’ and take pieces of memory assigned to a program and write it to the swap file,a special area of your disk that is used to support virtual memory.  If you have enough RAM, then it could be other things-such as utility programs like Norton Disk Doctor, Speed Start, Fast Load, etc. Microsoft loads a utility that indexes all of your Microsoft Office documents so that when you do a search it will find things. Other applications will partially load--for example Microsoft loads most of Office into memory (the DLLs), even if you are not running Office at the moment. Other notorious users of RAM are all of the things that support various multimedia file formats, such as RealPlayer. You don’t want these things to be loaded until you need them.  If you have the RealPlayer blue ‘R’ next to your clock in the system tray, it’s loaded. Download the free utility StartStop to see what has been launched in your machine.

Bruce Preston is president of West Mountain Systems, a consultancy in Ridgefield, CT, specializing in database applications. A DACS director and moderator of the Random Access segment at the monthly general meetings, Bruce also leads the Access SIG.