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Last Ramblings

by Jim Scheef

NOTE: This article was supposed to appear last month in April's newsletter. This is a special "Web Site only" exclusive.


Well, it’s finally arrived – my last “Ramblings”. Last month I miswrote when I said that it has been difficult to find topics for these columns. On the contrary, the topics have been easy to find. Sometimes the news of the day presents so many potential topics that I can’t decide which to choose! My hot buttons have been digital rights, civil liberties, the computer industry, online privacy, and of course the politics that make it necessary to talk about these things. There are many things we can all do to help and unfortunately, most involve keeping an eye on our Congress people.

1.        Make sure elections are fair and accurate - we need voter verified paper ballots when electronic voting finally arrives.

2.        Watch for extensions of the Patriot Act that are attached to other seemingly innocuous legislation.

3.        Peer to peer networking is more than just kids sharing copyrighted music. This and other innovative technologies are under attack. The case of MGM v. Grokster will be argued before the Supreme Court on March 29th. This case is of the same magnitude as the famous Betamax case of 1984. Watch for a decision by summer.

This list is far from complete. This is just what I could think of right now.


If this sounds like too much work, then do what other special interests do – hire a lobbyist! A really easy and effective way to do this is to join the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF.org). Visit their web site to learn more about current issues.


DACS Grows

The energy in this club can be astounding. Once again we have a new special interest group (SIG). I’m not sure exactly what John Lansdale will call his new group, but it will concentrate on web programming using open source tools like the PHP scripting language, MySQL database, and the Apache web server. Look for an announcement elsewhere in this issue for the date and time of the first meeting.


The Web Site Committee is not a SIG but a group that I hope will redesign the DACS web site using current web techniques. To help get things going I’ve set up a Yahoo Group (a free email list) for the committee. Most of the committee’s work will be coordinated thru this email list. If you would like to help on the committee, send an email to “Website_DACS-subscribe@yahoogroups.com” with your name and phone number. If you have looked at the club calendar on the web site lately (www.dacs.org, click on “Monthly Calendar”), you have seen how busy our Resource Center has become. I hope to find a nite when the Website Committee can meet.


And don’t forget the “Pig SIG” where DACS grows in a different way – at the waistline. After the general meeting each month a group of eight to eighteen people reconvenes at the Chili’s restaurant on Newtown Road near Exit 8. Over a late dinner or snack and beverage we discuss whatever comes to mind. You are all welcome to join us.


Science Horizons

Look for the short piece about judging at the Science Horizons science fair. It was easily even more fun than I had expected. Hopefully DACS will become more involved with this organization and more of you will help judge at next year’s fair.



Don’t forget about the Trenton Computer Festival on April 16-17 (www.tcf-nj.org).


‘Puters are fun, or should be

There was a time when DACS members numbered more than 800. For many of these people, the club was their only source for computer support. Back then configuring a computer was more mechanical. There were jumpers and switches to set. We had entire meetings on how to use a modem to connect to another computer to transfer a file, dial into a BBS (bulletin board system), or access an online service. It was fun when it worked at all. As DOS gave way to Windows, computers became easier to use but not much easier to configure. DACS membership hit its peak. As bad as Windows 95 may have been, it was trending in the right direction. On the hardware side, jumper settings gave way to “Plug and Pray” which worked sometimes, and when they did, it was fun. Today computers are much easier to use. “Plug and Play” actually works most of the time. A whole new generation of “modems” connects our home networks to the Internet, and when it all works, it sure is fun. As configuration became more automatic, the problems became more mysterious. Now we can fiddle with wireless networks and ever higher speed connections. All along DACS members have relied on our greatest resource – other members. No matter what your level of computer skills, you are DACS most valuable resource. User groups are about knowledge sharing and DACS is still the place to come for answers. And of course, its fun when it works!


Jim Scheef is outgoing president of DACS.


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