Newsletter Comments from SCScompA

Newsletter Date: December 1, 1999

Have a nice holiday season!


Left-Over Comments from Nov. 1999 Newsletter Topics

Last month, I discussed what type of PC configuration I would recommend for a particular home user. A few people have responded with comments about how expensive I set my sights and recommendations at. Well..... my view is influenced by the fact that I am convinced each household will end up with multiple PCs and at least one of the PCs will be a "primary" machine. This machine, in my experience, will end up in the $3000 range including the hardware, directly attached printer, directly attached scanner, and software the family will want on the primary machine.

Likewise, based upon my experience, a budget of $3000 will be sufficient to have this primary home computer serve the household for around 3 years.

During this approximately 3-year timeframe a LOT of PC-related matters (hardware and software) will take place. During the 3-years the household's use of the computer environment (and, the PC-industries' use, for that matter) will change. However (again: based upon my experience and in my opinion) a $3000 budget for a families' primary system will, if purchased from a trusted PC-store/etc., have a life within the household and within the industry for the 3-years-or-so. After, approximately, that 3-year period: The household will no doubt take a look at their current aims for PC use and what the PC-industry offers at the time. If a new primary machine is purchased the 3-year old PC will be used in the household as a secondary but, still very usable, PC system attached to the newly-purchased machine.

How will the multiple PCs be connected? I use Ethernet at this time. I have not investigated using existing phone lines within a house or wireless as part of the equipment (hardware/software) necessary to inter-connect multiple PCs. Another technology to come along will include use of cable TV connections within a home, to share some computer-to-computer applications and needs. I assume that using existing phone lines, wireless, and exploitation of what cable TV companies will offer as time goes on will get a lot of action as we enter the 2000s -- and, I will certainly look at evolving technologies if they are price-competitive and usable. We see! In any case: I am sure many homes will (and, already) have multiple PCs/laptops and these PCs/laptops can and should be interconnected to meet the needs of a home user family. How each individual home does this interconnection remains to be seen.

And: I believe that the primary PC (hardware/software/attached devices) will have a budget of around $3000 three years from now, as it does in December 1999!

Some Uses of a Home PC Which I Have

What do I use the PC for? When asked that question, the easiest response is to tell which home-user applications I do on a regular basis -- and the software I use to accomplish the applications. I will, just, give this answer as a list with some short comments if I feel necessary. I am in the midst of writing a document and associated lab exercises for each of the following. If you have any questions or comments regarding what I say, below, don't hesitate to get back to me.

The following are home user PC applications I do on a regular basis and the software I use for the applications. The list is in no particular order -- other than what comes to mind as write the list. Each application is a home user PC application/function which is important to me and which I do on a near-daily or, at the least, weekly basis. After these near-daily applications, I list applications which I do less often -- but, are important to my home PC environment,

Note: I do not use the PC for home access to banks, for taxes, or other such financial matters which are important to a family. No doubt many home users use the PC to assist them in such financial matters. The fact that important family applications are missing, below, is not intended to imply that something should, or should not be, done! Certainly, the home PC can assist in family financial matters. I, simply, have not had a reason or inclination to do home banking, taxes, etc.

What I do on a regular basis and which SCScompA includes in an Assistance to a home user of PCs:

  • Windows operating system activities.

    I use Windows NT as does the rest of my household. I have dual-boot machines and, when necessary, we boot Windows 98. The only reason in three years for me to use Windows 98 has been related to America Online. Under NT, America Online has problems with internet connection in my environment when I browse internet pages. The problems are intermittent and if I have to browse the web in any significant way, I do that under Windows 98 with America Online. It is frustrating to me that America Online has not brought out a strategic version of its code for Windows NT: but, I have hopes that someday soon.... we see! Until then, if I or a family member needs to browse the web in earnest: we bring up Windows 98 instead of Windows NT.

    Note: I have been testing Windows 2000 since mid-Nov., 1999. Windows 2000 is Microsoft's followon to Windows NT and 98. Currently, Windows 2000 is scheduled to be generally available mid-Feb. 2000. I am pleased with Windows 2000 testing, so far -- with the exception (again) of America Online. Assuming that sometime in 2000 America Online supports Windows 2000, I plan on converting to Windows 2000 and will recommend to SCScompA customers who purchase the $3000-type-budgeted hardware/software that they also have dual boot machines and only use Windows 98 if necessary for certain applications. Why do I say this? I believe Windows NT is a solid platform for Windows 2000 and, based upon my testing, I see no reason to forego use of Windows 2000. The upgrade price structure for moving to Windows 2000 seems reasonable to me. Naturally, I wish there would be no charge to move to Windows 2000 -- but, the "no charge" days have passed us by! A Windows NT or 98 user who chooses to not move to Windows 2000 will make that choice for application reasons; it will not, in my opinion, be a financial reason. Again: The only holdback in testing I have done so far is related to America Online and its failure to run on Windows NT or Windows 2000 -- but, I have hopes for the near future. We see.

    Installation cost: Around $200 for Windows NT as I use it. Normally, the Windows NT cost of $200 is over-and-above what the computer company provides when it delivers the PC to you since the PC price normally involves "only" the cost of your using Windows 98. Since I want a dual-boot machine with the capability of both Windows NT and 98, I paid the $200 for the "extra" NT. As mentioned earlier, I have used Windows NT as my PC operating system for about 3-years. When I move to Windows 2000 sometime in the year 2000 this will require another upgrade cost (currently anticipating about $150 for NT to 2000).

  • Interconnecting PCs.

    I interconnect to my laptop using the network on a daily basis. Why? I share my home printer across both the PC and laptop, I share some data files on each of the machines, and I back-up / move-copy data which is on either of the machines on a near-daily basis.

    When people have multiple PCs within the household: They will (sooner or later) interconnect the machines.

    I use normal Windows NT and (when necessary) Windows 98 network services for sharing the printer and the data files.

    I use Reflection FTP products for moving non-shared data between machines. Reflection has worked well and I recommend it. I have not completed any FTP testing in Windows 2000, so at this time I am not certain how much of Reflection I will have need of. We see. I assume that whatever Windows 2000 offers as part of its product, Reflection will build upon.

    Installation cost: Around $100 for what I use of Reflection.

  • Microsoft Word.

    I write a LOT of notes, letters, etc. and use Microsoft Word as the primary vehicle for word-processing type activities. Any home user will use something -- I use Word.

    Word is part of Microsoft Office 97 in my case. I use Excel and PowerPoint once in awhile, but my families' primary use of Office is Microsoft Word.

    Installation cost: The Word, Excel, and PowerPoint products in Office 2000 (which replaces Office 97) can be installed for around $350.

  • PaintShop Pro.

    I use this daily. For any viewing or modifications of photos or other graphics which are on the PC prior to those photos/graphics being included in some specific application, I use PaintShop Pro. Also, whenever I scan a photo or otherwise use the scanner with the PC I use PaintShop Pro.

    Installation cost: Around $100.

  • Microsoft WordPad.

    Yes, I use WordPad. I use it for simple word processing and for editing/creating input for a viewable "presentation" on my local PC using a Web browser (Netscape, in my case) or, likewise, for building a file for sending to an internet server (America Online, in my case) who will show the file for me on demand from an outside-my-PC internet connected PC. Sounds confusing, I know.... but, it is NOT confusing to implement! Yes, I know, there are many ways and products available to build input for showing in an "internet"-way, by a Web browser. However, a "simple" file which contains the necessary information to get this done can be built with something such as WordPad -- and, I do that on a daily basis and will work with home users to do the same. It is NOT a difficult subject to cover. Confusing, perhaps... but: not difficult to use in ways that are fun/worthwhile.

    Installation cost: None. WordPad is provided at no cost as part of Windows.

  • Netscape.

    I use it daily, many times. Locally, on my PC, most of the time to show/view photos and notes which I have placed on my PC with either a scanner, a digital camera and its software/etc. or some other approach.

    I do not use Netscape for internet processing, since it will not work on Windows NT in conjunction with America Online. This is an America Online problem -- not a Netscape problem.

    When I dual-boot the Windows 98 side of my PCs I can and sometimes do use Netscape.

    Installation cost: None if you download it from the network. If you want to, you can order a Netscape CD and obtain some other matters from Netscape for about $30.

  • America Online.

    We (my family and I) use it many times throughout the day. We use for eMail and when we choose to browse/access the internet. We also use some other matters easily provided by America Online including the Personal Finance My Portfolios section, the Entertainment movie reviews section, the Sports Scoreboard section.

    We use eMail when we travel, using America Online connections in the local city we are in throughout the world, via laptop PC I take with us wherever we go. We also use the laptop on such occasions for storing notes and pictures (digital camera) regarding our travel.

    We use the internet for accessing the Minneapolis newspaper. I still am interested (I left Minneapolis in 1977!) in matters up there and in some sports-related matters in Minneapolis and in Minnesota. I enjoy browsing the newspaper via the internet and spend about the same amount of time doing that as I do reading the local newspaper in printed form.

    Also, America Online provides disk space for use as a workarea we can place information for access by others who can get to the web. That is the way you are reading this note! It is a convenient way for a home user to get information into a single spot for viewing by other persons (family members and friends) when you want to share something such as a trip report and/or photos of family/friend's interest.

    There are many reasons to use America Online. There are some reasons to NOT use America Online (I mentioned my frustration as a Windows NT user which is not officially supported by America Online). However, as of December 1999, I still recommend it as an internet/eMail application for the home user and hope I will fell the same as the next century comes along. We see!

    Installation cost: Although there is not an installation cost for America Online, there is a monthly fee for the services I mention above and for other provided services. I tell my customers to, simply, get America Online unlimited which is currently (Dec. 1999) $21.95 USA per month. We, currently, in the USA are not charged for a local telephone call and we can get a local telephone connection in many (most) cities in the USA. When we travel overseas, there is a charge of (about) $3-to-5 USA monthly for access to America Online within a specific country and an additional country-specific charge for the telephone connection. Based upon my experience, the local telephone call in most countries is about $0.50 USA per 15 minutes (this charge may be more in your case -- so, make certain you confirm the per-minute charge before you travel).

  • Games -- Primarily, card games on a PC.

    Daily, I have a love/hate relationship with Freecell. Freecell is provided free from Microsoft.

    Daily, I also enjoy/use Hoyle Card Games (primarily Hearts and Cribbage in my case) and recommend the product. Cost: About $30.

    I also play computer golf using Links LS 99. The product is good and the graphics of the Old Course in St. Andrews Scotland are pleasant to watch on hot/etc. days while in North Carolina. I visit Scotland/St. Andrews yearly and love it -- and the graphics of Links LS 99 is a nice way to end a day once a month or so.

So, as you can see, I use the PC quite a bit during the day and the software I use on my PC and on my laptop, listed above, is around $500 USA one time cost plus the $21.95 per month charge for America Online and eMail/internet access.

I will add, here, some less-than-daily applications I do on my home PC. I will add this either sometime later this month as part of this newsletter or discuss this next month (depending upon time availability, etc.)

Freecell Game/Deal of the Month

We have started, in our household, doing Freecell deals from 1-to-32000! We will NOT accomplish this task. We know that. However, as we go along in our for-fun-effort, yet frustration... I will mention once in awhile specific Freecell deals we find challenging. Let me know if this Freecell game and the number of times we had to restart to solve the deal is about what you find. If you are going to attack deals 1-to-32000 and want to interact with us in that regard, let me know what thousand-or-so you are going to start with. For now, we are attacking 1-to-1000 and I would recommend you start with 1001!

  • Freecell Deal Number: 92

    Number of moves for me to complete it: I lost count....
    Number of times I had to re-start to complete in lost-count moves: 7

Let me know how YOU do!

To contact me about anything on this Web page, please: send mail to:

Or send snail-mail to:

P.O. Box 58223
Raleigh NC 27658


To return to SCScompA's main newsletter Web page click on: SCScompA main newsletter or go to any of the pages pointed to in the SCScompA frame at the left of this panel.