The Tri-City Commodore Computer Club On-line edition, May 1998

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Micro Minutes for April--Roger J. Long

Sometimes when you do a demo, something doesn't work right, and as you try to work around the problem, the person giving the demo learns right along with the audience. This seems to be the way most of my demos go. But, April's demo was a happy exception to the rule. The FD-2000 drive worked very well, and CMD's utility program ran smoothly, letting us make partitions and subdirectories, and copy files and whole disks. We learned first-hand what kinds of programs can run from the FD-2000 and which ones can't. It was great. After the demo, the drive was added to our lending library, and is available to be checked out. Contact John Schwab if you wish to check it out.

In the last newsletter, I had announced that I would be demonstrating a color ink jet printer. Right afterwards, I found out that I will be moving, so I've had to push that demo back a little bit. Happily, I'm moving back to the Tri-Cities, so I will be a little more accessable to the rest of the club membership than I currentty am over here in College Place. My new address is on the front cover, effective June ist.

When I announced the move at the April meeting, John and Milt volunteered to provide the May demo, which will be the recently released DesTerm 3.0. This demo is also a milestone: it is the first demo that I can remember that is being done by two club members!

I am glad to see this duo-demo. I'm also glad that someone else is doing the demo this month since almost everything is packed up at the moment! I'm almost in "computer withdrawal", but have managed to stave some of it off by making this Commodore one of the last things I pack up.

Though I will have finished moving by the end of this month, I'm putting out the call for a demo for June as I can't guarantee that I'll be ready by then to do the color ink jet demo. I'll have enough equipment unpacked to do the June newsletter, but I don't know how much beyond that I'll have ready by the 18th.

We'll have more details at the meeting this Thursday, but I believe that in June we are going to start meeting at the Benton County PUb again. It will cost us $10 a month to rent the auditorium, but we should be able to handle it.

Oops! Outta room. See you on Thursday!

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Ribbon Re-inking -- Bob Estand

I have heard of several ideas over the years for extending or renewing the quality of print from a ribbon used in a dot matrix printer. These have ranged from using WD-40 to stamp pad ink and other means, I can not vouch for these suggestions, as I have not tried them. I would be skeptical of them though, for the following reason: ribbon ink is a special formula that contains both oil (usually mineral) and graphite. The oil is not only a carrier of the graphite, but along with the graphite provides a lubricant for the pins in the print head. As such, I would suggest the use of the ink formulated specifically for printer ribbon re-inking be used, without exception.

I have been re-inking my printer ribbons for several years now, having purchased a Macinker machine about 9 years ago from Computer Friends for $69.00. One has to balance out the initial cost against the cost and number of new ribbons used over a period of time. In my case, the cost of replacement ribbons for my printers are about $8.C0 each. I have Seikosha printers, 1000, 1000VC, and a 1200Ai, all which use the same style ribbon. I also have a CBM 1250, and a Sears SR 3000, which are re-inked using an adapter, that is available for various other ribbon models/types.

I have kept records on when my ribbons get re-inked, with some having been re-inked as many as 7 times. The last ribbon I purchased was in '89. It seems the more a ribbon is used and re-inked, the darker and better it performs. I cannot prove my theory, but I suspect the fabric becomes softer and more absorbent as it is used, allowing for better ink retention. A ribbon, while being re-inked must be carefully inspected. If any signs of fabric wear, or loose threads are noted, it must be discarded, as the condition could cause a pin in the print head to jam and cause a malfunction. My ribbons take 19-20 minutes to ink, and one pass is sufficient. A re-inking lasts about 3 to 4 months before it shows signs of light print characters again.

Ribbon ink can be purchased at the price of $3.00 for 2 oz., or $18.00 a pint. The amount used, is about a teaspoon full for each ribbon inking, and as such at 5 teaspoons per ounce, 2 ounces will give you about 12 ribbon re-inkings.

The process when learned, can be done quite cleanly with very little if any ink getting on one's hands. If one does get a spot of ink, any alcohol (rubbing, de-natured, isopropyl, etc.) will provide quick and easy removal and clean up.

To reduce the initial cost of a basic unit, the cost could be divided up between more than one user, and its use shared. The adapter units needed for the different style ribbons could be purchased by the user that has that particular ribbon (adapters for all different style/type ribbons are about $9.00). I have been sharing my unit with my brother, re-inking his ribbons for several years now, using the adapter he purchased for his ribbon.

In conclusion, if one is a heavy user of graphic printouts, this may be the method to reduce the cost of your ribbon usage. If you are interested, drop the aforementioned company a line, requesting their 6 page brochure/price list of their products. Besides the motorized inker and adapters, they also sell ink, new ribbons in cartridges, ribbon refills for your cartridge, un-inked ribbons, several colors of ink, and all assorted equipment.

Computer Friends
13865 NW Cornell Rd.
Portland, OR 97229
(503) 625-2291
Fax: (503) 643-5379
Web page:

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Commodore Items for Sale

I recently had an opportunity to purchase some Commodore equipment. I would like to attempt to get it into the hands of Commodore enthusiasts.

I have the following for sale at $35.00 each, plus shipping: 12 C64's, 10 1541's, 6 Commodore printers. $10.00 each, plus shipping: 10 non-working C64's that can be used as parts machines. I also have available power supplies, datesettes, serial cables, joysticks etc.

Anyone interested in purchasing any or all of this material, please contact:

Edward P. Arrasmith
8C7 E. Wilson St.
Farmville, NC 27828
Phone: (919) 753-4876

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Light Pens described -- Tom Haslehurst

Light Pens, another alternative input device for the Commodore 64/128. Light pens, however, only become a serious contender to the input device contest when they are being used with graphics programs.

All light pens work on the same basic principles, but you will find that not all light pens are created equal. Light pens send out a electron beam which hits the phosphor coating (the coating on the inside surface of the monitor) which then sends the signal back to the computer through the joystick port. Now depending on how sensitive the light pen is, will determine how well the computer recognizes the signal.

I had three different light pens to compare, and each of them was activated in a different manner. The Madison Computer 'McPen' was attached through a pen stand which had a sensitivity control dial on the stand. There was also the Tech Sketch Inc. light pen which used a button attached to the pen itself which had to be depressed to activate the light pen. Last there was the Inkwell Systems 'Flexidraw' light pen which uses a pressure sensitive pen tip that compresses when pushed against the monitor screen to activate the light pen. Each of the light pens come with some form of graphics program and demo software.

McPen: The McPen light pen looks very impressive with its stand and pen holder to place the pen into when not in use. The software for the pen is the major letdown. The graphics drawing program is very simple and unsophisticated in design. This program would be useful for young children to use but would not be beneficial to an adult beyond the very basic level of drawing. Anyone with a talent for good computer graphics, would be disappoint with this program.

Even for a child the program may be somewhat difficult to use. The pen has to be placed to the screen before an operation of the program can be selected. Also the pen was a little to sensitive and would begin the screen manipulations as soon as the pen started to move. This would create imaging where it was not wanted. The sensitivity dial on the stand did not seem able to control this problem.

The McPen's demo programs such as Hangman and Tic Tac Toe worked quite well with the light pen. Again the children found hangman fun and easy to play. The tic tac toe was good as well but the children got bored with it very quickly because playing against the computer was less of a challenge that if they had of been able to play against each other. The other major drawback with this light pen is with its inability to function with GEOS. This will probably be the biggest deterrent to anyone wishing to use this light pen.

Tech Sketch Inc.: The Tech Sketch light pen work differently than the McPen. The Tech Sketch pen uses a button on the pen to activate and deactivate it. As with all light pens this one also comes with a graphics program. This program is similar in design to the Koala Pad drawing program. The menu is separate from the drawing screen. The light pen even with the button control seems to be a bit to sensitive when using on the screen, which makes it difficult to control. The drawing program is more functional than the McPen program, but is still rather limited inits usefulness. There are some good demo pics with the program but I believe that it would take a fair bit of experience to achieve this level of work on this software. For printing purpose the software supports the Commodore 1525 printer. This is obviously not going to be sufficient for most people especially if you have a colour printer. I might recommend a Super Snapshot cartridge, so you can do a screen dump and then print your graphic out in colour.

The Tech Sketch pen has some other drawbacks as well. For example the program will not work with JiffyDos activated. This is not necessarily a problem but it is an inconvenience. Also the light pen cannot be recognized by GEOS. Again this may not be a prime deterrent to anyone wishing to use this program for its limited graphics software only.

Flexidraw: The Flexidraw 5.5 from Inkwell Systems is the only light pen for the Commodore still on the market today. It can be purchased from J P PBM Products by Mail in Toronto at (416) 240-8993 or from CMD Inc. in East Long Meadows MA. 01028. Luckily for anyone interested in a light pen the Flexidraw light pen is the most advanced of the 3 pens that were tested. The Flexidraw pen itself handles very well, and the pressure sensitive tip that collapses when pushed against the monitor screen works flawlessly. The pen comes with some good software as well. The demo programs have good graphics using colour and sound. For example the memory teaser game called Follow Me will hold your interest for quite some time, and the Piano Keyboard demo works very nicely.

The drawing program is also the best of the 3 tested. It will allow the use of other input devices such as the Koala Pad, the mouse or joystick as well as the light pen. The program allows the use of the function keys also, for rotating, flipping and disk operations.

The only drawback with the program may be in the fact that the colour must be added to the graphic after it has been drawn, but considering how good the program is, this is a very minor problem. The program also has a little larger leaming curve than the other programs tested, and may be a bit more difficult for kids to use but it will benefit people with talent a great deal more.

Other pluses of the Flexidraw light pen are its ability to be fully functional with the GEOS programs. It works flawlessly with them, and in some ways actually excels over the mouse. With the light pen you just point to the function and click, instead of having to drag the cursor around with the mouse.

To summarize, I would like to say that all 3 pens worked well within their own individual limitations, but the Flexidraw light pen came out on the top of the heap. Most people may still find the mouse more convenient than the light pen because the light pen becomes tiresome to use. You have to continuously have to keep holding the light pen up to the screen, which starts to cause fatigue in the arm very quickly. As well other than the McPen, the light pens do not come with any type of holder. I would recommend making one by using a magic marker cap or some other device, and placing it in a convenient location close to the computer.

I will also add, for all you techies out there, that in the January 1987 issue of Commodore magazine there is an article on how to build your own light pen. They also included a couple of demo programs to type in also to test your pen. I will not go into the details on how to do it, but if anyone is interested, just contact TPUG at the address on the newsletter and we can probably supply the information. I am presuming that is without complicating any copyright issues.

Tom Haslehurst (

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FAQ on Encoding and Decoding mail messages

The paragraphs below are the opening paragraphs to a very useful and understandable web page on encoding and decoding internet attachments. The URL address is:

If you have a local ISP account and a web browser go to the page above. This page covers the different encoding methods used with internet mail. The title of the web page is 'Decoding Internet Attachments.' The author is Michael Santovec.


Why Are Attachments Encoded?

Intemet e-mail and Usenet news posts were designed for plain text messages. As such, many systems expect the messages to only contain printable characters from the 7-bit ASCII character set. That poses a problem for sending files, such as images, sound, video, spreadsheets and programs which can contain any combination of 8 -bit binary data. This even poses a problem for formatted documents, since many word processors embed binary control fields in the files.

The way around this limitation is to encode the binary data (attachment) into ASCII characters before sending. To the mail and news systems that the messages travel through, the file is just so much text. At the receiving end, the message is decoded back into the original file, none-the-worse for the experience. Many mail and news programs automate the encoding and decoding. However, sometimes a separate program may be required.

'The nice thing about Standards is there are so many to choose from.' Encoding is no exception. Among the more popular are: Uuencode, MIME, Base64, Quoted-Printable and Binhex. There are other less common methods as well.

It should be noted that encoding is not the same as encryption. The purpose of encoding is to allow some information to be stored in, or pass through, a medium that can't handle the data directly. The purpose of encryption is prevent unauthorized persons from viewing or using some information. It is possible for a message to use both encoding and encryption.

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Fun Stuff -- Hal Stockert, ECUNET

  1. Before they invented drawing boards, what did they go back to?
  2. Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?
  3. Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
  4. How do I set my laser printer on stun?
  5. How is it possible to have a civil war?
  6. If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?
  7. If God dropped acid, would he see people?
  8. If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?.
  9. If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest have to drown too?
  10. If the #2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still only #2?
  11. If work is so terrific, how come they have to pay you to do it?
  12. If you're born again, do you have two bellybuttons?
  13. If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
  14. If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
  15. Is a castrated pig disgruntled?
  16. Why are hemorrhoids called 'hemorrhoids' instead of 'asteroids'?
  17. Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them?
  18. Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?
  19. What happens when none of your bees wax?
  20. Where are we going? And what's with this handbasket?
  21. If the black box flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn't the whole airplane made out of the stuff?.
  22. Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?
  23. If most car accidents occur within five miles of home, why doesn't everyone just move 10 miles away?

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The articles on Light Pens, Encoding/Decoding and Fun Stuff were reprinted from the Spring 1998 TPUG Newsletter.

Toronoto Pet Users Group  (TPUG)
P.O. Box 48565
3605 Lakeshore Blvd. W.
Etobicoke, Ontario  M8W 4Y6

Web page:

End of the May 1998 issue of The TC-Cubed newsletter

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