Copyright Dr Alan Solomon (1986-1995)

You  can  barely  open  a computer magazine without tripping over some
guru solemnly telling you some snippet about DOS, or how  to  organize
your  floppy  disks,  or  how to write a Basic program to tell you the
time.  But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so it's time  that
some of this information was balanced with a bit of dis-information.

Floppy  disks  in  particular  come  in  for a lot of pampering.  Your
ordinary floppy is a lot more robust than he's given credit for.   You
can  use  him  as  a  table-mat  (that's why some of them come in such
attractive colours) or to wedge a door open.  And there's  not  really
any  point  in  taking  backups;  do you know anyone who ever actually
used a backup of a floppy?

Fixed disks are called that because instead of the disk  spinning  (as
with  a floppy), the disk is fixed and the read-write head goes round.
This makes it possible to have more surface area on the disk, as it is
sort of corrugated.  It also makes them very robust, and that's why so
many manufacturers claim that they can stand up to 50Gs.  One G is  32
feet,  so  that  means  that  you can drop them out of a window from a
height of 50 X 32 = 1600 feet, and they will still work.   Before  you
ty this, you should make sure that there is no-one walking underneath,
as a hard disk can be pretty hard.

There is actually no difference  between  serial  ports  and  parallel
ports.   It's  all  a ruse by the manufacturers, to get us to buy more
hardware.  You can actually connect a parallel  printer  to  a  serial
port,  unless  the  manufacturer  has  put  in the special device that
detects this and self-destructs the board.  Ask your dealer if he will
do  this  for  you  -  that way if it goes wrong, it's his fault.  You
might have to use a sex-change cable, but these are really cheap.

While we are on the subject of cheap, a lot of people  know  that  you
can  use  single sided disks as double sided, as they are actually all
made on the same machine, and some are tested up to a higher  standard
than  others.  Sometimes you get a defective track or two, so you lose
5 or 10K.

But not many people know that 64K chips can will  work  just  fine  as
256K chips.  Again, it's just a matter of the final testing - the ones
that don't make it as 256k chips get sold as  64's.   But  it's  worth
using them as 256's, as you may only lose the odd K or so.

There's  a  lot  of  confusion  around on monitors.  Mono means green,
unless it means amber (which means orange).  Color means colour, which
means  you  can  play great games, but can't read the text.  There's a
lot of fuss being made about the health risks of  using  VDUs.   Apart
from LCD screens (which make you go blind) the radioactivity dose that
you'd get from a VDU is equivalent to what you'd get by shaking  hands
with  a  Swede.   The  lead  aprons  that  are currently being sold to
pregnant women do nothing except create a lead  poisoning  risk.   And
don't  believe  the nonsense about putting papers on top of a monitor.
If the manufacturer hadn't intended it to get warm, he  wouldn't  have
put  a  heater  in  there.   Like most things, monitors work better if
they're hot, so blocking  up  the  fancy  grillwork  on  top  actually
improves matters.

While  on  the subject of cooling, you might find that the fan on your
power supply makes a lot of noise.  We found an excellent way to  deal
with  this  problem.  Take the ink cartridge out of a biro, and insert
it carefully into the grill that covers  the  fan;   be  sure  not  to
insert  the  metal  part.   This will stop the fan from turning, which
silences that annoying noise.  Make sure that the power is off  before
you do this, or you might get ink on your hands.

Speaking  of  ink,  there's  a  terrible  racket  going  on in printer
ribbons.  Why pay several pounds  per  ribbon,  when  you  can  easily
re-ink  it  yourself?   If you look carefully at the cartridge, you'll
see a little hole at the top.  Simply pour  a  little  ink  into  this
hole,  and  your  ribbon will be good for miles more printing.  If you
want a distinctive effect, use blue ink, or even  purple.   If  you're
lucky  enough  to have a laser jet, you'll have to use powdered poster
paint to replenish the cartridge.

After you've silenced your power fan, the whirr of the diskette drives
becomes much more noticeable.  If you look  carefully  at  the  drive,
you'll see a little arm carrying the read/write head that moves up and
down.  Use sellotape (taking care not to  tape  up  the  arm)  to  fix
cotton  wool  over the arm, and you'll find your disk drive works much
more quietly.  While you have it open, put  a  little  butter  on  the
moving parts.