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The CompuServe HP 95LX Forum
The HPSYS CompuServe Forum provides HP 95LX users with a wealth of support and up-to-date product information.
By Ted DickensIntroduction by Hal Goldstein
Those of us who use computers (and now the HP Palmtop) in our daily activity are pioneers of sorts. We have all suffered trying to make some piece of software or hardware conform to our will. Our reward has been a new set of tools that make our every day activities more effective and powerful. The investment of time in learning computer technology has given us a significant competitive advantage over those who are not computer literate.
I feel the same can be said about electronic networks such as CompuServe. If you are willing to tolerate the expense and the initial bit of frustration in learning a new tool, you will be re-warded in many ways.
Participation in CompuServe forums means access to a whole new world of useful knowledge. It provides an opportunity to "meet" people in all walks of life with whom you would never come in contact. Furthermore, CompuServe is great fun.
In particular the HP 95LX Palmtop section of the HPSYSTEMS forum is, perhaps, the best source available for quick responses to your HP 95LX questions. HP Forum SYSOP (system operator) Ted Dickens writes in the article that follows: "Post your HP 95LX question, and the next time you log on, you'll probably find at least one response, no matter how arcane the question." Hundreds of HP 95LX users frequent the HP 95LX message area and contribute interesting insights, tidbits, firmly held opinions, and in- depth technical discoveries. If you feel shy at first or are pressed for time, just eavesdrop and "download" (copy to your computer) those messages and files of interest to you. However, don't be shy too long. The fun of CompuServe is participating and sharing information and ideas.
Expect a reasonable learning curve and to make a few mistakes "online" - no one minds much - we've all been there. The HP Forum SYSOP - the individual who is in charge of the forum - Ted Dickens, is excellent. He'll help you with any initial problems using the forum. Also, he is an extraordinarily knowledgeable and active 95LX user with lots of answers to your 95LX questions. In addition, from time-to-time you'll find some of the engineers who designed the HP 95LX on the forum and willing to answer some of your questions.
The HP Palmtop Paper and CompuServe compliment each other nicely in how they support HP 95LX users. One of the fundamental sets of opposites in nature is continuum vs. discrete; dynamic vs. stable; fluid vs. solid. CompuServe is more fluid and dynamic while The HP Palmtop Paper is more stable and solid. On CompuServe pose a 95LX problem and watch the thread of discussion and different angles in finding solutions. When the dust settles or to see a crystallized solution to a common problem look to The HP Palmtop Paper. I highly recommend both.
Talk to me on CompuServe - my ID is 72257,714. I am interested in your feedback about The HP Palmtop Paper and other HP 95LX-related issues. See you there!
Getting Started: Why the HP Forum?
The HP Forums on CompuServe have two goals - to allow users to talk to each other and to augment HP's support mechanisms.
In other words, it's a user's group. Only there are no meetings to attend and all communication is done electronically. Each of the more than 10,000 HP forum members gets to tailor this user's group to his or her individual needs.
The forum is a great place to get questions answered, keep up with the latest information from HP and other vendors, get software updates, and tap into the wealth of public domain and shareware software for your HP product. (The HP 95LX palmtop is just one of many HP products covered in the HP Forums.) And unlike HP's support channels, the HP Forums are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you have used an electronic bulletin board system (BBS), most of the forum concepts will be familiar. Each forum has three main areas:
Instead of one big message board, each forum is divided into sections; each section is devoted to a single topic. The sidebar lists all of the sections for each of the HP Forums. Of particular interest to The HP Palmtop Paper readers: The HP 95LX section of the HP Systems forum.
If you have a question about your HP 95LX, post it in the 95LX section. The next time you log on, you'll probably find at least one response. No matter how arcane the question, it seems that someone always knows the answer off the top of their head - or knows where to find it.
The other way to benefit is to simply read the messages posted by others. It is a great way to learn about the HP 95LX. Because not only do you get answers to your questions - you'll get answers to questions that hadn't yet occurred to you. That's particularly valuable when it helps you avoid making a mistake. We learn from our mistakes; the HP forums can help you learn from the mistakes of others!
One of the things that sets a CompuServe forum message section apart from a typical BBS is that forum messages are "threaded." When you ask a question and I send a reply, my reply is automatically linked to your question. Reply to my reply and the "thread" gets longer. If several people reply to your message, all of those replies (and replies to those replies) are added to the thread. Not only does this make it simple to read all of the related messages in the proper order, it is easy to pick out and read only the threads that look interesting. I'll talk more about this in a future issue of The HP Palmtop Paper.
Each section has a corresponding library where you can find application notes, product announcements, software upgrades, answers to frequently asked questions, public domain and shareware utilities, captured "threads" on interesting topics, and more. All told, there is about 1.5 MB worth of information in the HP 95LX section.
Each file is accompanied by a one line title, a paragraph or two of description, and a list of key words to help you decide which files are of interest to you.
The files for the 95LX include several on-line conferences with the HP lab engineers, a description of the 95LX hardware, an updated list of available software packages, several games, and a group of interesting graphic images that can be used as "top card" opening screen displays. For example, the files MACDT.PCX and WINDOW.PCX will make your 95LX opening screen look like a MAC or Windows screen. Programmers can find documentation and utilities for writing system manager-compliant applications.
Electronic conferences offer you a chance to "talk" to special guests. Folks from the HP lab, support, and marketing groups have been guests. So have the leaders from PCMCIA - the group responsible for the RAM card standard used in the 95LX.
Future conferences will cover specific facets of the 95LX (like power management) and there may be an ongoing series of conferences on software design for the 95LX.
What Is CompuServe?
The CompuServe Information Service (CIS) is a public-access computer system that provides information services. The breadth of information available from CIS is staggering. There are 1400 different information services. No matter what your personal or professional interests may be -- there is something on CIS that you will find valuable.
In a future article, I'll try to put all the information services into perspective. For now, I'll focus on the personal computer items. CIS forums cover the full range of hardware, software, and even "paperware" (magazines). Besides the forums for HP, you'll find forums for IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Lotus, Borland, Novell, and more. In the HP Systems Forum you'll find coverage for the 95LX Palmtop. In the Palmtops forum, you'll also find Casio, Sharp, Poqet, Traveling Software... All told, there are more than 200 computer companies active on CompuServe.
Accessing the HP Systems Forum
If you already have a CompuServe account, you can access the HP Systems Forum by typing GO HPSYS. If you don't have a CompuServe account, you can obtain a free Introductory Membership. Call 800-848-8199, ask for representative #231.
International users can call the non-800 number in the U.S. (614-4-57-0802) or one of the numbers listed below. The Introductory Membership comes with a manual, instructions for getting signed on, and $15 of free connect time.
United Kingdom 0800 289 378 (+44) 272 255 111
Germany 0130 37 32 (+49) 89-66550-111
Switzerland 155 31 79
Japan 0120-22-1200 03-3221-7363
Australia 008-02-5240 (+61) 02-411-8603
New Zealand 0800-44-6113
CompuServe is not free service. The basic V.S. connect rates are listed below:
$6.00/hour up to 300 baud
$12.50/hour up to 2400 baud
$22.50/hour up to 9600 baud.
But using very simple strategies can keep your monthly bill down - and the value up.
The first strategy is to decide how you are going to use CIS. Do you just want answers to your questions, or do you want to keep up with what's going on in the field? If the former, you only need to log on when you have a question. For the latter, you will need to log on at least once a week. (Messages are kept in a first-in, -first-out queue; messages disappear after about a week.)
The second strategy is to choose your baud rate carefully. If you are going to log on interactively, consider 300 baud. That's roughly 300 words per minute which most of us can read comfortably. Use the faster rates only if you are going to be downloading files or using an automated access program. (More on that in a bit.) In fact, while you are learning to use CIS, 300-baud is ideal. The $15 usage credit in the introductory membership will pay for 2.5 hours of access at 300 baud. That's enough to learn your way around.
The third strategy is to be selective. In each forum you can select sections of interest. CIS will then only show you messages from those sections. Further, you can "scan headers" and only read "threads" that sound interesting.
The final strategy is to use an automated access program. These are programs written specifically to access CIS. These programs (Autosig and Tapcis for the PC, Navigator for the Mac) have different user interfaces but share an underlying design philosophy: Do it off-line. With Autosig* (ATO for short), the program logs on to CIS, visits each of the forums I use, downloads all the new messages - then logs off. And it does this at the full speed of the modem. Then I read the messages and compose my replies off-line. When I'm done, ATO logs back on to upload my messages. The difference is dramatic. Instead of me being on-line for an hour reading and writing messages, ATO does the same work in a few minutes of connect time.
We'll cover the automated programs in more depth next issue.
Whether you need an answer to a specific question or want to stay abreast of the latest information, the HP Forums on CompuServe offer something to every 95LX user. Joining is easy and in no time at all, you'll be a CIS veteran. While CIS is not free, by using some simple strategies, you can get the most for your money.
Besides being a great source of information, the forums are also just plain fun. There are some real characters, not all of them ASCII. In the midst of a discussion on why some 95LX's make faint clicking noises when running on batteries, we had some highly imaginative explanations - including "little green men who get in through the door on the card slot."
Try it out!
[Ted Dickens writes PC software for Niche
Designs Corporation. He became a forum user in 1984, was "demoted" (Ted's
comment) to Sysop in 1987, and has spent the last two years in a room with
a PC, modem, and fluffy white walls - Hal.]
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