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COLUMN: Savvy User

THE SAVVY USER

Tom discusses CompuServe, fixing the problem with his 95LX's serial port, his new 1MB memory card, and making Lotus spreadsheets more space-efficient.

By Thomas Page

LAST ISSUE AND COMPUSERVE

I have just received my first issue of The Palmtop Paper and found it loaded with useful information. Probably the most useful tip was the introduction to CompuServe and the HP Forum. There's more good information, tips, and programs for your 95LX there than anywhere else in the world.

In the last issue Ed Keefe asked if ANSI.SYS would work with the 95LX. Yes Ed, it does. I discovered this by reading messages in the HP Forum. I also discovered a batch file, AA.BAT *, in the download section that quickly converts the 95LX between SYSMGR and straight DOS. I took these two concepts and improved on them. The results are contained in a file AAAX.COM * that I uploaded to the HP Forum. It includes an enhanced version of AA.BAT that installs ANSI.SYS and FK.BAT * that uses ANSI.SYS to sets function keys to perform chores more useful than the defaults.

Another file I would suggest you look for is KEYS.95 *. If you are at all interested in adding new applications and customizing your 95LX APNAME.LST, this file contains essential information, including the codes for each 95LX key.

Last issue I reported some success using the WorldPort MNP modem with the 95LX. Unfortunately I did not get to fully test the setup before the serial port of my 95LX went bad (so I thought) and to meet the publisher's deadline I had to make an incomplete report, or not have a column at all. Just like you folks I am learning this machine and what I write about here will usually be something I just discovered. To make a long story short, I got my serial port working and did more extensive tests with the WorldPort MNP modem and I had no better luck using it than anyone else. When the modem is on battery power it can be activated and it will operate for about 3 to 5 minutes and then turn off. I don't understand why this happens but it explains why I thought I was making it work. My first tests were of very short duration. I did not keep the modem on long enough for it to turn off. Now I guess the question is who is going to build a small battery- powered reliable MNP modem that is compatible with the 95LX?

SERIAL PORT REPAIR

I must tell you about my experience getting the serial port on my 95LX working. The first indication that the serial port was not working was the inability to use the Connectivity Pack program to transfer files between my roommate's computer and my 95LX. When I attempted to connect the 95LX to the PC I would get a message that the host computer was not responding. It took me a while to figure out what was happening. At first I just thought I had got my roommate's computer mis-configured some way or another, but when I could not get my modem to respond I began to think there might be a serial port problem. I then tried a direct serial port connection to my HP Portable Plus (one of HP's original portable computers). This was a setup that I had a great deal of knowledge about, and if anything should not work I felt confident I would be able to identify the problem. I couldn't send characters from the Portable Plus to the 95LX, but could send characters from the 95LX to the Plus.

This pretty well convinced me that there was a problem with the serial port. I thought there was a break somewhere in the 95LX's receive line. I later discovered that all I needed to do was reset the 95LX to restore the serial port To do this, press <CTRL>-<Shift>- and answer No. You will then have to reset your time and date.

ONE MB MEMORY CARD

I have just installed a 1MB memory card in my 95LX. I think it will add a new dimension to 95LX computing. I just doubled my memory and increased disk storage 4 times. The RAM card is read as the A drive on the 95LX. To allow me to increase working memory I moved most of my software and data from the C drive to the A drive. I reduced the C drive to the smallest size possible.

My 1MB card is from ACE technologies, Inc. The card comes with several HP 95LX games pre-installed in a subdirectory named \GAMES. It also comes with an additional 3.5" disk containing even more 95LX software.

You may find the first time installation of this, or any other RAM card, a little difficult. The first time I put my 1MB card in my 95LX it took significant pressure to get it to seat flush with the side of the computer and when I tried to remove it I had to push the release switch pretty hard. Several installations and removals have loosened it up to where it feels just about right.

SQUEEZING WORKSHEETS INTO A SMALL SPACE

Years ago when I bought my first computer, I bought an HP Portable because I could take it with me, and it would run 1-2-3. Nothing else made much difference to me. Lotus is one of my most important programs and I have considerable experience using it on a little computer. Although my HP Portable's screen (80-columns by 16-lines) is twice as large as the 95LX's, it' significantly smaller than standard 80-column by 25-line screens. And even without a RAM card, the 95LX has over twice the memory of my old HP Portable.

Because of all this, I have some experience squeezing worksheets into a small space. I'm willing to share some techniques with you, but some of them are pretty obvious.

Occasionally we fail to do the obvious, like make columns no wider than necessary, or design the spread sheet for the 95 LX's screen, not a piece of paper. Most likely spreadsheets used on the 95LX will primarily be used to do quick studies for use on the spot -- not to prepare presentations. Given this assumption, you don't need a column of line numbers or a line of column numbers. Simply use the Lotus spreadsheet line and column designations for navigation. If you want to build a combination spreadsheet that can be used for formal reports as well as quick studies, don't try to display this data when using the spreadsheet on the 95LX.

Another useful trick is to keep descriptions as short as possible (i.e. abbreviate). When abbreviating, periods add no useful information, but take up space so -- don't use them. If you split your line descriptions across two or more columns, you can have a long description for printed reports and a shorter description (the first characters) for use on the screen.

A lot of people like to use an underscore before a total. In 1-2-3 this uses up a line. I personally find that underscores add little information to a spreadsheet and I generally avoid underscoring. The last number in a column is the total. This makes it impossible to use the old trick of extending ranges for sums through, and underscoring to make inserting lines at the end of a range easy. However, I consider saving a line on a little screen a reasonable trade off.

Another thing I have seen is underscores used to tie related columns together. What follows in the next column is an example spreadsheet of the way I tied related columns together. It looks better than an underscore and it saves a line. The $000 at the column top indicates the units used in the column. Displaying this line is optional.

Spreadsheet Graphic

 Putting the dollar sign at the top of the column allows using a narrower column since it is not necessary to reserve a column for the dollar sign. You should be aware of the accuracy really needed for the problem. In the example above the results are shown in thousands of dollars. I can see only very few palmtop 1-2-3 application requiring penny accuracy and really doubt that many even require dollar accuracy. I have a friend who works in forecasting. He will readily admit that carrying the numbers he works with beyond millions is imagination, but he also admits to not having enough testosterone to round off at millions. Instead he carries his calculations out to 100 thousands and displays the results in millions carrying one digit to the right of the decimal point. If he were to use a 95LX he would quickly drop the tenths-of million.

Setting up a spreadsheet on the 95LX may be a good familiarization exercise, but there is nothing wrong with developing spreadsheets for the 95LX on a big computer and then transferring them to the Palmtop. Just keep in mind the size of the display the spreadsheet will be using. In fact, you may want to mark coordinates on your big computer's display with an erasable marker or piece of tape to remind you of the size of the 95LX's screen.

iPhone Life magazine


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