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Administrator's HP Palmtop Helps Him Organize a 65-Workstation Net

Administrator's HP Palmtop Helps Him Organize a 65-Workstation Network

This user shows that the HP Palmtop has its own value, even on the site of a large network of workstations. Using pcANYWHERE on the palmtop while traveling, he checks dBASE files on the Network. The palmtop also comes in handy for Bible study and genealogy research.

By Robert Steckbeck

Although I don't think of myself as a computer weenie, I do carry my 2Mb 200LX palmtop almost everywhere I go in my RipOff belt holster, which I purchased through EduCALC. When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. I even wear it to church.

HP palmtop helps run 65-workstation network

I serve as network administrator for a 100-user Novell 3.12 Local Area Network in my position as the Coordinator of Cardiology Information Services at the Penn State Cardiovascular Center of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Network includes about 65 workstations and 15 shared printers.

Since many of my workstations have Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for access to the Internet and our hospitals mainframe, I need to keep track of which IP address is being used by which computer. An IP address is used by the system similar to the way a houses street address is used by the Postal Service to locate a building. So, its important that I not assign any given IP address to more than one computer, or one of the users wont be able to access our system, as the address which his/her computer is claiming will already be in use.

I keep a listing of these in a text file using MEMO on the palmtop. This allows me to know at any given time which IP address is in use, and where. I can search for any users name or any IP address using Memo's Search function. Additionally, by periodically uploading this ASCII file to my desktop computer, I can import it into a Microsoft Word document which serves as the Supervisors Manual for my network. I devote a chapter in the manual to the IP addresses on my network, and I regularly update this chapter from my palmtop.

As noted above, my network includes 15 networked printers, mostly HP LaserJet IIIs and IVs. I keep a separate MEMO file listing the locations of these printers and their network names. This allows me to quickly find them when I set up a new workstation or otherwise need to change the printer to which any node directs its printing. I prefer to direct printed output to a network printer from the AUTOEXEC.BAT file, using a DOS command which specifies the printers name, so having this information on the palmtop is of great use to me. Again, I upload this MEMO file to my desktop system to use in my network manual.

Remote access to dBASE IV files

Since I carry my palmtop with me everywhere, on several occasions I have used pcANYWHERE, Version 4.5, and a Megahertz 14.4 X-Jack modem, Model XJ1144, to remotely dial into my desktop computer in my office and connect to my network. (pcANYWHERE is a DOS application that lets you remotely access and control your office computer from anywhere in the world.) This allowed me to correct several problems while I was on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland, as well as perform routine check ins with my network. pcANYWHERE uses about 670KB of disk space.

I store pcANYWHERE on the C: drive, leaving the slot available for the Megahertz modem (which I use interchangeably in my Toshiba notebook computer). With this configuration, Imp able to remotely access our dBase IV database applications. This has allowed me not only to open databases as large as 225,000 records and re-index them, but also navigate the menu-driven dBASE program we use to run the Cardiovascular Center (Screen 1).

 The palmtops cursor is sitting on record 239,950 of a dBase IV table which contains 242,324 records, as noted in the status bar at the bottom of the screen.

 The actual work (such as re-indexing a database) is carried out on my desktop computer rather than the palmtop, since the pcANYWHERE software is allowing me to use the palmtops keyboard to control the desktop computer. Imp also able to run several Novell Netware utilities, such as RCONSOLE (see Screen 2.), which allows me to control my 64Mb, 3.5Gb Compaq file server, and PCONSOLE, which allows me to control the networked printers.

 The authors palmtop is controlling his Netware file server while running pcANYWHERE.

 Keeping up with network-based on-line scheduling

All administrative personnel in our department use OnTime scheduling software stored on our Local Area Network, so that our business calendars are available to our department heads and colleagues. This makes it possible for us to schedule appointments with each other without playing phone tag. Since several of us also use a 100 or 200LX to keep our appointments, we are in the process of purchasing the necessary software to link our palmtops with OnTime via our desktop computers. This will allow us to download the Appointment Book on our palmtops into our individual calendars in OnTime. We have serial cables attached to our desktop computers, in addition to HPs Connectivity Pack software, to perform routine backups of the data on our palmtops.

Incidentally, I strongly advise anyone to frequently back up their palmtop. The first time I used my PC Card modem I drained my batteries, including the backup battery, to the point that I lost EVERYTHING. Fortunately I had just done a full backup two days earlier, so was able to restore my system with minimal loss. However, it was a real lesson in the importance of doing regular backups.

In-flight typing

Over the years Vie seen several articles extolling the virtues of the palmtop as a word processor, as well as discussing the difficulties of using the tiny keyboard. However, in spite of its small size, Vie typed a four-page document on an airplane while returning from a business trip to Minnesota to observe several hospitals. I needed to submit to our department head a summary of our findings, and the palmtop was with me on the plane. So, I lowered my tray, took out my palmtop, and began typing with my index fingers. About 45 minutes later my report was complete, and needed only to be downloaded to my desktop unit and imported into Microsoft Word. With about five minutes of formatting I was able to print the report and submit it to my boss within an hour of returning to work.

Transferring data between Windows 95 and the palmtop

I attached my palmtop to my Toshiba laptop computer via the serial port and ran the Connectivity Pack software to download several Mb of data to the Palmtop. However, my Toshibas operating system is Windows 95, and even though I was running the software on the palmtop from the MS-DOS prompt via the Program Manager, during file transfer Windows brought up its screen saver.

Although I didn't initially realize it, several key files on the palmtop were garbled, including one of the directory names. So, the program I was loading initially wouldn't run. I re-transferred all of the files after rebooting in DOS-only mode. Following that problem Vie found it best to restart Windows 95 in MS-DOS mode when transferring files to the palmtop, rather than just shelling out to DOS from the Program Manager.

Tagging favorite Bible passages

Earlier I mentioned that my Palmtop is useful to me in church. This may sound extreme, but I often refer to it when my wife and I attend Sunday school to check my personal calendar against planned class activities, as well as find Bible passages stored on my 4Mb MagicRAM Flash Card.

Since obtaining the card, Vie downloaded QuickVerse Version 2.13 from Parsons Technology onto it. (See Screen 3.) The program, with only the King James Version, the Bible Index and the files Vie found needed to run it, takes about 3Mb of disk space and runs quite well.

 The author uses QuickVerse to access the King James version of the Bible.

 Imp even able to place bookmarks in various verses, allowing me to quickly hotkey from one book to another. On a desktop computer, bookmarks are placed in QuickVerse using the [Shift] key and the regular number keys located above the top row of letter keys (not the separate numeric keys). Since the palmtop doesn't have these keys and the numeric keypad doesn't work with QuickVerse, I discovered that bookmarks may be placed using the [Shift] key in association with those characters which are normally represented on a regular computer with the shifted value of the number keys.

For example, the shifted value of the [2] key on a desktop unit is the @ character. To place a bookmark on the palmtop I use the [Shift] key with the @ key, which is the Appointment Managers hot key. For those who might plan on using QuickVerse on your palmtops, you need to remember the shifted values of the number keys on a regular keyboard for placing bookmarks.

Vie begun using only my palmtop in church rather than my regular King James Bible. The printing is a bit smaller than my regular printed Bible, but moving to any chapter and verse is a snap. I can even search for specific words or phrases, although a long list of matches can take a bit longer than one would want, since the program is running on an 80186 processor.

Turning off the sounds that indicate an error is a good idea, using the palmtops system setup. This helps avoid having any embarrassing computer sounds occurring during the service.

Our pastor is very enthusiastic about using his desktop computer with various Bible software packages, so he has no problem with my using my palmtop in church.

Being familiar with Quick-Verse allows me to use it with a minimum of manipulation, so my hand movements with the palmtop are about the same as if I were using my printed Bible.

Collecting family history data

As the historian for our family Vie used Brothers Keeper for several years to maintain our family history records. Although Imp currently using the Windows version on my Toshiba notebook, Vie recently downloaded several of the program files from my older DOS Version 5.2 and all of the data files to my palmtop (see Screen 4.).

 Screen 4: Brothers Keeper on the palmtop, showing the authors genealogical records.

 Although I have only a small portion of the program on the palmtop, I have everything I need to add new people to my files and modify their listings, including the note files. Now, when Imp paging through church baptismal and death records in the local County Historical Societies library, if I find any listing for a Steckbeck I can check my records to see if they're already in our files. Being able to run this program on my palmtop has been a tremendous boon to my research. And being able to download the data files back to my desktop unit allows me to keep our permanent records up to date.

Palmtop and personal life

The built-in applications of the palmtop are, of course, regularly used to keep track of appointments, reminders and names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses on a daily basis.

The NoteTaker is an excellent place to store notes to myself concerning installation instructions for various pieces of software used throughout our department and track items and dates needed in various projects with which Imp involved.

I also keep World Wide Web addresses of special interest in NoteTaker, along with software registration information and the phone numbers of technical support for many different vendors.

Vie heard it said that the best computer you have is the one you use the most. That would have to be my HP 200LX. My palmtop has been one of the best additions to my business, as well as my personal life, in the last several years.

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