by Michael A. Banks
Saving Time and MoneyI've been doing a lot of thinking about money lately, due mainly to the fact that my daughter, Susan, starts college this September. Those of you in similar situations (or attending college yourself) know the feeling. Even with lots of scholarship and grant money, there are expenses...
I'm also buying new computer equipment, looking to move to a new home, and doing other things that shouldn't be possible on my budget, but somehow are. But, what the heck, that's part of being American, isn't it?
Thinking about money naturally prompted some thoughts about the cost of being online. Budget-conscious as I am, I couldn't help but be inspired to turn my mind to how Atari SIG members can save money. So, this month I'll pass along some tips that will help you save money and, not incidentally, make being online a more pleasant experience-literally from sign-on to sign-off!
Signing on and offSetting a default menu: You can eliminate the time spent moving from the DELPHI main menu and the Groups & Clubs menu by setting your default menu to the Atari SIG.
The default menu is a setting that causes you to move immediately to a pre-selected menu at sign-on. With a default menu active, you see no intervening menus or prompts, and you don't have to type any commands. You also get there faster!
To set the default menu to take you directly to the Atari SIG whenever you sign on, type USING SET from the DELPHI main menu (or, GO USING SET from the Atari SIG menu). This takes you through the Using DELPHI menu to the Settings menu, where you should type DEFAULT. You'll be prompted to enter a default menu: type GR AT and you're all set. The next time you sign on (and every time thereafter, unless you change this setting), the first thing you'll see following the DELPHI greeting will be the Atari SIG menu.
(To return to the Atari SIG after setting your default menu, type EXIT twice, then GR AT. Or, you can simply type GO GR AT at the SETTINGS > prompt.)
Signing off: Many DELPHI users think they have to sign off from the DELPHI main menu. This isn't so; you can sign off DELPHI at almost any prompt by typing BYE or, at some few prompts, /BYE.
Type BYE at all major prompts except Mail. (You must exit Mail before you can sign off.) If you're in Conference, type /BYE. You'll be signed off immediately, without having to back through previous menus.
Using the ForumCapturing messages for offline reading: If you're a frequent Forum user, you know that reading all or most new Forum messages each time you enter the Atari SIG can be quite time-consuming. Fortunately, there's a way to cut the time you spend online viewing new messages by half or more. Simply capture all new Forum messages, read them offline, and then select the messages to which you wish to reply at your leisure. Messages can be made to scroll by far faster than you can read.
The process is easy-and you don't even have to press Return after each message. First, go to the Forum, and open your capture buffer or set a capture-to-disk file. Then, type READ NEW NS at the FORUM > prompt. The "NS" specification in the command displays all new messages nonstop.
If you're not sure you want to see all the new messages, capture a directory for offline browsing with the command DIR NEW NS.
(You can stop the nonstop display of messages or a directory with a Control-O.)
Cutting things down to size: Many Atari SIG members find that they're not interested in all the message topics available. If this is the case for you, type TOPIC and "de-select" the topics that don't interest you at the menu that is displayed. (Follow the prompts.) This eliminates all messages under de-selected topics-which means you won't have to view them, even in a directory.
Replying offline: Once you've read captured Forum messages offline, you may find there are some to which you wish to reply. Rather than signing on and typing your replies in, you can compose them offline and insert them into Forum messages by uploading them. (After all, your computer can send text much faster than you can type it online! And you have the added convenience of being able to use the text editor of your choice offline.)
There are a couple of ground rules to follow. First, the replies must be in 7-bit ASCII text. And, your communications software must be able to transmit (upload) the files as ASCII, not binary, text. (And be sure to note the numbers of the messages to which you intend to reply and to give your reply files appropriate names.)
Once you've prepared your replies, sign on to DELPHI, enter the Forum, and read the first message to which you're going to reply. Then type REP, press Return, and instruct your program to upload the reply for that message. After your reply file has been sent, enter a Control-Z. Repeat the procedure with each message for which you've prepared a reply.
This technique can also be used to add new messages. The only differences are that you'll have to type ADD, and enter the message addressee, subject and topic before you can upload your message.
As a reader of ANALOG Computing, you are entitled to take- advantage of a special DELPHI membership offer. For only $19.95 plus postage and handling ($30 off the standard membership price!), you will receive a lifetime subscription to DELPHI, a copy of the 500-page DELPHI: the Official Guide by Michael A. Banks and a credit equal to one free evening hour at standard connect rates. Almost anyone worldwide can access DELPHI (using Tymnet, Telenet or other networking services) via a local phone call. Make the DELPHI connection by signing up today!
To join DELPHI:
l. Dial 617-576-0862 with any terminal or PC and modem (at 2400 bps, dial 576-2981).
2. At the Username prompt, type JOIN DELPHI.
3. At the Password prompt enter ANALOG.
For more information, call DELPHI Member Services at 1-800-544-4005, or at 617-491-3393 from within Massachusetts or from outside the U.S.
DELPHI is a service of General Videotex Corporation of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Getting there: You don't have to be at the Atari SIG main menu to get to Mail. You can go to Mail from any database prompt, as well as from the Forum and from a Conference group by typing /MAIL.
Reading E-mail offline: To display all new mail-messages nonstop, enter Mail, open your capture buffer and type EXTRACT TT /ALL. This will display all mail-messages nonstop.
Unless you want to keep a message online for later reference, it's a good idea to delete all the messages once you've captured them (and thus avoid storage charges). To do this, type DELETE /ALL.
Offline replies: You should compose offline E-mail replies and original messages as 7-bit text files, which can up uploaded to an "open" message using ASCII text upload commands. You will, of course, have to type SEND and enter the message addressee and subject; or you can type REPLY after displaying an existing message to open a reply.
This technique can also be used with original messages.
Sending and receiving E-mail via workspace: If you have a really long reply or message to send (lK or larger), it's usually faster and more accurate to upload the file to your workspace using a binary file-transfer protocol such as Xmodem or Kermit, then send it from the MAIL > prompt.
Once a file is in your workspace, you can send it as a mail message by typing SEND < filename.ext > at the MAIL > prompt (where < filename.ext > is the filename and extension of the uploaded file. Note that you must include the " . " even if the file doesn't have an extension.) To send a file in reply to a message that's still in your Mail file, read the message, then type REPLY < filename.ext > .
Sometimes, due to length or other reasons, you may wish to download an E-mail message using a binary protocol. You can't do this at the MAIL > prompt, but you can copy the message to your workspace and download it from there. Read the first screen of the message, then type FILE < filename > . A new file will be created in your workspace; you can then download the file in whatever manner you wish. (Here again, you'll want to delete the original E-mail message. And remember to delete all uploaded and filed/downloaded messages from your workspace once you're done with them.)
Database TimesaversSearch!: The best way to save time in the databases is to plan ahead. If you are looking for certain kinds of files, determine in which database(s) the files are likely to be found, and determine what keywords you'll need to use in search for the files before you sign on.
File-transfer protocols: An important timesaving element is the file-transfer protocol you use. Determine, through research or experimentation, which protocol is fastest for you, then set it as your default file-transfer technique. (Type DOWN MENU at the database ACTION > prompt, and follow the prompts to do this.)
Database shortcuts: As with messages, you can capture database directories and descriptions faster than you can read them.
You can capture an entire database directory by typing DIR NS. Note, however, that this can be a lengthy process, as the Atari SIG databases contain a large number of files. So, you'll probably want to do a search first, and capture only a directory of items that meet your criteria. Once you capture a directory, you can determine at leisure which items you wish to view descriptions of.
Changing database topics: When you change database topics, don't back out to the Atari SIG main menu. Instead, type SET followed by the name of the desired database topic; you'll move immediately to that topic, whether you are at the database name prompt or the ACTION > prompt.
MiscellanySome DELPHI members are unaware that two of the most commonly used general SIG commands-WHO and SEND-don't have to be issued at the SIG main menu. You can use WHO and SEND at any SIG prompt (even in Conference) by preceding them with a "/" like this: /WHO and /SEND.
/WHOIS < membername > also works at almost all SIG prompts, as do /TIME and, as previously noted, /BYE.
Conscientious use of the tips I've provided here can add up to quite a savings in money, and-equally important-make your time on DELPHI more efficient. I also suggest that you make liberal use of the HELP command (quite often you'll discover information on new features).
If you're relatively new to DELPHI, or haven't been online in a while, you'll find the Guided Tour of benefit. This is the same tour that you were "walked through" the very first time you signed on to DELPHI as a new user. You can take the tour any time you wish by typing USING GUIDE from the DELPHI main menu.
If you don't already have them, I recommend that you obtain the DELPHI Command Card and DELPHI: The Official Guide. Type USING MANUAL at the DELPHI main menu for order info.
Finally, read Database DELPHI for more tips, instruction, and the latest information on new DELPHI features.
Weekly ConferencesAs always, you are invited to join in the weekly SIG ATARI conferences. Stop by any Tuesday at 10 P.M., EST, to meet other Atari users and the SIG managers. Bring your questions, programming and hacking secrets, and comments to this friendly meeting-place.
And, speaking of conferences, I'll have a few surprises for you next month when I take an in-depth look at using the Atari SIG's Conference area.
In addition to science fiction novels and non-fiction books on model rocketry and other topics, Michael A. Banks is the author of DELPHI: The Official Guide and The Modem Reference, both from Brady Books. You can contact him on DELPHI by sending E-mail to membername KZIN.