A futuristic Neanderthal? (online services; COMPUTE/NET) (Column)
by Troy Tucker
I believe online services are the wave of the future. Better compression methods and new hardware advancements will be the final springboard, but the underlying power is already there. The possibilities are endless. However, while we wait for the sleeping giant to awake, the online service companies should at least try to keep up with new market trends--Microsoft Windows, for example. If an online service doesn't change, it can become stagnant.
The popularity of Windows continues to increase. COMPUTE's January 1992 readership survey shows a significant increase in the number of Windows users, growing from 14 percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 1992. Almost every computer manufacturer packages Windows with its products. Software companies that once supported only DOS now sport a complete line of Windows products. Everything seems to be moving toward Windows. Everything, that is, except online services.
Why haven't GEnie, CompuServe, and America Online developed a Windows interface for their online services? I'm tired of shelling out of Windows to run my communications software. I want to access my favorite service from within Windows. Interfaces like CompuServe's Information Manager (CIM) and Genie's Aladdin are good DOS programs that make dealing with the services easier, but that's not enough.
An online service is a product, just like any other product that you purchase. If you, the consumer, remain complacent with the final product, it will never change. On the other hand, if you'd like to see some changes, like Windows versions of Aladdin, CIM, and America Online, then let them know. I have. If enough people badger the online service companies for new products, then maybe we'll see some real changes in the near future. Remember, you have to ask first.
Whether you're running Windows or not, COMPUTE/NET has several exciting new programs featured this month. You'll find them in the New Uploads section on COMPUTE/NET Our all-star feature is The Levy Adventure Development System. With this unique program, you can design and compile your very own adventures. Trade your games with friends, use them in school, or entertain your family for hours. Your imagination is the only limit.
Here's what else to look for on COMPUTE/NET: Autocon, Solvelt, Waiter Menu System, Geewhiz, and QHelp.
Autocon allows you to set up as many as 50 pairs of AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files and choose them with an easy-to-use menu. A simple setup and installation program makes using it easy for the novice. When you need to boot without TSRs or with an EMS driver installed, just call up the Autocon menu and select the appropriate setup file; then allow Autocon to reboot your computer for you.
Solvelt makes calculating financial matters easy. This program gives you a wide range of valuable functions. Included in the package are loan assessment, real estate investment planning, profit and loss projections, net worth, budget planning, and much more. Its easy-to-use interface makes it a snap to put to work.
Waiter Menu System was designed to make your computer simpler and more powerful. You can set up multiple menus to launch applications on your computer. You can even customize the menu system by changing the colors and the text strings for custom titles and menu entries.
If you're tired of leafing through your BASIC manual during programming sessions, then Geewhiz is for you. Load the program before you run BASIC, and you'll have an online manual waiting. With a single keypress, you can call it up to answer your questions as you program. It's easy to use and it saves time.
Our last program, QHelp, is an extremely valuable help file creator. You can create your own pop-up help screens--and you don't need to know how to program, either. It's as easy as typing in the text and keywords with your word processor or text editor and then compiling the file. You can pop up your custom help file with a single keypress. With QHelp, you can add professional-looking help screens to all of your programs.
COMPUTE/NET offers many high-quality shareware programs that you can download. These programs are written by talented programmers who, by placing their software online, trust you to compensate them for their efforts. Shareware is not free, but it is the best deal in town. You are given the opportunity to view hundreds of programs on a trial basis. And, if you find them useful, you send a small registration fee to the author. This system works only if you hold up your end of the bargain, so please register.
If you have any questions or comments about COMPUTE/ NET, you can write to me here at COMPUTE in Greensboro or send E-mail to me on GEnie, address TROYGT, or on America Online, screen name TROY GT (that's with a zero). See you online!