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Copyright 1996 Michael Newcomb

 

Access VBA update

If you use Microsoft Access, or another Microsoft product that has "built in" Visual Basic for Applications, you may want to check out this upgrade to the core VBA DLL. It fixes a bunch of bugs, including a particularly pernicious one that could cause IPFs after your code reached a particular size.

Have you been canceled?

Over the past couple of months, several rogue Usenet news cancelers have appeared. Could one of them have attacked you?

Usenet has long included a method for canceling erroneous posts, the idea being that if you made a mistake in a post, you could cancel it before it was replicated to every corner of the Earth.

When a post is canceled, a command message is sent out by the same mechanism used to forward normal news posts. Each news host deletes the canceled post as soon as it receives the command message.

On most responsibly-run systems, only the original poster of a message (or a system administrator) can cancel it. Recently, though, some people have taken to canceling posts that don't belong to them. The rogue canceling started in the pornographic forums, predictably enough. Then some outraged smut consumers counterattacked by canceling messages in Christian forums, and it's gone downhill from there.

To maintain order, many Internet providers have been forced to disable the news-canceling feature of their Usenet host systems. It's a classic case of a useful Internet capability being abused by a few until it has to be forbidden to all.

If your provider has disabled the cancel protocol, you won't be able to cancel a mistaken post, nor will anyone else. All you can do is send an "amended" post to correct the original mistake. On the other hand, you can be sure that you are getting all the posts in the incoming news stream, free from the interference of any self-appointed censors.

Unfortunately, not all providers have handled this problem in the same way. Some providers are attempting to detect and ignore the spurious cancel messages; others are simply ignoring the situation. This means that if you send out a post that attracts a canceling vigilante, it may be canceled on certain systems and not on others.

The only good side to this controversy is that it's an instructive preview of the chaos that will result if speech-restricting legislation is ever inflicted on the Net. It's also an object lesson in what happens when certain people try to impose their own views on others: everyone suffers.

Www.search.com

The creators of www.shareware.com have just launched a new service called www.search.com. This service allows you to send queries to any of more than 100 Internet search engines.

Www.search.com is very handy, especially if you're looking to use one of the lesser-known specialty search engines. Many people aren't aware that there are specialized search engines for financial data, particular programming languages, and so on. Search.com acts as a front end to a large number of these specialty engines.

There are two downsides to using search.com. Firstly, you have to wait for the search home page to load, which can take quite some time during peak usage periods. Secondly, the search page is full of ads, each of which seems to take several seconds to load.

Despite the hassles, Search.com is worth a look. Give it a try!

HotDog Pro turns 32

I have long been a user and fan of Sausage Software's HotDog Pro HTML editor. It's a fairly simple program that doesn't try to do too much.

HotDog is a "tag" editor. In other words, it shows you all the HTML tags and relies on an external browser to preview your HTML documents. Despite all the hoopla over WYSIWYG HTML editors like Netscape Gold and Microsoft Frontpage, I actually prefer HotDog's approach. The WYSIWYG editors generally have lots of trouble building and interpreting complex layouts like those used at this site.

Tag editors allow you to find and correct mistakes that will completely confuse WYSIWYG editors. Further, it's easy to experiment with tag parameters; you just edit the HTML source, then hit a key to preview the effect. Even better, you are previewing your documents with the same browser software that your site's visitors will use, so you know you're getting what you want.

For quite some time, HotDog has been a 16-bit Windows application. Sausage Software has just released the first 32-bit version of the program, which you can download from www.sausage.com.

The 32-bit version of HotDog is only a partial success at the moment. Sadly, the HotDog programming team has been gripped by OCX fever: the desire to do things because you can.

OCXes allow you to add functionality to a Windows program by adding components instead of writing code. This means it's now trivial to add features that once would have taken weeks of coding. Programmers see an OCX and say, "wow, it would have taken me six months to do that!" Stricken by OCX fever, they add cool stuff like splash screens, animated icons, and sound effects until the program is flashier than a pachinko machine.

Unfortunately, while suffering from this affliction, programmers neglect the more pedestrian aspects of development, like making sure the software actually works. For example, in the initial version of HD32, you could easily get to a point where it was impossible to save your work. The program wasn't crashed; you just couldn't save. HD32 also had a nasty habit of not saving your changes on exit.

HotDog barks at you at every opportunity. Hold the mouse cursor over an icon and it flashes. Choose commands from the "tool bone." Cute, huh?

I've seen game programs that weren't as visually exciting. Unfortunately, though, HD32 is practically useless, at least for the moment, unless you were shopping for a game instead of an HTML editor. After a couple of weeks, I've found more than a dozen bugs, ranging from irritating to extremely fatal.

Nonetheless, I have faith in Sausage's programmers. There are already options to turn off all the flashy crap and get back to a clean, efficient interface. Soon, I expect HotDog Pro 32 will be just like its 16-bit sibling: a useful, journeyman program.

If you're looking for a good tag editor now, visit the Sausage home page and grab HotDog Pro 16. For the future, keep a weather eye on the 32-bit edition.

Ulead PhotoImpact upgrade

Ulead Corp. of Taiwan recently released a 32-bit upgrade of its well-known ImagePals 2.0 application suite. Renamed PhotoImpact 3.0, the suite includes an image editor, an image cataloguing ("album") tool, a bitmap viewer, a screen capture tool, and several other useful graphics-related programs.

The initial release of PhotoImpact had a number of serious bugs. For example, trying to alter the properties of an existing image album locked up the software.

Ulead has released an upgrade to PhotoImpact, which is available from Ftp sites in the U.S. and in Taiwan. This upgrade fixes the most egregious problems and is a must for anyone that uses the PhotoImpact suite.

Another Netscape

As of this writing, Netscape Gold Version 3 has reached its fourth beta. This beta is a marked improvement over earlier editions. If you're interested in working with Netscape's latest (and least unstable) beta, I strongly recommend downloading this package.

Netscape Gold Version 3 Beta 4 is available in Standard or Minimum configurations. Both of these are huge, many megabytes to download, but it's always fun exploring the latest Netscape browser.

Windows 95 kernel patch

If you make heavy use of Winsock applications on Windows 95, you may want to download a replacement system kernel DLL recently released by Microsoft. This new file replaces KERNEL32.DLL to correct a memory leak caused by the Winsock system. Before the patch, Winsock applications would gradually "eat" memory, increasing the size of the swap file and eventually rendering the system unstable.

You can read more about the patch (and download it) from Microsoft's Web page.

Do you have news?

This column features information I've gleaned from trade publications, the Internet, and my own exploration. If you have a news item, please send it to me! Click the feedback button below to send me a message.

 


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