Z*Magazine: 25-Oct-86 #2.3From: Atari SIG (xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 07/03/93-08:48:25 PM Z
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From: xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Atari SIG) Subject: Z*Magazine: 25-Oct-86 #2.3 Date: Sat Jul 3 20:48:25 1993 [This copy of Z*Mag 25-Oct-86 #2.3 is incomplete.--aa700] ___________________________________ ZMAGAZINE ___________________________________ October 25, 1986 Issue 2.3 ___________________________________ Publisher/Cheif Editor:Ron Kovacs Assistant Editor:Larry Mihalik ___________________________________ Assistant Publishers: Ken Kirchner Larry Mihalik ___________________________________ Xx Editors Column Welcome to the constant changing face of New Jersey Zmag. In the weeks to come we will continue updating our issues to make them more interesting and diversified in topics to keep all our readers informed. Please call these New ZMAG Systems. THE SURF CITY BBS- 201-929-9351 THE CULT BBS 201-727-2274 SANDY BEACH 201-356-8411 Due to the extended length of this weeks issue, The Zmag BBS Systems list will appear next week. ___________________________________ Xx COPS CRACK DOWN ON CRACKER BBS Maryland police have closed down what they describe as a "pirate bulletin board" called "The British Exchange" which they say was dealing in stolen phone codes from MCI Telecommunications Corp. and other phone companies. Police Cpl. Brian Uppercue told United Press International in Towson, Md., that a weekend raid in the Annapolis area resulted in the seizure of three complete computer systems and peripherals. The raid follows a three-month investigation, he said, in which it was determined the computer bulletin board system was used for the sharing of stolen phone access codes from MCI, Sprint and AT&T, as well as stolen credit card numbers. No arrests have been made because, reports UPI, "police did not catch the (crackers) using the stolen codes." The case is to be referred to the Baltimore County grand jury, which will be asked to issue indictments, police say. This is the second cracker raid in Baltimore County since Sept. 12, when police seized two computer systems, but did not turn up the BBS itself. As reported in a September issue of Zmagazine, police have credited new "anti-fraud software" installed in MCI's switching system for enabling authorities to trace alleged crackers. ___________________________________ Xx COMPUTER CRIME BILL SIGNED INTO PUBLIC LAW Congress and the president want to take a bite out of computer crime, and that's just what they will do with the enactment into public law (99- 474) of the Computer Crime and Abuse Act (S 2281 and HR 4718). President Reagan signed the bill into law late last week following numerous congressional hearings and compromises over a period of several years. Originally introduced in the Senate by Sen. Paul Trible (R- Va.) and in the House by Rep. William Hughes (D-N.J.), the measure will expand the protections against computer crime currently governed by the nation's first computer crime statute (18 USC 1030), enacted in the last days of the 98th Congress in 1984. This updated law will clarify specific portions of the first statute making it punishable for unauthorized users to electronically trespass into the federal government's computers or the computers of federally insured financial institutions with the purpose of intentionally destroying computer data or committing fraud via computer. In addition, the same offenses will be covered when the crime itself is interstate in nature, as well as permit prosecution of those who traffic in computer passwords belonging to others. Federal computer crime laws have notoriously lagged behind the technology. A majority of states have enacted their own laws, but computer crime transcends the boundaries of states, requiring an effective national law. ___________________________________ Xx CHICAGOAN SENTENCED FOR CRACKING A 25-year-old former college student was sentenced yesterday to 30 months' probation and ordered to undergo counseling after he pleaded guilty to breaking into his college's computer and altering academic records for himself and 11 friends. Donald J. Moon of Oak Park, Ill., pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully entering Triton College's computer, one count of unlawfully altering records and two counts of theft, according to United Press International. Assistant Cook County Attorney Gael O'Brien said Moon apparently improved 37 grades and added 39 course credits for himself and 11 others. O'Brien said Moon could have been sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison if the case had gone to trial. UPI says Triton College lost about $6,400 in the fraud, which was uncovered after a three-month investigation by the Illinois State Police's computer fraud unit. ___________________________________ Xx Dis-Satisfied Customer TO: INFOWORLD SUBJECT: CANCELLATION OF SUBSCRIPTION FROM: MICHAEL L. CHAMPION (72477,3061) GENTLEMEN: I am so unhappy with your recent change of focus for INFOWORLD that I am requesting that you cancel my subscription, and compensate me for the remaining years that I have left. For the past several years INFOWORLD was without question the BEST periodical available that covered all aspects of the computer industry. You were praised, respected, and admired for the quality of your reviews and the depth of your reporting, and also for the knowledge of your conrtributors. Sadly, the same cannot be said of your current staff. John Gantz et al are irritating, arrogant, and ignorant, and Jonathan Sack's recent editorial shows that even the EDITOR does not seem to know what INFOWORLD is (or at least was). If you are going to become yet another advertiser-supported mouthpiece for the corporate computer market that is your right, but it is NOT the INFOWORLD that enticed me to a long-term subscription. There is no question why you have changed focus. You are part of the CW Communications conglomerate, which publishes the likes of MACWORLD and PC WORLD, among others. You call yourself a "PC Weekly", where PC stands for PERSONAL COMPUTERS, yet you continually report on very expensive workstations, mainframes, minicomputers, and even machines that are scarcely beyond the rumor stage. And then you have the gall to catagorize such sophistocated REAL personal computers like the ATARI ST and the AMIGA as "low-end" home machines. ATARI calls the ST a PERSONAL COMPUTER, because that is exactly what it is. I find your current viewpoint paradoxical, since you yourself claimed the AMIGA the "hardware product of the year", and the ATARI ST the "hardware value of the year" for 1985. You might find that you have so disappointed your PAYING subscribers that you will HAVE to give this rag away, just to find someone who considers it even worth reading. I no longer do. Please send refund to: Michael L. Champion EXP DATE: AUG, 1989 ___________________________________ Xx Recomended Reading UNDERSTANDING EXPERT SYSTEMS By Mike Van Horn/The WaiteGroup Bantam Electronic Publishing 233 pages; $14.95 (softcover) Reviewed by Ben Knox Expert systems are software packages which are able, in effect, to learn from information fed into them. Their main use has been in providing expert knowledge databases which non-experts can use to help them to reach a conclusion under given circumstances. For example, a doctor could use an expert system to help him narrow down the causes of symptoms to a single disease, particularly in an area in which he was not well versed. "Understanding Expert Systems" is a guide to the principles and practicalities of expert systems and their uses. The book begins by providing an overview of some of the uses to which expert systems have been put, using examples like computerised detectives, doctors and ore deposit prospectors. In the second chapter, some of the problems of setting up expert systems are dicussed. Perhaps the most difficult feat to achieve is to get a computer program, which is largely based on mathematical calculations, to make value, or heuristic, judgements. That is, to produce meaningful results from "wooly," incomplete information and rules. There are limits to what an expert system can do, particularly where some form of common sense is required. Having covered all the easy bits, Mike Van Horn now gets down to the nitty gritty of explaining how to develop an expert system, initially only in terms of flow diagrams. From chapter four onwards, the book becomes fairly heavy going for the non-specialist reader. Things are not made easy by the choice of examples, which most people will find fairly esoteric. Chapter six gives an introduction to artificial intelligence (which is what expert systems are) programming languages, taking Lisp as the main example. The last two chapters look at the present and future: which expert system development packages are available for various machines, from a VAX to an IBM PC and compatibles and what developments are upcoming. "Understanding Expert Systems" undoubtedly provides a very complete and indepth introduction to the world of artificial intelligence and expert systems. I highly recommend it to anyone who is intending to buy or use an expert system, if only to show how much work has gone into programming it. Finally, even if you don't intend buying the book, pop into a book shop and read the last page (number 222) to find out where computers are REALLY going. ___________________________________ Xx Bargain?? ELBOW-DEEP IN THE COMPUTER BARGAIN BASEMENT by Ken White We've all read the stories about the person who lucked into the "deal of a lifetime" in the eternal search to add that one last piece of equipment to his or her Atari collection. I've read the stories myself with a bit of envy and some small amount of skepticism as well. I'm not saying these people were exactly...lying, you understand, but their luck seemed a bit of a fluke, not the kind of thing that happens to the average person. On the other hand, I'm beginning to think that I just may have miscalculated the effects of good fortune.... About a month ago, I was wandering through a local Sears store and, as is my custom, I swung through the computer section; there's always the possibility of running into an "unadvertised special" (okay, so I don't read the Sears ad flyers...so shoot me...) on disks, or maybe some discontinued piece of software at an unbelievably low price. And Sears generally features one of the best bits of free entertainment in town - endless demonstrations of the Commodore 64 and 128. You can stand there and watch, sneering in an -oh-so-superior way. Pretty funny way to kill ten or fifteen minutes, if you know what I mean. Anyway, there I was in Sears, watching the endless Commodore demos on the screens, when I spotted a familiar box out of the corner of my eye. Since I'd rather watch an inanimate Atari than a Commodore doing an Irish jig with twelve naked dancing girls (though thirteen naked dancing girls just...might...sway me...), I headed over to check out what they had in the way of Atari hardware. It was the usual hardware package, the one that's been advertised by all the big mail-order companies in Antic, Analog, Computer, etc. etc etc. A 130XE, a 1050 disk drive, and a 1027 printer. The big price tag taped to the side said $349.99. No surprises there, either. That's about the price the package can be purchased for at all the mail-order houses. Sure, those three pieces of Atari hardware looked kind of lonely sitting there, surrounded by the Commodore hordes. Sad? Oh, yeah. Pathetic? Oh, maybe a little bit. Was I going to take it home? Not on your life. I already have two 800's, three 5 and 1/4 inch drives, two printers, a 1040ST, and three modems. The last thing I need in my life is more computer hardware. So I left the store, hoping that somebody would find these three items and decide to enter the world of Atari computing. Unfortunately, that person wasn't going to be me. Fast forward to about a week ago. There I am, back in the same Sears store, picking up a sale-pack of video tapes (yes, I'd taken up reading the Sears ad flyers.. especially when it saved me a long trip for something I needed quick). Since the audio/video section is right next to the computer section, I decided to pay the Atari package a visit, to see if somebody had picked them up yet. The three pieces of equipment were still there, in their little corner. Only one thing had changed: the price. Like on those video call-in-and-buy-this-right-now-or -we-kill-your-dog shows, it wasn't $350. Not $300. Not $250. Not even $225. The price taped to the top of the three stacked boxes was $199.95. I stopped. I licked my lips a couple of times. I pulled my wallet out and ruffled through the thick wad of one dollar bills I carry around to feel like I've got money in my pocket. Nope. Don't have a hundred and ninety-nine one dollar bills in there. My heart was, as they say, filled with regret. Then I started thinking....Yes, I did have a couple of hundred spare dollars floating around that I could use if I had to. Yes, Christmas IS coming, and a complete Atari system would make a GREAT Christmas present for that special somebody (hey, you have to get them into Atari computing one way or another). So, back I went to Sears a day or so later, my...uh...regretful heart in my mouth. Had somebody else seen this "deal of a lifetime" and snapped it up? Had the computer center person at Sears (what am I talking about -computer center person at Sears? That's the guy who was fired from Toys R Us for not having enough computer knowledge to run THEIR computer center) realized that $199.99 was below dealer cost for those three pieces? Was it all a dream (like the last season of Dallas)? But no. There it was, sitting in the same place. But there was no price tag on it. I was beginning to sweat it when I saw a guy with a tie carrying a couple of boxes wandering around. "Do you work here?" I asked. He nodded. I jerked my chin at the three pieces of Atari hardware on the cheesy computer table in the dark corner. "Didn't you have these marked $199.99 a couple of days ago?" I asked pleasantly. He nodded again. "You want 'em for $199.99?" What a stupid question. I mean, really, why did this guy think I was asking? Did he think I was a comparison shopper for Consumer Reports or something? I somehow didn't think he was going to offer to sell it to me for $49 or something, so what was he asking me here? While he tried to figure out how to write up the ticket (there were no stock numbers of any of the three pieces), he informed me that 1) he was a former Commodore user, 2) he now owned an IBM PC that was too much computer for him, 3) that I should be saving up my money for the Franklin IBM clone behind me, 4) that he had "read" that the Amiga is a better machine than the ST, and 5) that he had also "read" that my ST, though having a full megabyte of memory aboard, could only access 256K of it at once. It was, as you might imagine, painful to talk to this person. But I didn't have much choice. On the counter in front of him was my "deal of a lifetime". So I endured. And I walked out of there with $350 worth of computer equipment at nearly 50% off. If there's a moral to this story (and after a story this long, you probably are waiting for a moral), it's that you should always (A-L-W-A-Y-S) keep your eyes open, wherever you go, for bargains. Atari went through some hard times in the past, and we Atarians lost a lot of the support we once had from some merchants. But consider this - on one hand, we've got the additional support (both hardware and software) of all kinds of new companies. And out there, in the vast PC wasteland, there are probably hundreds (yes, hundreds - perhaps thousands) of bargains available at those merchants who gave up on Atari and don't know about the "Atari Revolution". Selfishly I say, "Good! Leave 'em in the dark!" Because as long as these unenlightened folks don't realize that computer or disk drive sitting in the corner is worth a whole lot more than the price tag they've placed on it, there's more bargains for us all. Of course, recently I've begun noticing more people lingering in out-of-the-way computer-type places ...looking over counters...standing on tip-toe to peer over piles of boxes...muscling me out of the way when I paw through discontinued software with a terse, "Sorry, I thought I saw my little boy climb into this bin." Perhaps I'm not the only skulking bargain hunter around after all.... ___________________________________ Xx Give Print A Chance Copyright 1986 Family Computing Taken from October Issue THE READING'S SO-SO, BUT SOME BOOKS ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS ARE GREAT REFERENCE GUIDES BY NICK SULLIVAN Senior editor Nick Sullivan, who has failed on five occasions to finish Moby Dick and is now reading Deep In the Heart of Borneo (a minor jungle classic), has read some of the world's most boring books -- and lived to recount his adventures. Strange sounds, strange sights -- that's what I got when I first connected a modem to a computer and tried to make a phone call. I didn't know whether the problem lay with the modem, the software, the serial card (on an Apple lle), the telephone lines -- or me. So I went to the store that had sold me the modem. Big waste of time. They said, in effect, "Insert Tab A in Slot B," which I had already done. I had no choice but to turn to books -- a very diffiuclt task for someone just getting used to the immediacy and interactivity of computers. A few years ago, most books on the topic were written by engineers who had been weaned on mainframe comunications in the 1950s and 1960s, not Commodore 64s and VICModems in the l980s. As ancient lore goes, the books had less spark than Livy's History of Rome, which I've also had the misfortune to read. But I plowed through, and tried to piece together a likely scenario for making a simple phone call. I took notes, made diagrams, begged strangers for the missing piece of the puzzle. Ah, but the man who had barely fulfilled science requirements in high school and college was ill-equipped to decipher serious technical tomes. So I turned to trouble-shooting -- the car buff's ancient remedy -- and started switching parts to isolate the potential culprit. The culprit was quickly apprehended. It was the serial card. The new one worked, I reread the manuals that came with the modem and software, and before I knew it I was running up ghastly phone bills. I immediately swore off books. Why had they not told me it was easy? That I dind't have to know how the telphone system worked to make a phone call? Swine! YEARS LATER, A FEW HUMBLE POINTERS Time being a healer and all that rubbish, I'm back on books. I started picking them up here and there (not in dentists' offices), and here and there finding nuggets of information. I don't read these books per se, but use them as reference guides. The secret is knowing which book to turn to when. And knowing what to expect from books in the first place. 1) Books about computers are by definition going to be out of date when you buy them. Change in the computer industry is rapid, and the book publication process is slow. However, if you don't take everything you read as the gospel truth, you'll still find much useful material. 2) Books about communications that tell you "in general" how to do something "in general" are of dubious value. To me, these books usually make computer communications seem more difficult they they really are. People who have a good grounding in a subject can use these books to add to their knowledge, or "brush up." Others may like the "overview" of the field. But, most people, especially novices, will find the answers to their system-specific questions in the product documentation. Even if it's somewhat obscure, at least it's about your system. 3) Never buy a book you intend to use as a reference guide unless it has a very good index. To make an in-store test, pick a topic, thumb through the back pages, and see if the index directs you to the right spot. Indexes that refer to the same topic in several ways are good. Ideally, you'd want to find the salient facts on file-transfer protocols by looking up Files, or Protocols, or Transfer. You don't want to have to outguess the indexer. Second, indexes that list endless page numbers (e.g., Games: 1-3, 27,28. 49-70, etc.) for one subject are bad. Instead, that one subject should be broken up into pieces (e.g., Games: adventure 21,22, astrology 38, biorhythms 6, blackjack 41, etc.) Enough, Livy! Onto the topic at hand! HOW-TO BOOKS Having just admonished readers not to trust "general" books, let's thumb through two that have risen like cream. Dialing For Data, A Consumer's How-To Handbook on Computer Communications (David Chandler, Random House, New York, 1984,$9.95) provides pleasant reading. Like all good technical books, it teaches and informs gently, so that you don't know you're being taught or informed. In style, the book is reminiscent of Guide to Personal Computers (Quantum Press, Doubleday, New York), the Peter McWilliams' computer classic with droll woodcuts and natural laughs. Chandler, a Pulitzer-Prize winner and People magazine correspondent, walks along with you chapter-by-chapter -- What's Out There, Basic Information, The Hardware, Modems and Software, Computer Choices, Buyer Beware, The First Call, etc. Droll woodcuts and snappy sidebars complete the fine presentation. Dialing for Data is not a reference guide, nor a guide to making your specific system work. And much of the information on computers and electronics services is dated. But as a general, accessible introduction to electronic information and what you can do with it ("save money, make money, develop new interests and friends), Dialing For Data makes the big picture clear enough to see your own reflection. (Insert: Glossbreener's The Complete Handbook of Personal Computer Communications) SYSTEM-SPECIFIC BOOKS The standout in this relatively small field is "How To Get the Most out of CompuServe," now in its second edition (Charles Bowen and David Peyton, Bantam, New York, 1986, $18.95, plus $6 credit from CompuServe). Ignore some of the cute stuff ("How is CompuServe like a restaurant? Both are menu-driven.") and you have a clear blueprint of this labyrinthine information service. Who's the book good for? New CompuServe subsribers who want to learn their way around without running up a big bill. A good index will direct you to the right page quickly, so you can use it when on-line and snookered. And experienced users who want to explore new parts of CompuServe can find out what else is available without taking an expensive Cruise To Nowhere. The same authors and publisher have also produced "How to Get the Most Out of the Source," still in a first edition. PHONE BOOKS Once you get a modem working, you want to explore the electronic world. To reach bulletin board systems (BBSes), information services, and the thousands of specialized databases, you need electronic phone numbers. Fortunately, three good directories have been compiled. The Omni OnLine Database Directory (Owen Davies and Mike Edelhart, Collier Books, New York, 1985, $14.95), updated each year, lists over 1100 specialized databases. It includes general pointers on how to use databases most effectively. The first sentence even describes "database": "An organized collection of facts in computer-readable form." The meat of the book is the lisitng of databases, by category. The list begins with Advertising and Marketing, Agriculture, Auto Industry -- and finishes with Social Sciences, Trade, Transportation. Comprehensive. For each specific database (such as NASA Budgetscan, Book Review Index, Exceptional Child Education Resources, etc.) in each category, you are given Contents, User's Comment, Access, and Suppliers. This precis lets you know what's available, how to get at it, how much it costs, and how to find more information. For professionals doing computer research, the Omni guide is a must. The Computer Phone Book Directory of Online Systems (Mark Cane, New American Library, New York and Ontario, 1986, $18.95) focuses on local BBSes around the U.S. and Canada. Author Mike Cane, who dedicates the book to his "beloved cat, Backspace," warns us that many of the phone numbers may no longer be in service, because "the average lifespan of a BBS is three months." At least he's made an effort to list boards that have survived since his first edition in l983, and thus have a track record. Nonetheless, be forewarned. The book is well organized. Bulletin boards are listed by state, so you can check for boards within a reasonable calling distance of your house. Most listings include System Name, Phone Number, Features, Special Interests, Access Requirements, Downloads, Fee, and Comments. In some cases, Cane provides the system's commands, or a printout of material you're likely to find. Infomania (Elizabeth M. Ferrarini, Houghton Mifflin,Boston, l985, $14.95), described as "the need for information," is Ferrarini's second book. The first was "Confessions of an Infomaniac." You get the idea -- Ferrarini (aka Baud, or CosmoGirl) is kind of nutty about information, and she regurgitates a lot of it in this personalized testimonial to the electronic age. Organized with headings such as Money, Travel, Learning, Careers, and News, Infomania presents much of the same information as the Omni guide. It's much chattier, so some may find it livlier reading. On the other hand, the presentation is less consistent, and key facts, such as cost and access, are somewhat hidden. At the bottom of each page a short sidebar relating to the main text generally peers into the future. Alongside are juicy quotes about information and related topics from such savants as Oscar Wilde: "It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information." Diverting, to say the least, even though it dates to l896. GREAT EXPECTATIONS As in most endeavours (with notable exceptions like surgery), the best way to learn is by doing. Reading books before you start may dissuade you from ever starting. Teach yourself how to use a m
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