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Offline chrisNova777

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sound on sound 1994 awards
« on: December 09, 2014, 03:38:20 PM »

1994 Awards
PC Notes
Published in SOS January 1995
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Technique : PC Notes
BRIAN HEYWOOD looks back at how the PC world has fared in the past twelve months, presents the 1994 PC Notes awards, and looks forward to a very Windows95...


Well, another year has sped past without my life being disturbed by either fame or fortune (ho hum). Last year, I made public a few of my hopes and fears for 1994. Luckily, neither of my nightmare scenarios came to pass, with Norway remaining firmly in the lower reaches of the Eurovision results, and the Bay City Rollers declining to make a comeback!

As far as PCs are concerned, 1994 was a year of consolidation. Prices kept on coming down, with one surprising exception, that of RAM. While hard disk prices have reduced to about half their 1993 value, 1Mb and 4Mb SIMMs (Single In-line Memory Modules) are about the same price that they were 18 months ago. What makes this even more surprising is that other semiconductors, such as microprocessor chips, have come down in price -- for instance, a 486DX chip is now a quarter of the price of last year's offering. It looks like something strange is going on here.

This year should see the introduction of the next version of Windows. Unlike its predecessors, Windows95 will be a full-blown operating system, and will no longer need to be run 'on top' of DOS, but will directly incorporate all the necessary functions for disk access, which will make it considerably faster. However, Windows95 will still be able to run DOS programs, providing a virtual DOS environment. Although it will still be a 16-bit operating system, the new Windows will be able to run 32-bit applications, by converting the 32-bit calls to suit the 16-bit environment. All in all, it should be an improvement on the current version of Windows.

There has been a lot of speculation this year about the future of personal computing, and how long the Intel x86 family of processors can last before they run out of steam. In 1991, IBM, Apple and Motorola got together to create a new personal computing standard, based on a new chip made by Motorola, but using the RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) technology developed by IBM. Back then, it looked very hopeful, with three industry giants pooling resources to produce something that wouldn't suffer from the problems inherent in the design of the PC. A Byte magazine editorial at the time hailed the venture as "a move toward common systems that can ease the pangs of incompatibility".

Two and a half years down the road, things don't look quite as promising. As Jack Schofield (Computer Guardian) has been pointing out, the IBM PowerPC and the Apple PowerMac are wholly incompatible from both a hardware and a software point of view. They may use the same processor chip, but might as well be entirely different computers. IBM has now announced that it will be working with Apple to produce a Common Hardware Reference Platform (or CHRP), but that was what a lot of people thought the 1991 agreement was all about. The bottom line is that you shouldn't expect to see anything in the way of a 'compatible' PowerPC -- apart from some pretty fast Mac derivatives -- before the end of the century.

I must admit that I thought it couldn't happen to me, but at the end of last year, my PC was 'infected' by a virus called NewBug. This particular virus infects the boot sector of a floppy disk, and transfers itself to your hard disk's partition table if you ever try to boot from the floppy, even if the floppy is not a 'bootable' disk. So, how many times have you accidentally left a data disk in the floppy drive when you've turned the PC off? I'm not sure, but I think the virus will 'infect' any floppy you write data to. As yet, I don't know what damage the virus has caused, but it was quite a shock when I found it.

Luckily, I discovered the virus pretty quickly, but it has caused me take the virus threat a lot more seriously, and I have instituted virus checks at a number of points in my system. You don't have to pay a lot of money for a reasonable virus checker -- MS-DOS 6 comes with a copy of Norton AntiVirus, and the Scan program from McAfee Associates in the US is available for a nominal cost. I have used Scan in the examples below, but you should be able to modify them to suit any virus-checking program that you may have.

There are two basic elements to an anti-virus defence scheme for your PC. The first line of defence is at the entry points, namely the floppy drive(s) and the modem. The second line is to have a regular scheme of virus checking, in case a virus does get through the first line of defence. For checking floppies, I have set up a a couple of icons that allow me to quickly scan the contents of either of my floppy drives. Simply set the command line to something like:

where SCAN.EXE is the virus- checking program, and A: is the floppy that you want to check. The other parameters tell Scan to check all files on multiple floppies, but not to check the computer's memory for virus infection. If you have a B: drive, create an icon for that as well. It might seem odd not to check memory for infection, but not bothering with this speeds up the process considerably -- and if the system is too cumbersome, you'll be tempted to stop using it.

If you have a modem, you also have the opportunity to get infected whenever you down-load an executable file. Since these files are usually ZIPped to conserve space, it's even more difficult to check them. I use an excellent Windows ZIP viewer and extractor application called Drag And Zip from Canyon Software, which allows you to specify a virus scanner. This allows me to check a ZIP archive at the click of a button. Again, I set the Scan parameters to check all files, but not memory.

The second line of defence is to add a line into your Autoexec.bat file to check for a virus infection each time you boot up your PC. Use the SysEdit application included with Windows (it's in the Windows/System directory) to add the following line as near to the top of the Autoexec.bat file as possible:

This will check all memory (including the video memory and upper memory blocks) for all known virus types. This only checks the system files on the C: drive, since it's designed to detect whether your PC has been infected rather than preventing infection, as in the earlier examples.

The final useful time to check for infection is just before you take a backup, since an infected backup set could reintroduce the virus back on to your PC at a later date. This check should be pretty comprehensive, so use a command like:

This will check all memory below one megabyte for all known virus types, and then check all files on all local drives. This check will take a while, but it will be worth it if it finds a virus.

The action you need to take if you detect a virus will vary, depending on the type of virus found, and whether your PC has actually been infected. Obviously, if you detect the virus on a disk or in a downloaded file, then formatting the disk or deleting the file will do the trick, though you should warn whoever you received the disk or file from that it was infected. If your PC has already been infected, then you will need to refer to your anti-virus software's documentation to find out the cure for that particular infection type. McAfee Associates have a DOS program called Clean-up which has various methods of disinfecting your system.

The latest versions of McAfee Associates Scan files are freely downloadable from many on-line services (e.g. CIX and Compuserve), and from McAfee's own bulletin board (0101 408 988 4004). If you need to contact them direct, their address details are: McAfee Associates, 2710 Walsh Avenue, Suite 200, Santa Clara, California 95051-0963. USA. Tel: 0101 408 988 3832; fax: 0101 408 970 9727. A shareware version of Drag And Zip is available for download from a number of bulletin boards and on-line services, and the full version is available direct from Canyon Software at: 1537 Fourth Street, Suite 131, San Rafael, CA 94901,USA. Tel: 0101 415 453 9779. MC and Visa are accepted. The program is also available from Nildram Software at: 82 Akeman Street, Tring, Herts, HP23 6AF. Tel: 0442 891331; fax: 0442 890303. Nildram also have an area on Compuserve (GO UKSHARE, which can be emailed on, and run a bulletin board on 0442 891109.

Yet another useful service available to anyone who owns a modem is British Telecom's Electronic Yellow Pages. This service is available anywhere in the country for the cost of a local phone call, and lets you search country-wide for the goods or services that you require. Again, I use the Windows Terminal program to access the service, set up to emulate a DEC VT100 terminal (Settings:Terminal Emulation) with the 'line wrap' switched off (Settings:Terminal Preferences). The service only operates at 2400 baud, but it probably doesn't matter too much, as it's a very interactive system. To have a look, dial 0345 444444, and press your return key twice after your modem has connected.

I was tempted to say PowerChords again, but I decided to go for CakeWalk Professional for Windows v.3.0, on the grounds that it is the most usable, solid Windows sequencer that I've come across -- keep up the good work, guys! Contact: Et Cetera, on 0706 228039.

The Lyrrus G-Vox, along with 'The Bridge' Windows device driver, as it turns my trusty Stratocaster into a MIDI controller. The package also includes PowerChords and MIDIsoft's Recording Studio sequencing software. Contact: Koch Media, on 0252 714340.

The Soundscape hard disk recorder, which allows you to integrate digital audio to MIDI with a minimum of fuss. I find it great for quickly recording tracks, making digital recording as simple as (or simpler than) using MIDI. Contact: Soundscape Digital Technology, on 0222 450120.

MIDI Master Plus from Lowrie Woolf Associates lets you turn any Windows MIDI device into a multi-client interface, allowing more than one MIDI application to use the same MIDI device simultaneously -- like a kind of software MIDI merger (for example, you could have your favourite patch editor alongside your sequencer). You can also use MIDI Master Plus to connect the output of one Windows MIDI application to the input of another, without using an external MIDI interface. So, to continue the above example, you can, say, record SysEx dumps directly from your patch editor into your sequencer. The utility also comes with improved SoundBlaster and MPU401 MIDI device drivers. Every music PC should have this software! Contact: Arbiter Pro MIDI, on 081 202 11990.

Brian Heywood has a Masters degree from the Music Department of City University, and has been using PCs professionally in audio production for some time now. He is also co-author of the PC Music Handbook, which is available from the SOS Bookshop. Brian can be contacted via email on CIX as brianh@cix, or on PAN as BRIANHEYWOOD.