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Australian Society of Anaesthetists Newsletter Volume 94, Issue 3, November 1994


With the last level of Rebel Assault out of the way I have completed the ‘Rites of Passage’ so often denied those of us who have pursued an academic career. So I can continue with the discussion of CD ROM’s. They are a nice way of buying large programs. Instead of feeding in 25 floppy disks to load Microsoft Office you can get the entire thing on one CD. The CD versions of programs often include extras, such as freebie programs, clip art etc. The most recent upgrade to Toolbook includes a talking instruction manual! (Toolbook is still the best general purpose authoring tool available for the IBM platform.)

Some programs are only available on CD. These include the best games, computer aided drawing and design packages, and encyclopaedias. The encyclopaedias all have similar content which is biased to American history and geography. When choosing a CD encyclopaedia look for one that communicates with your other programs. For example if you use Microsoft Word as your word processor then Microsoft Encarta is best.

CD ROM Hardware

This part is easy. Buy a 16 bit SoundBlaster sound card and integrated double speed drive. Find the supplier who bundles the most software with the package. Forget ‘SoundBlaster compatible’ bargains. Compatible is a very flexible word. It may run current software but the author of the next great game may make a call to a specific part of the SoundBlaster card that the ‘compatible’ card does not emulate.

Some compatibles need extra software loaded to make them ‘appear’ like the real thing. Some programs may not be able to run with this additional software in memory. Go with the herd, there is strength in numbers. (10 million dung beetles can’t be wrong.)

Readers problems

‘My computer seems to slow down when I open two programs at once. My memory indicator says I still have 5 Meg available’.

You need more Random Access Memory (RAM). The new generation of computers can use the hard drive as ‘virtual memory’ to extend the working memory (RAM) of your computer. As a result you do not get ‘out of memory’ errors. The problem is that your computer has to shuffle the program on and off the hard drive to keep the active section of the program in the ‘real memory’ (RAM). The drive light flickers and the computer slows down to a snail’s pace. This is known as ‘drive thrashing’. IBM compatible’s need an absolute minimum of 8 Meg of RAM. Newer programs are demanding even more. I would like to know what the value is for Macs.

Computer Related Accident Prevention Program

To help us benefit from each others mistakes I am developing the Computer Related Accident Prevention Program. This is based around the idea ofSoftware/Hardware Incident Tracking. An incident is defined as any event, real or imagined, that caused, may have caused, or, given a reasonable leap of faith, one cannot exclude the possibility that it could have caused the loss or corruption of information. Information is defined in the widest sense as the abstract representation of data or functions that act upon data. This representation may be encoded onto any media including (but not limited to) semiconductors, magnetic or optical media.

I hope to develop a simple acronym to deal with 95% of potential incidents. This may be possible if I take the Pooled Incidents Statistical Summary out of the tracking data.

Mine’s bigger than yours

This month’s article was written on one of the most powerful laptop computers in Australia. (I feel a whole lot better for having mentioned that.) My old 33DX luggable was falling badly behind the pack. My ‘friends’ in the department were dropping comments like ‘it seems to take a long time for your computer to load Windows’ or ‘shall we have a cup of coffee while the spreadsheet is recalculating’.

In the vain hope of making a few more people jealous, it is an NEC VERSA 486DX, 75Mz with 12 Meg RAM and 0.5 Gigabyte hard drive, Active matrix TFT super VGA colour screen. And there is more… A multimedia docking station with double speed CD ROM and 16 bit sound. The joystick is for research into alternative approaches to controlling anaesthetic equipment and is definitely NOT for playing Rebel Assault.

Isn’t Gigabyte a lovely word. Somehow 0.5 Gigabytes sounds bigger than 500 Megabytes. My next upgrade should involve Terabytes. Unfortunately my laptop will have been overtaken by the time you read this, but I will have had my moment of glory.

I was almost seduced by the new Macintosh Powerbook. The track pad is a great idea and quirky shape of the computer makes my dull grey slab look prehistoric. It runs all the programs I have learnt to use on the IBM platform and has the elegantly simple Macintosh user interface that IBM/Microsoft still cannot equal.

Dave Sainsbury

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EMAIL: david.sainsbury”AT”adelaide.edu.au  Last Update:02/05/2005


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