The PC Corner

By Qualls, John H. | Business Economics, April 1995 | Go to article overview

The PC Corner


Qualls, John H., Business Economics


MORE SURVEY RESPONSES NEEDED

My thanks to those of you who have mailed in the questionnaire I put in the last PC Corner column that appeared in the January issue of Business Economics. I would like to encourage those of you who have not yet sent in your response to do so as soon as possible.

I am going to wait until the July column to publish the full results, but I do notice some very interesting trends out there. One is the prevalence of 486-type machines and the relative lack of 386s - there are more 286s than 386s in the forms returned to date. The other is an interesting tendency for the respondents' home machines to be at least as powerful as their office computers.

HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE CHANGES AT THE NATIONAL CENTER

As I wrote in my last column, the Ministry's National Center for Financial and Economic Information is in the midst of a radical transformation of our PC computer hardware and software. We are now almost finished with the process. All of the 486 machines are in place and most of the Center's economists are using Word 6.0 (Winword), although a few die-hards are sticking with DOS and WordPerfect 5.1.

The 486 computers are "no-name" 486-66 machines that are adequate, if not blindingly, fast. Perhaps their weakest point is the keyboard, which is pure mush. Several of the keyboards have had to be replaced due to sticking keys and a tendency for the keys to insert multiple characters when struck only once. This has been a particular problem with the space bars on the machines. The lesson here is obvious: with the price of name-brand PCs so competitive, it makes no sense to settle for a machine with an unsatisfactory keyboard. For my money, the IBM PC keyboard is still the best, but my Dell keyboard is a close second.

The economists still using WordPerfect 5.1 are only using it for inputting their written text, which is then taken to secretaries, who import it into Winword and add the accompanying tables and embedded graphics. The secretaries have little trouble importing the WordPerfect straight text, but difficulties have occurred with tables and embedded graphics in the WordPerfect documents.

I had one amusing problem with an old WordPefect document of mine that I tried to convert. All of the embedded graphs (done using Harvard Graphics and imported into WordPerfect as HPGL objects) were perfectly reproduced in Winword, with one exception - they were rotated 90 degrees from their old orientation! The moral of this story is clear: don't count on Winword's alleged compatibility with WordPerfect to work perfectly all of the time. You are better off making a clean break and concentrating on trying to get everyone in the shop using a single program.

Although all of the 486s have the Excel 5.0 spreadsheet program, most of the economists are sticking with Lotus 2.3 for their "back-of-the-envelope" calculations. I agree with this approach, as long as you don't need to import much work into your Winword documents as tables or graphs. Frankly, I am trying to learn Excel, but find that my productivity drops drastically. I have used Lotus since 1983 and have all of the menu access keystrokes memorized. I can run rings around the Excel experts at the Center in doing the simple stuff, but I must admit that they beat me at doing presentation quality graphs and tables that are to be embedded in Winword text. I really do need to convert over to Excel, as I am convinced it is the wave of the future. However, old habits do die hard.

The Center has also installed a local area network. We are still in the process of testing it, and I am one of the lucky pioneers who has volunteered to try it out. We have the printer server working in good order, so it is no longer necessary for me to use the "Nike Network" to run down the hall, diskette in hand, to use the printer. (Now, if I could just figure out a way to have the printer server put on its Nikes and run my hard copy output back to my office! …

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