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The Zaurus Way

The Virtual Workplace

By Dan Rasmus
October 1996, Issue 12

This month's column is dedicated to the idea that with a Zaurus, an alphanumeric pager, and a cell phone, it just isn't all that necessary to show up at the office. For many white collar jobs, the office is often a deterrent to work, not a facilitator.

I sit down with my Z every evening and plan out the next day. I reschedule my to-do items. I take those pesky pieces of note paper and post-it notes that I just can't eliminate, and transcribe the notes or create new appointments and to-do items.

When I show up for work my cubicle becomes a reception office for unexpected guests with just "one question," the phone seems unable to understand that I do something other than answer it, and I must accept more work that will never get done because the phone keeps ringing. So I go to the mall or the park with my Z. I draw and type and write. If people really need me, they page me and I get back to them on the cellular phone, or send them an email. If they have an alphanumeric pager I can even send them a page back from the Z's built-in pager software.

My mobile life works even better when I'm traveling. Besides phone calls, my SkyTel paging service also accepts faxes. When a fax shows up, I reroute it to the hotel fax number for pickup. Of course, I can use my Z to send back a fax to keep my colleagues informed of my opinions and positions.

I find it amazing that I need little more than my Z while I'm out roaming the world. It certainly works well for notes and short memos and basic reports. Its communications capabilities are excellent. I not only keep-in-touch with work, but I also keep up on my CompuServe Mail and forum messages. Because the Z doesn't have good connectivity to cc:Mail or other corporate email systems, I usually send out a reminder of when I'm going to be gone along with my AT&T and CompuServe email addresses. One way or the other, people will find me.

The Z has also allowed me to mostly abandon my contact manager (written by me over many years and across a couple of database engines). As I find my communications moving from paper to email and fax, street addresses mean little. A fax number and an email address—both of which I keep handy in the Z—support 90% of my current communications. I even download a subset of the corporate directory for easy access to my teammates.

The office still beckons for face-to-face meetings with customers and colleagues. But it is nice to sit under pastoral oak trees occasionally, even if they exist only in the middle of urban sprawl. And while I'm watching the flies and mosquitoes buzz around my ahead, I know there are infinitely more waves of energy ready to immediately carry my thoughts from the memory of my Zaurus to the eyes and thoughts of people connected through this air by fax or email.

Connectivity hints

Even the most connected of devices often have difficulties connecting. The myriad of hardware options make it difficult to know just how to make your modem connect to another modem. CompuServe Companion's connection difficulties, as you might imagine, are often the topic of discussions on CompuServe's Zaurus forum.

After reading the last issue of Pen Computing, CompuServe Zaurus Forum SysOp Bo Lorentzen, passed along a few tips on connecting the Z to CompuServe as well as how to keep forum messages from disappearing.

Bo's first piece of advice was to set any modem to its factory default just for good measure. This can be done through a terminal window, or through the modem set-up string in CompuServe companion or other messaging applications. Factory default for most modems is AT&F0. If you're going cellular, most modems need an AT&F1 to evoke cellular functions (AT&T modems use AT&F5). In cases where people keep having connection problems, the string AT&FW2S95=%C/G entered in the init string field is reported to often solve problems.

Once successfully connected to CompuServe, many people complain that they lose forum messages after taking the time to download message threads. This is a "feature" in the forum preference setting. From the main CompuServe screen, touch In, Out or SENT and then select Preferences from the SETUP menu. Now, touch the FORUM tab and make sure the setting "Auto delete messages upon next receive" is not checked. Unchecking this option will retain messages across forum hops.

Here's a little additional info on Zs and CompuServe forums. The Zaurus joins forums and enters your name into the member list if you have not joined before. Because of this it is important to make sure your full name, first and last, is entered in the forum preferences, under the SETUP menu. What ever is entered in the forum name box when you join a forum is what your name will be in all messages you post on the forum. Bo reports that entering something like "Cool Z dude" will get you a lot of attention from the SysOp.

Finally, if you use the forum feature a lot and keep many email addresses in your Z, create an entry titled "ALL" in your email address book. It's likely this will pop-up as an early entry when addressing forum response. It makes it easy to send responses to everybody on the forum.

My thanks to Bo for pointing out those commonly asked questions and for providing good solutions.

And now a tip from me to those wishing to avoid the rigors of cut and paste between document text and message bodies. If you prefer to write your email in the Documents application stop doing that drag thing to select all of the text. Go to the index view, select the entry and copy it. When you enter the CompuServe Companion software, create a new message and then paste into the message area. Voila! The complete text of your message is transferred. This works great for shorter documents. Some Z aficionados have reported that tab characters encountered in files stop the clipboard transfer and others report that really long documents lose their tails. For shorter stuff in basic words though, this technique works great.

If you type your messages in CompuServe Companion, keep in mind that using the FULL box in the upper right hand corner of the message editing area expands the editor to full screen. After typing a message, shrink it back down, and use 2nd-S to evoke the spell checker. For some reason the spell checker does not work in full screen editing mode.

More CompuServe news

If those tips weren't enough to turn your head, how about more CompuServe support in the near future? By the time you read this, Sharp will have released their updated CompuServe software for the ZR-5700/5800 and a package that provides that capability to the ZR-5000. The new software will add weather and stock quotation features to the built-in mail, forum and executive news service features. CompuServe members will be able to download the patch on-line for free. Those with ZR-5000 units should be able to purchase CompuServe add-on software for their units about the same time. The one megabyte of memory on the 5000 will require that the CompuServe Companion be loaded on a PC Card.

Document hints for writers

As a writer I deal with huge amounts of text on a regular basis. How, pray tell, do I work with the Z and its slim 16K per entry text storage limit? RTF, Rich Text Format. If I try to transfer a file that is too big (or convert one from the PC file area) the Z is smart enough to convert those files to multiple document entries. Sure, this is not as cool as storing big files in one piece, but it works without me thinking much about the transfer. I don't need to figure out how much of a document the Z will interpret as 16K. It slices and dices in neat chunks.

Much of my writing work , if you exclude graphics, fits well within 16K and most of my articles originate on the Z. So question number two: where do I apply this miracle of text segmentation? Novels, documents and reports. I download large files from work, or even more likely, a text file from Project Gutenberg. When I'm finished importing the text, I open the document, choose the medium font size, set the margin to 3.6 and start reading.

Back to the virtual workplace

I'm typing a few final lines in San Francisco's famed Fairmont Hotel. And as I write about these techie tips, I realize a Zaurus on the road still requires a fair amount of experience. Even the most simple device is not as simple as it appears. When I'm on the road the machine is almost always in hand or at least in a waist pack, ready to capture a random thought.

Z Stuff

RuppLynx 3.1

Rupp released version 3.1 of RuppLynx for Windows. The new version fully supports the ZR-5800/5700. It now backs-up spreadsheet information and displays data linked to spreadsheets. 800-844-7775

Application Partner

Sharp has released it's version of Clipboard Link as Zaurus Application Partner. Rather than shipping only as software, Application Partner includes the very snazzy ACTiSYS IR200 IR port that runs off the serial port power, rather than requiring batteries, like Sharp's CE-IR2 and CE-IR4. It also includes the latest version of Zaurus Data Exchange Utility. US$139.99. 800-BE-SHARP

Z Battery Tip

Don't just toss out those old batteries from your Z. The Zaurus battery monitor appears very conservative. Used Z batteries still test good on many testers so put them to good use.

Next issue

I am working with the new long-life Kiwi Green battery, also the cc:Mail and MS Mail access applications. I will also provide details on upcoming links between the Zaurus platform and Novell's Groupwise environment.

Rupp Z-Games

If people with Zs disappear from the office, chances are they will tell you about virtual work and how connected they are. In reality, they'll be hiding someplace and playing with Rupp's Z-Games (US$49.99), also known as the GamePack. This is basically the same package Rupp developed for the Wizard 9000 series.

The package includes three games: Code Breaker, Draw Poker and Domination. These are all basic games we once ran in BASIC on older computers. Unlike older versions, these games fully support pen manipulation for object selection.

Code Breaker makes you guess a pattern of up to 6 shapes at a time out of up to 8 possible shapes. Remember Master Mind? If you like guessing games, this one will keep you busy. At the highest level their are 262,144 possible solutions!

My favorite game is Draw Poker. I don't think I have to explain much here. Place a wager. Deal. Touch the card to keep. Draw. The Zaurus is the house, and you transfer your virtual money to it. Occasional winning streaks keep you interested. I know I'm always shooting for a hundred bucks more than I started with before I go on to something productive. Most the time I end up adding cash to keep playing.

Finally there is a version of Othello called Domination. On the Z, Domination is not nearly as hard to beat as PC versions of the game, but the basic strategy still makes you think pretty hard. I beat my Z pretty regularly while my Mac still slaps me around. If the Z stops being a challenge, find a partner and go into two user mode. When people play each other, enthusiasts say this is a game that takes a lifetime to master.

Overall the implementation of Game-Pack on the Z takes good advantage of the real estate available and does a fine job of integrating the pen. Users don't really want a spreadsheet; they want their GamePack in ROM! —Dan Rasmus /Rupp 800-844-7775 -

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