Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 137 / JANUARY 1992 / PAGE 72

Absolutely free software! (COMPUTE/NET) (Column)
by Richard C. Leinecker

I thought that would get your attention. I've picked four great, useful, and free programs found on COMPUTE/NET to feature this month. To get the programs, first connect to GEnie or America On-line. Use the keyword COMPUTE to navigate to the COMPUTE/NET area. Then go to the software library areas and download the files.

Hi-Lo Joker Poker(filename HI-LO.ZIP) is a new version of an old game that's just plain fun to play. The CGA graphics combine with a nice interface for an easy-to-learn, enjoyable experience.

ScreenEdit (filename SEDIT.ZIP) can give your batch files a professional look. It's a text-mode paint program that lets you create excellent screens that can be loaded in right from a batch file using a special program included in the SEDIT.ZIP archive. And programmers will appreciate ScreenEdit's ability to save screens as source code for BASIC, C, or assembly language.

Hard Drive Bench (filename HDBENCH.ZIP) gives any hard drive a real workout and lets you know how it did. Results from XTs, ATs, and 386SX are shown so you can see just how a system's hard drive and controller compare. If you're shopping for a computer, you can use this program to help you test your next hard drive system on the showroom floor. (Make sure you ask permission before running Hard Drive Bench--or run the risk of getting some very surprised looks.)

PC Doctor (filename PCDOC.ZIP) shows you what's inside your system's memory and alerts you to the status of your hardware ports. You can see a list of installed device drivers, memory-resident programs, and environment variables. You can even peer into any part of memory and change it with the built-in memory edit feature.

You can get all of these programs from COMPUTE/NET. All but PC Doctor are completely free--no shareware fee.

Some who are new to tele-communications might be having trouble getting things to work. With all of the memory conflicts that TSRs introduce and all of the hardware conflicts that add-on cards throw in, it's no wonder. I'll offer some advice that will help most people who are experiencing problems.

Make sure your telecommunication software is set for the right serial port. If you have trouble, try setting your software to a different COM port. You have to watch the baud rate. If your modem is only capable of 1200 baud and you try 2400 baud, you won't get any error messages. Instead it will seems as if nothing is working. So make sure you're using the correct date transmission speed. If everything looks right but you can't make a connection, try a slower rate.

Find out what port and IRQ your serial cards, mouse, and modern are using. This isn't always easy. Watch your computer's screen when it boots and note if the mouse and other drivers tell you what port and IRQ they're using. You can also consult the manuals for any cards you have installed. I strongly suggest that you run a diagnostic program like Check-It. It will give you a list of IRQs and ports.

Every COM port needs an IRQ. These are hardware-generated interrupts that are triggered by an external event. In the case of a modern, the IRQ is triggered when a character comes in over the line. Once the IRQ is triggered, a special piece of code decides what to do with the incoming character. Without interrupts your serial devices couldn't communicate with the computer.

IRQs can service only one external device at a time. You can have one IRQ for two devices as long as you're not trying to use them both at the same time. For instance, IRQ4 can be used by COM1 or COM3. You can have both serial ports safely installed in your system as long as you don't try to use both of the ports simultaneously.

There's a program in this month's "Tips & Tools" column that will display a list of your serial ports, their IRQs, and your mouse configuration. If you don't want to type it in, download it from COMPUTE/NET (filename PORTS.ZIP).

Once you've identified your equipment and all of your ports and IRQs, you're ready to fix most communications problems. Mice are the biggest culprits when it comes to conflicting with serial communications. Make absolutely sure your mouse isn't trying to use the same serial port as your modem. Then, make sure that COM1 and COM3 are using IRQ4 and that COM2 and COM4 are using IRQ3.

If there's a conflict, you're going to have to get out your manuals and set the board's jumpers and DIP switches to fix the problem. It's not hard to do, and you probably can't do much damage. Just be careful when you slip the cards in and out of the slots.

I hope you're not having hardware problems. If you are, these suggestions should help. You can send questions and comments to me on GEnie, address RLEINECKER; America Online, screen name Rick CL; and CompuServe, user ID 75300,2104.