[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine
                              T H E
                           Z E P H Y R
                  __     M A G A Z I N E
                 Issue #16                5-24-86
            A weekly electronic magazine for users of 
           THE ZEPHYR II BBS (Mesa, AZ - 602-894-6526)
                owned and operated by T. H. Smith
                    Editor - Gene B. Williams 
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                            (c) 1986
  With last week's issue, one whole diskette was filled. We're
now beginning the second diskful. (Didn't know you'd been reading
that much, did you? Or that you've been missing that much?)
  Past issues are all available on download. To access, press
the letter u from the magazine board. That will take you to the
upload/download menu. 
  If you wish, download FILES.DAT, which is a constantly updated
file containing a listing of all issues and the topic covered. (This
listing is the same that is displayed when you do a list of the
files available.)
  As of this week, the listing reads as follows:
                     ZEPHYR MAGAZINE ISSUES
Issue     Date      Topic
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ISH.1     1-11-86   Taking Care of Your Computer (humor)
ISH.2     1-25-86   Beans, Bags and Smiler Jack (fiction)
ISH.3     2-01-86   Nuclear War - Nuclear Winter (article)
ISH.4     2-9-86    There's Always Tomorrow (fiction)
ISH.5     2-25-86   The Famous Baby Issue (birth)
ISH.6     3-07-86   Evolution
ISH.7     3-15-86   The $3.75 (plus tax) Man (fiction)
ISH.8	  3-22-86   Satellite Television - Legal or Illegal? 
ISH.9     3-29-86   Getting Started in Broadcasting 
ISH.10    4-05-86   Writing as a Career
ISH.11    4-12-86   Finding a Job.
ISH.12    4-19-86   The Star Wars Scheme
ISH.13    4-26-86   Miscellaneous Stuff
ISH.14    5-10-86   Toy From the Stars
ISH.15    5-18-86   The Chilton Book Series
QUESTION            The Questionaire for those who want to 
                    participate in my newest project
ISH.16    5-24-86   Taking Care of Your Computer (serious)
  There is also some miscellaneous stuff at the end, including
the announcement of what is coming in future issues.
  Now - this week:  The first issue, way back when Zephyr was
still called The Establishment, was a humorous version of 
computer maintenance. This week, in continuing with last's weeks
topic which talked about my series of books, I'll cover the
subject more seriously.
  Despite what many people think, a computer is a remarkably simple
device. The computer you have in your home is considerably less
complicated than your television set. 
  There's really not all that much to it. 
  Happily this means that there's not much to go wrong. And also, 
that when something *does* go wrong, you can probably fix it 
yourself with a minimum of tools, background or knowledge.
  In fact, the greatest obstacle you face is that of convincing 
yourself that YOU CAN DO IT!
  Don't worry about getting a bunch of fancy and expensive 
equipment. About all you really need is a screwdriver (maybe),
a nutdriver or socket set (maybe), and a VOM. The first are 
needed to get inside. The last is really about all you'll need
for diagnosis and testing.
  The best possible way to "repair" anything is to prevent it 
from breaking in the first place. A schedule of regular maintenance
practices can easily triple the life of your system.
  There isn't anything you can do, really, as far as maintenance
and the electronics of your system are concerned. Those chips are
sealed units. Clean them all you want and it won't make a bit of
difference. The best you can do in this regard is to be sure that
the incoming power is clean, and that the heat generated is taken 
  Whether you're with SRP, APS or whoever else, the electricity 
coming into your home is probably pretty dirty. No power company 
in the United States will guarantee its power at anything better
than within 10% clarity - and most are worse than that.
  Line filters can help. Many computers these days have somewhat
sufficient versions already built into them. The power supply of
your computer might even have enough protection - but this usually
means that to protect the computer, the power supply will
sacrifice itself.
  How much you spend for an external protector depends largely on
the expense and importance of your system. If your entire system
is worth $500, and is used only to get some kicks, spending $900
for a uninterruptible power source doesn't make a lot of sense.
  The second major problem with the electronics is overheating.
If you read in the advertisting that such-and-such a computer 
requires no cooling fan - DON'T BELIEVE IT! It may not absolutely
require a cooling fan, but having one sure does make the system
last longer.
  The C64 power supply, and the external disk drive on the TRS80
are two prime examples of equipment that have no cooling fans but
that desperately need them. Both are prone to failure due to
  At very least, place the equipment so that the heated air can
vent easily. Better yet, spend about $5 and install a small muffin
  Cleanliness is also important, especially around mechanical
devices. Dust is a serious enemy.
  Especially here in Arizona, you won't be able to eliminate the
problem of dust entirely. You -can- greatly reduce it, simply 
by cleaning the computer area on a regular basis. Use a slightly
damp cloth so that the dust gets picked up and removed. Do NOT
use something like a feather duster. All this will do will be to
scatter the dust further - often to the more tender areas of
your system.
  Cleaning of disk or cassette drive heads is presently in a
controversy. Some people say that you should clean them on a
monthly basis; others say that you should never clean them at
  In actuality, the truth is somewhere between. The drive heads
rarely need cleaning. How often depends on the environment, on 
the use your drive receives, and on the quality of the media
that you buy. If your computer area has a poor environment, if
you use your drives heavily, or if you're one of the many who
has the idea that -any- ol' diskette or tape will do fine - you
probably need to clean the heads more often.
  Cleaning disk drive heads is best accomplished with a head 
cleaner kit, and preferably one that is premoistened. Those 
are more expensive but have a lower tendency to cause damage
to the drives or to the drive heads. Get the the very best you
can find, not just some off-the-wall brand from Walgreen's.
  For cassette head cleaning, by far the best method is to do
the cleaning by hand. For this you'll need the best cotton swabs
you can find (Q-Tips aren't bad) and the most pure isoproyl
alcohol. Do NOT use the stuff from the counter. That's for
rubbing someone's back. Go the druggist and specifically ask for
99% isopropyl. The cost is slightly higher (about 30c), but 
it's money well spent. (And you can use the same stuff on your
audio cassette heads, VCRs and so on. A pint of it goes so far
that you can even get 10 friends to chip in - about 20c each -
and you'll still have enough to last for 5 or 10 years.)

                           Weak Spots
  There are three basic parts of a computer system. In order of
weakness they are:  mechanical, storage and electronic.
  If anything is going to go wrong with your system, it will
most likely be something mechanical, such as the disk drives. 
The primary enemy of things that are mechanical is contamination.
The higher the contamination, the more chance there is that 
something will seize up or will otherwise make your life miserable.
  As an extreme example, I know of a case where the computer owner
is using the computer to handle the books and inventory of his
electroplating business. Just walk into such a place and you'll
immediately recognize the source of a serious problem To plate one
metal on another, you need acid baths and a lot of heat. The fumes
in such a place are something not to be believed.
  Although his computer was in another room, each time the door
was opened, a blast of acidic air was let in. This would literally
etch and ruin various parts of the computer. Every few months he
would have to replace both disk drives. (All he really had to do
was to move the computer into the adjacent offices, where the fumes
never reached.)
  The cure is pure simplicity. Keep the computer area clean! 
  Back to Prevention again, at least once per month, and preferably 
more often, thoroughly clean everything in and around the computer 
area. DO NOT use a feather duster. All this will do will be to toss 
the dust around, which in turn will only make matters worse. Instead, 
use a slightly damp cloth. This will pick up and remove the dust 
rather than just move it around.
  Printers, which are primarily mechanical, should also be cleaned
on a regular basis. With each sheet of paper that goes through the
printer, there is left behind a small amount of paper dust. This is
hard to see, but deadly to the printer.
  When cleaning in or around anything electrical, shut off the 
power, and unplug the device(s). This is not just for your
safety, but also for the safety of the system. A trickle of DC
won't affect you. Short circuit it with a damp cloth, however, and
your computer could (literally) go up in smoke.
  Cleanliness extends to the storage media. That tiny fleck of dust
that is just barely visible to you can gouge a diskette or tape.
One of the problems my friend with the electroplating plant was having
was that burrs etched into the read/write heads would literally
slice the diskettes to shreds.
  The key is to keep all diskettes and tapes properly stored. This
means, keep them in their jackets when not in use, and stored inside
a storage box. 
  You can go just so far with keeping diskettes and tapes clean. 
NEVER NEVER NEVER attempt to clean the media. To cite an example
of this, another friend had a child drop a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich onto a diskette. He knew enough to not shove the diskette
into his computer. He didn't know enough to not attempt to clean
off the jelly. He took the diskette and washed it under the faucet.
Later, he was actually amazed that his disk drive was failing.
  The solution is simple. Make backups. LOTS of 'em. If something
is important, use the "generation backup" method. To do this, all
important diskettes have three generations - grandfather, father and
son (or grandmother, mother, daughter, if you prefer). The copy in
present use is the son (or daughter . . . enough of that, you know
what I mean). What you did last - a few hours ago or yesterday, 
depending on what is being done - is the father. What was done before
that is the grandfather.
  This way, if the most recent work gets scrapped, the most you'll
have lost is a few hours of work. If son AND father get scrapped, 
which probably won't happen, at least you have grandpa to fall back
on, and won't have to regenerate ALL of the material.
  Diskettes are cheap, when it gets down to it. Presently I pay
49c each for DS/DD diskettes. In my case, with two diskettes required
per book, that's a maximum of 6 diskettes while working on the 
book (about $3). After the book is completed, I keep just two 
copies (about $2).
  Another word about diskettes:
  On occasion make backups to blank and fresh diskettes. How often
depends on how often you change the data. Heavy editing can scatter
the information all over the diskette. In time this can mean that
the computer and drive will misallocate space, and the data will
get lost in the shuffle.
  The IBM PC is a good example to use here. It has two basic methods
of copying information. One is the COPY command; the other is the
DISKCOPY command. The second copies to the other diskette exactly
what is one the source diskette - including all disjointing of files.
The COPY command, used with the *.* wildcard, will copy sequentially,
and thus get rid of file disjointing.
  Just recently I finished off one disketteful of The Zephyr
Magazine. Before stocking away that #1 diskette, it was copied
sequentially to another diskette. Everything is in perfect order,
with no disjointed parts to any files. This greatly reduces the
chance of something drifting off into La-La Land from internal
                      Basic Troubleshooting
  This should be - and WILL be if you wish - the topic of another
magazine issue. For now, a brief rundown of diagnostics and
troubleshooting will have to suffice.
  Troubleshooting is nothing more than a process of elimination.
There are just so many places where something can go wrong. To
exaggerate - if you computer is malfunctioning, you probably won't
worry about calling your cousin in New Jersey to see if his computer
is also screwing up.
  The greatest failing that most people make is in skipping by the
obvious to dig into the more intricate. End result? They mess things
up completely. I've done six computer repair books now, which means
I've talked to a number of technicians. Without fail, every one of
them has talked about cases of what just HAS TO BE called owner
stupidity. I've seen cases where the owner would have a disk drive
in pieces, only to find that he was trying to load the wrong
diskette, or had the right diskette in upside down; and other cases
when the power supply was wrenched apart and permanently ruined,
with the entire problem being that the power was out in the entire
  To cite yet another example - a tech friend of mine was called
one afternoon. The client was in a panic. The entire system was
dead and nothing would work. He went through the stock set of 
questions - "Is it plugged in?" and so forth, but was eventually
forced to make a hurried 60 mile drive to the site to get them
back on their computerized feet again.
  When he arrived, there was the plug lying on the floor. "Oh
yeah. The janitor came through here just before the computer went
  -ALWAYS- begin with the obvious. If everything is dead, the 
first place to check is the outlet. If power isn't getting to the 
system, it won't be able to do very much other than to serve as
an expensive paperweight. 
  Does the operator know how to operate the system, or that 
program, or that feature of that program?
  Has it EVER worked? (A very important question.) Has that 
particular function every worked?
  Now we get to the process of elimination. 
  In the simplest form - the problem is either in the computer
system, or it's outside the computer system. This means - check
the outlet. If a lamp lights in that outlet, it's probably, but
not necessarily, okay. Use a VOM if in doubt.
  So the outlet is fine and is putting out the standard 117 VAC.
You now know that the problem is somewhere in the computer system,
and have eliminated everything from the outlet all the way back to
SRP or APS or whoever. That's quite a chunk to eliminate in one
quick step - but one that many people ignore. (I've known people
to strip down the entire system, only to find out hours later 
that someone had flipped the circuit breaker at the power box.)
  If the trouble isn't outside the system, it must be inside.
Simple. But where?
  Again there is the process of elimination. If power is getting
TO the power supply (check the fuse, switch, etc.) but isn't
coming out (check the output), then the problem is most likely in 
the power supply. If the computer system works great, but the
printer is fouling up every third page, don't waste time tearing
into the disk drive.
  Checking power supply output is easy. The computer is operated
by a combination of 4 ranges: +5, -5, +12 and -12, all in volts 
DC. The fancier your computer, the more of these you'll have. 
Commonly, you'll have +5 to power all the chips, and +12 to supply
the disk drives.
  Set your VOM to read DC volts in the 12 volt range. Touch the
black probe to a known ground (such as the metal chassis), and 
probe the various DC outputs with the red lead.
  For example, a disk drive commonly has a four-pronged connector.
Most often, the center two are soldered together and are the ground
or return path. The other two are the +5 and +12 VDC leads. If
no power is getting to the drive, through the connector, unplug it
and probe the connector directly. If you still get no reading,
you're down to two possibilities. Either the VOM is bad (or is 
set incorrectly), or the power supply is bad.
  Even inside the computer this process of elimination can be 
used. With nothing more than a VOM and a listing of which IC
pins carry what, you can find out rather quickly where any breaks 
in the power flow are.
  Your VOM can also be used to test for continuity. This means
to test to see if a wire or conductor continues - or conversely
if it is broken somewhere along the line, and is thus stopping
the flow of current.

  In keeping it brief, if you take it step by step, starting with
the simple and only then going to the more complex, with nothing
more than a VOM you -should- be able to find the source of just
about any failure.
  I'm short on time (as you all know by now), and so will leave
a more detailed Troubleshooting issue for a future date - just
when will depend on response.
  Meanwhile, I wouldn't object if some of you wanted to trot on
down to the bookstore and buy a copy of one of my books. (See
last week's issue for a rundown on what's what.)


  Kind of a short and quickly slammed together issue this week.
I'd apologize, but only two people have "paid their subscription"
so far - and I'm one of them.
  Just to remind you - I make my living doing this sort of thing.
On Zephyr, my only "pay" is the response from the readers. The
"subscription" is for you, the reader, to bring in a new user.
  If you like the magazine, tell me. More important, tell your
  If you DON'T like the magazine, I still want to hear from you
with suggestions of how it can be made better and more interesting
for you.
  And finally, I'm still wide open to article suggestions and
particular to those who would like to try to do an issue. Contact
me in the mail section for either of those.

  Also don't forget to download the file named QUESTION!!!!! Your
participation is very much needed.

  One more bit of news: As of June, The Zephyr Magazine will
be carried by a system in Washington called "The Halls of Aasgard,"
run by a former valleyite (and former Zephyr user) Greg Rosler.
  Good luck up there, Greg!

  A couple of people have offered to do guest issues. I'm still
waiting on those. Maybe one will show up for next week.
  Maybe not.

  If not . . . the martial arts reached a peak some years ago. 
Interest has faded, but is still fairly strong. So, unless 
something else comes up, next week's issue will cover this topic -
possibly in a way that you've never seen before.

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.