January 1997

RTG Bills Update Released

RTG's web site, www.rtgsoftware.com, has an update to the latest version of RTG Bills, our legal time and billing software. If you have version 1.08, you can update both RTG Bills and RTG Timer to version 1.09 at no charge. Go to the support page for details.

The main purpose of this update is to fix a small bug in the previous version of the programs. Specifically, if you are entering new fees, and you choose Fixed Fee for the transaction type, after you enter the number of hours you must press Tab to go to the next field. If you press Enter instead, the program terminates with an error message.

The preferred method for moving between fields during data entry, in all Windows applications, is to press Tab to move to the next field or Shift-Tab to move to the previous field. If you do this, you will never see the bug. But the other fields of the fee and expense entry window do accept the Enter key as a signal to move to the next field (except for the text description, which uses Enter to indicate a hard return), so the hours field should behave the same way.

A fixed fee charges the client a dollar amount which is independent of the number of hours worked. Nevertheless, you can enter the number of hours worked to have it appear on reports even though it does not appear on the client's bill.

The next version of RTG Bills, which is currently under development, will include a few new features as well as minor improvements to the user interface. It, too, will be available as a no-cost update on our web site.

You can download a free demonstration version of RTG Bills and RTG Timer from our web site. The demo is still at the previous revision level, version 1.08, so it does not include the bug fix.

Misleading CD-ROM Speed Ratings

How much faster is a 12X CD-ROM than a 6X CD-ROM? This may seem like a trick question, but according to a report in the January 21 issue of PC Magazine, the correct answer is about 20% faster.

Those X-numbers refer to the rotational speed of the CD-ROM as it spins in the drive. The faster it spins, the faster the data can be read off the disk -- if the computer can keep reading data as fast as the drive supplies it. Also, the rotational speed does not tell you how quickly the drive positions the read head to the desired data -- the access time. Yet another factor is the size of the data buffer (part of the drive's electronics).

As is true of hard disks, published specifications are not always an accurate guide to performance. Many details of the interface and the computer itself can affect the speed. As a guideline, 12X drives typically have a 256K buffer (the bigger the better) and an access time of around 130 milliseconds (the smaller the better). Just don't expect a dramatic improvement in performance compared to a 6X drive.

Free DOS Utility On RTG Web Site

We wrote a simple utility called JUMP which you can get from our web site. It makes it easy to move from one directory to another at the DOS prompt (under DOS, Windows, or Windows 95), even if you have long path names or difficult-to-type directory names. For further details, go to the software page on our web site and click on the link to the JUMP page.
[Note: Jump is no longer available.]

HP LaserJet 5L

The Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 5L printer is a very popular laser printer suitable for home or small business. Its print quality is very impressive. Unfortunately, there are some problems with it.

The 5L has one peculiar feature: there is no power switch. You are supposed to leave it plugged in all the time. After about 15 minutes of inactivity, it shuts itself off. When everything works fine, this is no problem, but when things go wrong, it makes it more difficult to clear the problem if you can't easily turn the power off.

We've seen three problems with this printer:

(1) Unwanted character printed on startup

Some computers seem to send a character to the printer when the power goes on. Since the printer itself is always on, it stores this character and wants to print it. There is no way to get rid of the character once it is in the printer except to print a page with this one character or to turn the printer's power off. Of course, with no power switch, that's inconvenient. We had this problem with a Toshiba notebook computer and a 5L.

(2) Hard to clear paper jams

The printer doesn't open up, the way many laser printers do, to give you full access to the paper path. If a page gets jammed, it can be exceedingly difficult to remove the paper remnants. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is to move the lever which sends the paper either out the front or to the bin on the top of the printer while paper is moving through the printer. We actually did this, and we strongly advise against it! A good pair of needle-nose pliers and a great deal of patience were required to remove all the scraps of paper from the printer.

(3) Windows 95 problems

The 5L comes with two software drivers, the "host mode" driver and the "PCL driver." If you follow the instructions supplied with the printer, you will install the host mode driver. It has a nice status window, which tells you how a print job is progressing and alerts you if the printer is out of paper.

Unfortunately, the host mode driver exhibits some strange behavior under Windows 95. For example, we tried to print a simple text document (no graphics) using the 8-point Courier New font. A few lines of the first page printed, then the status window said it could not print the page, but it would adjust the software automatically and try again. When it tried to print the page again, it printed a blank page and said it could not print the page because the computer was too busy. The computer wasn't actually doing anything other than trying to print.

Another problem arises whenever we try to print about 40 pages. The printer just stops, with the lights and status window showing that it is still printing, but nothing happens. You must turn the power off to clear this problem.

Following suggestions we found in the Internet newsgroups, we installed the PCL driver. You have to manually remove the changes which the first installation made to your system files (SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI). So far, the PCL driver seems to work.

RTG Bills and RTG Timer are trademarks of RTG Data Systems. Other company and product names may be trademarks of the companies with which they are associated.

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