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Mark Shields
Super Genius
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stew wart

2002.12.09 12.31

I am finding myself at a loss as of late for good blogs. I frequent Wil Wheaton's blog because he updates at least as often as I have tried to. I think he goes further with his entries, however, because a writer writes. I am a programmer, so a programmer programs. I like my other friends' sites, but they update very infrequently, and then again their updates are fairly short. On my daily agenda, as if I haven't mentioned this before somewhere in the past, are Dark Horizons and Ain't It Cool News. Google News and CNN are also faves throughout the day. My home page on this machine is a link to DeLoreans for sale on eBay. I know. I don't need any more automobile bling bling. Tell me something I don't already know.

I am still trying to get a Word-like editor to do my bidding in Internet Explorer today, but I suspect I will soon have the problem tackled. The documentation on how to get Word to do it is fairly poor. Code samples are hard to find. There is an Active-X based editor called TX Text Control that I am making good progress with. The principal idea behind what I need to do is actually super simple, so maybe I'll figure this out eventually. I remember my very first programming issue to resolve was back in 1983. My friends had written a short crappy program that they intended to use as a Wargames type-dialer. We called them demon dialers back in the day. Their program could not disconnect the phone line after it found a computer, so it was basically useless. The hardware we all were using was Hayes 300. 300 measly bits per second with the original rudimentary AT command set. To put it into perspective, the 56K modems we are all familar with do 56,000+ bits per second. Sometimes more, sometimes less, all depending upon connection and compression algorythms that may be present. 300 bps was old school. No busy detection. Just dumb. Their program was actually OK dialing from number to number as long as it didn't find anything. The modem would respond with NO CARRIER in those instances. But like I said, if it did connect, you were stuck. By reading the documentation, something which had eluded my friends, I found that you can send three pluses to the modem in succession and it would then release control from what you'd connected to. This meant you could now send an ATH command and it would immediately hang it up. These old AT commands are actually still in use on modems today, but you never have to deal with them anymore now that dial-up networking wizards hide all of the dirty work. Disconnecting is easier today, as well. Our programming language of choice, TI Extended BASIC, didn't have access to all of the goodies on the RS232 port. The RS232 port is essentially the ''plug'' that connected your modem to your computer. You had to do this +++ thing I just talked about if you wanted to manually drop the carrier. The carrier, by the way, is that sound that you hear the modem make when it connects. These days you just talk to the modem directly and set the connection pin to false and it hangs up. So nice. I know, this is boring blog talk, but maybe someone will be mildly interested in the humble IT related beginnings of the super genius. The Six Million Dollar Man is also involved of course, but I digress.

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