Retrochallenge 2009
      Mark Wickens
      6-Jan-2009 07:23
                                    Exceptions and Issues

      This is a list of situations that arose during the month where I had no choice
      but to 'fall-forward' to modern technology to solve a problem, or where I
      specifically noted that the retro-technology was not suitable for the problem at

      7-Jan-2009 12:36
      Whilst putting together a letter insert for my 40th Birthday Party I was unable
      to obtain a map for directions using mosaic - google maps crashed the browser
      and others such as multimap and streetmap produced a page with the tiled images
      that would make up the map display showing as icons. As we needed to get it out
      pronto, I used the work computer to get a map, took a screen grab and emailed it
      to myself. The next problem was removing the map image attachment - ALLIN1 does
      not know about MIME attachments, but once the email was exported to the VMS
      filesystem I was able to use the OpenVMS MIME utility to extract the image, load
      it into XV, export it as an Encapsulated Postscript file and finally include
      this in the WPS-PLUS letter using an EPS control block.

      8-Jan-2009 17:16
      I was unable to access my bank accounts online with Norwich & Peterborough, even
      though I could see no good reason why it should fail. There were no error
      messages, I was just plonked back onto the same page. Probably down to not
      having javascript, but I'm none the wiser. Had to resort to the laptop to
      shuffle some money around (although I could have phoned them up instead).

      7-Jan-2009 09:43
      I was unable to post to the comp.os.vms newsgroup from VMS Mosaic 4.2. I pressed
      the 'Post' button and the window closed but nothing discernable happened (one
      good thing about old SCSI disk drives is that they tell you audibly when
      something is happening). It may be a configuration problem - I noted that Mosaic
      thought I was 'msw@orac' which might cause problems with posting.

      Update: apparently the post was successful, but it is appearing as a separate
      thread in the Mosaic news browser. I can't be sure whether it has been posted as
      a separate thread or whether it's just the threading in the browser that's not
      working. So scrub the previous comment, happily...

      One thing that I've noted about using DECwindows is that the cut/paste handling
      is a bit erratic. For example, using the middle-button method of cut and paste I
      couldn't paste the selected text into an EVE session in a DECterm window. The
      Mosaic Post window knew nothing about Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V as Cut/Paste buttons. As
      a consequence I lost the post. If I get the news side of posting working I'll
      write the post in ALLIN1, export it to a text file and use the 'Include File...'
      option to pull in a safe copy.

      6-Jan-2009 20:00
      I knew photographs were going to be a challenge - the VAX is way, way before USB
      ports and these days if you don't have a USB port then reading off a Digital
      Camera card is a non-starter. This may be an interesting, more advanced
      challenge - find a way to read images off a Compact Flash card with a VAX!

      So I had to resort to my IBM X60 laptop with a USB compact flash card reader to
      extract the images. I then FTP'd them directly to the VAX.

      The next problem was thrown by XV - an 'out of memory' error when loading full
      resolution images (about 3888 pixels across). I compiled up ImageMagick and
      tried to use that but I obviously missed out the JPEG configuration as it would
      not recognise the image format.

      So in order to recompile ImageMagick with JPEG support I visited the Independent
      JPEG Group home page[1] and downloaded the free JPEG image compression library.

      Once that was compiled up memories came flooding back of using their DJPEG and
      CJPEG utilities (with an Amiga then early Linux distributions if I remember
      correctly) to decode and encode JPEGs respectively.

      I used the command: DJPEG -scale 1/5 image.jpg image.pgm to decode the JPEG
      image to 1/5 size and write a NetPBM file. XV was then able to load the
      scaled-down file, and I could trim and save the images re-encoded in JPEG format
      for inclusion on the website.


      1. Independent JPEG Group