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December 2000

PM Timer

By Mark Dodel ©December 2000 

PM Timer: http://www.habets-it.nl/~jeffh/pmtimer.html
Download PM Timer v1.19(Freeware): http://www.habets-it.nl/~jeffh/files/pmt119b.zip

For years I have been looking for a simple utility to log my dialup phone usage. Not a log for my internet connection, since I have a cable modem which has gives me a 24hour/7day connection to the internet. What I needed this for was to track my business usage when dialing into client mainframes. I am a mainframe computer consultant/programmer, and over the years I have racked up several hundred dollars in long distance charges each month.

Since I am a self-employed contract worker, those charges are my own, so keeping track of them would have been nice. I have tried one application for this previously, but it required my manually clicking on a button to start a timer. I am just not strict enough to keep doing that, so the results were pretty useless. What I needed was something I could install and forget. Finally after looking for years, I stumbled onto the answer - PM Timer. This is a small PM application by Jeffrey Habets, who resides in the Netherlands. Jeff is also the author of PM Notes. It seems the Europeans are far more concerned about tracking telephone charges, since they are dinged even for local access, something most Americans take for granted. PM Timer was written to help OS/2 users track these charges realtime, as well as produce a log for comparing against your telephone bill. It turns out that PM Timer has been around for years. I guess I just didn't know the right place to look before. Unfortunately Mr. Habets is not working on OS/2 applications anymore, so PM Timer is frozen in time as far as features are concerned.


First download the latest version from http://www.habets-it.nl/~jeffh/pmtimer.html. Current version as of this writing is 1.19b - http://www.habets-it.nl/~jeffh/files/pmt119b.zip. The zip archive is only 95,120 bytes in size. I created a new directory on my applications partition and unzipped the files into it. The expanded files only use about 200K of space. There is no install program. You can either run pmtimer.exe from the command line, batch file or create a program object for it.

The author suggests creating a batch command script to start PM Timer, then your dialer program. For me it was easier to create a program object for pmtimer.exe and stick it in my communications Work Area folder. When I open this folder PM Timer, my dialer(Dials/2 4.53) and a PComm (Personal Communications for OS/2 4.1) all open automatically.


When PM Timer first starts you need to configure the settings. Using a command line parameter of /Zn you can set it to open using a selected zone's settings. You can configure up to 16 zones, setting the telephone rate for up to 10 time ranges over weekdays (Monday - Friday), Saturday and Sunday. Charges can be per second or a time unit of a set number of seconds. For me Long Distance is a flat rate of 10 cents a minute within my state, and 5 cents anywhere else in the United States. The overwhelming usage for me is within my state, so I set up a Zone for that rate, but also another zone for Interstate Long Distance. PM Timer comes preconfigured for several Dutch Zones. There is also a feature to Import/Export .FEE files, which are cost setting files from the OS/2 communications application ZOC. A shame it can't differentiate automatically between Zones, but I guess you can't have everything.

You can also set a periodic beep and set the tone frequencies of the beep. Also one of the neat features of this app is that you can configure a title bar display of the timer and running costs. You can position this display, so that it doesn't interfere with other titlebar enhancers like Xit and NPSWPS.

Finally you can configure how PM Timer automatically monitors your COM port. First you need to set which COM port to monitor. You can adjust the seconds between connect and carrier(default is 10). There are two methods to access the serial ports, the Direct Hardware access (IOPL) or via the serial Port driver (COM.SYS or SIO.SYS). Default is Direct Hardware access. If you use Direct Hardware Access you have to have IOPL=YES in you CONFIG.SYS file. If you decide to use the serial port driver access method be aware of two problems that you may encounter according to the README.TXT, "The disadvantage of driver access is that (with COM.SYS) DOS/WIN-OS2 sessions have exclusive access to the port, so PM Timer won't be able to access the port. Also, there are some OS/2 apps that won't hang up if PM Timer is monitoring using driver access. For those reasons I recommend using direct hardware access.".

Running PM Timer:

There are several command line parameters for PM Timer, so you could have several different objects for different settings. I set one up with /Z4 so when it starts it uses the Zone 4 charge settings I set up. When PM Timer is started the small window shows both the timer and cost settings as zero. To manually start the timer, you can click on the green start button.

When I use Dials/2 to dial into my clients, after a connection is initiated, the word Start fades out, and the word Stop appears in the red button. The timer starts incrementing and the costs are shown.

Then the window which has focus shows the same data in the title bar. In the image below the PM Timer data is in red digits. I use Xit, which adds several title bar buttons and a current time to the title bar also. So you can keep an eye on this data while you are working. Here is a screen capture of a PComm/2 (Personal Communications for OS/2) window with PM Timer activated. Note the Cost amount and elapsed time in red digits in the titlebar. Other title bar enhancers in use in this shot are X-it 2.51(dark blue system time clock and the three buttons to the right of it) and Styler/2 v1.6.1.1 (title bar bitmap and title font).

PM Timer creates a log file in the PM Timer directory, which you can view either with any editor of your choice or by clicking on the left corner button and selecting Log Window. The log shows when PM Timer was started, when the carrier was detected and dropped, Connection time and the cost and Zone.

19:09:28 Saturday, October 21 2000 - PM Timer version 1.19ß
19:10:28 Carrier Detected
19:16:33 Carrier Dropped
19:16:33 Connection time: 00:06:15
19:16:33 Costs: 0.700 - Zone 4
19:25:19 User exit requested - terminating

21:55:59 Saturday, October 21 2000 - PM Timer version 1.19ß
22:37:20 Carrier Detected
22:37:25 Carrier Dropped
22:37:25 Connection time: 00:00:15
22:37:25 Costs: 0.100 - Zone 4

Other command line parameters are as follows:

/H to start PM Timer minimized.
/Q to close a running instance of PM Timer.
/W to prevent a warning message from being displayed if you close PM Timer while it is timing.
/INI=filename.ini PM Timer will use the file "filename.ini" instead of the default pmtimer.ini to store and retrieve it's configuration.


This small telephone timer meets almost all my needs. It would be nice if the phone number dialed was included in the log, but I can generally tell from the time and date which client I was connecting to. It would also be really great if PM Timer would automatically determine the Zone based on the phone number dialed. This item could be overcome by having several PM Timer objects setup for different zones, and placed in a Work Area folder for each client.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised to find this little utility. It amazes me that after having run OS/2 for almost 10 years I am still discovering useful applications and utilities. For someone looking to get a handle on their telephone costs, PM Timer is a gem of a discovery. And speaking of costs, PM Timer is freeware.

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