Refurbishing a Pentium-75

Remember that Pentium-75 I worked on a couple weeks ago? It’s back. I love problem-child PCs. Not. But its owner couldn’t be nicer about it, so that makes it better to deal with. This time I’m doing what I should have done in the first place: clean reinstalling Win95 with a minimalist setup. It works so much better that way.
She’s really funny about it. I guess she’s been driving around with it in the trunk of her car since Friday, so it’s been a few places, like the park. Taking the computer to the park for some fresh air… I guess it couldn’t hurt, though I can’t say I’ve ever tried that. “Not the way I drive,” she said. I see…

I’d better see if I can get some stuff written, and maybe put the computer up on the bench and see what I can get it to tell me.


Whooee! Talk about one sick puppy! I dredged up the motivation to pop that computer up on the bench (so to speak–I’ve got a real Tower of Power going here now, with three minitowers stacked on top of one another, cascading off a KVM switch–I do wish I had a digital camera right about now so you could see). Well, I fire up, and Windows takes a week to load (warning sign #1: this computer may be old, but it’s not a 486SX/25). When that annoying Windows screen finally goes away, I get a Windows protection error while initializing device VAUDRV. Obviously some kind of audio driver. Veree strenge, as Chief Inspector Clouseau would say. (I find myself wanting to type grep -r vaudrv * to hunt down that file, which just indicates I’ve been getting way too much Linux time lately.) I boot in safe mode, nuke the audio drivers, reboot, and…. same error. Let’s look around a bit more. The root directory is littered with stuff that doesn’t need to be there, but nothing causing problems. I see multiple installations of the sound drivers, which isn’t helping but shouldn’t hurt–they’re in separate directories. I see a directory with a weird name, but that turns out to be DOS-mode CD-ROM drivers. A quick scan of autoexec.bat/config.sys reveals they’re not active, so they’re out of mind, if not totally out of sight. Then I notice the disk space: 390 megs free. What’s she been doing? A quick dir /w /s reveals 406 MB used. No way. Scandisk. No problems. Huh? So I run FDISK and… learn that this computer thinks it has an 813 MB drive. What? I reboot, go into the BIOS, and autodetect the drive. No, it’s a 1.6 gig. OK. Reboot, go into DOS, and… 813 MB.

I’m starting to wonder how many problems that’s causing.

A dir /s *.doc turns up very little, so it doesn’t look like she has any data on the machine. I’m thinking visit Maxtor’s site, get a low-level format utility for the drive to wipe out whatever Windows decided to do to that poor drive’s partition table, and start over. But I’ll have to ask before I do that, just in case.

Hey, I wonder if SpinRite would have anything to say about all this? So I run SpinRite. The model number it retrieves from the drive suggests it’s an 850-meg drive. Hmm. Maybe I misread the BIOS? Might as well let SpinRite finish at this point. It thinks it’ll only take a couple of hours on a drive this size. I can go read, or switch over to one of my other PCs and write for a while.

I still think I want to low-level format and start over from scratch. We’ll see if I can get this P75 to outrun the P233s at work. I’m betting I can. (Part of it is that I’m good, yes, but a big part of it is the sorry state of those P233s.) I’m gonna whip this underachieving heap of silicon into shape.

Still later:

I was misreading the drive parameters last night. I’m not used to working with machines with the AMI BIOS. It was reporting the number of sectors where I expected to see the drive size, hence the 850 MB/1.6 GB confusion. So I haven’t found something totally out of the ordinary after all.

Underachieving Win9x Network performance

David Yerka asked what can cause really slow network performance in Windows 95/98. I mailed him, suggesting maybe someone had run MTUSpeed or some similar utility on the machine to optimize dialup performance. LAN performance tends to go into the toilet after doing that. (Voice of experience speaking… My Win95 box was a real dog until that light went off–long after my book was on store shelves, of course.) He responded with some useful information.

From: David M. Yerka
Subject: Re: Slow Win9x network performance
To: Dave Farquhar

Hi Dave:

Thanks for the reply you win the big bucks! That is exactly what is going on. Apparently Win9x only sets the MaxMTU in one place:

HKey_local machine\system\currentcontrolset\services\class\nettrans000

and while additional information makes this key appear to belong only to dialup networking apparently it is the place where Win9x picks up the settings for the network also. You were right also I remembered (actually, before I got your email) that someone had used MTUSpeed on this machine to optimize dialup before I convinced my clients to get a “webramp appliance” to do sharing. Unfortunately, it appears that even if you tell MTUSpeed to “remove all settings” it leaves the MaxMTU setting at say 576 (which is usually the best for dialup ISP’s). You must explicitly change the settings in MTUSpeed to 1500 and reboot BEFORE have MTUSpeed “remove all settings.”

Interestingly, I found that you could sort of hack the registry with a combination of stuff and seemingly get both optimizations: stick a string in the key below of MaxMTU=”1500″

HKey_local machine\system\currentcontrolset\services\class\nettrans\netservice000

Use MTUSpeed to set the MTU to 1500 reboot

edit the first key …\nettrans000 to MaxMTU=”576″ and reboot.

checking with MTUspeed (and don’t under any circumstance change anything) shows the MTU to be 576 while network performance approaches 950K for a 10T UTP network.

Isn’t Window just wonderful and weird.. or something!!

Thanks again David Yerka

If you can’t buy it, is it legal to copy?

Here’s a big, hairy question:

From: Francisco Garcia Maceda
Subject: Napster
To: Dave Farquhar

I have also been playing around with Napster for a couple of days and as you have seen there are a couple of rough edges still in the design and implementation. However, I think this is going to grow to something bigger and probably very different from the original implementation. There is already Wrapster, which allows you to “wrap” files, images, videos, programs, etc. in MP3 headers so you can exchange this “wraps” as if they were actual MP3’s. We’ll see.

The other day I was talking to a friend that made some research into copyright law both in the US and locally (Mexico). It appears that in both countries you can copy ANY copyrighted material that is out of print or distribution as long as you do not redistribute it or profit from it. This could be very important for people that don’t want to encourage piracy but at the same time is looking for some old tunes/books/etc. that are impossible to obtain today since they have been out of print for years/decades. Maybe you or one of your readers could shed some light in this topic regarding copyright law in the US and even in the EU?

Francisco Garcia Maceda

My understanding is that copyright law makes no provisions for material that’s in print or out of print, and until the copyright holder says it’s OK to freely copy something, freely copying it is illegal.

Tracking down the copyright holder can be a real pain. I wrote Optimizing Windows, but I don’t hold the copyright on it. If O’Reilly takes the book out of print, that doesn’t mean people can freely copy it. And in the case of my contract, O’Reilly retains the copyright, so you can’t get my permission to copy it–because I can’t give it. Sometimes the rights revert back to the author, but only the publisher and author can generally answer that question.

Those Young Snakes tunes I was referring to are a case point. Aimee Mann doesn’t own the copyrights on those, so she can’t give permission to freely copy them. She’s toyed with the idea of buying back the rights, but that’s never happened. So, technically, yes, by owning those MP3s, I’m breaking the law. Whether anyone cares is another question. Since no one’s making money off this 20-year-old EP that’s been out of print for probably 18 or 19 years, probably not. As Pournelle says, you have to let your conscience be your guide. [Ironic note: Some months later, Andy Breslau, the album’s producer, mailed me. We had a long, pleasant discussion over e-mail, and $10 later, I have a legal copy of the EP. So sometimes copyright holders will find you.]

Music is a bit hairy, because there’s the copyright on the lyrics and notes themselves, but then there’s the copyright on the recording. The label owns the copyright on the recording. The songwriter owns the copyright on the lyrics and notes. If an artist breaks from a label, the recordings don’t go with them, but they have the rights to re-record the song. Prince has long been threatening to do exactly this (and for all I know he’s made good on it).

That leads us into live concert recordings. A recording that a sound technician makes by splicing into the soundboard or that a fan makes by smuggling in a recording device isn’t covered by the label’s copyright, nor are they covered by the artist’s copyright, which is why the courts have upheld the rights of bootleggers. When you go into a record store and plunk down $40 for a Tori Amos live CD, Amos never sees a dime of it. The live recordings field is an underground industry, living on the very fringe of the law. As I said before, some artists worry about this stuff a lot, while other artists go so far as to encourage it. You have to be a fan to love these recordings, so I don’t see any problem with them. Record labels do, but the law isn’t on their side in this case. They may argue that this hinders their ability to sell live CDs, but I don’t buy that. I own every live Joy Division album their record label ever put out, plus every bootleg I’ve managed to find. The fanatics will buy anything that has their favorite band’s name on it, and those are the people who plunk down obnoxious amounts of money for these bootlegs. If those MP3s hurt anyone, it’s the bootleg record companies and the record stores that deal in them.

The other place where this question comes up a lot is old software. The author doesn’t make a dime if you go buy an Atari 2600 cartridge at a flea market for a buck, so it doesn’t make any difference to the author, I would assume, if you bought a copy of it or just downloaded the ROM image and played it with an emulator–though it makes a big difference to the law. With software this old, frequently the publisher is long gone, the author may or may not still be alive, but the copyrights are still valid for a few more years and someone, somewhere, owns them and could choose to enforce them.

Really, what it comes down to is two questions: 1. Am I hurting the owner of the copyright? And 2. If I’m not hurting the owner, morally I can do this, but legally I may not be able to, so am I willing to take that risk?

I hope that answers your question. I’m sure others will pipe in as well.


More thoughts on MP3. Record sales are down. The industry blames MP3. But as labels consolidate, they axe artists by the hundreds or thousands. The end result is fewer people recording music, and, probably, fewer sales. Plus, many artists don’t hit it big right away. It took U2 seven years and five albums. Today, they’re Ireland’s biggest industry. They wouldn’t have survived if they had come along in 1999 rather than 1979–Boy was a great album, a really great album, but probably wouldn’t have been a great commercial success in any era.

I don’t think MP3 hurts teenybopper bands like The Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync. Sure, those songs get pirated by the boatload, but they also sell by the boatload, and much of the money surrounding bands like that is in merchandising–lunch boxes, bedsheets, posters, videos… The records are an afterthought. (And it shows.) Those bands will disappear within a couple of years, just like the New Kids on the Block did in the late ’80s/early ’90s and the Bay City Rollers in the mid-1970s.

I think who the MP3s really hurt are the one-hit wonders. You know, bands like Deep Blue Something, who record an album with exactly one catchy song (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” in that band’s case) that goes on to become a mega-hit, but with no obvious followup the band drops off the face of the earth.

I don’t see how MP3s can hurt established bands any more than radio taping does. And record companies fall all over themselves to get their acts played on the radio.

FTP batch files

I found this question on the Sys Admin magazine forum:
Can I create a batch file (or something else) to allow me to execute my file transfer from a Tru64 UNIX to a NT without having to type each command? This is what I’m doing now to transfer a recompiled data base from UNIX to NT: At the NT machine:

C:> cd\sandgis
sandgis> erase *.*
are you sure? Y
sandgis> ftp
name: *******
passwd: ********
ftp> cd /data/sandgis
ftp> prompt off
ftp> bin
ftp> mget *.*
ftp> cd /apps/sandcauv
ftp> mget par*.*
ftp> quit
sandgis> cd info
sandgis\info> erase *.*
are you sure? Y
sandgis\info> ftp
name: ****
passwd: *****
ftp> cd /data/sandgis/info
ftp> bin
ftp> prompt off
ftp> mget *.*
ftp >quit
(this is half of it)

Well, you get the idea… I can get a batch file to work until it goes into FTP, then it stops. Since I’ve got to do this on five NT machines twice a week and the total files size is near half a gig., this is very time consuming.

And here’s the response I submitted:

Put your pre-FTP commands in a batch file, as it sounds like you already have, then add the -s:[textfile] parameter to your FTP statements containing FTP commands, e.g. ftp -s:ftp1.txt

The contents of ftp1.txt, based on your example:
prompt off
mget *.*
cd /apps/sandcauv
mget par*.*

Anything you put in a file specified by the -s parameter gets fed to your FTP client.

So, you’ll need a batch file, plus a text file for each FTP session, which could turn into a real mess of files, but it’s a whole lot better than typing all that garbage twice a week.

So, who makes the best Mac utility?

When it comes to Macintoshes, I feel like a catcher playing shortstop. Yes, a good athelete can play both positions, but very few can play both exceptionally well. The mindset’s all different. The ideal physique for each is all different.
I fix Macs for the good of my team. Period. Right now my job is to nurse along a dozen Macs for four months until the new fiscal year starts, then they can replace them. I think those machines have four months left in ’em. The bigger question is, do I have four months’ tolerance left in me? Hard to say.

But thanks to my pile of Macs on their last legs (these are 120 MHz machines with no L2 cache and a pathetic 10 MB/sec SCSI-II bus, and they’ve never had regular maintenance) I’ve gotten a lot of first-hand experience with Mac utilities suites.

I said in my book that Norton Utilities for Windows is, in most regards, the second-best utilities suite out there. Problem is, the other two big ones split first place, and the third-placer is usually so bad in that regard that you’d prefer not to use it. So Norton Utilities compromises its way to the top like a politician. The Mac Norton Utilities is the same way. There are two reasons to buy Norton Utilities for the Mac: Speed Disk and Norton Disk Doctor. Period. The rest of the stuff on the CD is completely, totally worthless. Eats up memory, slows the system down, causes crashes. Copy SD and NDD to a CD-R, then run over the original with your car. They’re that bad. But of course your end-users will install them since all software is good, right? You should install everything just in case you need it someday. Famous last words, I say…

But you need Speed Disk and Norton Disk Doctor desperately. Macs are as bad as Microsoft OSs about fragmentation, and they’re far worse about trashing their directory structures. Use a Mac for a week normally, and use a PC for a week, turning it off improperly on a whim (with automatic ScanDisk runs disabled), then at the end of a week, run a disk utility on each. The Mac will have more disk errors. Apple’s Disk First Aid is nice and non-invasive, but it catches a small percentage of the problems. NDD scoops up all of the routine stuff that Disk First Aid misses.

As for Speed Disk, it works. It’s not the least bit configurable, but it has enough sense to put frequently used stuff at the front of the disk and stuff you never touch at the end.

But if you need to do what Norton Utilities says it does, you really need Tech Tool Pro. Its defragmenter is at least the equal of Speed Disk, and its disk repair tools will fix problems that cause NDD to crash. Plus it has hardware diagnostics, and it’ll cleanly and safely zap the Mac’s PRAM (its equivalent to CMOS) and cleanly rebuild the Mac’s desktop (something that should be done once a month).

But the best disk repair tool of them all is Disk Warrior. Unlike the other suites, Disk Warrior just assumes there are problems with your disk. That’s a pretty safe assumption. It goes in, scavenges the disk, rebuilds the directory structure, and asks very, very few questions. Then it rewrites the directory in optimal fashion, increasing your Mac’s disk access by about the same factor as normal defragmentation would.

Oh yes, Disk Warrior comes with a system extension that checks all data before it gets written to the drive, to reduce errors. I really don’t like that idea. Worse speed, plus there’s always something that every extension conflicts with. That idea just makes me really nervous. Then again, since I regard the Mac’s directory structure as a time bomb, maybe I should use it. But I’m torn.

Which would I buy? If I could only have one of the three, I’d take Tech Tool Pro, because it’s the most complete of the three. I’d rather have both Tech Tool and Disk Warrior at my disposal. When a Mac goes bad, you can automatically run Disk Warrior, then rebuild the desktop with Tech Tool Pro before doing anything else, and about half the time one or the other of those (or the combination of them) will fix the problem. Or they’ll fix little problems before they become big ones.

Disk Warrior is positively outstanding for what it does, but it’s a one-dimensional player. For now, it does ship with a disk optimizer, but it’s limited to optimizing one of the Mac’s two common disk formats. At $79 vs. $99 for Tech Tool Pro, if you’ve only got a hundred bucks to spend, you’re better off with Tech Tool Pro.

As for Norton Utilities, I’ve got it, and it’s nice to have a third-string disk utility just in case the other two can’t fix it. Sometimes a Mac disk problem gets so hairy that you have to run multiple disk utilities in round-robin fashion to fix it. So run Disk Warrior, then Tech Tool Pro, then Norton Disk Doctor, then Apple Disk First Aid. Lather, rinse, and repeat until all four agree there are no disk errors.

David L. Farquhar, computer security professional, train hobbyist, and landlord