CS Article; Programs; DOS Utilities; Ads

Ugh. I caught up on mail, had a long conversation with Steve DeLassus (a longtime friend and tech reviewer for Optimizing Windows), and otherwise didn’t get much done last night.

Resumes 101. The one thing I did do last night was look at two different people’s resumes. I’m not sure when the last time was someone asked me for resume advice. But I do see a resume every once in a while as part of my job. Sometimes my boss will flip a resume my direction and ask what I think. The really scary thing is, spelling everything correctly and using proper punctuation impresses me. I don’t see that very often. I was taught that kind of thing was expected. I guess not anymore.

Fonts 101. I guess the other thing that comes to mind is that if you want to make a resume stand out, don’t run it in Arial or Times New Roman. If you’ve got a reasonably conservative-looking font that isn’t bundled with Windows, that’d be an excellent choice. Bookman and Garamond are classy and easy to read, and they’ve been used for centuries. Book Antiqua, which comes with MS Office, is a good-looking font whose origins I’m not familiar with. One of my former editors got me hooked on News Gothic as a substitute for Arial, but that’s not a terribly common font. Century Gothic and Futura are good-looking sans-serif fonts, and even though they were intended by their designers to be ultra-modern fonts, there are ancient Roman engravings that look very much like Futura.

The general rule is that a font with serifs, like Times, gives you a traditional look while a sans-serif font, like Arial, gives you a more modern look. The problem is that Times and Arial (or Helvetica–Arial is just a Helvetica knock-off), while excellent designs, are so commonly used that they’re cliche. You can make yourself stand out subtly by using a different font. And the older the font, the better. People have been designing fonts for centuries; what worked then will still work now.

Display fonts like Comic Sans (and most people’s computers have plenty of wild fonts that make Comic Sans look conservative) have no place in resumes. They’re best reserved for greeting cards or other informal projects.

Usage of cutting-edge fonts and display fonts is hard to teach. Either you’ve got an eye for their use or you don’t. A good teacher can help you develop your eye a bit, but since design wasn’t my specialty, I can’t really explain proper usage of them other than to say experiment. And read lots of British magazines because they’re generally bolder than most American magazines, surprisingly.

I once had a font called Bloody that was exactly what it sounds like. When I was editing a student paper at Mizzou, one week we were all feeling a bit feisty in the editorial office, so we did a cover story of a blood drive, ran a big magazine-style picture of someone giving blood on the cover, and, taking a swipe at our rival paper, we overlaid the text “If it bleeds, it leads,” in Bloody of course. The main designer and I had a running joke that I wouldn’t let her use that font. So when one of the other editors had the idea, I of course jumped at it and told her. And I also let her think it was my idea.

Needless to say, that cover didn’t end up going in any of our portfolios. But it was fun, and let us get a laugh at our rivals’ expense, which is always a good thing.


CS Article; Programs; DOS Utilities; Ads

Rare DOS disk utilities


RAM disk; Your book; Mobos; Monitors; Net folders

I’ve been doing a bunch of work in DOS the past few days, and I’ve found some useful disk tools. A lot of people use the shareware WinImage or GRDUW to create images of floppy disks. That’s with good reason, seeing as floppies are so unreliable–this way, you’ve got a backup on a hard drive or CD-ROM drive, and it’s so much more convenient when you need a particular disk to just grab a blank, make a fresh copy from an image, and go do your thing. But I found some DOS utilities, some recent and others oldies but goodies, that give you the functionality of these shareware utilities but with the advantage of being free, smaller, faster, and in most cases running on a wider variety of operating systems–all good things. So they don’t have a nice clicky mousey interface… I don’t like using a mouse anyway. Maybe you’re like me, or maybe you like powerful utilities and don’t mind giving up the mouse to be able to use them.

So here goes.

Creating disk images. My favorite is  Diskwarez DF — of course I like this utility, seeing as it bears my initials. DF is a short and sweet utility for creating and writing disk images compatible with Rawrite and the Unix dd utility. Runs under DOS and under Windows 9x and NT in a command window. There are dozens of DOS disk imaging utilities out there, but this one has the advantage of being compatible with a very common cross-platform standard. Check out the Diskwarez site, as it’s got tons of info on disk programming, as well as some other utilities like free disk editors. Despite the name, it’s not a pirate site–Diskwarez software is distributed under a free license somewhat similar to the GPL.

If you prefer self-extracting images, you can use the similarly named DOSDF to create them.

Bigger, faster, better floppies. The other feature of GRDUW is to format high-capacity floppy disks and floppies that give faster access than disks formatted with Windows Explorer or the DOS format utility. Enter FDFORMAT . You can do that and plenty of other cool things with this utility. You can gain more usable space on a 1.44-meg floppy without resorting to weird disk formats just by reserving fewer root directory entries. For example, FDFORMAT A: /D:16 gives you the maximum available space on a 1.44-meg floppy by reserving just 16 root directory entries (if you’re storing large files you don’t need more than 16 anyway, probably).

For extra speed, use Sector Sliding: FDFORMAT A: /X:2 /Y:3 speeds up the disk by 50-100 percent by arranging the tracks in a more optimal order. Supposedly you can gain even more speed by playing around with the gap length, but the author says disks are less reliable when you do this. If you’re more interested in speed than in reliability, add the /G:32 switch to the command listed above.

And by default, the boot sector on disks formatted by FDFORMAT automatically try to boot to the hard drive rather than giving you the dreaded “Non-system disk or disk error” message. Why couldn’t Microsoft think of that?

And of course you can also format high-capacity disks. Use the /F168 option to format a 1.68-MB floppy, and the /F172 option to format a 1.72-meg floppy. These switches can be combined with the others as well. Keep in mind that extra-capacity disks aren’t bootable.

FDFORMAT’s downside is it won’t run from inside Windows NT or Windows 9x. The best thing to do with it is to format a disk with it on a PC booted into DOS (DOS mode from Windows 9x’s boot menu is sufficient), then take that disk and use the aforementioned DF or DOSDF utilities to make an image of that disk, then when you need to format a new high-speed disk or a new disk that won’t give you errors when you leave it in the drive, use the image.

Formatting bad disks. And finally, for those dreaded Track 0 Bad errors that render a disk unusable, there’s FR , which uses workarounds to try to make the disk usable again. Typically I get rid of floppies with bad sectors pretty quickly, but if it’s an emergency, this program might bail you out. I used to get around Track 0 errors by formatting the disk in my Amiga–for some reason the disk always worked after that–but seeing as I usually don’t have my Amiga set up, this is an alternative.

And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I wrote that I found a better way. SmartFormat also does Track 0 workarounds, uses the date and time to create unique disk serial numbers (instead of Microsoft’s license-plate method), provides a fast format that’s up to 60% faster than Microsoft’s method, and can optionally format 1.72-meg disks. SmartFormat runs within Windows, usually.


RAM disk; Your book; Mobos; Monitors; Net folders

Optimizing BIOSes and optimizing DOS

Optimizing the BIOS. Dustin Cook sent in a link to Adrian’s Rojak Pot, at www.adriansrojakpot.com , which includes a BIOS tweaking guide. It’s an absolute must-read. I have a few minor quibbles with a couple of the things he says, particularly about shadowing and caching your ROMs with Windows 9x. He says you shouldn’t do it. He’s right. He says you shouldn’t do it because Microsoft says not to do it with Windows NT, and Windows 9x “shares the same Win32 architecture.” It does and it doesn’t, but that’s flawed logic. Shadowing ROMs isn’t always a bad thing; on some systems that eats up some usable memory and on others it doesn’t, depending on the chipset and BIOS it uses. But it’s pointless because Windows doesn’t use the BIOS for anything, unless you’re in safe mode. Caching ROMs makes very little sense; there’s only so much caching bandwidth to go around so you should spend it on caching memory that’s actually being used for something productive. So who cares about architecture, you shouldn’t cache and shadow your ROMs because Windows will ignore it one way or the other, so those facilities are better spent elsewhere. The same thing is true of Linux.

Still, in spite of this minor flaw I found in a couple of different spots, this is an invaluable guide. Perfect BIOS settings won’t make a Pentium-90 run like a Pentium III, but poor BIOS settings certainly can make a Pentium III run more like a 386DX-40. Chances are your BIOS settings aren’t that bad, but they can probably use some improvement. So if you want the best possible performance from your modern PC, visit Adrian’s. If you want to optimize your 386 or 486 or low-end Pentium, visit the site I mentioned yesterday.

Actually, it wouldn’t be a half-bad idea to take the downloadable versions of both guides, print them, and stick them in a binder for future reference. You’ll never know when you might want to take them with you.

Optimizing DOS again. An awful lot of system speed is psychological. I’d say maybe 75% of it is pure psychology. It doesn’t matter so much whether the system really is fast, just as long as it feels fast. I mentioned yesterday keyboard and screen accelerators. Keyboard accelerators are great for people like me who spend a lot of time in long text files, because you can scroll through them so much faster. A keyboard accelerator makes a big difference in how an old DOS system feels, and it can improve the responsiveness of some DOS games. (Now I got your attention I’m sure.)

Screen accelerators are a bit more of a stretch. Screen accelerators intercept the BIOS calls that write to the screen and replace them with faster, more efficient code. I’d estimate the speedup is anywhere from 10 to 50 percent, depending on how inefficient the PC’s BIOS is and whether it’s shadowing the BIOS into RAM. They don’t speed up graphics at all, just text mode, and then, only those programs that are using the BIOS–some programs already have their own high-speed text routines they use instead. Software compatibility is potentially an issue, but PC power users have been using these things since at least 1985, if not longer, so most of the compatibility issues have long since been fixed.

They only take a couple of kilobytes of memory, and they provide enough of a boost for programs that use the BIOS that they’re more than worth it. With keyboard and screen accelerators loaded in autoexec.bat, that old DEC 386SX/20 feels an awful lot faster. If I had a copy of a DOS version of Microsoft Word, I could use it for writing and it wouldn’t cramp my style much.

Roll your own router with an old PC

Freesco works. Yesterday was D-Day. I brought a copy of Freesco over to Gatermann’s, set it up, and watched it go. Well, at first it didn’t–it got the two Ethernet cards confused. So I switched the cards and it fired up. Absolutely smashing, as they’d say in Britain. I dumped it to his old 1.2-gig Quantum Bigfoot hard drive, and it boots up in about 35 seconds. When living on a hard drive, Freesco wants to dual-boot with MS-DOS. He didn’t have DOS on that drive, so Tom dug out an old Windows 95 boot disk, with which I SYSed the drive. Then I just took the file router.bat that Freesco dumped to the drive and copied it to autoexec.bat. Then I rebooted and we got a laugh.

Starting Windows 95…. Then it briefly displayed the Windows 95 splash screen. Then the splash screen went away. Loading Linux, it said. Ah, Linux comes and kicks Windows aside. We both got a chuckle.

And Tom had a great observation. “The only time I ever have to reboot Linux is when I take the system down to try a different distribution,” he said. That’s about right.

I was talking about what a great use this would be for old, no-longer-useful PCs–as long as it can run Linux, it can be a caching DNS, a router, or something else useful. That means any 386 with 8 MB of RAM is a candidate.

But don’t throw away the 286s yet. Then someone had to one-up me. Dev Teelucksingh, master of DOS utilities, sent me a link: http://www-acc.scu.edu/~jsarich/ieweb/main.htm .

What is it? A DOS-based router. System requirements: DOS 5 or higher, 286 CPU, 1 MB RAM. Astounding. So even a 286 can be useful, even in this day and age. Licensed under GPL, so it’s free. No caching DNS, but hey, on a 286 with a meg of RAM and running DOS, whaddya want? And just giving the program a quick look, a hard disk should be optional–the program is 430K zipped, so it should fit on a high-density floppy along with DOS, HIMEM.SYS, and packet drivers for the NICs. Boot it off a 5.25″ 1.2-meg drive just to see what looks you’ll get. 🙂

Come to think of it, I have a 286 with a meg of RAM around here somewhere. Part of me (the insane part, surely) wants to give it a go. The question is, can I get two NICs working in 8-bit slots, since I know that 286 only had one or two 16-bit slots and I think they’re occupied by the disk controller and video card…

Here’s Dev (his site’s definitely worth a look even if you have no interest in IP masquerade–I’ve never seen a better collection of DOS programs):

Been reading your posts regarding IP masquerading and I found two DOS solutions (just waiting to get a ISA networking card to try either of them 😉 )

IProute v1.10          http://www.mischler.com/iproute/IPRoute is PC-based router software for networks running the Internet Protocol (IP). It can act as a demand-dial router between your LAN and a PPP or SLIP link, and allow transparent access from your LAN to the Internet using a single IP address through network address translation (NAT). It can also act as a PPP server for dial-in connections, or route between LANs. Other features include routing between multiple ethernet and serial interfaces, packet filtering, RIP, and event and packet logging to a remote syslog daemon. More recent features include proxy ARP, remote management via telnet and ftp, support for RealAudio & RealVideo, a RADIUS client, and a DHCP client. Shareware. (1 hour demo available for download)

Internet Extender     http://www-acc.scu.edu/~jsarich/ieweb/main.htm

The Internet Extender is a DOS based program designed to function as an Internet Gateway Router that performs Network Address Port Translation. The program must be used in an multi-homed machine, or a machine with two network interface adapters connecting to separate networks. The two possible configurations are: 1.) Connected to the Internet through a Modem 2.) Connected to the Internet through a Network Interface Card

Freeware, (published under GNU license) so source code is also available

Dev Anand Teelucksingh
Interesting DOS programs at
Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society at http://www.ttcsweb.org

— This mail was written by user of The Arachne Browser —
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“Hacking setup; VCache”

I heard yesterday from the keeper of the best DOS utilities collection I’ve seen, Dev Teelucksingh. If you do much DOS stuff these days, you owe it to yourself to check out his site at www.opus.co.tt/dave. Among other things, he’s got DOS-based CD and MP3 utilities and players, an executable file packer that also has Linux and Win32 versions (excellent for when you’re strapped for disk space), programming languages, replacements for DOS utilities like FDISK, and networking tips and tools.

Another non-computer topic. There’s a ton of computer stuff in yesterday’s mail, so once again, a non-computer topic here. This is just like sophomore and junior years of college.

On Christianity. I don’t want to steal Al Hawkins’ trademark, but I was occasionally posting song lyrics that seemed appropriate long before I first saw his site, and this seems appropriate.

I was a Catholic boy
Redeemed through pain, not through joy

They can’t touch me now
I got every sacrament behind me:
I got baptism,
I got communion,
I got penance,
I got extreme unction
I’ve got confirmation
‘Cause I’m a Catholic child
The blood ran red
The blood ran wild!

Now I’m a Catholic man
I put my tongue to the rail whenever I can.

–Jim Carroll Band, Catholic Boy (1980)

Dan Bowman sent me this link, from Shoot the Messenger, about someone raised Catholic going back to a Christmas Eve mass. It didn’t sound to me like a particularly powerful or effective service. Tradition for tradition’s sake. The message is good enough for you because it was good enough for some previous generation.

Being raised Lutheran, which I’ve heard described as Catholicism without the Pope (that’s an oversimplification but there is a great deal of truth in it), I can relate. Traditionalists want us to come to God, but on their terms. But that’s wrong. Their terms and God’s terms aren’t interchangeable. They often aren’t even compatible.

God uses language we understand. The message of Christmas is full of them. Many religious heroes are said to have been born of a virgin: Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao-Tse. So Jesus, also, is born of a virgin. God didn’t want His Chosen One to seem inferior. And the magi. They were astrologers. God doesn’t approve of astrology, but He wanted them to know, so he lead them to Him, using language they understood: a star.

God went to a lot of trouble to draw outsiders to Him. Today, many churches want outsiders to go to a lot of trouble to understand and become them.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Read the book of Acts, the story of the early church, again. Is there any mention of the Latin mass there? Peter and Paul spoke Aramaic and Greek. Where’d Latin come from? Rome. What’s so special about Rome? That’s where the early church grew, the base from which it really took off. Fine. Why’d the early church really take off? Because it related to people.

So, it’s not the tradition we need, but rather, the spirit of the tradition. You can, as I cynically say, “Wait, therefore, for 15th-century Germans (or 2nd-century Romans) to come to you, and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” or you can do what we’re actually told to do: Go to all people and baptize. Yes, all people. And that includes 21st-century Americans. And in order to go to those people, you have to be accepted by those people. You have to understand them and relate to them.

Let me tell you about my Christmas Eve experience, as a Lutheran boy who left the tradition and then came back after finding and experiencing the spirit of the tradition.

I went to a service at my old church in Columbia, Mo., on Sunday morning. The service was OK. But it’s not like I go to that church for the services. I go for the people. They’ve got great people. I drew energy and encouragement from them, and I think they got the same from me, and every time I go it’s like I was there just last Sunday and we pick up right where we left off, even if it’s in reality been a year since I was last there. It’s like family. For some people, it’s better than their blood family. That’s special. That’s real Christianity.

I went to a candlelight service that night in Kansas City, Mo., at the church my sister Di has been attending. It was a great service. Pastor talked about the true meaning of Christmas: Christ, who was missing from our lives and is so often missing from Christmas, came. If there’s an emptiness you can’t explain and you can’t fill, why not let Him in? No dwelling on details that seem trite today. The big problem today is that people feel insignificant and  lonely. Everyone is afraid of being alone.

Here’s your problem today. Sound familiar? Here’s God’s solution. Do you want it? It’s yours.

And that, too, is real Christianity.

That philosophy makes me a rabble-rouser and a troublemaker. But that’s OK with me. A lot of traditionalists in the first century thought Jesus was a rabble-rouser and a troublemaker too. That was why they killed Him.

So, thanks for the compliment. I’ll be a rabble-rouser and a troublemaker. That’s real Christianity.

Too bad so few people have ever seen it.


“Hacking setup; VCache”

Ultra-useful Windows and DOS utilities (plus Linux stuff)

There are loads of links in this mail. Explore them; you won’t be disappointed.

Hello. I maintain the Interesting DOS programs website and I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email telling me my site was mentioned in your book as a download reference site for XMSDSK.

While I only provided a link to the XMSDSK file on Simtel, it was still great to see my site which I never thought will ever get mentioned in any book, especially a Windows one 🙂

I got your book and I like it (a lot). However, there were some tools I thought should have gotten mentioned (most are mentioned on my site)


On Page 65, you mentioned FIPS as a tool to resize partitions. While I haven’t tried FIPS, there is another freeware utility which I’ve used several times :

Partition Resizer v1.33 It resizes/moves your FAT16/FAT32 partitions safely without losing the data on it. It doesn’t eliminate the need for FDISK. You use Partition Resizer to resize and rearrange the FAT16/FAT32 partitions to create free space on your drive and then run FDISK to create the partition.


The Infozip link at http://www.cdrom.com/pub/infozip is orphaned and is no longer updated. An updated link is at ftp://ftp.info-zip.org/pub/infozip/Info-ZIP.html


On Page 209, you mentioned that internal Zip drives lack DOS drivers, this is not true as I have an internal ZIP drive and I access them from DOS. Perhaps you were trying the older drivers that came with the first Iomega parallel port drive?


FastVid v1.10 Improves video performance on Pentium Pro and Pentium II PCI/AGP systems. I haven’t tested this myself but you may want to check it out.


LFN Tools v1.48 These are DOS commands (as stand alone EXE’s) that can handle long filenames in plain DOS. Supports FAT32

For example there is LCOPY which works like XCOPY under a DOS window (copying the long filenames) but in plain DOS. This is useful for diaster recovery situations when you can’t get into Windows and you need to get files off your Windows drive. Other commands include

LMD – create a long directory name LRD – remove a directory with a long directory name (e.g lrd “Program Files”) LDIR – like the DIR command showing long filenames.

The Tools are released under the GPL so source code is available and it is free.


AVPLite Build 134 Free (yet powerful) command-line antivirus detection and removal program.

The engine is only is only 49K (the antivirus updates are about 1.7MB) but it can scan inside ZIP, TGZ, CAB, mail folders in Netscape and Outlook, DOC files). If there is a virus on a machine, you can have a bootable disk with XMSDSK to create a ramdisk, then have the AVPlite and the antivirus update on separate floppy disks unzipped to the ramdrive and then run AVPlite from the ramdrive.


Some Linux links :

SET’s editor v0.4.41

GREAT text editor with the fimiliar Borland IDE interface with syntax highlighting. This is literally the FIRST app to install after you boot Linux. Editing text files with Joe, Vi and Emacs were ummmmmm….. kinda difficult ;-). Released under GPL.

(SET edit is also available for DOS with a built-in MP3 player 😉 )

The one page linux manual A PDF containing a summary of useful Linux commands You mentioned on your Silicon Underground that you wished there was a command reference for Linux. This one is close

————————————————————————- Since you mentioned Win3.x program manager, thought I’ll mention this

Calmira II v3.02 Freeware Win95 shell/interface for Windows 3.x, including explorer, etc.

Mask for Windows – PRWin98 Gives Win3.x apps the look and feel of Win9x apps


Looking forward to your upcoming Linux book (I agree with your sentiments on Silicon Underground – documentation is the main holdback for Linux)

Dev Teelucksingh
Interesting DOS programs at http://www.opus.co.tt/dave
Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society at http://www.ttcsweb.org

— This email sent with Arachne, the ultimate Internet client —
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Wow. Thanks for all the links. That’ll keep my readers busy for ages and ages to come. I did immediately go download SET edit. Very, very nice.

I’m very glad you like my book and look forward to the Linux book. It’s coming along, faster than the Windows book did, but not as quickly as I’d like. I’m not even willing to hazard a guess when it will be finished at this point.

A year from now, there will probably be twice as many Linux books available as there are now. Maybe more. The quality will vary widely. But we need them. The stuff coming out of the Linux Documentation Project is getting better (or maybe I’m just getting smarter) but the stuff available even six months ago very frequently had gaps that a newcomer wouldn’t be able to climb over: missing steps, poor or inaccurate description of output–all kinds of little things that suggest the author didn’t take the time to step through the process one last time. A plethora of available Linux books will help in more ways than one.

Back to DOS and Windows… Although many people deny it, DOS is still an integral part of Windows, and some things just can’t be accomplished without diving into DOS. Even under NT, I always keep a command line open. I can tell you the last day I didn’t use a command line. It was in June of last year. I know because I was in New Mexico, far away from work and from any of my computers.

So Iomega finally got around to releasing Zip drivers that work with the internal IDE and ATAPI models? About time. We bought a big batch of them at work about two years ago, and I needed to access them from DOS, and nothing. The drivers wouldn’t work. We contacted Iomega, and their line was, “These drives require Windows 95 or newer.” A year later, when I was writing that chapter, drivers still hadn’t appeared. But better late than never.

Thanks again.