All posts tagged ram disk

Finally! A $60 RAMdisk on a PCI card

PC World: Taiwanese hardware maker Gigabyte Technology has stumbled upon a faster way to boot up PCs based on Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system.

Please allow me to quote something I penned back in 1999: “I’d love to see someone design and release a battery-backed hardware RAM disk for PCs… Such devices existed in the early 1990s for the Commodore 64/128 and the Apple IIgs and permitted these systems to boot their graphical operating systems before the PCs of their day had managed to bring up a C: prompt. A similar device for today’s PCs would do more to boost system performance than any other innovation I see coming down the pipeline any time soon.”

Why I run Debian, and some Debian tricks

After Dan Bowman pointed out another blogger’s recent difficulties installing Evolution on Mandrake 8.1, I had little comment other than, “That wouldn’t be an issue if you’re running Debian.” Well, I think I said a few other things because I tend to be wordy, but that was the only important thing I had to say.

The search for the compressed ramdisk is over!

Things that make you go… D’OH! I spent, as I’ve said a number of times before, the better part of a weekend trying to figure out how to run Windows from a ramdisk. I figured I couldn’t have been the first to do such a thing, but I couldn’t find any reference online to anyone who had. After a weekend of turning some hair gray, I got it working on my own.

Then I set out to compress my ramdisk. Disk compression makes sense when disk space is expensive, and RAM is comparatively expensive, and even if disk compression slows it down by 100%, compressed RAM is still many orders of magnitude faster than a metal disk. I couldn’t get it working. I didn’t say it was impossible, because I’ll never write anything off as impossible, but I said I couldn’t get it working. I figured that’d be the last I’d hear of it.

Then over the weekend, Tony Brewer, a reader of the Optimizing Windows, wrote in, quoted that paragraph verbatim and casually said, “It’s most definitely possible.” I was flabbergasted. Had he done it? I wrote back and asked if he’d done it and if he’d be willing to share the secret.

Indeed he had, and he was kind enough to share the secret. It turns out I was very, very close to getting it working. But close is only good enough in nuclear war, not computers.

Here’s what he had to say:

Dave,

There is an elegant and simple method for running Win9x on a compressed RAM disk. Assuming that Win9x is already installed on C: and using the same drive letters as in Chapter 11 of your book:

Run DriveSpace in Windows to create an empty compressed drive E: of the desired size using free space on C:, re-boot, then install Win9x to E:windows (with the swap file on C:). Edit c:\msdos.sys, c:\config.sys and c:\autoexec.bat as follows:

c:msdos.sys
——————
[Paths]
WinDir=e:\windows
WinBootDir=e:\windows
HostWinBootDrv=c

c:\config.sys
—————–
device=c:\windows\himem.sys
device=c:\windows\emm386.exe    ;or use umbpci.sys
dos=high,umb
devicehigh=c:\windows\ifshlp.sys
devicehigh=c:\windows\setver.exe

c:\autoexec.bat
———————

path=e:\windows;e:\windows\command;e:\windows\system
set temp=c:\ temp
set tmp=c:\temp
….

After re-booting, Win9x should run on the compressed drive E:, hosted by physical disk C:. To have a compressed RAM disk, the host must be an uncompressed RAM disk, D: for example. In c:d??space.ini (c:dblspace.ini or c:drvspace.ini, probably the former), change the ActivateDrive setting to read:

ActivateDrive=E,D1

This tells the DriveSpace driver to mount the compressed volume file (CVF) d??space.001 as drive E: with host drive D:. (Mounting is not automatic as it was with host drive C:, because RAM disk D: does not exist when io.sys loads the DriveSpace driver, dblspace.bin or drvspace.bin.)

Edit c:\autoexec.bat so that it contains the following:


path=c:\windows;c:\windows\command;c:\windows\system
REM Create RAM disk
xmsdsk {desired size of RAM disk in kilobytes} d: /t /y
REM Copy CVF to RAM disk
attrib c:\drvspace.001 -s -h -r
copy c:\drvspace.001 d:\
attrib c:\drvspace.001 +s +h +r
attrib d:\drvspace.001 +s +h +r
REM Mount CVF using scandisk /mount
scandisk /mount d:\drvspace.001
REM E: is now compressed RAM disk
path=e:\windows;e:\windows\command;e:\windows\system
set temp=c:\temp
set tmp=c:\temp

After re-booting, Win9x should run on the compressed RAM disk! :o)

(On a networked PC, there is no need for a hard disk as the CVF can be copied from a server. Diskless Win9x using a compressed RAM disk works very well.)

The above method is an adaptation of one by Andre Moreira. http://www.dei.isep.ipp.pt/~andre/extern/nc98.htm

Regards,

Tony Brewer
tonybrewer@bigDELETEfoot.com

With some thought, I may be able to simplify it a little, but not by much. The obvious simplification would be to use the free-for-private-use xxcopy to copy drvspace.001 in a single step, saving all those attrib lines in autoexec.bat.

This shows a lot of promise. Memory’s so cheap right now that it’s feasible to get 384 megs, leave yourself with 64 or even 128 megs of working memory, and still have a decent-sized ramdisk. Windows 95 will install to as little as 17 MB, if you know the secrets. Windows 98 is considerably larger but it’s still possible to stuff Win98 and a couple of apps into a compressed 256 MB disk, and it’s super fast. Even with disk compression, access to a compressed ramdrive is nearly instant. I did get compressed ramdrives working inside Windows (I just couldn’t boot from them) and even on my Pentium-90 a compressed ramdisk was fast. So if you want maximum speed, this is the way. And I’m wondering what this would do for a laptop’s battery life…

I’m really eager to give this a test drive.

Rare DOS disk utilities

Mailbag:

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.

Mailbag:

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

02/12/2001

Mailbag:

Keyboards; Optimizing Windows

Sweet! In Optimizing Windows, I lamented that no one had made a hardware RAM disk. Leave it to the Aussies, someone did it. I found a reference to Platypus Technologies ( www.platypus.net ) on Storage Review’s forum. It’s pricey–a half-gig disk will run $1,500, while an 8-gig job runs into five figures–but you’ll never find anything faster. It’s a plug-in PCI card that uses SDRAM DIMMs. Whether it’ll take off-the-shelf DIMMs or just Platypus-manufactured DIMMs, I’m not sure.

I’d love to see this catch on and drive the price down. The size seems a bit small, but keep in mind that for, say, a Web server, speed is much more important than size, and a half gig will hold an awful lot of HTML. And there was a time when operating systems and a reasonable number of apps easily fit in half a gig, if you’re thinking workstations.

I’d say I think I’m in love, but that’s not true. This device is 100% Grade-A lust. Now the question becomes how do I convince Computer Shopper UK that they’ve really got to do an in-depth look at this killer device, and that I’m absolutely, positively the guy they have to have do it…?

One-button Linux shutdowns. Here’s a great idea.  A lot of people run headless Linux boxes for firewalls or routers or Web servers or other things. But that once or twice a year you need to shut the machine down–due to power failures, for instance–becomes a real pain without a keyboard or mouse. You have to telnet or ssh in, issue the command… Or keep a monitor and keyboard handy, which just wastes space most of the time.

Here’s a solution: a case-mounted pushbutton with a pair of LEDs. Push the button, the PC shuts down. It plugs into a serial port and needs a small daemon to monitor the serial line.

And it occurs to me that nothing stops you from using the PC’s reset switch and its power and HDD LEDs–or turbo LED if it has one–and with that slight modification, it would require no modification to the case. Just put connectors on the PCB for the switch and LEDs and mount it somewhere inside.

Also, I looked at the source code for the daemon, and it would be extremely easy to mofify this project to do any other task–just go to the runshutdown() function and change the system(“/sbin/shutdown -t2 -h now”); command to execute any other Unix command. The C source code is so simple, even a journalist like me can modify it.

If I were building another Linux-based Cable/DSL gateway, I’d probably pull that line and replace it with these two:

   system(“kill -9 $(pidof -x pumpd)”);
   system(“/etc/rc.d/init.d/network restart”);
  
That way, with the push of a button, the gateway could go grab a new IP address.

And if you have multiple serial ports, nothing stops you from building one of these switches for each port and modifying this daemon to run additional commands. A throwback to the Imsai and Altair days, to be sure.

Too bad you don’t see much of this kind of stuff anymore.

Samba. Speaking of Linux, that was one of the weekend’s projects. My church ran out of IP addresses, so I took an old P166, threw a pair of NICs in it, and set up IP masquerading on it (Mandrake 7.2 makes this so nice–just run DrakConf, run Internet Connection Sharing, answer its questions, and you’re in business), then I started assigning 192-net numbers to the PCs that didn’t have addresses. It worked great. Since I had a Linux box with an 8-gig drive just sitting there, I decided I also wanted to set it up as a server. So I tried to configure Samba as an NT domain controller and fell flat on my face. It showed up in Network Neighborhood, but I couldn’t authenticate against it no matter what I tried.

I decided yesterday I was being too ambitious. I reformatted my P120, installed Mandrake 7.2 on it, and configured Samba to just look like a plain old Win95 box. It worked great. They’re not used to having a big network at church, and they’re all on Win98 boxes anyway, so I think I’ll just configure Samba to do user-level authentication, create a few shares, and let it go at that. The primary convenience of the server is the AV booth; one of the staff puts together PowerPoint presentations for the service, which are then loaded on a pair of PCs up in the AV booth for projection on Sundays and Wednesdays. The server will allow them to edit in their office, then go to the AV booth without shuttling around Zip disks. Chances are the DCE, who also serves as the resident PC expert, will also use a share there to store device drivers and other downloaded stuff he finds himself using often. Other than that, the server probably won’t get a lot of work, so trying to create an NT domain with hardcore security probably isn’t a good investment of my time.

So I’ll probably just create an AV share, create a public share that’s read/write accessible to anyone, then I’ll share out home directories and show him how to create user accounts. That way if anyone else wants to use a network drive, it’s there, but not mandatory.

Mailbag:

Keyboards; Optimizing Windows

02/05/2001

Mailbag:

Windows 98 in a Ram Disk

Defeating Web ads. I’ve read enough talk of ads on the ‘net recently that I think it’s time I share a little secret. This is from an upcoming Shopper UK article, but seeing as it probably won’t hit the streets until May, why not talk about it now?

A lot of sites are putting policies in place to ban ad-blocking software. I think that’s a bit ridiculous. I didn’t used to have a problem with ads online. They were small and unobtrusive. Then people started using animation to get more out of the tiny space. I thought that was clever. Then the animations started speeding up immensely, and that was when I started getting annoyed. I don’t like movement on Web pages. Movement is inherently distracting. We naturally pay attention to movement, because way back when, movement meant lunch. Or it meant something thought we were lunch. So we instinctively give the moving priority over the static.

I don’t have a philosophical problem with advertising, but when you force me to look at blinky stuff while I’m trying to read text, it starts to bug me. Blinky stuff that’s also sexually suggestive really gets on my nerves. No wonder guys think about sex 72 times a day–it’s flashed in front of our faces constantly! So I normally block ads, using one of the many great ad-blocking programs out there.

But IE has a feature that makes ad-blocking less necessary. If it’s just the blinky stuff that bugs you, turn off GIF animation. Go to Tools, Internet Options, Advanced, then scroll down to Multimedia and clear the checkbox labeled Play Animations. That’ll tone down the GIF-based ads. Java and Javascript-based ads will still get through, but you can disable those there as well. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about Flash, though if you right-click on some Flash ads, there’s an option that comes up called Play. Clear that checkmark, and the ad stops. It doesn’t always work but it does sometimes.

O’Reilly online. Frank McPherson noted the existance of O’Reilly books online.  Yes, they launched a subscription e-book service this summer. Authors are supposed to get unlimited access to the library (they never got around to sending me account information… big surprise), and we do get a very small royalty. Basically if someone subscribes to one of our e-books for a full year, we’ll get about the same amount as we would have if the subscriber had bought a paper copy. I know Optimizing Windows was available for a while as an e-book; one quarter its e-book sales actually outsold the paper copy by a pretty wide margin.

I really don’t expect this initiative to succeed long-term, but maybe I’ll be surprised.

Frank noted a conspicuous absence of Windows titles in the e-books selection. O’Reilly’s trying to de-emphasize their Windows books, and they may pull their Windows lines altogether due to slow sales. I talked to a marketing wizard I know about this. Books aren’t his thing. Food packaging, banks, and churches are–odd combination, I know, but this guy is one of those people who never meets expectations, but rather, exceeds them beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, so I listen to him. I took him a copy of Optimizing Windows one day and asked him if he had any idea why it didn’t sell. He gave it a really funny look, so I explained to him what the book’s about.

He said it sounded like an outstanding product. He said he had an aging PC at home and his kids were bugging him for a new one, but he’d rather wait another year. I told him that’s probably feasible–the machine’s only a couple of years old. He said there must be a million people in his boat, so why can’t you tell that this product is a solution to that problem by looking at the cover? I explained O’Reilly’s history as a publisher of Unix books and how they came to put animals on the cover. “So you’re telling me they’re selling this like a Unix book. But this isn’t a Unix book. Is your target audience Unix guys, or is it people like me? I wouldn’t buy this book because I have no way of knowing what’s in it. And Unix guys won’t either, because it’s not a Unix book. It just looks like one.”

I thought about that observation for a long, long time. Animals on the cover of Unix books works, partly because there’s such a dearth of good Unix books. O’Reilly could have come along when it was getting started and printed plain brown covers with the word “BIND” or “Sendmail” or “Perl” in block letters on the cover and spine and it would have sold. All you have to do to succeed in the Unix market is exist with a halfway readable and halfway correct product, and you’ll own it (that’s harder to do than it sounds). Plus, animals on the covers of Unix books appeal to the warped sense of humor of the Unix sysadmin.

But Windows is a different audience for the most part, and should be a different product line with a different approach. It’s consumer-driven. It’s pop. Sure, pop’s less sophisticated than AOR, but pop potentially makes you more money. “Your cover should have, I don’t know, two window washers cleaning a computer monitor.” Or the great new logo that Shopper UK came up with for my “Optimise Your PC” series for next month–what looks like a bottle of glass cleaner with the words “Maximum optimisation” sprawled on the label. Brilliant. It gives you the same “what the heck is this?” reaction that the animals on the cover of a Unix book give, but require less thought to figure out what it means. You see the glass cleaner, then suddenly it hits you: “Oh, this is how I clean up my PC!”

I told him about those great designs that Shopper UK comes up with. “Can’t you get one of those guys to design you a new cover for your book?” he asked me.

I told him that wouldn’t be the O’Reilly Way.

Mailbag:

Windows 98 in a Ram Disk

01/23/2001

Mailbag:

More Networking

What’s going on with memory prices? Every time I say they’re stable, they drop again. I’m not going to say anything about current prices, except they’re low. Face it: I remember five years ago, paying $48 for an 8-meg stick, and I felt like I was stealing it. Kingston memory for $6 a meg! Unbelievable!

I told Dan Bowman on Sunday that you can get a 128-meg PC133 Kingston module at Outpost.com for $59 with a $20 mail-in rebate. Then yesterday he sends me word that I can get a 128-meg PNY PC133 stick from globalcomputer.com for $49. No rebate hassles whatsoever, and plenty of stock. So $6/meg has become $.31/meg. Prices may stabilize there, or they may free-fall some more.

What happened? Overproduction. Millions of chips were produced for millions of computers that didn’t sell over Christmas, which is supposed to be the heaviest buying period of the year. Not a whole lot of upgrades were bought either. And now, with demand for Rambus increasing a little and DDR looming overhead like the Enola Gay, they’re stuck with a bunch of inventory that’s living on borrowed time. Gotta move it, because demand’s moving elsewhere. There’ll be demand for SDRAM for many years to come (just as there’s still some demand for EDO DRAM today), but its days as the memory everybody wants are about to come to a close.

So as long as you have some use for SDRAM, this is a great time to buy. But keep in mind that the stuff you buy now probably won’t move with you to your next PC. A current PC with 384 MB of PC133 SDRAM will be useful for many years to come, true, but next year when you buy a motherboard that takes DDR or Rambus, you’ll have to buy new memory again, so it makes absolutely no sense to hoard this stuff.

So should you buy? Windows 9x sees diminishing returns beyond 128 MB of RAM, unless you’re playing with RAM disks. Windows 2000 really likes 256 MB of RAM, but for the things most people do, there’s little point in going past that. Of all the OSs I use right now, Linux does the best job of finding a use for such a large amount of memory. So if you’re below any of those thresholds, sure, buy. But if you’re there already, you’re better off banking that money until the time comes for your next major upgrade.

But if you are buying, let me reiterate: Get the good stuff. I had a conversation with someone on a message board today. He asked why, if 95% of all memory chips are fine, it makes sense to pay more for a brand name. I pointed out to him that with 8-16 chips per module, a 95% rate means you have a 25-50 percent chance of a bad module, since it just takes one bad cell in one chip to make the module unreliable. It’s much better to get A-grade chips, which have a .1% defect rate, and buy from a name brand vendor, who will in all likelihood do their own testing and lower the defect rate another order of magnitude. To me, knowing that I won’t have problems attributable to bad memory is definitely worth the few bucks. Even the bottom-feeders aren’t beating that Kingston price by much, and the shipping will make the cheap, nearly worthless memory cost more than the good stuff.

Tracking down memory problems is a real pain, unless you’ve got a professional-quality memory tester. I do. Still, verifying a memory problem and then isolating it to a single stick can take hours. I have all the facilities necessary to let me get away with buying the cheap stuff and I won’t do it. That should tell you something. Buying generic memory isn’t like buying generic socks or generic spaghetti. In memory, brand is a lot more than status.

Partition Magic. I tried unsuccessfully last night to track down a copy of Partition Magic 6 so I can revise the article on multi-booting Windows 98 and Windows Me that won’t go in the March issue of Computer Shopper UK. It’ll be in the April issue instead. I also had to deal with some personal issues. It’s not like my whole world’s upside down–it’s not–but a pretty important part of it is right now.

Mailbag:

More Networking

12/24/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Last night, I sent myself hurtling 120 miles at 75 MPH to Columbia, Mo. My mom lives there, and my alma mater, the University of Missouri, is also there. Today, after morning services, I’m headed another 120 miles to Kansas City, where most of my mom’s family lives. I don’t get back there very often, so I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve got some stuff to write, but I’ll be late for services if I do, so it’ll have to wait.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: A loyal reader w/a technical question

Dear Dave: I have a few questions, well, maybe just one, related to your book.  When you do a clean install of W98SE on a partitioned drive, if you wipe C: (where W98 is), how do you get the other programs on the other drives to run again?  Especially if you’ve wiped all the .dll files and other important stuff?  Secondly, what’s a good and fast way not to have to reload all the programs again if you wipe & reinstall W98?  If I used Drive Image 4.0 or a tool like that (or maybe even Norton Ghost), how do you copy images of your drive back onto your computer?  Lastly, what’s the best way to optimize your ADSL/highspeed Internet connection?  I’ve been using this program called NetSuperSonic which is supposed to adjust certain registry settings in Windows to optimize it for broadband use.  It seems to work pretty good, but I was wondering if you would have some other suggestions.  That’s pretty much everything.  Oh yeah, are you going to come out with a new, updated book?  I don’t know, just thought that I would ask. That’s for writing the book; it’s been extremely helpful.

Cheers.

~~~~~

I think that’s actually more than one question, but that’s ok of course.

The idea of a clean install is to start over, which of course means reinstalling everything. Reinstalling everything takes time, of course, but the benefit is that you’re rid of all those old, no-longer-in-use DLLs and other leftovers that hang around after you uninstall programs. You’ve also got fresh copies of everything and a brand-new registry, which is good because registries get corrupt and so can DLLs and even programs. The result is a faster, more stable system.

But if you’ve lost the installation files for some of your programs, you’ve got a problem. You can use CleanSweep or Uninstaller to package up the program, DLLs, and its registry entries for re-installation, but be sure to test the package on another PC before you wipe, because these don’t always work.

Ghost or Drive Image aren’t a clean install per se, because they preserve everything. Generally the way I save and restore images is to a network drive, or in the case of a standalone PC, to an extra partition or, better yet, a second hard drive. You can also span an image to multiple Zip, Jaz, or Orb disks but that’s slower and more cumbersome. These programs are absolutely invaluable for disaster recovery, but as optimization tools in their own right, their benefit is very limited.

If NetSupersonic checks your MTU and adjusts it properly (many of those utilities don’t), that’s a great start. You can measure your speed by going to http://www.pcpitstop.com/internetcenter.asp, and they have some suggestions on the site for fixing sub-optimal perfomance. Ad-blocking software will speed you up as much as anything else you can do, and FastNet99 (mentioned in the book) is also useful by reducing the number of DNS lookups you have to do (I accomplished the same thing by connecting my DSL modem to a Linux box running its own DNS, which I then used to share my DSL out to my Windows PCs).

As for an updated book, I imagine not doing one would probably kill me. But publishers are understandably hesitant to do one right now, since no one seems to know what Microsoft will do next. Is Windows Me really the end? Is Windows 2000’s successor really going to be suitable for home use? When will Microsoft manage to deliver another OS? No publisher wants to invest tens of thousands of dollars in producing a book only to find out they guessed wrong. Once there are answers to those questions, it’ll be time to write a new book. In the meantime, I’m writing magazine articles (there’s very little new in the article at www.computershopper.co.uk this month; there are a couple of new tricks in the article for February, and the article for March is almost entirely new stuff) and posting new tricks to my own site as I find them or think of them. So the answer to your question is, “probably,” but I can’t give you any kind of time frame.

Hopefully that answers your questions. If not, feel free to write back.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: Drive Image Pt. 2

12/01/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Darkening the site for World AIDS Day? This site’s always pretty dark. OK, my excuse: I didn’t know. I’m a bit out of touch. My apologies. So I’ll comply with the alternative suggestion: I’ll tell a story.

I’ve never been close to anyone living with AIDS. But I know someone who has. I’ll tell his story because his story is one of the greatest stories of hope I know.

I moved to a small town in 1983. We weren’t particularly close to either set of next-door neighbors, but we were very close to the family across the street. They co-owned one of the most popular restaurants in town, and had three kids fairly close to my and my sister’s ages. Di became very close with their daughter; I was very close to their two sons.

The kids had an uncle named Mark. Mark was, as I recall, about 22 at the time. He’d gone off to seminary but decided to come back, worked as an assistant manager at the restaurant (owned by his brother and brother-in-law), and dabbled in plants and antiques. There are a very few truly, truly nice people in this world, and Mark was one of them. At the time, Mark was probably the nicest guy I’d ever met. Seventeen years later, I still have to rank him somewhere in the top five.

He was also one of the least fortunate. That summer, his pickup was stolen and never recovered. There was a fire at the carriage house he was living in. Then, the unthinkable happened. As the saying goes, the good die young.

Mark was having problems with headaches. Finally, he went to see a doctor about it. The doctor came back with the worst possible news. Mark, you’re terminal. You have cancer. There’s very little we can do. You have about six months to live.

Mark, being the class act that he was, didn’t tell his family right away. He didn’t want to distress them. He did tell his girlfriend. She left him. Mark never blamed her; she just couldn’t handle watching him die and he totally understood. Sensing that the end was near, Mark made his own funeral arrangements. He paid for everything, picked out everything, including his own coffin, and had everything taken care of. He planned to tell his family, then hand them an envelope and say, “Everything’s taken care of. All that’s left to do is wait.”

But something happened when he picked out that coffin. Something arose inside him. A voice said, “There is no way in hell they’re going to put me in that box.”

Mark determined to spend the rest of his life fighting with every ounce of his considerable resources. Fight he did. He underwent aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. One of the best-known cancer treatment centers in the world was in St. Louis, about an hour away, so he took advantage of it. His hair started falling out, so he shaved his head. In this conservative small town, his shaven head brought him considerable ridicule. And in this place, which was still small enough that everybody knew of everybody (it wasn’t quite small enough to know everybody personally), whenever he ventured out of his house, he got weird looks, like he was a ghost. Aren’t you dead yet?, he imagined them saying.

It became too much for Mark to bear, and things were getting worse, so he moved to St. Louis to be closer to his doctors and to lose himself in a crowd. His six months was up, and he was still alive.

At some point, Mark met an American Indian who was also dying of cancer. A very old and wise man, he took Mark under his wing. “I’m very old and I’ve lived a full life,” he told him. “I’ve outlived my family. I have no one left. But you… You’re too young for this. These beads have been in my family for generations. There’s no one for me to give them to. Take them. And live.”

Mark dismissed the beads as superstition, but didn’t underestimate the power of the mind. He took the beads and wore them. They reminded him that he was fighting the battle of his life.

In 1986, Mark went into remission. He credited his outstanding medical treatment, his determination to live, and his faith in God with saving his life. Grateful to his doctors, his hospital, and God that he’d lived far longer than he was supposed to, he wanted to give something back. He wanted to help others who were dying, to give them hope. There weren’t many terminal cancer patients his age. But there were a number of people his age who were dying of a frightening, still little-known disease known as AIDS.

Mark wasn’t afraid of AIDS or of the AIDS patients. He was patient with them, but firm. Giving up gets you nowhere. That was Mark’s message.

Mark’s volunteer work continued for a number of years. When I last saw him and spoke with him in 1994, he had stopped, but he knew he would go back. “I just need to spend some time in the land of the living,” he told me. “I’ll know when it’s time to go back.” Mark told me he would never live to be an old man–his body was that of a man nearly twice his age and he looked older than his 33 years–but he was still grateful. He and his doctors had traded life expectancy for ten years (at the time) he wasn’t supposed to have.

Mark and I lost contact soon after that. But I’ll never forget his message. I’m sure that’s true of many (and there are many) of the people Mark touched.

Mark didn’t overcome AIDS. And while there’s still no cure, Mark’s attitude will go a long way towards helping those who are living with AIDS to gain years that they, too, weren’t supposed to have.

Thanks to a glitch Wednesday, I was in the Top 100 at editthispage.com. Top 100 sites generally have at least 25,000 hits to their name; this one has about 10,000 so it’s not quite halfway there. I find when I concentrate too much on stats I concentrate not enough on content and everything goes downhill, but 10,000 hits in 6 weeks is pretty good. Thanks to all of you who read regularly. I really do appreciate it.

For those who aren’t Mac people… Let’s revisit yesterday for a minute. Yes, a 45-second boot time on a Mac is very good. Anything under a minute and a half is considered good. For comparison, I took the fastest Mac I have available that’s capable of booting from a RAM disk (G3s and newer cannot), installed a lean, mean OS to it, defragged it and ran DiskWarrior (defragging doesn’t make the ramdisk physically any faster but it helps the filesystem work more efficiently) and rebooted a few times. I timed it at 30 seconds.

That’s a 133 MHz machine with EDO RAM, but that makes me think that you’ll never get a G4 to boot in less than 30 seconds, even with a high-end SCSI card and a 15K RPM hard drive. Slow RAM is still several orders of magnitude faster than any hard disk; that 30 second boot time must be due to the limitations of HFS (Hierarchial File System).

And Di’s two cents. Hey, she’s my sister, and she helps out with the site, so when she wants to say something, she gets to say it. In yesterday’s post, I lamented about focusing on what works right, not what’s wrong. Her comment:

[That's] the whole basis for occupational therapy, osteopathy, and psychology. It’s all related to the holistic approach.

Hmm. My dad was an osteopath (an osteopath is a medical doctor, but with a slightly different underlying philosophy, but a D.O. can do everything an M.D. does) as were both of his parents. I was never close to his parents so I can’t speak for them, but Dad lived and breathed osteopathy. And my sister has a psychology degree and is working on an OT degree. So no wonder I agreed with him!

I’ve got more, but I’m out of time. I’ll be back tomorrow with more–I’ve been writing long this week anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Ab
Subject: That virtual memory thingy.


Hi Dave
 
I’ve just read your article in Computer Shopper and came a bit unstuck when I got to specifying my own virtual memory settings.  I’ve got 64Mb ram, so, as you suggested I want to give myself a 64Mb swapfile.  I’m just wondering how exactly you enter this in the Min and Max boxes, as I’m fairly new to all this setting changing business.  I tried entering it as just ’64’ in both boxes, but this appears to be wrong, ‘cos  my games starting complaining that my swap file was too small, so I thought I might as well try emailing you to make sure I get it right.
 
I found the rest of the article to be really informative – keep up the good work.
 
I’d be really grateful if you’d mail me back about my problem.
 
Thanx alot
 
Ab
(England)
~~~~~

I’ve never seen a game complain that 64 megs of physical RAM plus 64 megs virtual isn’t enough, but hey, if it says it’s not enough, then it’s not enough. Sounds like you got it right, and for your combination of hardware and software, I’m wrong. My apologies on that.
 
Safe bet is to go 128 instead of 64–it’s overkill, but in Windows 95/98 and Windows Me little too much is better than not enough. If you’ve got really obnoxious games, it may take 192 to appease them, but if they’re really using that much virtual memory, my guess is they’re not running very well.
 
I’m glad you liked the rest of the article. There’ll be another in the Feburary issue, and another in March.
 
Let me know if anything else comes up. I post all the mail I get about my articles and book on my Web site so it can help other people if something I write confuses them–that’s inevitable in this business.
 
Thanks!

Sound card and hard drive troubleshooting

Sound card woes. Gatermann recently ran into some problems with sound cards forcing his Internet connection to drop. It had literally been six years since I’ve seen a problem like that before, but he kept running into it. Finally, it dawned on me: Try changing slots to force it to use a different interrupt. Therein was the silver bullet. The problem didn’t go away completely, but the culprit arose: the Sound Blaster 16 emulation. So I had him go into Device Manager and put the SB16 emulation on a different interrupt, and the problem went away.