Mailbag:  Free FDISK; Reiser

ReiserFS experiments. I spent a good deal of time yesterday figuring out how to convert an ext2 system to a Reiser system (for greater speed and fault-tolerance) when Brian Bilbrey pointed out how to create an all-Reiser system from the get-go with Mandrake 7.2.

The trick is to pick expert mode when you get to the Setup filesystems portion of installation, click on some free space (making some if necessary), then click create. Under the Filesystem type drop-down list, you can select Linux native, Linux swap, ReiserFS, or FAT32. Pick Reiser, and you’re set.

Now the big question… How to partition? I like to put /boot on a FAT partition just in case something goes horribly wrong, then I can recover the system even if my Linux boot disk fails by using any old DOS boot disk. It doesn’t have to be very big. ReiserFS may make you nervous since it hasn’t been officially blessed by the kernel team, but at the very least use it for the /tmp partition, and I’d use it for /var as well. Since /tmp and /var are where lots of little files get written constantly, they’re ideal for Reiser, and since those files tend to have short lifespans, it’s good to use a partition to isolate them from the rest of your files. Fragmentation isn’t much of a problem with Linux; partitioning wisely makes it even less so. Neither of these partitions has to be huge; a few hundred megs ought to be plenty. The two biggest partitions should be / and /home. The / partition, of course, holds the OS, while /home holds user data. If you wish, you can place /usr on a separate disk if you want apps on a separate disk from the OS for performance’s sake.

And remember, the disk is faster towards the front, so put speed-critical partitions like /root and /home up front. Put /boot right up front unless you’re using a modern distribution that uses the new GRUB bootloader; LILO has problems with high partition numbers. If you’re using GRUB (Mandrake 7.2 does), you can put /boot at the very end. Since these files are accessed at boot time and then never again, they don’t have to have the greatest speed.

Mailbag:  Free FDISK; Reiser


Mailbag: (I apologize for the error yesterday!)

VCache; Hacking setup

Sales of Optimizing Windows are surging. It’s been in the 3,000 range lately in sales rank at Amazon, which is much higher than it’s been in many months. The insane $7.50 asking price probably has something to do with it. Across the Big Pond, Amazon UK is sold out and has the book on order. Thanks to all who have ordered copies.

Linux experiments. I loaded up Mandrake 7.2 on my dual Celeron box yesterday. I’d forgotten how nice Linux can be compared to Windows: Here I was, recompiling a kernel, with a full KDE desktop running, and the system was using all of my 320 MB of RAM and not touching the swap space. That’s efficiency. I had a process monitor running, and no matter what I was doing, Linux was using just under 320 MB of RAM for something or another, adjusting its usage on the fly as my demands changed.

So, why was I recompiling a kernel? I wanted an all-Reiser setup, no ext2, for speed purposes, and Mandrake can’t do that out of the box. So I was compiling a kernel to include static ReiserFS support. Then I formatted a Reiser partition and copied the entire setup over to that new partition. But first I had to have a kernel that could speak Reiser from the get-go, which Mandrake’s provided kernel does not. Also, Mandrake’s kernel is Pentium-optimized, and I wanted i686 optimization since this is a Celeron system.

The process for getting an all-Reiser Mandrake setup isn’t too terribly hairy; I’ll probably do a writeup soon. I found some instructions for doing it with Red Hat 6.2, but they were either inaccurate or Mandrake changed some stuff. I was able to figure it out pretty easily, but then again, I was writing a book about Linux until recently so my opinion of the difficulty level probably doesn’t count. Copying 1.1 gigs of data over from the original ext2 filesystem over to the new Reiser filesystem takes a good bit of time though, especially if they reside on the same drive.

It’s pretty impressive how far Linux has come over the course of the past year. Mandrake 7 was good enough that I thought I might be able to get by without Windows. With Mandrake 7.2 I certainly could get by without it, except now I’m making my money off Windows so I won’t. But I could give my mom a Mandrake 7.2 box and she’d be happier with it than she is with the Mac she has at work. It would be far more stable, far faster, less expensive, and it can do everything she does with her Mac (read e-mail, browse the Web, and run WordPerfect). And its hardware use is certainly more prudent than Windows’ is. My dual Celeron-366 is a pretty good W2K box, but running Linux, especially with a custom kernel tuned to my hardware, it’s a really nice workstation. And it was cheap!

Christianity revisited. Hopefully yesterday’s post wasn’t universally read as criticism of Roman Catholicism as a whole. Many Lutherans are every bit as obsessed with traditionalism, hence my “Wait, therefore, for 15th-century Germans to come to you,” statement that I know will offend a number of people. (It’s good for them.)

There are dying churches in every denomination, sadly. And vibrant churches in all of them as well. Hopefully those who survive will be able to carry the torch when they need to.

Aimee Mann rarities. I have information from a reliable source that Aimee Mann’s first recording, Bark Along With the Young Snakes, released in 1982, is still available from the publisher, for $15, shipping included. You can contact him at eazyasabc@nospam.aka.com. (Remove the “nospam” from the address when e-mailing him.)

You bet I’ve already ordered my copy, though more for historical interest than anything else. She’s a much better songwriter at age 40 than she was at 22, but there’s a certain novelty to hearing her sing punk rock.

Sorry about yesterday’s mail. The file is nowhere to be found on this server. I’ll have to let Di know; hopefully it still exists somewhere on her computer.

Mailbag: (I apologize for the error yesterday!)

VCache; Hacking setup



“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”

Are we talking about more than just sunsets?

As I was hurtling down Missouri 370 en route to I-70 this past weekend, I heard a commercial for some brand of booze on the radio. I don’t remember which. Its advice for life was to be yourself (translation: drink lots of their product), and, among other things, to watch one sunset a week (and then, ideally, stay up all night drinking their product and take in the sunrise as well).
At that moment, the sun was beginning to set, and I was in a largely undeveloped area and we still had snow on the ground. I really wished I had my camera with me, because it could have made for a spectacular photo, had one of the master photographers I know like Tom Gatermann or Dan Coleman been there to take it. It had so much potential, it had the possibility of being an OK photo with me behind the camera. But it’s lost now.

So I started thinking a lot about sunsets. The late, great Mike Royko wrote a column about them, in the third person, after his first wife died. They owned a small cabin in Wisconsin, and when they vacationed there, they dropped everything and watched the sun set every night. After she died, he sold the cabin because he couldn’t bear to go there alone. He closed with the words: “Maybe a young couple who likes to watch sunsets together will like it. He hopes so.”

The column broke my heart when I read it. It usually still does. The talk of sunsets reminded me of the column, and I wondered why I don’t watch more sunsets.

Mostly it’s an issue of time. I have distractions, like making money and publishing stuff. (The two aren’t necessarily related.) So I work eight hours a day for my steady paycheck, then come home and write. Half the time I don’t even know when the sun sets. I just notice one day that I’d been driving home in daylight for a long time, but suddenly I’m not anymore.

But besides that, there’s another thing. Sunsets are best when watched with someone special. So I wondered why I’ve never watched a sunset with someone special, and I realized that’s because for some odd reason I always date in the fall and winter and during those seasons the sun generally sets while I’m still at work. I’ve never had a girlfriend in the spring or summer months. Ever. My relationships tend to be short, which partially explains it, but why I always start them in October (except for one I started in September), I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with baseball season.

Why the September Wonder and I never watched a sunset, I don’t know for sure. At that hour we were usually eating dinner. But I’ll tell you something. I’m glad we never watched a sunset together.

We shared our lives with one another. She knows things about me that no one else knows. No one. And I know things about her that her parents, her sisters, and her close friends didn’t know.

We shared our experiences too. One of her favorite things to do was to drive to Jefferson City, buy doughnuts, then go sit on the steps of the capitol building at night and eat them. It’s a weird University of Missouri tradition whose origins I never tracked down–some alumni have heard of it, while others look at me really funny when I bring it up. Probably the same way I looked at her funny when she brought it up, come to think of it.

Well, you can tell from looking at me that I don’t eat a lot of doughnuts, and she didn’t look like she ate many either. So there’s nothing special about doughnuts to either of us. As for the capitol, well, that stands for government, and I don’t like government very much and as far as I could tell she didn’t care much for government either. So I guess the big deal about this tradition is you find out who your friends are. Eating doughnuts on the steps of the capitol with a bore is no fun. If they’re willing to try, they’re a friend. If you both have fun, you’ve both found a friend worth keeping. Because, let’s face it, Jefferson City at night is a whole lot less interesting than a sunset. A sunset can stand on its own, while Jefferson City at night is only as interesting as the person you’re with.

I told her I’d miss eating doughnuts on the steps of the capitol building with her if that ever became impractical or impossible. She said there’d always be other things. Then she told me to get lost.

I wondered after she found someone new and flaunted him in front of me whether they ever ate doughnuts on the steps of the capitol building. And I wondered if she could do the deed without me coming to mind. Did my ghost still haunt her?

I shared a piece of me with her too. It was a restaurant, also in Jefferson City, called Madison’s Cafe. Great Italian restaurant. Growing up in Jefferson City nearly 20 years ago, my dad used to take us there. Going back there always reminds me of him. But now on those rare occasions when I go back there, it doesn’t just remind me of my dad anymore. It also reminds me of her. And I wish I’d held that piece of me back from her until she’d proven her ability to stick around for more than five minutes.

Can I ever take another girl to Madison’s? Assuming it wasn’t an obnoxious drive, sure. But I guarantee it wouldn’t be on the first date. Because I don’t want her to taint more memories. Once she’s established, that’s the right time.

Yes, I’m very glad I didn’t watch sunsets with that girl from September who turned out not to be cooler than baseball. It means I still have something special left to share with The One Who Will Stick Around for a While, once I manage to find her.

Then I started thinking I really ought to write some of these thoughts down. Then I realized I’d become so lost in my own thoughts, in my own past, that the sun had gone down and I’d missed the best part of the present.


A quick Opera tip. I felt bad about not including a computer tip today, so here goes. To see a list of all of Opera’s many keyboard shortcuts, hit Ctrl-B.


AMD mobo; iomega probs–questions; languages; linux


Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; to enrol himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child.
And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this [is] the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.
And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child. And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them.
–Luke 2:1-20 (American Standard Version)
Mail for 12/25/00


~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.



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
However, IF I were to reinstall everything, erase my game drive, utility drive, and C: drive, reinstall W98SE, all my programs, and THEN take an image of my C drive after my brand new clean install, theoretically I shouldn’t have to ever reinstall everything again (unless I add new programs or whatnot) because the image I have taken of my C drive will be a nice, squeaky clean one, right?

How do you spell “segway?” as in, linking two opposite ideas together?

Finally, do you think it’s worth picking up Norton Systemworks 2001 when I have 2000?

Thanx again.

You are correct about imaging a fresh install. That’s the way we handle systems at work (my job would be impossible otherwise, as many systems and as few techs as we have). It’s nice to be able to restore to pristine condition in 15 minutes instead of 6 hours.

The word segue is pronounced “Segway.” I think that’s the word you’re looking for.

The biggest new feature of Systemworks 2001 is Windows 2000 and Windows Me compatibility. If neither of those matter to you, stick with what you have.


From: “John Doucette” <jdoucett@nospam.gienow.com>
Subject: windows memory use

Hi Dave

We have several high end Pentiums at work running Windows 98. These PC’s have 512 MB of Ram and run what I am told is a very resource intensive C+ program. Now I have not myself touched these machines yet and likely won’t as what is not apparently broken they will not likely let me fix (some might say break).

Now no work was done to the best of my knowledge to try and tune these PC’s. They merely installed Ram and ran the program till performance seemed to hit the ceiling.

Now I have always thought that Windows 9x would not perform any better with more than 128 MB of Ram. I think that if given the opportunity I could down grade these PC’s to 128 MB of Ram, tune them and get the same performance.
I would then have Ram to use were it could be of value.

I am curious with all your Windows tuning experience and some programming knowledge if I am pissing in the wind, or if you think that the PC’s would likely run the C+ program well with less Ram.



If the program really needs that kind of memory, they have no business running it on 98. They should be running on NT. Win98 definitely gives diminishing returns after 128MB; you see some improvement but not much. I don’t remember what the maximum memory for 9x is; it may be 512 or it may be 768, but you’ll get to a point where if you don’t specify a limit in the vcache section of system.ini, Windows won’t boot because the disk cache can’t handle that much memory and will crash. That may be the ceiling they hit.

I seriously doubt that program runs demonstrably better in 512MB than it would in 128 with some optimization. I’d set some parameters on the disk cache, optimize the hard disk(s), cut everything possible out of startup, kill anything cutesie the PCs are running, and add the line ConservativeSwapFileUsage=1 to the [386Enh] section of system.ini. I’d also use 98lite’s IEradicator to pull IE if they don’t need a Web browser–that increases system performance across the board by a good 15-30 percent. If the program’s really a resource hog, I could justify 256, but really I’ve yet to see a Win9x PC that truly benefitted from having more than 96 MB of RAM. It just makes more sense to by a 128MB stick than a 64 and a 32.

I’d say take one of the PCs, make a Ghost image of it so you can bring it back to the original, then pull 384 megs and optimize the sucker. I’m betting it’d make a huge difference. (And I’d love to hear the results.)


From: Edwards, Bruce
Subject: Internet Connection Sharing

Good morning Dave:

I posted this over on the hardwareguys.com forum about internet conneciton sharing, where you kindly gave me a suggestion that helped a lot.  🙂


Hi Dave and other interested persons/Linux gurus:

Your suggestion about the gateway was part of what I needed, thank you.  In addition to not having the gateway defined on my internal Windows 98 client, I also needed to put the DNS server IP addresses on the clients in the TCP/IP configuration.  I was assuming it would get the DNS info from the Sharethe net gateway, where the DNS server is also defined.  Silly me!  There looks like there is both good news and bad news.  First the good news:

Once I was able to get it working, on the same hardware as the Wingate solution, my aDSL performance doubled!  

From the DSLReport.com scan I received this:
TCP port 53 is OPEN

GRC.com reported all ports (scanned for) were closed.

With port 53 open, I will be running the Wingate solution until I get some feedback or more info about what to do.  There is probably some bad vulnerability somewhere.  I still have not looked through the SharetheNet information I have enough to know if I can turn that port off easily (easily for a Linux newbie that is).  I seem to remember that there probably is an init file with all the services defined which would probably be easy to turn this port off.  Since this whole thing runs from a floppy, the files are actually active on a ram disk.

Here is some SharetheNet Linux configuration information specific to my current gatewayPC, in case any of you Linux gurus out there would be willing to point out what I need to do:


I’ve probably put enough info there to make hackers very happy.  Oh well, I won’t be running SharetheNet in that configuration and will not run it at all unless I can determine that it is safe.  Any comments appreciated.

Thank you,

Bruce  🙂


Port 53 is DNS. I wouldn’t be too worried about it. The critical ports are blocked, and even if someone does somehow manage to get into your system, since the configuration is on a write-protected floppy all you have to do is reboot. And they won’t be able to do much on your internal network since you’re running Windows, and your Linux box doesn’t have Samba installed.
That information you posted is mostly hardware configuration data; I don’t think there’s anything useful there unless some exploit happens to be discovered for a particular driver (possible but not worth worrying about).
I thought I knew once how to block specific ports, but that’ll have to wait until tonight for me to dig.


From: “J H RICKETSON” <culam@nospam.sonic.net>
Subject: FDISK?

Dave –

Where did you get an FDISK that asks you if you want to do big partitions?  Mine (DOS 6.22) thinks an 8+ gig disk is plenty big enough for anyone and refuses to even consider anything larger – and a ~2 gig partition is all anyone will ever need. I need a more user-tolerant FDISK!



Windows 95B, Windows 98, and Windows Me’s FDISKs all handle larger than 8 GB drives. Partition size is a function of filesystem. FAT16 is limited to 2 gigs, period. FAT32 can be several terabytes.


From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: Recycle Bins and Boxers

Is there any way that one can make one recycle bin in only one partitioned drive, and have all the junk from all the other drives go to that one recycle bin instead of having recycle bins for each and every drive?  And what do you think about one of your ministers of the House of Common wanting to pass a law that would indict a boxer if he inflicts serious injury on another boxer, or kills him?  I personally think that should be out of the hands of lawmakers, as both boxers realize the risk that they are taking when stepping into the ring.  The only exception that I can think of is if a boxer continues to pummel away at his opponent after the bell has rung, and he’s straddling his opponent’s waist, hammering away at his face.  Okay, that can be prosecuted, but not if everything else is completely fair.  Anyway, enough of that.  Thanx again.


I wish it were possible to consolidate the recycle bins, but I don’t believe it is. I’ve never seen any trick to do that. The Mac does that, so I guess I could say get a Mac, but that feature isn’t worth the trouble and expense of switching platforms.

I’m not British, so I haven’t heard of that proposed law, but that’s ridiculous. When you’re playing sports, you’re at constant risk of injury. It’s a risk you take. And with what professional athletes make (at least in the States), that’s fair. Most professional athletes in the States should be set for life after just a five-year career, if they handle their money wisely (most don’t).

Baseball’s considered one of the safer sports, but there’s been one instance of a player killed when he was hit by a pitch (Carl Mays, sometime in the 1920s, I think). There’ve been countless career-ending injuries due to being hit by a pitch or a line drive. It’s up to the officials of the sport to ensure that players are sportsmanlike and don’t take cheap shots, not the government.

Then again, the United States has a much more laissez-faire government than most countries, and I’ve always tended to flutter between the libertarian and conservative points of view so I’m even more laissez-faire than the average U.S. lawmaker.


The presidency again. The story that won’t die. I thought it was over! When will it end? This is the most ridiculous recount story I’ve heard yet.

New adventures in Linux. I was trying last night to make a Linux gateway out of a single-floppy distribution for the first time. I looked at a number of distributions and finally settled on floppyfw. Why that one in particular, I never decided completely.

Gatermann and I put a minimalist system together: a vintage 1994 Socket 5 Pentium mobo, a P75, 24 MB of 72-pin SIMMs, a floppy drive, a 2 MB PCI Trident video card, and two Bay Netgear 310TX NICs in a beat-up case. Neither of us normally names our computers, but looking at it, we decided this computer’s name was most definitely going to be Mir.

It booted up and seemed to detect the two cards, most of the time. Once it told me eth0 was sitting at IRQ 149 and had a MAC address of FF FF FF FF FF FF, which disturbed me greatly for obvious reasons. Fortunately, this board’s AMI BIOS allows you to manually assign resources to the PCI slots, so I went in and did that: PCI slot #1 got IRQ 9, up through PCI slot #4, which got IRQ 12. That gave me some consistency, but I never did get it to successfully ping any address except, the loopback address.

We may be dealing with a hardware problem. We’ll tackle it again soon, possibly with a more complete distribution. I have no shortage of small hard drives. I also have no shortage of other parts.

These projects never go smoothly but I always get them running eventually.

Picking a single-floppy distribution. The big thing is finding one that supports the hardware you have. There’s not enough room on a floppy disk to support every kitchen sink and hairdryer that you might want to use in a Linux box, so any old distribution might not work with your hardware. When Steve DeLassus and I were making a gateway out of his 486SX, we couldn’t find any distribution that didn’t require a math coprocessor, for instance. (There are some now.) If you’re using NICs based on the DEC Tulip chipset or NE2000 clones, you shouldn’t have any trouble, but if you’ve got exotic NICs, not every distribution will support them.

Plus, some of these projects have to be built under Linux. Gatermann doesn’t have a working Linux box at the moment. Others build on any old PC running DOS or Windows. Each distro has its own specialty, so you just have to find one that matches your hardware.

This search over at Freshmeat can give you a headstart if you’re interested in this kind of thing.


AMD, part II. Intel will have its work cut out for it when Micron releases its Mamba chipset for the Athlon and Duron. Micron noticed a great waste of space in its Samurai chipset, so they decided to turn the wasted silicon into 8 MB of high-speed, low-latency L3 cache. Intel wouldn’t license the P6 bus to Micron, so Micron went to AMD, who of course welcomed them with open arms.

The Mamba is expected to perform 15% faster than the AMD 760. Unfortunately, I know nothing about expected release dates.

And what of AMD’s great hope for the Duron, the VIA KM133? Horrendous 2D performance holds it back. While it has the memory bandwidth of the earlier KT133 and KX133 and offers decent 3D performance, its 2D performance seriously lags behind the SiS 730–and SiS video isn’t exactly renowned for performance. In other words, the reason the Savage series flopped as a standalone card remains. Intel’s integrated chipsets put up better numbers overall, so if AMD’s going to beat Intel in this space, it’s going to have to be on price.

The new Musicmatch Jukebox. I normally don’t pay any attention to this app, but I caught a review of it and it includes a compelling new feature. It’s optional, and most privacy activists will hate it, but that’s why you can turn it off. For me, it’s the draw.

Tell it your favorite artist, and it streams stuff that other people who like the same thing like. I punch in Aimee Mann (who else?) and it responds by playing a set of Aimee Mann, Moby, Abra Moore, and Lou Reed. Nice. The next set was David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Blur. And none of the tracks was the artist’s best-known song.

For me, the whole point of radio is to discover new stuff. I love my music (I’ve got a modest-sized collection of nearly 200 CDs), but radio has become so repetitive and it’s really hard for a quality artist like Aimee Mann to get any radio play. And when she does get play, it’s “Voices Carry” (her smash 1985 hit with her band, ‘Til Tuesday), or if a station is especially progressive, her Oscar-nominated “Save Me.” About once a year, you might hear one of her minor hits like “I Should Have Known” or “That’s Just What You Are” or “Red Vines.” The problem is, she doesn’t have the promotional engine behind her to give radio stations much of anything in return for playing her stuff (short of the occasional concert ticket, but she doesn’t tour much). So we get the same ‘N Sync and The Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion and Elton John songs over and over and over. Nothing new about that.

Sometimes a good station does come around, but when you hear a new song, good luck finding out anything about it because the DJ usually doesn’t say (except for the songs everyone already knows). When a song is playing, MusicMatch optionally brings up a browser window with album info, a review, a listing of the most popular tracks off the album. And in some cases, you can download a free track off the album. And–unlike radio–if you don’t like a track, you can skip it!

You can also choose from a list of 18 preset stations, and you can tell it to mix selections from the stations. So if you yearn for the days when AOR stations mixed in a dash of alternative music, you can approximate it by mixing Classic Rock, Hard Rock, and Adult Alternative (since that’s what they now call most of the stuff that was considered alternative in 1992).

The other nice thing is it’ll favor the artists whose MP3s you rip using the program in the 18 preset stations. So presumably if I rip a lot of Badfinger and Cars (I still have trouble calling The Cars classic rock) tunes, if I click on the Classic Rock station I’ll hear something other than a constant barrage of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Rush (which, as far as I can tell, is all that anyone listened to in the ’70s). Sounds good to me.

This, I think, is a killer application for the Internet. Musicmatch is at www.musicmatch.com.

Spam. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. At least the phrase “boost the reliability of ordinary Windows 3.x…to nearly the level of Windows NT or 2000” gave me a chuckle.

Ignore these chumps.

Dear Windows User,

Now you can boost the reliability of ordinary Windows 3.x, 95 and 98 to nearly the level of Windows NT or 2000, Microsoft’s professional and industrial version of Windows.

The new WinFix 4.3 is a very effective way to improve the reliability of Windows, because it makes Windows fault-tolerant and self-repairing. And WinFix is very safe, because it operates completely independent of Windows.

http://www.backtoday.com/comph to find out more about WinFix, the safest, most effective way to keep you working, by keeping your PC working non-stop.

Arlen Dixon, CEO
Westwood Software Marketing

This announcement is being sent to PC users who asked to be kept informed about new developments in Windows(tm) technology. To be removed from our mailing list, go to the Email-us page. OR To be removed mailto:remove@backtoday.com?Subject=REMOVE


Athlon and Duron info. Should I buy an Athlon or a Duron? Tough question. Here’s the first good analysis I’ve seen. And Anand has a review of the SiS 730 integrated Athlon/Duron chipset. This won’t be the chipset you choose for your PC, but it might end up in your Aunt Millie’s.

As for motherboards, I’ve read of some people having problems with the Asus A7V; that it’s a decent board once you get it set up, but that it’s very cranky. The number of search engine hits I get with the phrase “Asus A7V” and words like “conflict” and “configuration” lends some circumstantial evidence to this. This troubles me; Asus boards are normally as solid as they come. Yet like I’ve said before, every time I’ve bought something other than Asus I’ve regretted it.

If you’re here looking for help on your Asus A7V, one of Storage Review’s moderators pointed me to the defunct A7V Troubleshooting Board  — I looked there and found no shortage of advice.

I guess if I were going to buy something now — and I admit I’m half-tempted to pick up a Duron and board as a cheap upgrade for my aging K6-2/350 — I’d probably go with a Gigabyte GA-7ZX or GA-7ZX1. The former includes a single ISA slot and built-in Creative audio; the latter includes neither of those. It costs about $35 less than the Asus A7V, and benchmarks nearly as fast. And, for the price difference you can afford to more than make up the performance difference through brute force by buying a faster CPU.

Gigabyte and AMD have a great working relationship lately (AMD often uses Gigabyte boards in their testbed and demo systems), so I have few qualms about going with them.

If anyone out there has some first-hand experience with different current Athlon/Duron boards, I’d love to hear about it — and I’m sure my readers would too. The mail link’s to the left.

We’ll revisit the topic of AMD tomorrow. There’s a lot more to this.

Cloning Mac Hard Drives. I may have covered this before but it bears repeating. From the Finder, drag and drop the old drive icon onto the new drive. It’ll copy all files, including hidden files, to a folder inside the new drive. Open that folder, drag the files out, and you’ve got a perfect clone. I do this very frequently with the Macs I fix at work.
You can also use Apple’s Disk Copy to copy one drive to another, but I find it easier to just use the Finder.

Disk Copy is also capable of saving hard disk images to files, a la Drive Image or Ghost for the PC. So cloning of Macs is possible, though you don’t get the cool multicast facilities of Drive Image or Ghost. But for one-off cloning, Disk Copy works great. You don’t get an exact binary copy of the disk, however, so you’ll still want to rebuild the directory with DiskWarrior and then defragment afterward for absolute best performance.

Presidential questions. Here we go again. I hinted during my previous arguments that I didn’t think Gore necessarily had won the popular vote. Absentee ballots weren’t in, and many of the states that had declared an electoral winner still hadn’t reported 100% of their precincts. It seemed a longshot, but so did a lot of things about this election.

Here’s a story about the wide and varied vote counts (all still putting Gore ahead nationally, but by a margin of as little as 330,000 votes). A coworker sent me the text to another story on the same site that had claimed Bush won by 2 million votes by one total. Unfortunately that story seems to have disappeared.


~Mail follows today’s post~

A failed review of McAfee Utilities 2000. I was going to write about the successor to Nuts & Bolts, the utilities suite that could have been so good, except parts of it were so bad. It was never second-best of the three I looked at in Optimizing Windows. It was sometimes the best in a particular category, and often the worst. I was hoping the new version would fix some of the shortcomings–add the launch acceleration features of Speed Disk, Fix-It, and Windows Defrag to DiskMinder and it would be the best of the bunch when configured properly.

It’s bloated. While Fix-It is clean and simple and NU is getting there, McAfee still insists on throwing in the kitchen sink and a hair dryer. Never mind that’s a particularly  dangerous combination. You can’t de-select some of the kitchen sink or hair dryer features either. Worse yet, the installer missed installing at least one critical DLL, so it doesn’t run. At first I figured it was incompatible with Windows Me, so I tried installing it on a 98SE system. It had the same problems there too–and this was a fresh install, with no special trickery. So I can’t tell you how good the good parts are because I don’t know.

I should probably look into getting a retail copy of it, because it’s presumably more polished (I sure hope so–imagine not even being able to install something, but not being able to return it!) but I’m less than hopeful. The reasons are obvious, I hope.

You can download an evaluation copy at www.mcafee.com , but I really can’t recommend you do. Check out Norton Utilities 2001 instead. You can get an evaluation copy of it at www.symantec.com .

Time for a new system. A friend and I are spec’ing out a system for another friend. We’re having fun spending someone else’s money. So far, we’ve managed to run up a $10,092 tab, but my friend was slacking. For one, he forgot the second 21″ NEC flat-panel display and TNT2-based PCI video card. We want him to be able to watch IrfanView slide shows on his second monitor while he plays Quake full-screen. (IrfanView doesn’t require the greatest of available cards, but we want like manufacturers since that works better for multi-head displays. And never mind that Tim doesn’t play Quake.) And he went with a TNT2 card for the main display. What’s up with that? Why would they make $400 64 MB GeForce 2 Ultra cards otherwise, except for Tim to buy them? But I approved a PCI-based TNT2 for the secondary display because I didn’t want to look too extravagent.

So we’re not done yet.

He’s been sending me specs and I’ve been telling him what’s wrong with them. I’d be great in upper-level management.

I’ve even got a Plan B. If what we come up with is too much, I’ll admit to Tim that The Gator’s being too extravagent. “Yeah, he insisted on putting a second floppy drive in there, in case you needed to copy disks. ‘Who copies disks?’ I asked him, but he insisted. So I humored him. You and me, we both know you can copy disks with a single floppy drive. So we’ll nix that drive, cut the bill by 15 bucks and everything’s perfect. There. Now THAT is a practical system.”


From: Dan Bowman
Subject: RE: Whaddayadoin?
Yeah, there are some issues here. …and you are one of the voices of your generation, like it or not. Speaking of that, when you can, please take a look at the story I linked from the ETP site on Sunday, the one about smoking and the ads. Is her take on the ads valid? Are you qualified to answer? http://www.thegardencafe.com/2000_12_10_arc.shtml#1615885
Thanks; just looking out for my kids’ futures. I may have to take them by a morgue.

Sorry for that aside.
Am I qualified to answer? Who knows. Does it sound accurate to me? You bet. I haven’t seen that ad, but it’d strike me as morbid, maybe funny. It sure doesn’t sound effective to me. Wouldn’t stop me from smoking. The stat that 1 cigarette cuts your life expectancy by 7 minutes helped, but that’s just me. I’ve smoked three cigars in my life. Cigars are worse for you, I know. But fear is a terrible motivator, when someone else is trying to scare you. Internal fear is a great motivator, but nobody thinks smoking will make them a failure.
Maybe the financial aspect could be effective. What will a year’s worth of cigarettes buy? I don’t know the answer to that question. But if smoking versus not smoking is the difference between driving a Ford Escort and something with some prestige to it, that’ll get some people’s attention. Not everyone’s. I see my peers thinking more about money than they used to. That may just be a coming-of-age thing.
I think honesty is just the best way, regardless of the other approaches used. Respect and honesty. Not that I’m an expert, but when my dad sat me down and talked to me like someone he respected and said, “This is what’s bad about marijuana,” and on down the line through each drug, I listened to him. (Tobacco may or may not have been included. Alcohol was not. I learned what was bad about alcohol from watching him. Some people can pick things up that way. Others won’t.)


From: “Jan Swijsen” <qjsw@nospam.oce.nl>
Subject: Re: strings

Hey, I won’t out-do you every time. Just every time I can.

In Computer Shopper, the subtitles and section headings are worth a laugh too. Their editors add a personal touch without giving the impression of doing self promotion. In fact Computer Shopper and PC Plus (also a good one) are the only mags that I buy these days.

I’ve noticed that. I know Chris Ward-Johnson recommends PC Plus; when Shopper approached me about doing the “Optimise Your PC” series I noticed
they were published by the same outfit so I asked him his opinion of both magazines.

When I showed a copy of the article to a marketing guru I work with, he asked me where “those guys” were when I wrote Optimizing Windows. (“Why
didn’t you have those guys design your cover, and that ‘Try David Farquhar’s tips for pepping up your PC’ phrase should have been on it! Right on the front!”) That’s not the O’Reilly way, but I bet it sure would sell…


From: Dan Bowman
Subject: Whaddayadoin?

Trying to take the heat off Pournelle or something?????
I didn’t see a slavish devotion to The One True Penguin Path in that post<g>.


There is no One True Penguin Path. If someone tries to create one, then they’ve just totally destroyed the entire purpose. Not that they haven’t already. That “slavish devotion” you mention says a lot. Linux is supposed to be about freedom, not slavery. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with paying for intellectual property. The people who think otherwise have traded one form of slavery for a much more vicious form. I see absolutely no difference between total, blind devotion to Linux and total, blind devotion to Microsoft. None. Not at all. If you reach that point, you desperately need to go find religion.
And if people disagree with that, good. I would love to hear a reasoned argument why total, blind devotion to Linux is a good thing and people should do it, because I sure can’t figure out why on my own.

From: “Håkan Waara” <hwaara@nospam.chello.se>
Subject: editthispage

Hey, great site!

How did you change the <body> attributes on your Manila site? I can’t see any way to do that from the “advanced” preferences..



I don’t think I changed the body attributes; I specify the font for the
daily posts (you’ll notice occasionally I miss), so I get a mixture of Times
and Verdana.

You can define a body tag in your cascading style sheet to accomplish that,
I think. I know standard HTML pretty well but I never bothered to get
comfortable with either XML or CSS. But maybe one of my other readers will pipe in.

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