A Mac Norton Antivirus tip

Mac Norton AntiVirus tip. If this affects you, you probably already know this, but just in case, I’ll metnion it. NAV under Mac OS 9 isn’t exactly reliable. Its autodetection of installing software (so it can offer to disable itself during the process) likes to crash the system. The conventional advice of rebooting without extensions to install software is no longer a suggestion in this environment. It’s a must.

I don’t like having antivirus software running all the time personally (it slows down systems something fierce and I find it preferable to just not engage in high-risk activities because sometimes things slip past antivirus software–I’ve always thought it’s better to promote responsible behavior than it is to try to make irresponsible behavior safe), but sometimes that’s unavoidable, e.g. in corporate environments where there are policies mandating such things.

Weird day yesterday. My boss and I had talked about moving me on to bigger and better things. Yesterday was the day. I totally forgot. I was wondering about mid-day why I hadn’t had anything to do when someone else mentioned it. Oops. So now I’m Office 2000 Deployment Czar. Sort of. Yuck. Didn’t I see a pile of IBM Selectrics somewhere…?

And then this… My songwriting partner asks about the feasibility of writing an original Christmas song for the Christmas Eve 11 pm service. Ooh. Is there such thing as an original Christmas song? But this is like being asked to write a song for your best friend’s wedding or something, so if there’s a way to still write an original Christmas song, I’ll find it.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Gary Mugford” <mugford@nospam.aztec-net.com>
Subject: The definition of rich
David,

  From the Great White North, have a great holiday season. We struggle
away ourselves, having already had the holiday
back in October.

  Your pastor’s saying brought back a memory of something I wrote way back
in Grade 9. Haven’t changed belief in it much
since then. It was a poetry assignment in English that was supposed to
combine traditional and non-traditional form.
It’s lousy, but I’ve never written a poem since then. To me, I’d done
better than I could ever do again. And since I had
the marks to afford it, I declined to ever write another poem. Schmaltzy,
yeah. Crazy for sure. But i’s gotta be me!

  I unabashedly give you …

The Richest Man in the World

“Rich,” he said, “That’s what I’ll be!”
“I’ll own the world, just you wait and see!”

And then he met her.

And his world started to shrink, not grow larger.
And his wallet grew thinner, not fatter.

As the years passed by,
and life passed unto death,
there came to be erected
in the Olde Church graveyard,
a tombstone bearing an inscription,

“Here lies a very, very rich man.
She loved him.”
~~~~~

Poetically, sure, there’s room to criticize it, but that doesn’t change the
message one bit. That is the coolest thing I’ve read in a long time. Thanks!
~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Don Armstrong” <darmst@nospam.yahoo.com.au>
Subject: Ergonomic thingies

Dave, have you checked out 3M’s CWS (Computer Workstation Solutions) site, particularly their Ergonomics section, and particularly what they call their Renaissance Mouse?

It’s at http://www.3m.com/cws/index.html

Now, the “Renaissance Mouse” obviously owes a lot of its ancestry to gamer’s joysticks, but it seems to me to make a lot of sense when I play-act going through the motions of using it. There are other things there – like gel-filled wrist-rests – that also make sense. I’ve used them before, and they help.

Regards, Don Armstrong
~~~~~

I just checked the site. The renaissance mouse looks much like the old
third-party joysticks people bought for Atari 2600 consoles. Definitely
interesting. I may be putting my credit card to use…

Thanks!

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Edwards, Bruce
Subject: Ripping audio

Hi Dave:

I noticed that yesterday you talked about ripping audio from your CDs.  What sound card do you recommend as a good choice for encoding audio from LPs to either WAV or MP3 format?  I am interested in (when I build my next PC in about three to four months) getting a sound card that will provide excellent fidelity from an analog line in source.  I know there will then be interference issues within the PC too, are certain sounds cards more immune to this than others?

Thanks for any comments.

By the way, I ordered you book off Amazon last Friday and they were selling it for 50% off list.

Sincerely,

Bruce

~~~~~

It’d be really hard to beat the Sound Blaster Live! series (just avoid the Value version of the card, now discontinued). The card itself has excellent sound quality, and a much larger number of capacitors on it than I’m used to seeing these days, which will cut down on excess noise. The sound inputs are outstanding as well. The only way you’ll do better would be to get a truly professional-grade audio card, such as those from Digital Audio Labs (but you’ll pay more for it and you’ll have a card with zero multimedia capability–no MIDI, no nothing).
 
I see as well that the book’s at 50% off list. I wonder if that means it’s nearing the end of the line? It’s still at 20% off in the UK, which is where my sales are anyway, so if it stays in print there I’m in good shape.

Published again

I’m published again! The Jan. 2001 issue of Computer Shopper UK features an article titled “Windows Cleaning,” by Yours Truly. It’s essentially a rewrite of chapter 2 from Optimizing Windows, with a few new insights, but due to space limitations I had to leave some stuff out too.

I looked into the cost of getting it in the States; you can order it from Amazon UK but you’re looking at 2.25 pounds Sterling for the mag, then another 7 pounds sterling for shipping, so you’re talking almost $14 US for a magazine. Note that Shopper UK is not the same as Computer Shopper in the US, so don’t go looking for me there (I doubt those guys have ever heard of me). The article is mentioned on their Web site but the content isn’t posted, as far as I can see. Sorry.

Short shrift today as I finish up the second article in the series. Funny how the Internet compresses production times. My first published article was written in March, then appeared in November. Today, articles go to press days (or even hours) after I finish them. Hopefully I’ll earn some points there in the UK by slipping in a Joy Division reference.

I’ve just shipped it off to Jeremy Spencer, my editor over there. I find I really like working with him; he seems to have a very laissez-faire approach to editing and I have a particular hatred of overediting, so we seem to make a good team. I’m sad to see this series end with a third piece, to be published in the March issue.

And the question everyone is asking… Jeremy asked if we were ever going to get around to picking a president and offered to send me a copy of the Revocation of Independence. I told him I’d seen it, and that we elected George W. Bush, but Al Gore is showing he’s not made of the same stuff that Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were. They lost close elections, and rather than contesting them again and again and selectively recounting ballots until they got results they liked, they went home for the sake of the country. Rule by their opponent, they believed, was better than chaos. (So we got Jack Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. Carter was–is–a good man but a poor president. Kennedy was a beast of a man and only slightly better president. Bush can definitely do less damage than those two.)

Al Gore doesn’t care about the good of the country. He wants to tell his grandkids about the days when he was president. Many Americans consider Richard Nixon to be evil incarnate, but frankly, Gore is making Nixon look like Thomas Jefferson.

We’ve now seen Gore at his worst (I hope), and to me, that’s plenty indication enough that he has no business in the White House.

Upgrading by downgrading

This is really sad. I don’t like complaining about supercheap video cards any more than you like reading about them, so yesterday I did something about it. I caught a glimpse of my components graveyard under my desk, and among the rubble I spied a Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 card. This was a mid-range card I purchased for $100 or so in mid-1997 to go with an Abit IT5H motherboard. For its day, it provided high color displays, high resolutions, GUI acceleration, and slight acceleration of some 3D-related functions.

We still have some of these in service at work and they’re adequate, so I figured it would be worth a try to swap it in for my AGP Cirrus Logic-based card. It only has 2 MB RAM on it, as opposed to the Cirrus’ 4 MB, but this system’s connected to a 15-inch monitor so that’s not an issue. I popped the hood, pulled the Cirrus, dropped the Stealth into an available PCI slot, powered on, and Win98 automatically installed S3 ViRGE 325 drivers. I’d have preferred to feed it the Diamond drivers I downloaded, but there was no harm in giving the MS-supplied drivers a shot. I let it reboot, then attempted the acid test. I loaded up Winamp, then IE. Once Winamp was running and playing, I went to The Register. Normally, when I scrolled in the browser, Winamp would screech. Not this time. Sweet silence, other than the music playing. Occasionally when viewing a particularly obnoxious site, I could coax a screech, but not consistently, and certainly not enough to be worth worrying about.

So, am I saying the mid-range chipsets of 1997 are better than the low-end chipsets of today from Cirrus and Trident, AGP notwithstanding? Yes I am, as much as it pains me. That’s not usually how technology works; for example, the low-end IDE hard disks of today kill even the high-end IDE disks of 1997. But I’m happy. That’s $75 I don’t have to spend on another TNT2 card.

Computer buying advice

Some sound computer buying advice. Here’s a Washington Post article on buying new PCs. Easy to understand in layman’s terms. And the advice is for the most part sound too, though I recommend always buying a good video card–a TNT2 will just add $60 or so to the cost of a low-end box and everything will run more nicely. The box I’m typing on right now has a cheap Cirrus Logic-based card in it, and the high CPU usage of its drivers hurts multitasking noticeably, even if I’m just browsing the Web while listening to music.

In a year this’ll be a moot point, as all chipsets will have serviceable embedded video. Even the enraging Intel i740, though not good for games, was great for productivity use and much better all around than this Cirrus and Trident garbage, and Intel’s newest chipsets have i740 derivatives in them. Future VIA chipsets will have S3 video in them. Same story.

I buy crap so you don’t have to–but don’t get me wrong. I buy the good stuff too. That way I’ll know the difference.

No more wimpy PC sound for me. I just connected an ancient but still awesome Harmon/Kardon 330A receiver (built in the late 1960s, I’m guessing — it once belonged to my dad) to my computer along with a pair of KLH 970A speakers I picked up for 30 bucks at Best Bait-n-Switch (unfortunately, the only nearby place that sells KLH speakers). These things are scarcely bigger than the cheap desktop speakers that came with the last PC I bought — 7 3/8″ high x 4 5/8″ wide by 4 3/8″ deep — but with the volume cranked to about 1/3 I can hear it throughout my apartment. I imagine at 2/3 I’d meet my neighbors. I won’t try that — I’m not interested in sharing my great tunage.

I can’t believe neither my mom nor my sister wanted this receiver — honestly, every time I’ve mentioned this thing at an audio place the salesperson has asked if I was interested in selling it — but hey, my dad would have wanted me to have a kickin’ audio setup for my PCs, right? This’ll work great for Royals broadcasts over the ‘Net once baseball season starts again, but not only that, this combination kicks out the jams almost as hard as punk legends The MC5, so I’m not complaining.

I’m happy enough with the results that I think rather than replacing my dying CD changer, once my Windows Me experiments are over I’ll mount my extra 15-gig drive somewhere on my LAN and put my Plextor Ultraplex CD-ROM drive to work ripping my entire CD collection, which I’ll then encode at 320 kbps. I doubt I’ll notice much difference.

If you’re like me and live with several PCs in close proximity to one another, rather than plugging an endless number of cheap desktop speakers into them, pick up an inexpensive receiver or use a castaway. You can plug a PC into any stereo input except phono, so most modern receivers should accomodate at least three PCs, and the speaker options are limited only by the receiver’s capabilities and available space. You’re likely to be much happier with such a setup than with any desktop speakers you’ll find, and a receiver plus speakers will usually cost much less than multiple pairs of any set of desktop speakers worth having would. Just be very careful to isolate your speakers away from any floppies and Zips and other magnetic media you might have. Some bookshelf speakers may be magnetically shielded, but don’t count on it.

Running something other than Windows is theft

Another example of how Microsoft just doesn’t get it. This one courtesy of The Register. If you buy a PC without an operating system (so as to load an alternative on it, such as Linux, xBSD, OS/2, BeOS, or something else that “nobody wants to run anyway”), you’re a thief. Story here.

Which reminds me, I really do need to get an OS/2 box running again, and get serious about BeOS while I’m at it…

Windows Me can’t handle more than a half-gig of RAM. This also from The Reg. Story here. The vcache workaround is legit; no one has ever demonstrated to me the benefit of using more than 4 megs for a Win9x disk cache anyway.

Optimizing a K6-2

Now I remember why I’m here. I was at my mom’s and stepdad’s, and of course the inevitable topic came up.
“I’ve got Kristin going through your book and implementing some of it,” John says. “Our computer is SLOW.” So you know what I did… I fired it up and gave it a look myself. (Besides, they couldn’t get Duke Nuke ‘Em to run and I’ve been working on an article on getting DOS games running inside Windows so I welcomed the chance to practice.)

The story: It’s an 18-month-old whitebox clone. AMD K6-2/350, 64 megs RAM. No idea what motherboard. Old non-UDMA 4.3-gig hard drive. Trident 9750-based video, and a C-Media ISA sound card. Oh yes, and of course, a Rockwell-based PCI softmodem.

A computer is a team, and what we’ve got here isn’t exactly the computing equivalent of the 1962 Mets, but I’d rate it about as highly as the 1996 Kansas City Royals. Making matters worse, it was loaded down with way too many gee-whiz features. I slimmed it down to what’s necessary, got its boot time down to well under a minute, and got the software running decently.
I’m guessing there are millions of PCs like this one out there. Buying a new one isn’t an answer, because if you buy one PC like this, chances are the next one you buy will have the same problems. You’ll probably get another softmodem. You’ll probably get another cheapo sound and video card. You’ll get a superfast CPU. But the problem is, that’s like adding the 1999 or 2000 edition of Mike Sweeney or Jermaine Dye to the 1996 Royals. You’ve still got a last-place team. The difference is, now you’ve got a last-place team with a .300 hitter or two in the heart of the lineup. Makes the team more fun to watch, and you’ll win a few more games, but the fundamental problem that got you into last place is still there.

Sure, I’d recommend some hardware upgrades for this beast. A SoundBlaster Live! sound card, for sure. An ISA sound card can eat up 35% of available CPU time. The SB Live! uses 1-2 percent. An inexpensive TNT2-based video card, certainly. At about $70, it’ll free up a lot of CPU time and speed the video along. I’d give serious thought to a newer, faster hard drive as well. A Maxtor 30-gigger (5400 rpm but still a massive improvement over this drive) runs $99 at CompUSA this week. Deals like that are common. And it wouldn’t hurt to get a controller-based modem as well. Zoom has such a beast available that’s getting good marks (I need to find the model number) for under $100.

Do all that, and you’re looking at about $350-$400 worth of upgrades. That’s a substantial chunk of a new computer, yes. But it re-uses the stuff that’s still serviceable under the hood. And these peripherals are all good enough to move on if you decide to replace what’s left (essentially, the motherboard).

So there’s a huge market for Optimizing Windows. People need this kind of information. Now, how to get it to them…? O’Reilly hasn’t figured out how to do it. It’s up to me.

Good thing there’s a marketing genius at work I can talk to. I’ll be bouncing this off him this week to see what he thinks. Then I get the first full week of December off. Time for a marketing blitz.

I’m still on the road. So if you’ve e-mailed me, it’ll be a day or two before I can get back to you. I’ll field all that when I get back.

HappyThanksgiving, 2000 edition

Happy Thanksgiving. Mail and everything will wait. I just got home from Thanksgiving Eve services and I’m getting ready to hit the road. I’m not taking a computer with me. Not sure yet what day I’m coming back. Bad for readership, I know, but it’s not like there’ll be much these next few days to write about anyway.

Expect me back in full force Sunday. I may do a short shrift Saturday. I’ll part with a paraphrase from pastor: If you’re grateful, you’re rich, no matter what you have or don’t have.
So, on that note, may God grant us grateful hearts for this great day. Enjoy it, and I’ll be back with you soon.

AMD roadmap and analysis. Finally! Something to analyze. AnandTech posted AMD’s roadmap for the next couple of years sometime yesterday (I missed it). With AMD saying again and again that they aren’t a chipset company, I’m starting to wonder… Why not bring in the necessary engineers to make good, really good chipsets, then outsource manufacturing to NatSemi and/or IBM? That saves AMD’s precious fab capacity–capacity that’s sorely needed to produce profitable CPUs and flash memory–and reduces their dependence on VIA, SiS and ALi, of which only VIA has any kind of a decent track record of late.
Of course, this arrangement would make chipsets even less profitable, which is one of the reasons AMD tries to stay out of that business, but the better your chipsets, the more CPUs you’ll sell. AMD’s currently selling every CPU they can make, but that won’t necessarily last forever. They need to build another fab, and they need to start taking measures now to ensure that there’ll be sufficient demand once that fab is up and going to sell every chip the new fab is capable of producing.

Nothing happened yesterday for me to analyze? That sure doesn’t happen often. I still remember a personality test I took a couple of years ago (I have a friend to thank for reminding me of that test). At my worst, I can be described in two words: overdominant overanalysis.

But yesterday provided next to nothing in the way of analysis fodder. Slow news day. At work, I planned upcoming projects with some higher-ups. And I built shelves. Hey, mindless work is good for you occasionally. One of the women in the office walked by as we were assembling the shelves and said, “I’ll bet you guys love Christmas.” Heh. Except for one thing. I’m single, and the guy I was working with is married but hasn’t started his family yet. So Christmas doesn’t consist of building all that much stuff. But it made me wonder. Do guys start families for the sake of starting families, or to get an excuse to put together and play with toys?

There’s mail. But I’m out of time this morning. As some of you know, I hand mail off to my sister to post, in order to cut down on my keystrokes and mouse movements and give my wrists a break. I suspect Di’s left town for the holiday already, so I’ll see about handling the mail myself tonight, before I skip town for a couple of days. I’ll try to post something while I’m gone, but I won’t have any way of reading my mail on the road.

Boot multiple operating systems for free

~Mail follows today’s post~

XOSL doesn’t seem to like my Promise Ultra66 controller. At least not all the time. I don’t like that. I also don’t like how XOSL installs itself in the root directory–my poor root ballooned to over 40 entries after installing it. That’ll cause some system slowdowns. I don’t like having any more than 16 entries in there if I can avoid it.

Fortunately you can install XOSL to a dedicated partition, and that looks to be the better method.

But when XOSL works, it seems to work well. It’s slick and versatile and gives you a great deal of freedom over how and where you install your OSs, as well as how many you can install (and let’s face it, with 30-gig drives selling for $99 at CompUSA, running multiple operating systems is going to get common).

And I see from Brian Bilbrey’s site that patents may accomplish what the RIAA could not. Makes me wonder why one of the RIAA members didn’t just buy Fraunhofer Institut (who owns the applicable patents on MP3) and start charging outrageous royalties immediately. That’ll kill new technologies faster than anything — just ask Rambus.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Dustin D. Cook” <dcook32p@nospam.htcomp.net>
Subject: Windows Me
Dave,

Here’s my two cents on Windows Me.

I have been testing this operating system for some time now before I begin pre-installing it on new computers. We’ve run the gamut of stress tests, benchmarks, and usability tests, and we have some interesting results.

All tests were run on multiple machines with a minimum system being an AMD K6-2 500 with 64MB RAM and a Voodoo3 3000 graphics card. The best system tested was an AMD Athlon 1.0 GHz with 512 MB Mushkin PC133 2.0 memory and
a GeForce2 GTS 32MB DDR. We used the same HDD for each machine. It is a Maxtor DiamondMax 45 Plus (ATA/100, 7,200 RPM).

Windows Me should take home a gold medal for speed. It booted quickly, it loaded programs at blistering speeds, and it performed very well in our 3D tests. All-in-all, Windows Me is about one percent faster than Windows 98 SE. This came as something of a surprise to me. I was expecting slightly degraded performance due to the additional system overhead of Internet Explorer 5.5 and the new features of Windows Me. Either Microsoft did some serious “tweaking” to their code, or I’m missing something entirely about this operating system.

Stress tests were a different story. Occasionally, Windows Me would lock-up on us for no apparent reason. The same computer running Windows 98 SE would never falter during our tests. Actually, sometimes Windows Me would lock-up when we were not even running the tests! We replaced some hardware in the machine, but it did this on all of the test PCs. This was a big problem for us. We still haven’t officially tracked down the killer, but we think it involves the new version of Internet Explorer. We had already completed our tests before the new service pack was released, so I don’t have any data from that version. The stress tests involved opening a 25 MB Excel 2000 spreadsheet and minimizing it; open eight browser windows and loading miscellaneous things like Flash movies, several animated GIFs and PNGs, and several Java applications; having The Matrix DVD-ROM’s menu playing in WinDVD 2000; and running Unreal Tournament at 1280x1024x16bpp with our custom “movie”. Windows 98 SE performed admirably, but, as I had mentioned earlier, Windows Me couldn’t do it.

In the usability tests, we had some elderly people try out each computer. This isn’t really a test that can be easily replicated, but overall Windows Me seemed easier for them to use.

What’s my opinion on Windows Me? I think Microsoft made a fairly good product. I’m not very impressed by the lack of native DOS support. I frequently use that to diagnose customer’s computers. What do I do if I have forgotten my boot diskette? I return to the shop and grab one instead of making one right there. The stability issue is a big concern of mine. I’ll try to reproduce those results after downloading the new Internet Explorer service pack, and I’ll write back to you with those results. The speed is commendable. I appreciate the extra “oomph” that Windows Me appears to have behind it. The boot time is quite impressive!

My prize goes to Windows 98 SE. Speed is a very good thing, but when it comes at the cost of stability…we have a problem. My customers don’t want their machine freezing every time they try to open http://thesiliconunderground.editthispage.com/ . 😉

Sincerely,

Dustin D. Cook,
A+ Campus Computers
Stephenville, Texas – USA
~~~~~

Thanks for the info!

You can add DOS support back in with a utility available at www.geocities.com/mfd4life_2000 — that was one of the first things I did after installing WinMe. As for stability, IE5.5SP1 might help. Running 98lite (www.98lite.net) to remove IE 5.5, then replacing it with IE 5.01 (or not at all) could help. I’m not at all impressed with IE5.5, so I’m inclined to speculate the blame lies at its clumsy feet.

I’ll keep experimenting with it myself. And I’m hoping my page is simple enough that it won’t crash any browsers. 🙂

Pentium 4 performance is precedented

Thoughts on the Pentium 4 launch. No big surprises: a massively complex new processor design, limited availability, and systems from all the usual suspects, at high prices of course. And, as widely reported previously, disappointing performance.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. The Pentium Pro was a pretty lackluster performer too–it ran 32-bit software great, but Win9x was still the dominant OS at the time and it still has a lot of 16-bit code in it. So a 200 MHz Pentium Pro cost considerably more than a 200 MHz Pentium and for most of the people buying it, was significantly slower. History repeats itself…

Intel revised the Pentium Pro to create the Pentium II, with tweaks to improve 16-bit performance, but of course massive clock speed ramps made that largely irrelevant. Goose the architecture to 600 MHz and you’re going to blow away a 200 MHz previous-generation chip.

That’s what you’re going to see here. Intel fully intends to scale this chip beyond 2 GHz next year, and that’s when you’ll see this chip come into its own. Not before. And by then Intel will probably have changed their socket, (they intend to change it sometime next year) so buying a P4 today gives you no future-proofing anyway.

It never makes sense to be the first on the block with Intel’s newest chip. Never. Ever. Well, if you’re the only one on the block with a computer, then it’s OK. The P4 has issues. The P3 had issues (remember the serial number?) and was really just a warmed-over P2 anyway. The P2 was a warmed-over Pentium Pro. The Pentium Pro had serious performance issues. The Pentium had serious heat problems and it couldn’t do simple arithmetic (“Don’t divide, Intel inside!”). The last new Intel CPU whose only issue was high price was the 486, and that was in April 1989.

Unless you’re doing one of the few things the P4 really excels at (like encoding MP4 movies or high-end CAD), you’re much better off sticking with a P3 or an Athlon and sinking the extra money into more RAM or a faster hard drive. But chances are you already knew that.

Time to let the cat out of the bag. The top-secret project was to try to dual-boot WinME and Win98 (or some other earlier version) without special tools. But Win98’s DOS won’t run WinME, and WinME’s DOS seems to break Win98 (it loads, but Explorer GPFs on boot).

The best method I can come up with is to use the GPL boot manager XOSL. It just seems like more of an achievement to do it without third-party tools, but at least it’s a free third-party tool. You could also do it with LILO or with OS/2’s Boot Manager, but few people will have Boot Manager and LILO will require some serious hocus-pocus. Plus I imagine a lot of people will like XOSL’s eye candy and other gee-whiz features, though I really couldn’t care less, seeing as it’s a screen you look at for only a few seconds at boot time.

Impressions of Windows Me

Afternoon: Short shrift thoughts on WinMe. I’ve got it running on a Celeron-400. I installed a 15GB Quantum Fireball lct I bought some time back and never used for anything, so as to preserve my existing Win98 setup. I see little difference between WinME and 98SE, with a few exceptions:

Improved Defrag. Defrag’s speed now rivals that of a third-party package. It still won’t give the results that a well-tuned Norton SpeedDisk will, but at least the days of 18-hour defrags are over.

Improved boot times. When I saw people bragging that WinME made their systems boot in a minute and a half, I was hardly impressed. I can get even Win95 to boot many systems in under 30 seconds. WinME booted this C400 in 15 seconds. I did the boot speed tricks out of Optimizing Windows, and got the boot time down to 14 seconds. So Microsoft has obviously streamlined the boot process considerably. The old tricks still work, but don’t give much improvement. But what would you rather do, pay $50 or $90 for a faster boot time, or spend 5 minutes streamlining your MSDOS.SYS file?

Stability. WinME is a bit more solid on this C400 than vanilla Win98 was. I’m currently serenading my neighbors with an MP3 tune from A Flock of Seagulls (I’m sure they appreciate it) while I’m on the Web. That was a great way to make the system bluescreen before. Of course, that could just be due to a fresh installation as well. That 98 installation is about 14 months old, so it’s due for a scrubdown.

Speaking of sound… I bought the SB Live! card in this machine mostly for its voice recognition abilities, but the sound quality coming out of this thing is far greater than any other sound card I’ve seen. If you’re in the market for a sound card, give Creative’s SoundBlaster Live! series a long, hard look. Now that their main competition is buried I don’t know how long they’ll keep making good stuff, but this card is something else.

Morning: I finally did it. I did what I recommend no one do. I bought a copy of Windows ME last night. I’m making a bit of a living writing about 9x, so I had no choice. I’m writing a Windows optimization series for Computer Shopper UK, and I have to cover ME because that’s what an increasing number of people have.

I could review it here but I doubt I’ll bother. I can’t imagine anyone would be interested. The best advice for any Microsoft 9x product is to not buy it unless you buy a new PC that comes with it. That was true for four years, and with ME’s lack of backward compatibility with DOS, it’s probably even more true.

My new project is starting to rival the ramdisk project in difficulty. Windows ME appears to be faster and more stable than its predecessors but I don’t like the installation program. It seems to take liberties I wish it wouldn’t with the existing Windows directories it finds. Why do I care about that? You’ll find out if I’m successful — I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up yet. Plus a little air of mystery is always a good thing.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Dustin D. Cook” <dcook32p@nospam.htcomp.net>
Subject: Memory Brands
Dave,

First let me say that I’m probably not the first person to question your choice in memory, and I probably won’t be the last.

Have you ever heard of a company called Mushkin, Inc.? They were just purchased by Enhanced Memory Systems (the fine makers of the first PC-150 SDRAM chip and HSDRAM modules). I have used Mushkin’s memory modules for a little over one year now, and I must say that I have been very pleased. Out of several hundred of these parts that I have sold to my clients, only one such module has ever failed. The best part: it worked fine until their building was directly struck by lightning.

Read Anand Tech’s “PC133 SDRAM Roundup – April 2000” here http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.html?i=1213 . You’ll be amazed at the performance of the Mushkin modules. Unfortunately, this performance comes at a cost. Their 128 MB High-performance revision 2.0 modules cost $166.00 each. (I get a small discount since I’m a reseller, and I order in large quantities. This price is retail.)

These modules are also very stable. I’m using mine with my timings set for “Turbo”, my CAS Latency set for “2”, and my memory clock at “133 MHz” in the CMOS setup. Using both Windows 2000 Professional SP1 and SuSE Linux 6.4, I have not yet had a lockup or error. The system has been running stable for almost three months.

I have used Micron memory in the past, and I will probably use them again. If a customer either does not want to pay the price for the Mushkin parts, or they simply don’t believe me when I tell them that those few extra dollars almost guarantees a more stable and higher performing part, then I will gladly sell them the Crucial/Micron memory. I don’t want to keep pushing something that I know my customers won’t buy.

My point is this: since you’re recommending parts based on “money is no object” then you should go with the best parts available. I believe Mushkin fulfills that role.

Sincerely,

Dustin D. Cook Campus Computers Stephenville, TX – USA

PS: I really enjoyed your book on optimizing Windows. I have used many of those tips to enhance my Windows 98 machine at home. Thanks for the great information!
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Subject: (no subject)

Well, all this time of posting that picture of your book “Optimizing Windows” paid off. I saw it in the store today and bought a copy.

I don’t know if it’s such a good idea to post a picture of yourself, though: I have vinyl records older than you.
(What are vinyl records?)

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Thanks! I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.
 
Hmm, vinyl records. LPs spun at 33 1/3 rpm; singles came on smaller discs that spun at 45 rpm. Older records spun at 78 rpm. You had to put little plastic inserts in the holes in 45s so you could play them on most turntables. I read about them in history class.
 
Actually, I bought records in the early 1980s. I think CDs became commercially available in 1983 but they sure weren’t commonplace until later–I know the first recording to sell a million copies on CD was U2’s The Joshua Tree, in 1987. I didn’t get a CD player until 1989, so until then I was buying records and tapes. I know around here somewhere I have vinyl records older than me too.
 
Not sure if my age is a disadvantage or not. I frequently tell people that computers are the only thing large numbers of people want a 25-year-old’s opinion on. I spend enough time talking about Amigas that people probably figure out pretty fast that I didn’t become interested in computers in the 1990s. I was always fascinated with them (I first saw one in 1981) and from second grade on, we had them in school. I was writing simple programs when I was 10, and by the time I was 15 I had enough confidence to take them apart and work on them. There are plenty of writers with as much or more computer experience, but there won’t be very many who’ve spent as great a percentage of their lives with them.
 
I know when I was selling the things, the younger you looked, the more credibility you had. Then again, people equate age with wisdom, and I grew a beard mostly because it gives me a few years and I notice the difference at work. I’ll probably change the photo at some point, but for now I’ll see how this one flies.
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From: Dan Bowman <DanBowman@nospam.worldnet.att.net&gt;
Subject: Okay, I’ll parallel you…

I picked up a Compaq on clearance at Office Depot as a kid’s present for Christmas. I’ll be firing it up this week to see what I can see. “Me” is the base install.
 
Off to sing and learn and have a good time,
 
dan
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Cool. So far I don’t see anything in WinMe that I object to, and maybe, just maybe, there’s enough in it for the $50 “limited time” step-up from 98/98SE to be worth it (especially if you can get it at a slightly discounted price). If your system is old enough to be running Win95, however, I see no use for it. There aren’t enough new features to be worth the $90 going rate and the system is likely to be marginal enough that WinMe will be a slug on it.
 
The Zip folders feature is nice, making working with Zip files in Explorer just like working with any old folder. That saves you whatever WinZip costs and I think I like it better. Internet Connection Sharing, of course, is a must for some people. Those two make it worth upgrading from vanilla Win98. I can’t comment yet on stability or compatibility.

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