Troubleshooting at all layers of the OSI model

I saw this phrase in a job description last week: Troubleshooting at all layers of the OSI model. That sounds a bit intimidating, right?

Maybe at first. But let’s not overcomplicate it. Once you get past the terminology, it’s a logical way to locate and fix problems. Chances are you already do most of this whether you realize it or not. I was already troubleshooting at at least four of the seven layers when I was working as a part-time desktop support technician in college in 1995.

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How I became interested in system optimization

I’ve talked system optimization a lot over the past week. I think I’m done for now, so I’ll talk about why you would want to do these things, and how I got interested in it.My first computer was a Commodore 64. With Commodores, all optimization was software. The hardware was all finely tuned and the timing was precise, so you couldn’t just ramp up the clock speed of the CPU to make the system go faster. But there were lots of things you could do in software to do things like improve the speed of the disk drive.

I moved to an Amiga in the early 1990s and I became interested in a project called ARP, short for AmigaDOS Replacement Project. The Amiga had a command line, and its command line tools were mostly ports of old tools from an obsolete operating system called Tripos, written in BCPL, a predecessor of C. ARP tools were written in either C or 68K assembler and gave the functionality of the originals, but they were smaller, so they loaded and ran faster. I always looked for ways to make my Amiga run faster and use less memory.

In 1994 I took a job selling PCs. My boss talked about how his 16 MHz 386sx felt more responsive than the 33 MHz 486s we sold so many of. So I started learning about PC optimization too. There was a lot you could do just in software.

So I’ve remained interested in this idea for probably 20 years.

Just this week I put an old Windows ME box through the regimen, and it’s definitely a lot peppier now.

I talked about registry optimization and file cleanup, defragmentation, antivirus, firewalls, and defragmentation again.

Do these things, and in most cases you can squeeze at least an extra year out of the life of a system. I squeeze more like five.

Speeding up the Computer

MAILBAG:
From: “Andre Vospette”
Subject: What can I do in my Windows folder to speed up my computer

Dear Dave: I’ve read your column ever since you published your book. I’m visiting my father-in-law in Wyoming, and his Presario 400 mhz is acting like a 486 –and not a fast one, either. I’ve done everything I feel confident doing, but the big step I want to take is rearranging the applet/applications in the Windows directory. I left my copy of your book at home, so I can’t remember which programs I can move to a c:windowsbackup folder. Can you help me out here? If I pull this off I’ll reach rockstar status in my in-laws’ eyes.

Sincerely,

Andre Vospette BJ 91, University of Missouri (photojournalism sequence)
~~~~~

Hi Andre,

What you can move depends a bit. Certainly move *.txt, *.bak, *.old, *.grp, *.—, *.log, *.001, *.002, –that kind of stuff into a backups folder. I also move all the BMP and WAV files elsewhere. There are some programs you can move into C:WindowsCommand, like ping, telnet, tracert, welcome, ftp, route, arp… Don’t get too aggressive there; I’ve heard of rare occasions where moving all the files I listed can cause problems. Clearing that dead wood out should make a huge difference. Be sure to defrag later.

I hope that helps. And thanks for writing, it’s always good to hear from another Mizzou grad, especially a journalism grad.

~~~~~~~~~~

Roll your own router with an old PC

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

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

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

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

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

What is it? A DOS-based router. System requirements: DOS 5 or higher, 286 CPU, 1 MB RAM. Astounding. So even a 286 can be useful, even in this day and age. Licensed under GPL, so it’s free. No caching DNS, but hey, on a 286 with a meg of RAM and running DOS, whaddya want? And just giving the program a quick look, a hard disk should be optional–the program is 430K zipped, so it should fit on a high-density floppy along with DOS, HIMEM.SYS, and packet drivers for the NICs. Boot it off a 5.25″ 1.2-meg drive just to see what looks you’ll get. ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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

Been reading your posts regarding IP masquerading and I found two DOS solutions (just waiting to get a ISA networking card to try either of them ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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

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

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

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

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

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