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CD’s; Duron deal; Journal site; Cheap nic; DMA problem;

MAILBAG:
From: Steve Delassus
Subject: Cheap CDs. Too cheap?

Hey, I found a spindle of 100 16X 80-minute CDs at Best Buy for $25 after rebate. Seemed like a good deal, so I grabbed it. They’re imation CDs, which I thought had at least a decent reputation. Have you heard anything to the contrary?

Steve
~~~~~
I’ll take that over private label who-knows-what. I like Kodaks best, but Imations are certainly better than, oh, Infodisc… But what were you doing at Best Bait-n-Switch?
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “David Huff”
Subject: good Duron deal

Dave,

Here’s another good deal for those wanting to build an inexpensive PC:

AMD Duron 750 OEM – $38.00 http://www.gpscomputersvcs.com/amdprocessors.html

Not too shabby ๐Ÿ™‚

Regards,
Dave
~~~~~
Wow. Thanks much. A Duron for a song. A Backstreet Boys song.
~~~~~~~~~~
From:
Subject: A good journal site.

Dave,

I would like to suggest Blogger.com. I’ve used it since February and haven’t had a problem with it. You can setup your own templates or use one of theirs. You can use your existing FTP account or they can provide one at blogspot.com. I set my journal up and just copied their template information to use my existing page format. I have my journal online at http://mkelley.net/notes .

I also must say that we have the same tastes in music, with the Pixies and the Church and some of the others you’ve listed. I have a video that came out for the album after Starfish and it has all of the Church’s music videos from the early 80’s to their end in the 90’s. If I can find it’s name I’ll pass that along. It should be cheap at your local used video/music stop.

ever listen to the Smiths?

Thanks, Mike Kelley
~~~~~
I’ll look into Blogger, but I’d really prefer something Linux-based, preferably Open Source so I can make changes to it down the line if I need a feature, and something using a database backend so I can rapidly make changes. If I’m going to change, I want to make a change that’ll give me lots of versatility.

I’m familiar with The Smiths but never really got into them. As far as Manchester bands go, I pretty much stuck with Joy Division and to a lesser degree, New Order. I think it’s Morrissey I object to, because I really enjoyed Johnny Marr’s guitar work with Electronic and with The The. Morrissey’s veganism (or is he just a militant vegetarian?) and asexuality just weirds me out, I guess.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Jeff Hurchalla”
Subject: cheap nic

Hi Dave, Don’t know if you’ve already caught this, but I got a linksys 10/100 nic at Best Buy for $5 after rebate ($10 regular) on Thrusday 4/26. I can’t say how long it’ll last, but at that kind of price I thought you and your readers might like to hear about it. The card is suppoosed to support 95/98/me/2000, possibly NT and macOS, and also has unsupported drivers for linux. On another note, I’m having the most horrendous time setting up networking in win98 imaginable. I used to work in Tcp/ip programming so of course it feels like it shouldnt be anywhere near this hard to do.. but that wasn’t using anything microsoft. Well enough complaining, as fun as it is ๐Ÿ™‚ Do you have any suggestions for a web page to look at that goes in depth? I want to connect win98 computer to another win98, I’m using a linksys card in one and an NDC card in the other. The one with the linksys also has a Dlink card connected to a cable modem. I’ve attempted to set up internet connection sharing on the computer with 2 cards(it is 98se), but right now I can’t get either computer to see the other one. They are in the same workgroup. The ICS computer appears to have assigned 192.168.0.1 to the linksys(home) tcp/ip adapter, and the other nic in that computer is connected to the cable modem and working fine. For the other computer, I’ve set windows to automatically assign an IP address. Well if you’ve got any quick suggestions or places for me to look, let me know – I wouldn’t want you to waste time on it – I can do that for both of us quite easily! Take care, Jeff
~~~~~
Easy solution. Don’t set it to obtain an IP address automatically. Give the other (non-ICS) PC an address in the 192.168.0.x range yourself, with subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 and gateway of 192.168.0.1, then open a command prompt and try to ping the other one. If that works, specify your DNS addresses, then try pinging yahoo.com. I’m betting both will work, as will file and printer sharing if you turn that on (but be sure to unbind the Microsoft client from your Dlink card).

Unless you’ve got a DHCP server somewhere on the network, Windows will assign it a goofy address (in the 64.x.x.x range if I remember right–it’s some range that makes absolutely no sense) and you won’t see anything.

As for the NIC, that’s a nice price but I really don’t like to use Linksys cards. The Netgear card selling at CompUSA for $10 this week is a better card. I can confirm that Linux readily recognizes the Linksys, but the failure rate is higher than I like to see. Thanks for the tip though.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Al Hedstrom”
Subject: The Move

Dave –

I also want to move my stuff, but I’ll move it to a host and probably use something like Coffee Cup. One question: How are you moving all your archives? Page by page?

Al Hedstrom
~~~~~
Yep, I think that’s the way I’m going to have to do it. I’m looking into alternatives but right now I don’t see any. I’m going to set up a test server and play around with it. I haven’t downloaded my Manila site yet; it may be possible to extract the stuff. That’d be nice. If I can extract the text I can probably wrap the template around it and fake out Greymatter, but I haven’t really looked into it the way I should. Maybe next weekend.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: Mike Barkman
Subject: DMA problem

Hi Dave —

A small problem: I’m hurriedly converting my spare box for my son-in-law, as his second office machine has carked.

It has a Gigabyte GA5AA m/b with the ALi chipset and 100 MHz bus. The processor is AMD K6-II-350 and 64 MB of SDram. I’ve transferred his two drives over — Seagate medallists, one 6 GB and the other 8 GB. I cleaned off the c: partition and reinstalled Win98SE and his working software.

Problem: I enabled DMA for each drive and the CDRom; but it won’t stick — reboot and the checkmark has vanished.

Any ideas? I was transferring files over my network, and the speed was dead slow — that’s what tipped me off.

Cheers /Mike
~~~~~
Sounds like you don’t have the proper drivers for your ALi chipset. Download those from your Gigabyte’s site and install them, and chances are that’ll clear up the DMA issue.

02/17/2001

Fixing an NT server. Or, troubleshooting Ghost on SCSI drives. One of the week’s challenges was figuring out how to Ghost an NT server. I wanted to back up a current configuration of a test server, but when I ran Ghost, it would die about 80 megs into the backup with a sector not found error or some other weirdness.

So I went back into NT, copied a ton of Ghost images to the drive, and watched. No problems. Hmm. So I called in some help. I showed him I could copy effortlessly to the server’s FAT partition. So then I deleted the files, booted off a DOS floppy, and at the command prompt I got ready to fill the disk. First, MD 1 to make a destination directory. Error. Crap!

We thought it over for a while, then he thought of something: what’s that partition’s placement on the drive? So we fired up Partition Magic and looked–it ran into cylinder 1152. Bingo. The 1024-sector limit isn’t a problem with IDE drives these days, but depending on your SCSI BIOS, it can be a problem with SCSI drives. And any self-respecting server uses SCSI drives.

So I deleted the FAT partition, moved the NTFS partition to the end, then created a new FAT partition in the middle of the drive. Bingo. No more complaints from Ghost.

I know it’s tempting to put your FAT disaster-recovery partition at the end of the drive, where performance is slowest, since you’ll rarely touch the thing. Unfortunately, if you cross cylinder 1024, you’ll get burned. So remember this rhyme while setting up servers: Keep FAT before cylinder 1024. You’ll be glad you did.

What, nothing on yesterday? Surely you jest. Of course there’s mail. But after fighting an NT server and Macs yesterday, did I want to deal with mail? Of course not. Look for it tomorrow.

Can’t resist a preview? Fine. One reader quoted The Great Benjamin Franklin: “Those who are willing to sacrifice a little liberty to gain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Amen, Ben. Were that there were more like you…

Linux. Well, if you’re chasing single-disk Linux projects, you can do much, much worse than to play with Freesco ( http://www.freesco.org/ ), which crams more onto a single floppy than anything else I’ve seen. So dig out your 386, slap in a pair of dusty ISA NICs, disconnect the hard drive to save power, throw in a couple of SIMMs to get it up to 6 MB RAM, boot off the disk, and tell it what you want. You can have an Ethernet bridge, a modem-to-Ethernet router, an Ethernet-to-Ethernet router, Cable/DSL-to-Ethernet router, or a print server. It even includes a DHCP server and caching DNS, if you like that sort of thing. (If you don’t like a caching DNS, it’s obviously because you’ve never seen one in action.)

Even if you have no need for its routing capabilities, it’s nice to be able to take an obsolescent PC, throw in a cheap NIC if it lacks one, and configure Freesco just as a caching DNS. Stick the PC in a corner anywhere you have a free drop and set it up to boot without a keyboard, configure your desktop PCs to use it, and you’ll reduce network traffic. With one caching DNS per subnet, you’ll get speed gains worth far more than it would cost to haul that old PC away. (And trust me, you want one on your local network–it’s worth the effort to get your 386 or 486 working again, even if you have to go buy a $12 ISA NE2000 clone NIC to drop in it.)

If you want a fast boot, you can install Freesco to a smallish hard drive, but if you do that, set it to spin down the drive because as long as you’ve got 6-8 MB of RAM, it’ll never touch the drive after it’s done booting.

Setup is insanely easy. Boot off the floppy, type setup, login as root, and follow the menu options. Even if you know no Unix whatsoever, you’ll be able to configure this. Check it out–you’ll be glad you did.

Unlike a lot of similar projects, Freesco is based on the 2.0.38 kernel, which is smaller than more recent kernels but networking’s not quite as fast. Still, in most cases the inclusion of the caching nameserver more than makes up the performance difference–not to mention the five-minute configuration time. And its network performance is still faster than NT.

01/07/2001

Mailbag:

HD; disk I/O tweaking

There was cause for celebration last night. And celebration means dinner at Courtesy Diner, where the specialty is the heart attack on a plate. That pretty much means anything but the pancakes, but the favored selection is usually some combination of chili, eggs and hash browns–known here in St. Louis at least as a slinger.

So Gatermann and I had our slingers as we listened to the denizens’ weird selections on the jukebox, then we headed out to a world-famous St. Louis landmark–Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard. We were surprised to find it wasn’t busy, because it was the first warm Saturday we’ve had in weeks. It was actually over 30 degrees and the snow was melting, but the wimps stayed home. Going to Ted Drewes’ and not having to wait in line for 20 minutes is a rarity. I’ll have to remember that January is the time to go there. In August, that place is lined up well out into the street. Incidentally, there’s a Baskin-Robbins right next door that makes a killing off people who decide fast service and air conditioning sound a whole lot better than waiting forever in line in the world-infamous St. Louis heat and humidity.

As for why Ted Drewes’ is any better than any other frozen custard in the world, I haven’t figured that out. I think it’s nostalgia as much as anything. It’s just about the last remaining landmark in St. Louis on what used to be U.S. 66, a road so famous that there used to be a TV show about it. I know it’s even known in Europe, because Depeche Mode recorded a heavily synthesized version of that show’s theme song in the late 1980s.

Well, Route 66, now known as Missouri 366–you can tell the difference between a city slicker and a countian by what they call 366, because it’s Chippewa in the city, but Watson in the suburbs–pretty much looks like any other metropolitan drag these days. Its distinctive features are mostly gone.

They tore down the 66 Park-In Theatre (where many a St. Louisan was conceived) and the Coral Courts motel (where Bonnie and Clyde hid out, and also where many a St. Louisan was conceived) back in 1993, so what’s left? A bunch of strip malls, as well as real malls infested with 14-year-olds trying to look 25. Well, that and a run-down custard stand with hand-lettered plackards announcing the day’s specials. It’s easy to see what has the most charm.

So we got our custard and entertained ourselves by watching 16-year-olds driving in what’s left of the snow. One of them peeled out in the parking lot and just about nailed a dumpster with his mom’s minivan.

Yes, a good St. Louis celebration.

Oh yeah, I forgot to say what the cause was.

I made it over to Gatermann’s around 5 or so. I’d suggested over the phone that he try disabling the L2 cache on Tim Coleman’s PC and see what happens. Well, when I got there, Tim’s computer was sitting there at a command prompt–further than it had been in a long time. He popped in a Windows Me CD, and it made it through the installation. Parts of it were fast, but the final stage was painfully slow. We didn’t complain though–it was working. We got it installed and Tom did some quick-and-dirty optimization (I taught him everything I know). Then I took the helm. I re-enabled the L2 cache, and nothing. It started booting, but at the point where the floppy drive should seek, it kicked into 132-column text mode and gave me a flashing cursor in the upper left. I powered down, powered back up, entered the BIOS, turned off the L2 cache again (no original Celeron jokes please), and the old Cyrix fired right up. Ironically, the CPU is one of the few parts we haven’t blown yet on this thing.

So we ran through it, concluded that the speed is acceptable for what Tim uses it for, and called him up with the good news. I probably ought to give the board a thorough examination under magnification to make sure there’s nothing physically wrong with it and maybe try another CPU in it, but since I was lacking both a CPU and magnification at the moment and the system was working, that would wait.

So it was off to dinner, without Tim because he’s remodeling his kitchen. We would have offered to help, but Tim doesn’t trust either one of us with power tools. So we didn’t.

I’d say we thought of Tim as we watched the teenagers make fools of themselves in the parking lot, but he’d probably be offended. Besides, I’d be lying.

Mailbag:

HD; disk I/O tweaking

Christmas presents you want, and don’t want

Evening update. I came home to a non-working phone and CD player. The phone’s working again. I’m thinking Southwestern Bell really doesn’t want me to like them. As for the CD player, I unplugged it for 10 seconds and plugged it in–first thing I do with any piece of electronics. That brought it back from the dead, but as I was listening to U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, I noticed some crackling in the audio. I’ve been listening mostly to really synthy New Wave music lately and the crackling can blend in with the synths, but on the more organic-sounding tracks in the middle of ATYCLB, there’s no place for the crackling to hide.

I ought to open it up and see if the problem isn’t just an overly dirty lens. That’s nothing a foam swab dipped in a little isopropyl alcohol can’t fix. Otherwise, I may have to start shopping. That’s what www.audioreview.com is for. The JVC XL-MC334-BK looks good for the money.

I’ll also have to resist the temptation to get a second pair of speakers. The KLH 970A speakers are dirt cheap ($20-$30) and reportedly sound really good for the price. There are better speaker brands than KLH, but these would be secondary speakers and if I don’t like them on the stereo, if paired up with an inexpensive receiver they’d make a very nice computer sound system.

An early Christmas present you don’t want. Another e-mail worm is making the rounds, this one called Navidad.exe. Navidad.exe es muy mal para su computadora. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

What it appears to do is reply to all messages in your inbox containing a single attachment, attaching itself in the process. The really nasty part is that the worm contains poorly written code, causing your system to be unstable.

I’ll continue with my standard advice. Don’t open unexpected executable (.exe) attachments. If you can’t tell the difference, don’t open unexpected attachments at all. It’s better to miss the joke than to have to reinstall Windows yet another time. Keep in mind that the people who are most likely to fall victim to such things are also the least likely to have any backups.

You can get details and a repair tool from Symantec.

A friend got a hysterical phone call at midnight last Thursday from another friend whose system was exhibiting behavior similar to this. He eventually calmed her down enough to walk her through reinstalling Windows, which restored her system to a bootable state.

If a system will no longer boot, it should be possible to bubblegum it back together with Windows 98’s scanreg tool. Boot to a command prompt by holding down the control key, then type scanreg at the C:> prompt. Restore a recent backup (preferably the most recent or second-most recent). Once you boot successfully, immediately update your virus signatures and run your anti-virus program, or download a repair tool to do a full repair.

This trick fixes many, but not all, recent viruses.

486s and Amigas and emulators, oh my

Recovering data from an old large hard drive out of a 486. Someone asked how. No problem.
What do is put both drives in a new(er) system, each on its own IDE channel as master, then autodetect the old drive with the BIOS’ autodetect drives feature. But, to be on the safe side, I don’t boot Windows. I don’t want anything to try to write to the old drive, because it may not work right the first time. Instead, hold down the control key while booting (if you have Win98; if you have Win95, start tapping the F8 key immediately after the BIOS boot screen comes up–if you get a keyboard error, hit F1 when it says, then resume your attack on the F8 key). Select Safe Mode Command Prompt Only from the menu. That will put you at a C prompt.

Your old(er) drive will be drive D. If you had other partitions on the drive, they’ll be lower in the alphabet as Dan said. We can tell you exactly how your drives will be mapped if you remember your partitions (or maybe you’re familiar with how drive letters get mapped already).

Now, I execute a DIR /S D: to see if it produced an error. If it doesn’t, try this to get your data (don’t type the comments in italics):

MD C:RECOVER create a destination for your data
SMARTDRV D- turn on disk caching to speed up –may not work but does no harm
XCOPY /S /E /V D:*.* C:RECOVER copy drive D in its entirety to the destination

With any luck, that’ll safely spirit all your data away to the new drive. This is more convoluted than using Windows Explorer, but it’s safer. (See why I disagree with the people who say command lines are evil and obsolete and we shouldn’t have them anymore?)

If that succeeds, power down, disconnect the old drive, boot Windows, and check to make sure your data is intact and not corrupt. If it fails, reboot, go into the BIOS, and change the translation scheme for the old drive (you have a choice between Normal, Large, and LBA–LBA is usually the default). Lather, rinse, and repeat.

The good news is, I’ve used this method numerous times to move data from old 486s to newer machines, so chances of success, though not guaranteed, are pretty high.

Maybe I don’t want that Amiga 1200 after all… I went ahead and downloaded UAE 0.8.8 Release 8, then downloaded Amiga In A Box, which gives me a nice, souped-up Amiga setup without me having to remember all the nuances of the OS and tweak them myself (including some nice PD and shareware stuff already installed, configured and running). I fed it my Kickstart ROM image and my Workbench disk, it copied the files it needed, and voila, I had a working AGA-compatible Amiga!

The package even includes TCP/IP support. While Web browsing on a 33 MHz machine is a bit slow, I found performance to be almost as good as Netscape 4.x on a 90 MHz Power Macintosh 7200.

I benchmarked it, and on my Celeron-400 with a pathetic Cirrus Logic video card (I really need to get a cheap TNT2) I still compared favorably to a 33 MHz Amiga 4000/030. (My old beloved Amiga 2000 had a 25 MHz 68030 in it.) Since the Amiga’s biggest bottlenecks were with the disk subsystem and the video–they were comparable in speed to the PCs of 1990 and 1991–even a slow-sounding 33 MHz machine runs pretty nicely. I could probably crank out a little extra speed with some tweaking, which of course I’ll do at some point.

Then again, maybe I’ve finally found a use for a 1.2-GHz Athlon… (Besides voice recognition.)

If you have an old Amiga laying around and want some nostalgia, go get this. There’s a ton of legal Amiga software at www.back2roots.org to experiment with. If you don’t have an Amiga but want to see what all the fuss is about, you can get Cloanto’s Amiga Forever package, which contains legal, licensed ROM and OS images. You’ve probably never heard of Cloanto, but they’re one of the largest remaining Amiga software publishers. They’re reputable.

Now I just need to get TransWrite, the great no-nonsense word processor that I bought when I first got my A2000, running under UAE.