So there is a benefit to running Windows Server 2003 and XP

One of the reasons Windows Server 2003 and XP haven’t caught on in corporate network environments is that Microsoft has yet to demonstrate any real benefit to either one of them over Windows 2000.

Believe it or not, there actually is one benefit. It may or may not be worth the cost of upgrading, but if you’re buying licenses now and installing 2000, this information might convince you it’s worth it to install the current versions instead.The benefit: NTFS compression.

Hang on there Dave, I hear you saying. NTFS compression has been around since 1994, and hard drives are bigger and cheaper now than ever before. So why do I want to mess around with risky data compression?

Well, data compression isn’t fundamentally risky–this site uses data compression, and I’ve got the server logs that prove it works just fine–it just got a bad rap in the early 90s when Microsoft released the disastrous Doublespace with DOS 6.0. And when your I/O bus is slow and your CPU is really fast, data compression actually speeds things up, as people who installed DR DOS on their 386DX-40s with a pokey 8 MHz ISA bus found out in 1991.

So, here’s the rub with NTFS compression when it’s used on Windows Server 2003 with XP clients: the data is transferred from the server to the clients in compressed form.

If budget cuts still have you saddled with a 100 Mb or, worse yet, a 10 Mb network, that data compression will speed things up mightily. It won’t help you move jpegs around your network any faster, but Word and Excel documents sure will zoom around a lot quicker, because those types of documents pack down mightily.

The faster the computers are on both ends, the better this works. But if the server has one or more multi-GHz CPUs, you won’t slow down disk writes a lot. And you can use this strategically. Don’t compress the shares belonging to your graphic artists and web developers, for instance. Their stuff tends not to compress, and if any of them are using Macintoshes, the server will have to decompress it to send it to the Macs anyway.

But for shares that are primarily made up of files created by MS Office, compress away and enjoy your newfound network speed.

Need to squeeze a little more on that floppy?

I’ve been experimenting again with bootdisks and the FreeDOS project came to mind.

Boot floppies are getting rarer but they’re still hard to avoid completely. I think FreeDOS is worth a look for a variety of reasons.Its system files take up half the space of Win9x’s DOS. That extra 100K on the disk can make the difference between your tools fitting on a floppy or not.

FreeDOS supports FAT32. There’s an unofficial DR-DOS fork that does as well, but the licensing terms of FreeDOS are a whole lot more clear.

The FreeDOS FORMAT.EXE can overformat disks. If you use more than 80 tracks, the disks have problems in some machines, but a 1.68 megabyte disk using extra sectors per track should be OK. Concerned about overformatting disks? The Amiga’s default high-density disk format was 1.76 megabytes. That extra 240K can make a big difference, especially when coupled with that 100K you’ve already saved. The syntax to make a bootable 1.68 meg disk: FORMAT A: /F:1680 /S

The syntax for a 1.74 meg disk: FORMAT A: /F:1743 /S

The FreeDOS command interpreter includes command history, so you don’t need to make space on the disk or in low memory for DOSKEY.

Using FreeDOS and its 1.68 meg floppy, I was able to squeeze Ghost 8.1 (a 1.3 meg monster) onto a boot floppy and still have 197,632 bytes free to play with. With that kind of space left, if need be, one could format the disk with FreeDOS, then SYS it under Win9x and run MS-DOS 7 on it.

If you still need to squeeze a little more space, get the freeware FDFormat, which can also format oversized floppies and lets you reduce the root directory down to 16 entries from the default 224, which gives you a few more kilobytes of usable space. If you need to put more than 16 files on the disk, create a subdirectory and put your files in the subdirectory. The syntax would be FDFORMAT /D16 /F168 /S. Substitute /F172 for a bigger disk. To increase the performance of the floppy (who doesn’t want the slowpoke floppy to be a bit faster?) add the /X:2 /Y:3 options. A boot disk formatted this way yields 1,595,904 free bytes with the FreeDOS boot files installed.

That’s enough space to be almost useful for something again. You’ll at least be able to fit more on Bart’s modular disks or Brad’s network boot disk.

My what-I-did-tonight piece

I hate to do a boring this-is-what-I-did-tonight post, but I figure the occasional one of those is better than silence from my direction.
I’m sick again. I think this is some kind of record. This pattern of five-day breaks between illnesses really better not last much longer.

So I went out to stock up on sick supplies. You know the drill: chicken soup, zinc lozenges, vitamins. I went in to get my vitamins, then found myself blocked in, so I continued down the aisle and found the first vacant aisle to cut through. Of course it was the make-up section. I felt especially manly cutting through the make-up section, especially considering my next stop was… the sewing section. I needed a needle and thread, for two reasons. I’ve got two shirts with buttons popped off, and I learned a cool way to bind books, but you need a drill (which I have) and a needle and thread (which I didn’t) in order to do it.

So I picked up a couple different colors of thread, then wandered aimlessly for a while until I stumbled across the needles. I found a 25-pack for 64 cents. Good deal.

I really, really hope I looked as lost as I felt.

So when I got home I bound a short book. The idea is this: You drill holes a quarter inch from the top and the bottom, then drill two more holes spaced two inches apart. Cut a length of thread about four times as long as the book is high. You can get the sewing technique from this PDF file. Traditionally, you use Japanese stab binding for short books of drawings, poetry, or journals. But I found it works just fine for everyday stuff. I recently printed a few public domain texts from Project Gutenberg, and this provides me with an easy and extremely cheap way to bind them.

I was trying unsuccessfully to sew on a button when my phone rang. It was my girlfriend. She asked what I was doing. I told her I was making a fool of myself trying to remember how to sew on a button. She described a technique to me, and when I got off the phone with her, I gave it another try. I think I ended up using a combination of her technique and my mom’s, but it worked. The button’s not going anywhere.

Something she said gave me my masculinity back. She asked how I was at threading needles. I said I had some trouble doing it. She said part of the reason sewing is traditionally a women’s thing is because women have smaller hands, which are more adept to the fine movements that sewing requires. My hands aren’t huge, but they’re bigger than most women’s. She said threading a needle requires good vision, concentration, and a steady hand. I’ve got good vision and concentration. But every time I tried to do something that required a steady hand, my dad just shook his head and said, “You’ll never be a surgeon.” And they’ve only gotten worse with age.

And before all this, I spent some time writing up a piece talking about all the lovely things Microsoft did to DR DOS in the late 1980s. This is in response to some mudslinging that happened over at my recent anti-Microsoft piece. Normally I’d just ignore a troll who doesn’t even have enough guts to put his name on his taunts–all I know about him is his IP address is, which tells me he’s using a cable modem attached to AT&T’s network, he lives in or around Salt Lake City, Utah, and at this moment he’s not online–but I think this story needs to be told anyway. Depth is good. Sources are good. And there’s a wealth of information in the legal filings from Caldera. And those filings prove that my memory of these events–I remember reading about the dirty tricks in the early 1990s on local St. Louis BBSs–was pretty accurate.

I’m not surprised. I have a knack for remembering this stuff, and I had occasion to meet an awful lot of really knowledgeable people back then.

If I can still remember that Commodore’s single-sided 170K 5.25″ drive was the 1541, its double-sided 340K drive was the 1571, and its 800K 3.5″ drive was the 1581 and I remember the command to make the 1571 emulate the 1541, and why you would want to emulate a 1541, I can probably just as easily remember what you had to do to get Windows 3.1 running under DR DOS and what the reasons were for jumping through those hoops. That history is more recent, and at this stage in my life, I’m a lot more likely to have occasion to use it.

Not that I’m trying to brag. I can remember the names of the DR DOS system files, and I can remember George Brett’s batting average in 1983, but at the end of a five-minute conversation with someone I just met, I’ll probably struggle to remember a name. Or if you send me to the store, you’d better give me a list, because I’m good at forgetting that kind of stuff.

I suspect the DR DOS piece is half done. I might just get it posted this week.

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