Common AmigaDOS commands

Common AmigaDOS commands

The Amiga had a command line, or CLI. It was a rather powerful CLI, especially for its time. But there are a number of differences between AmigaDOS and other operating systems you may be familiar with. These are the common AmigaDOS commands and their equivalents from other operating systems like DOS, Windows, Unix or Linux.

I’ve never seen a primer that relates or cross-references Amiga commands to Windows and Unix. So I wrote one. I hope it helps you understand your Amiga better. Because Amiga is sometimes like Windows and sometimes it’s like Unix, I think it might. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something you didn’t know about Windows or Unix too.

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Cleaning a hard drive with Linux

A friend asked me a favor in church one Sunday: He had a computer he wanted to clean off so he could donate it, but since it had financial data on it, he wanted to make sure it was cleaned up securely. I recommended Darik’s Boot and Nuke, which I’ve recommended before, but he wasn’t able to get it working for whatever reason. So he asked if I would clean it if he dropped it off. I agreed.

Rather than burn a DBAN disc, I just took the hard drive out and put it in a Linux box and wiped it with that. It was easier than trying to find a blank CD.

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A snapshot in history of Gates and Microsoft, 1992

Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire is a 1992 autobiography of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. It’s old. But it’s a compelling snapshot of what the industry thought of Gates and Microsoft before Windows 95, before Microsoft Office, and before Internet Explorer. Indeed, it gives an early glimpse into the struggle to bring Windows to market, some of the bad bets Microsoft cast on its early productivity software, and just how close Microsoft came to betting the company on the success of the Apple Macintosh.

If Microsoft’s history were written today, many of these stories would probably be forgotten.

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Ghost won\’t let me use my monster hard drive!

Here’s a familiar problem, I’m sure.

You need to back up your laptop, so you buy a monster (200+ GB) USB or Firewire hard drive. And then you can’t use it in Symantec/Norton Ghost, for one of two reasons:

1. You can’t format a FAT32 partition bigger than 32 gigabytes.
2. Ghost chokes when it tries to make a file larger than 4 gigabytes.These are limits of the operating system, not Ghost. But there are workarounds.

To format a FAT32 drive bigger than 32 gigs, you need a DOS boot disk. If you don’t have a Windows 95OSR2 or Windows 98 DOS boot disk handy, you might try, or download the latest version of FreeDOS, which now supports FAT32.

You’ll have to use good old FDISK and FORMAT, which is clunkier than Windows XP’s computer management, but at least it’s possible.

Ghost can choke when the image file exceeds 4 gigabytes in size because FAT32 won’t let you make a file larger than that. It’s a limit of the FAT32 file system. The workaround there is to split up the image. Pass Ghost the -SPAN -SPLIT=4095 parameters when you launch it to get around that problem.

Squeezing some life out of an aging Windows 2000 PC

I can safely say I really did write the book on Windows optimization (Optimizing Windows for Games, Graphics and Multimedia, O’Reilly, 1999, ISBN 1565926773) but that was five years ago and covered Windows 95 and 98.

Windows 2000 and XP are a different animal, and are as similar to the obscure OS/2 operating system from IBM as they are to Windows 95/98.

Here’s what I did when my work computer slowed to the point that I could no longer do much work.Clear some disk space. This is a biggie. NTFS, Windows’ file system, really doesn’t like it if the amount of free space on a disk drops below 15 percent. That’s stupid, but it’s reality, and since I don’t have Mr. Gates’ phone number I can’t do much but live with it. I went to Start, Search, picked Files and Folders, typed *.* in the name field and Drive C in the Look in: field, then hit Search Now. When it finished, I clicked on the field that says Size, and scrolled all the way down. I found lots of big files I didn’t need. I found a mystery file that was 600 megs in size. A Google search revealed that some obscure application I had used once had created that file. That was nice of it. After five minutes’ work, I had freed almost a gigabyte of disk space.

Uninstall old printer drivers. I had a bunch of printer drivers installed for printers I don’t use anymore. They were taking up disk space and memory. I only have 192 megs of RAM and most of it was in use by the time the computer booted, before I’d even loaded any programs. That’s no good. So I removed the drivers for my girlfriend’s Epson color printer (in the Add/Remove Programs control panel) and then I went into Printers and deleted the network printers of old clients and other printers I can’t remember ever using (in most cases you can just delete the printer and it will offer to remove the drivers).

Stop unnecessary services. If you right-click on My Computer and hit Manage, then double-click on Services and Applications and then on Services, you’ll find all sorts of stuff that Windows runs just in case you need it. Most of it is necessary, but for me, several were just chewing up more RAM than I could afford.

Computer Browser. This service, despite what you hear elsewhere, has nothing to do with web browsing, My Network Places, or anything else useful. All it does is permit your computer to participate in browser elections. What are those? It’s a long story, but the gist of it is that on a Windows network, one computer gets to keep the list of computers on the network, and every time you turn a computer on, the computers running the Computer Browser service fight over who gets to keep that list. Sound useless? Unless you’re in an office network with a file server and a very small number of computers, it’s very useless. Most of the time it’s just chewing up between 2 and 8 megabytes of your precious RAM. Forget that.

HID Input Service. I plugged a USB mouse into this computer once and it loaded this. Next thing I knew, my available memory had dropped by 6 megabytes. Six megabytes! For a stupid mouse? I use a USB mouse occasionally, but not every day, and certainly not often enough to be able to afford dedicating 6 megs to something that sits there waiting for me to plug one in. I’d leave it if I had 512 megs of RAM but I didn’t, so I disabled it.

Automatic Updates and Background Intelligent Transfer Service. I keep Automatic Updates turned off because it doesn’t work with our firewall, but whether the option is turned on or off, these services are loaded and chewing up memory. So I disabled these services. I have mixed feelings on Automatic Update. If you can’t remember to visit the Windows Update site once a month, you should leave it turned on. But since it won’t work for me anyway, I have to leave it turned off, so I might as well recover the memory.

Remote Registry Service. This allows a network administrator to connect to your computer and make changes. In a home environment you won’t use this. At work you’ll probably get your hand slapped if you disable it. It uses about a meg.

By trimming some of this dead wood, I was able to gain almost 32 megs of RAM.

Uninstall programs you’re not using anymore. I had several programs that I hadn’t used since Clinton was president that were taking up space on my drive, and some of them had been so nice as to install services that were running all the time and chomping some of my very scarce system RAM. Clearing those out gained me a couple hundred megs’ worth of disk space and nearly 20 megs of RAM.

Clear the browser cache. Internet Explorer keeps pieces of web sites on disk in case you ever visit them again, because it’s much faster than downloading them again. The problem is it does a terrible job of cleaning these up, so the result is you have, in all likelihood, tens of thousands of tiny files, if not hundreds of thousands, that you’ll never use again. Right-click your IE icon on the desktop, hit properties, and click Delete Files. You’ll save yourself some disk space, but more importantly, you’ll make this next step a lot faster and more effective.

Defrag. I used to be really good about defragmenting my drives but it looks like I’ve been lax lately because my C drive was in bad, bad shape. Go to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools and pick Disk Defragmenter. Run it once a month.

My drive, as it turned out, was hopelessly fragmented. The system was much peppier after I ran it.

I hope these steps will be helpful. It’s not as good as getting a new computer, but it’s much easier to live with now. If your system is bogged down, and like mine, it’s an old laptop that uses scarce and expensive memory and is out of slots anyway, this will make it easier to live with.

Easy and secure remote Linux/Unix file transfers with SCP

Sometimes you need to transfer files between Linux boxes, or between a Linux box and some other box, and setting up Samba or some other form of network file system may not be practical (maybe you only need to transfer a couple of files, or maybe it’s just a one-time thing) or possible (maybe there’s a firewall involved).
Well, you should already have SSH installed on your Linux boxes so you can remotely log in and administer them. On Debian, apt-get install ssh sshd. If you’re running distro based on Red Hat or UnitedLinux, you may have a little investigative work to do. (I’d help you, but I haven’t run anything but Debian for 2 or 3 years.)

The cool thing about SSH is that it not only does remote login, but it will also do remote file transfer. And unlike FTP, you don’t have to stumble around with a clumsy interface.

If you want to transfer files from a Windows box, just install PuTTY. I just downloaded the 240K PSCP.EXE file and copied it into my Windows directory. That way I don’t have to mess with paths, and it’s always available. Make sure you’re downloading the right version for your CPU. The Windows NT Alpha version won’t run on your Intel/AMD/VIA CPU. Incidentally, Putty.exe is a very good Telnet/SSH client and a must-have if you’re ever connecting remotely to Unix/Linux machines from Windows.

SSH includes a command called SCP. SCP works almost like the standard Unix CP command. All you to do access a remote file is append a username, followed by the @ sign, and the IP address of the remote server. SCP will then prompt you for a password.

Let’s say I want to move a file from my Linux workstation to my webserver:

scp logo.jpg root@

SCP will prompt me for my password. After I enter it, it’ll copy the file, including a nice progress bar and an ETA.

On a Windows machine with PuTTY installed, simply substitute the command pscp for scp.

I can copy the other way too:

scp root@ .

This command will grab a file from my webserver and drop it in the current working directory.

To speed up the transfers, add the -C switch, which turns on compression.

SCP is more secure than any other means of file transfer, it’s probably easier (since you already need SSH anyway), and since it’ll do data compression, it’s probably faster too.


~Mail follows today’s post~

Darkening the site for World AIDS Day? This site’s always pretty dark. OK, my excuse: I didn’t know. I’m a bit out of touch. My apologies. So I’ll comply with the alternative suggestion: I’ll tell a story.

I’ve never been close to anyone living with AIDS. But I know someone who has. I’ll tell his story because his story is one of the greatest stories of hope I know.

I moved to a small town in 1983. We weren’t particularly close to either set of next-door neighbors, but we were very close to the family across the street. They co-owned one of the most popular restaurants in town, and had three kids fairly close to my and my sister’s ages. Di became very close with their daughter; I was very close to their two sons.

The kids had an uncle named Mark. Mark was, as I recall, about 22 at the time. He’d gone off to seminary but decided to come back, worked as an assistant manager at the restaurant (owned by his brother and brother-in-law), and dabbled in plants and antiques. There are a very few truly, truly nice people in this world, and Mark was one of them. At the time, Mark was probably the nicest guy I’d ever met. Seventeen years later, I still have to rank him somewhere in the top five.

He was also one of the least fortunate. That summer, his pickup was stolen and never recovered. There was a fire at the carriage house he was living in. Then, the unthinkable happened. As the saying goes, the good die young.

Mark was having problems with headaches. Finally, he went to see a doctor about it. The doctor came back with the worst possible news. Mark, you’re terminal. You have cancer. There’s very little we can do. You have about six months to live.

Mark, being the class act that he was, didn’t tell his family right away. He didn’t want to distress them. He did tell his girlfriend. She left him. Mark never blamed her; she just couldn’t handle watching him die and he totally understood. Sensing that the end was near, Mark made his own funeral arrangements. He paid for everything, picked out everything, including his own coffin, and had everything taken care of. He planned to tell his family, then hand them an envelope and say, “Everything’s taken care of. All that’s left to do is wait.”

But something happened when he picked out that coffin. Something arose inside him. A voice said, “There is no way in hell they’re going to put me in that box.”

Mark determined to spend the rest of his life fighting with every ounce of his considerable resources. Fight he did. He underwent aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. One of the best-known cancer treatment centers in the world was in St. Louis, about an hour away, so he took advantage of it. His hair started falling out, so he shaved his head. In this conservative small town, his shaven head brought him considerable ridicule. And in this place, which was still small enough that everybody knew of everybody (it wasn’t quite small enough to know everybody personally), whenever he ventured out of his house, he got weird looks, like he was a ghost. Aren’t you dead yet?, he imagined them saying.

It became too much for Mark to bear, and things were getting worse, so he moved to St. Louis to be closer to his doctors and to lose himself in a crowd. His six months was up, and he was still alive.

At some point, Mark met an American Indian who was also dying of cancer. A very old and wise man, he took Mark under his wing. “I’m very old and I’ve lived a full life,” he told him. “I’ve outlived my family. I have no one left. But you… You’re too young for this. These beads have been in my family for generations. There’s no one for me to give them to. Take them. And live.”

Mark dismissed the beads as superstition, but didn’t underestimate the power of the mind. He took the beads and wore them. They reminded him that he was fighting the battle of his life.

In 1986, Mark went into remission. He credited his outstanding medical treatment, his determination to live, and his faith in God with saving his life. Grateful to his doctors, his hospital, and God that he’d lived far longer than he was supposed to, he wanted to give something back. He wanted to help others who were dying, to give them hope. There weren’t many terminal cancer patients his age. But there were a number of people his age who were dying of a frightening, still little-known disease known as AIDS.

Mark wasn’t afraid of AIDS or of the AIDS patients. He was patient with them, but firm. Giving up gets you nowhere. That was Mark’s message.

Mark’s volunteer work continued for a number of years. When I last saw him and spoke with him in 1994, he had stopped, but he knew he would go back. “I just need to spend some time in the land of the living,” he told me. “I’ll know when it’s time to go back.” Mark told me he would never live to be an old man–his body was that of a man nearly twice his age and he looked older than his 33 years–but he was still grateful. He and his doctors had traded life expectancy for ten years (at the time) he wasn’t supposed to have.

Mark and I lost contact soon after that. But I’ll never forget his message. I’m sure that’s true of many (and there are many) of the people Mark touched.

Mark didn’t overcome AIDS. And while there’s still no cure, Mark’s attitude will go a long way towards helping those who are living with AIDS to gain years that they, too, weren’t supposed to have.

Thanks to a glitch Wednesday, I was in the Top 100 at Top 100 sites generally have at least 25,000 hits to their name; this one has about 10,000 so it’s not quite halfway there. I find when I concentrate too much on stats I concentrate not enough on content and everything goes downhill, but 10,000 hits in 6 weeks is pretty good. Thanks to all of you who read regularly. I really do appreciate it.

For those who aren’t Mac people… Let’s revisit yesterday for a minute. Yes, a 45-second boot time on a Mac is very good. Anything under a minute and a half is considered good. For comparison, I took the fastest Mac I have available that’s capable of booting from a RAM disk (G3s and newer cannot), installed a lean, mean OS to it, defragged it and ran DiskWarrior (defragging doesn’t make the ramdisk physically any faster but it helps the filesystem work more efficiently) and rebooted a few times. I timed it at 30 seconds.

That’s a 133 MHz machine with EDO RAM, but that makes me think that you’ll never get a G4 to boot in less than 30 seconds, even with a high-end SCSI card and a 15K RPM hard drive. Slow RAM is still several orders of magnitude faster than any hard disk; that 30 second boot time must be due to the limitations of HFS (Hierarchial File System).

And Di’s two cents. Hey, she’s my sister, and she helps out with the site, so when she wants to say something, she gets to say it. In yesterday’s post, I lamented about focusing on what works right, not what’s wrong. Her comment:

[That’s] the whole basis for occupational therapy, osteopathy, and psychology. It’s all related to the holistic approach.

Hmm. My dad was an osteopath (an osteopath is a medical doctor, but with a slightly different underlying philosophy, but a D.O. can do everything an M.D. does) as were both of his parents. I was never close to his parents so I can’t speak for them, but Dad lived and breathed osteopathy. And my sister has a psychology degree and is working on an OT degree. So no wonder I agreed with him!

I’ve got more, but I’m out of time. I’ll be back tomorrow with more–I’ve been writing long this week anyway.


From: Ab
Subject: That virtual memory thingy.

Hi Dave
I’ve just read your article in Computer Shopper and came a bit unstuck when I got to specifying my own virtual memory settings.  I’ve got 64Mb ram, so, as you suggested I want to give myself a 64Mb swapfile.  I’m just wondering how exactly you enter this in the Min and Max boxes, as I’m fairly new to all this setting changing business.  I tried entering it as just ’64’ in both boxes, but this appears to be wrong, ‘cos  my games starting complaining that my swap file was too small, so I thought I might as well try emailing you to make sure I get it right.
I found the rest of the article to be really informative – keep up the good work.
I’d be really grateful if you’d mail me back about my problem.
Thanx alot

I’ve never seen a game complain that 64 megs of physical RAM plus 64 megs virtual isn’t enough, but hey, if it says it’s not enough, then it’s not enough. Sounds like you got it right, and for your combination of hardware and software, I’m wrong. My apologies on that.
Safe bet is to go 128 instead of 64–it’s overkill, but in Windows 95/98 and Windows Me little too much is better than not enough. If you’ve got really obnoxious games, it may take 192 to appease them, but if they’re really using that much virtual memory, my guess is they’re not running very well.
I’m glad you liked the rest of the article. There’ll be another in the Feburary issue, and another in March.
Let me know if anything else comes up. I post all the mail I get about my articles and book on my Web site so it can help other people if something I write confuses them–that’s inevitable in this business.

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