It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times…

I hate arguing with women. When guys fight, they fight hard, and they don’t always fight fair, but when the fight’s over, it’s pretty much over. You settle it. Maybe you seethe for a little bit. But eventually, assuming you both still can walk, you can go to hockey games together almost like it never happened.
I’ve found myself in an argument. It’s not like an argument with a guy. Every time I think it’s over, it flares back up. It’s like fighting the hydra. (I don’t know if this is characteristic of arguments with women in general; I generally don’t seek out that experience.)

I found one solution though: Don’t open my inbox.

That worked for me once. After 8 months, she finally quit e-mailing me.

Found on a mailing list. I’m assuming this guy mistyped this:

“I need hell with my installation.”

Some smart aleck responded before I did. “Usually you get that with installation whether you want it or not. Now someone’s demanding it. Newbies, these days.”

I was going to say that if you ran Windows, you’d get that free of charge. (That’s the only thing Microsoft gives you for free!)

A cool phone call. My phone rings at work. Outside call. Don’t tell me she somehow got my number at work… I pick up. “This is Dave.”

“Dave, it’s Todd.”

Ah, my boss. Good thing I picked up, eh?

“You busy?”

When it’s your boss, there is absolutely no right answer to that question. One of my classmates in college told me something worth remembering, though: The truth’s always a lot easier to remember than a lie.

“We can’t come to the phone right now. Please leave a message at the beep.”

Nope. Too late for that.

“Not really,” I say, hoping I won’t regret it. Either he’s gathering data for my personal review, or he’s about to ask me to install Mac OS X on a Blue Dalmation iMac with 32 megs of RAM (speaking of wanting hell with installation…)

Actually he asks me for something pretty cool. He asks if I was up to learning some firewalling software. (No, I won’t tell you which one. And no, I won’t tell you who I work for. That’s like saying, “Hey, l337 h4xx0r5! You can’t get me!)

But I will tell you the IP address. It’s 127.0.0.1. If you can crack that address, you deserve whatever you can get. (No comments from the Peanut Gallery.)

So I hit the books. Thanks to this duty, I get another Linux box. I’ve got a Power Mac running Debian already, which runs scripts that are impossible on NT. It monitors the LAN and reformats some reports and e-mails them to my boss and co-workers at 6 every morning. But the management software runs under NT 4, Red Hat Linux, or Solaris. None of that’ll run on a PowerPC-based machine. So I lay claim to an old system that I happen to know has an Asus motherboard in it, along with 72 megs of RAM. I’ll have fun tweaking that system out. An Asus mobo, a Pentium-class CPU, and a Tulip network card. That’s not the makings of a rockin’ good weekend, but it’ll make for a reliable light-use workstation.

While the management software runs under Red Hat, some of the infrastructure is BSD-based. So I get to learn some BSD while I’m at it. As long as BSD is sane about /proc and /var/log, I’ll be in good shape. But I heard LSD was invented at Berkeley, so I may have a little learning to do… Maybe listening to some Beatles records while administering those systems would help.

Windows NT on hardware it has no business on

A partial retraction. OK, Southwestern Bell isn’t responsible for all my missing mail. I had a second POP3 client running that I forgot about, which was grabbing some of my mail. But my computer couldn’t find a DHCP server all day, so even though one problem wasn’t their fault, another one was. So I’m still gonna write Casey Kassum with a request and dedication: Todd Rundgren’s “I Hate My Frickin’ ISP,” dedicated to my beloved Southwestern Bell.

Running, uh, no, executing Windows NT 4.0 on a Pentium-75 with 16 MB RAM. Disclaimer: Before you start thinking things that include my name and words like “crack” or “LSD,” let me state emphatically that this was not my idea. I was only following orders. (I’m not on drugs. I’m not nuts–I’m certifiably sane. I’m not even depressed.) All that clear? Good.

That said, the stated minimum hardware requirements for NT 4 are a 486 CPU with 12 MB RAM. And I did once build a print server out of an old IBM PS/2 that had a 486SLC2/50 CPU and 16 megs of RAM. Hey, I was young and I needed the money, OK? Besides, it was a very experimental time and I didn’t think anybody would get hurt…

OK, I’m done turning druggy double entendres.

Needless to say, NT on this machine is anything but pretty. (And I’ll put a marginal machine into service as a server where no one ever interacts with it directly long before I stick one on an end-user’s desk.) The video card in my flagship PC has more memory and processing power. But we’re out of PCs, and this poor girl needs a computer on her desk (though she’s never done anything to deserve this fate), so here’s what I did to try to make life on this machine more tolerable. These tricks work much better on fast machines.

  • Pull out all network protocols except TCP/IP. I also double-checked all TCP/IP settings and made sure the closest DNS server was first on the list.
  • Use a static IP address. The DHCP service uses memory and CPU cycles, and on machines like this, every byte and cycle counts.
  • Remove Office Startup, Find Fast, and LoadWC from Startup. The first two are in the All Users start menu. The last is in the registry. All eat memory and provide no useful functionality.
  • Move the swap file to a second physical hard disk. This machine happened to have a second drive, so I put the swap file there for better performance.
  • Turn off unnecessary services. The Scheduler service and Computer Browser service normally aren’t needed. If the network never sent out notifications (ours does), I’d also turn off the Messenger service.
  • Remove unnecessary fonts. I won’t do this without her present, since I might inadvertently nuke her favorite font. But if she doesn’t use it, it’s gone.
  • Keep free space above 100 megs. Windows slows to a crawl when forced to live on a drive that’s as crowded as a mosh pit.
  • Defragment! Making matters worse, this drive didn’t seem to have a single file on it that wasn’t fragmented. I ran Diskeeper and there was more red on the screen than at a Cardinals game when Mark McGwire’s chasing home run records.
  • When you have two drives, put the OS on the faster of the two. Unfortunately, the OS is on an ancient Seagate 420-meg drive, with a 2.1-gig drive in as the secondary drive. The roles really should be reversed. When in doubt, the bigger drive is usually faster. The newer drive almost always is. I may just Ghost the OS over to the 2.1-gig drive, then switch them.
  • Switch to Program Manager. She’s probably not comfortable with the old Windows 3.1 interface (I’ve only ever met one person who liked it) so I probably won’t do this, but that’ll save you a couple megs.

Yes, even with these adjustments, it’s still awful. So I’m gonna see if I can dig up some memory from somewhere. That’ll help more than anything. But as tempting as overclocking may be, I won’t do it.

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