03/29/2001

Where’ve you been all my life? Yes, I say that to every program I find that I like. But this time I think I might really mean it.

My biggest beef with disk optimizers is that I never found one with an intelligent directory sort routine. You see, the most important files in the directory should appear first for best performance on a FAT or FAT32 volume. Norton Utilities doesn’t offer a foolproof method to get the most important files up top every time. Neither does Fix-It. Nuts & Bolts (now McAfee Utilities) had the best method, but seeing as talking about McAfee Utilities is a violation of the license agreement, I can’t tell you if McAfee Utilities still has the feature, if it’s improved, if it’s worth having, or anything of the sort. Frankly I don’t want to know, unless the answer is no. I refuse adamantly to do business with any company that thinks it’s above the First Amendment. Even Microsoft isn’t that despicable. Apple’s not that despicable. Hell, Apple and Microsoft put together, with ultimate crybaby baseball players Gary Sheffield and Frank Thomas thrown in for good measure, aren’t HALF that despicable.

So who cares if McAfee Utilities is any good? You don’t want it anywhere near your computer no matter what it does. (And I suspect it’ll do a royal job of breaking it, based on my experience with Nuts & Bolts, which was a versatile suite but dangerous if used improperly. And every other McAfee product I looked at before they instituted that license agreement sucked. I mean really sucked. And it’s easier to try to stop freedom of speech than it is to improve your products.)

So… You’ve got the powerful Norton Utilities, with lots of selectable options but a couple of options that should be there that aren’t. And you’ve got Fix-It, which is a lot easier to use but not very configurable at all, so it’s better than Defrag and Scandisk but far from perfect. What to do? Buy one of them. Then download lfnsort .

LFNsort allows you to sort directories intelligently. Using multiple criteria. Fabulous. Download it, then run it (preferably you should exit all running programs first). Here’s the syntax I use:

lfnsort -a-s c: /s

This sorts your directory entries by access date, or, if no access date is available, by size (the next-best indication of importance). In the root directory I think I’d want to go with a manual sort (on my machine, the c:windows and c:program files entries get buried deeper than I’d like) but otherwise LFNsort seems to work really well.

So if you want the fastest computer possible, get a utilities suite, then download this, test it, and if you like the results, register it.

12/20/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

A failed review of McAfee Utilities 2000. I was going to write about the successor to Nuts & Bolts, the utilities suite that could have been so good, except parts of it were so bad. It was never second-best of the three I looked at in Optimizing Windows. It was sometimes the best in a particular category, and often the worst. I was hoping the new version would fix some of the shortcomings–add the launch acceleration features of Speed Disk, Fix-It, and Windows Defrag to DiskMinder and it would be the best of the bunch when configured properly.

It’s bloated. While Fix-It is clean and simple and NU is getting there, McAfee still insists on throwing in the kitchen sink and a hair dryer. Never mind that’s a particularly  dangerous combination. You can’t de-select some of the kitchen sink or hair dryer features either. Worse yet, the installer missed installing at least one critical DLL, so it doesn’t run. At first I figured it was incompatible with Windows Me, so I tried installing it on a 98SE system. It had the same problems there too–and this was a fresh install, with no special trickery. So I can’t tell you how good the good parts are because I don’t know.

I should probably look into getting a retail copy of it, because it’s presumably more polished (I sure hope so–imagine not even being able to install something, but not being able to return it!) but I’m less than hopeful. The reasons are obvious, I hope.

You can download an evaluation copy at www.mcafee.com , but I really can’t recommend you do. Check out Norton Utilities 2001 instead. You can get an evaluation copy of it at www.symantec.com .

Time for a new system. A friend and I are spec’ing out a system for another friend. We’re having fun spending someone else’s money. So far, we’ve managed to run up a $10,092 tab, but my friend was slacking. For one, he forgot the second 21″ NEC flat-panel display and TNT2-based PCI video card. We want him to be able to watch IrfanView slide shows on his second monitor while he plays Quake full-screen. (IrfanView doesn’t require the greatest of available cards, but we want like manufacturers since that works better for multi-head displays. And never mind that Tim doesn’t play Quake.) And he went with a TNT2 card for the main display. What’s up with that? Why would they make $400 64 MB GeForce 2 Ultra cards otherwise, except for Tim to buy them? But I approved a PCI-based TNT2 for the secondary display because I didn’t want to look too extravagent.

So we’re not done yet.

He’s been sending me specs and I’ve been telling him what’s wrong with them. I’d be great in upper-level management.

I’ve even got a Plan B. If what we come up with is too much, I’ll admit to Tim that The Gator’s being too extravagent. “Yeah, he insisted on putting a second floppy drive in there, in case you needed to copy disks. ‘Who copies disks?’ I asked him, but he insisted. So I humored him. You and me, we both know you can copy disks with a single floppy drive. So we’ll nix that drive, cut the bill by 15 bucks and everything’s perfect. There. Now THAT is a practical system.”

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dan Bowman
Subject: RE: Whaddayadoin?
Yeah, there are some issues here. …and you are one of the voices of your generation, like it or not. Speaking of that, when you can, please take a look at the story I linked from the ETP site on Sunday, the one about smoking and the ads. Is her take on the ads valid? Are you qualified to answer? http://www.thegardencafe.com/2000_12_10_arc.shtml#1615885
 
Thanks; just looking out for my kids’ futures. I may have to take them by a morgue.
 
dan
~~~~~

Sorry for that aside.
 
Am I qualified to answer? Who knows. Does it sound accurate to me? You bet. I haven’t seen that ad, but it’d strike me as morbid, maybe funny. It sure doesn’t sound effective to me. Wouldn’t stop me from smoking. The stat that 1 cigarette cuts your life expectancy by 7 minutes helped, but that’s just me. I’ve smoked three cigars in my life. Cigars are worse for you, I know. But fear is a terrible motivator, when someone else is trying to scare you. Internal fear is a great motivator, but nobody thinks smoking will make them a failure.
 
Maybe the financial aspect could be effective. What will a year’s worth of cigarettes buy? I don’t know the answer to that question. But if smoking versus not smoking is the difference between driving a Ford Escort and something with some prestige to it, that’ll get some people’s attention. Not everyone’s. I see my peers thinking more about money than they used to. That may just be a coming-of-age thing.
 
I think honesty is just the best way, regardless of the other approaches used. Respect and honesty. Not that I’m an expert, but when my dad sat me down and talked to me like someone he respected and said, “This is what’s bad about marijuana,” and on down the line through each drug, I listened to him. (Tobacco may or may not have been included. Alcohol was not. I learned what was bad about alcohol from watching him. Some people can pick things up that way. Others won’t.)

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Jan Swijsen” <qjsw@nospam.oce.nl>
Subject: Re: strings

Hey, I won’t out-do you every time. Just every time I can.

In Computer Shopper, the subtitles and section headings are worth a laugh too. Their editors add a personal touch without giving the impression of doing self promotion. In fact Computer Shopper and PC Plus (also a good one) are the only mags that I buy these days.
~~~~~

I’ve noticed that. I know Chris Ward-Johnson recommends PC Plus; when Shopper approached me about doing the “Optimise Your PC” series I noticed
they were published by the same outfit so I asked him his opinion of both magazines.

When I showed a copy of the article to a marketing guru I work with, he asked me where “those guys” were when I wrote Optimizing Windows. (“Why
didn’t you have those guys design your cover, and that ‘Try David Farquhar’s tips for pepping up your PC’ phrase should have been on it! Right on the front!”) That’s not the O’Reilly way, but I bet it sure would sell…

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dan Bowman
Subject: Whaddayadoin?

Trying to take the heat off Pournelle or something?????
 
I didn’t see a slavish devotion to The One True Penguin Path in that post<g>.
 
dan

~~~~~

There is no One True Penguin Path. If someone tries to create one, then they’ve just totally destroyed the entire purpose. Not that they haven’t already. That “slavish devotion” you mention says a lot. Linux is supposed to be about freedom, not slavery. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with paying for intellectual property. The people who think otherwise have traded one form of slavery for a much more vicious form. I see absolutely no difference between total, blind devotion to Linux and total, blind devotion to Microsoft. None. Not at all. If you reach that point, you desperately need to go find religion.
 
And if people disagree with that, good. I would love to hear a reasoned argument why total, blind devotion to Linux is a good thing and people should do it, because I sure can’t figure out why on my own.
~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Håkan Waara” <hwaara@nospam.chello.se>
Subject: editthispage

Hey, great site!

How did you change the <body> attributes on your Manila site? I can’t see any way to do that from the “advanced” preferences..

Thanks.
~~~~~

Thanks!

I don’t think I changed the body attributes; I specify the font for the
daily posts (you’ll notice occasionally I miss), so I get a mixture of Times
and Verdana.

You can define a body tag in your cascading style sheet to accomplish that,
I think. I know standard HTML pretty well but I never bothered to get
comfortable with either XML or CSS. But maybe one of my other readers will pipe in.

12/19/2000

Quick thoughts on Norton Utilities 2001 (aka Norton Utilities 5). Not a full review, just the most important points. It now runs on all 32-bit Windows flavors. Excellent. I prefer Speed Disk over Diskeeper, since it also reorders files based on usage, which Diskeeper doesn’t do. Executive Software argues this is unimportant, but my impressions suggest otherwise. File reorder does make those key apps load faster. However, Speed Disk does go against Microsoft’s recommendations for how defraggers should run in NT/2000, which may matter to you. On servers I’d stick to Diskeeper. On workstations, I’d go Speed Disk.

They’ve cut some of the superflous junk out, which is good. There’s still plenty of stuff in there to make your system worse though, so my advice from Optimizing Windows of just installing Disk Doctor, Optimization Wizard, Basefiles, WinDoctor, and Speed Disk holds, and if you’re running 95/98/Me, so does my advice on how to use them most effectively. (You’ll have to buy the book for that bit of advice–sorry. I can’t give it all away.) Under NT and 2000, you get far fewer options, but the defaults are sensible, which is more than I can say for the defaults under 95/98/Me.

How do they do? Well, after I used my top-secret NU settings, Windows Me booted about 10% faster, and it was already anything but a slouch.

The biggest improvement for NU 2001 is that it now works on all Windows platforms. Competition with Ontrack’s Fix-It and The McAfee Utilities (formerly Nuts & Bolts) suites at least gives us that. Unfortunately, there still is no best utilities suite–each one has some feature I wish the others had. NU is the best overall, but that’s only by being second-best at just about everything.

If you’ve got an earlier version, don’t bother with the upgrade unless you’ve switched to Windows Me or Windows 2000. If you’re looking to buy a utilities suite for the first time, this is the one to get. A utilities suite is absolutely essential when you’re optimizing Windows Me, Windows 98, or Windows 95, and with the right settings, this one’s the best.

An FDISK Primer. A question of how to use FDISK came up on Storage Review’s forum (I’ve been stirring up trouble over there), so here’s my response. I figured I might as well put it here too, in case someone needs an FDISK tutorial.

Make your boot disk. Run FDISK. When it asks if you want to enable large disk support, say yes unless you want FAT16 partitions. (You probably want FAT32.) Hit 1 (Create Partition), then hit 2 (Primary DOS partition). It’ll ask if you want to create the maximum-sized partition and set it active. I’m guessing the answer is yes. (Active means it’ll be holding a bootable OS. Why they can’t just say that, I don’t know.) FDISK will do its thing. When it says you need to reboot, reboot. When the system comes back, format the drive with FORMAT x: (substitute your drive letter). I always do a DIR x: before formatting to make sure I’ve got the right drive. If you get an invalid media type error, it’s the right drive. Proceed.

Tongue-tied

Anything to say? My sister (yes, she has a name–it’s Di) mailed me and asked me if I had anything to say today. Not really. I finally won a major victory at work that will result in the departure of two Macintoshes that have become the bane of my existence. The battle came at a high personal price–I’m exhausted and have little to say. Other than an observation that AppleShare IP 6.3 appears to be about as rude as its predecessors. It seems to like MacOS 9, but it also seems very willing to crash MacOS 8.6 and earlier clients. Seeing as these are 100, 120, and 132 MHz machines, upgrading to 9 isn’t exactly practical or worthwhile or cost-effective. So they’re getting brand spanking new Micron PCs with Pentium III 600 chips or whatever it is we’re buying these days. I will be very joyfully installing them in the morning.

———- From: al wynn
Does McAfee still sell Nuts&Bolts?

Exactly how do you use Nuts&Bolts to “sort directory entries by the file’s physical placement on the hard drive” (ie. under which menu item can I find it ?)

Also, what are some good web links (or other resources) that will show me how to optimize Norton Utilities configuration ?

———-
It’s in Disk Tune. Click Advanced–>Directory Sort–>Sort Criteria. There you can select Cluster number as your directory sort criteria. Under Win95, this makes N&B’s Disk Tune the best defragmenter/optimizer, but under Win98, NU’s Speed Disk and Fix-It’s Defrag Plus have features that will make them outperform Disk Tune in spite of this feature (they actually do some strategic fragmentation to increase speed). I suppose you could optimize the disk with one of the others, then try to get Disk Tune to skip the defragmentation part and just optimize the directories, but I think I tried to figure out how to do that and gave up. Alternatively you could optimize with Disk Tune first, then defragment with one of the others and not do anything with the directory entries–assuming you want to save absolutely every microsecond possible. (Be aware that Disk Tune is a very slow program, so we’re talking diminishing returns here to run it, then run one of the others.)

I haven’t seen a better resource for the utilities suites than chapters 3 and 5 of Optimizing Windows; those chapters were the result of about seven years’ experience messing around with disk utilities (starting under DOS, of course). I’ve never seen a Web site on the subject (good or bad); nor much other information outside of the manuals that came with some of the older versions. That was part of the reason why I wrote my own. I tried to explain what to do with whatever suite you happened to have, as well as the reasoning behind it.

Aging ungracefully

I’m now officially old. I can’t think of anything computer-related to talk about, so… I was in KC over the weekend, looking forward to checking out what 105.9, The Laser, one of the premiere alternative stations in the country, was playing. I tuned in, and was introduced to Brittney Spears and Jessica Simpson. What the? Sorry Dave, alternative music is dead–get with the program.

Then today I find the likes of The Bangles and Joe Jackson are now considered classic rock. So does that make The Beatles and Badfinger oldies? I could tune into a classic rock station to hear my stuff, but the last time I did that I got a mega-dose of Ratt, Extreme, Firehouse (not to be confused with Mike Watt’s punk band Firehose), and Poison. Those were four good reasons I got into alternative music in the first place.

So here I am now, listening to bootleg recordings of Jules Shear, coming to the conclusion that his reputation as a songwriter is well-earned, but finding that like Bob Dylan, I like his songs a lot better when someone else is singing them. And with that, I guess I’ll go back in to work, now that everyone’s probably long gone, so I can see if I can figure out why Retrospect (a Mac tape backup package) is causing the stupid Mac server at work to crash every time you run it. The obvious answer is yes, it’s a Mac, but unfortunately throwing it out the window isn’t an option. Nor is turning it into a Linux box, though I’d very much like that.

Mac OS X. Oh yes, there IS something computer-related to talk about! Early criticisms of OS X: Too much like NeXTStep. What’s wrong with that? The biggest problem with NeXTStep was it ran on hardware that cost as much as my college edumacation. Mac fans are aghast; I’m of course turning cartwheels in the halls (figuratively speaking). I’m just thrilled that there’ll finally be a protected-memory environment in which to run Mac software. Of course the backward compatibility is awful, but backward compatibility is always a huge problem with the Mac anyway.

I’m supposed to be getting my hands on OS X Server soon, but I’ll be surprised if I see the desktop version within a year. I’m looking forward to playing with the server though, and maybe that’d be a solution to the Mac server problem at work. Who needs Retrospect when you have the time-tested tools cron and tar?
———-
Does McAfee still sell Nuts&Bolts ?
Do you know if McAfee still markets the Nuts&Bolts program, since they bought out that company ? Do they sell it under a different name? The last version that I see is Nuts&Bolts 98, a while back.
Also, which program do you prefer (Norton Utilities or Nuts&Bolts), or some other utilities package?
———-
Not very actively, but I’ve seen Nuts & Bolts 98 discounted pretty heavily. It seems like McAfee is willing to sell it, but they’ve pretty much conceded the market to Norton Utilities and the Ontack/Mijenix Fix-It suite. There are literally about two things I liked better about Nuts & Bolts than about any of the others (an option to sort directory entries by the file’s physical placement on the hard drive, which will give you better speed, and its registry tools seemed a little cleaner) but a lot of other things I didn’t like. Overall, Norton Utilities or Fix-It is much better. I gave Norton Utilities the nod, reluctantly, because it was pretty consistently the second best at everything. If Fix-It had any kind of configurability whatsoever, it’d be the best. Since Norton Utilities can be configured to give better results, I prefer it.

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