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Secure that public wi-fi with a low-tier, no-cost home VPN

If you spend any time at all using unencrypted wi-fi networks at hotels and coffee shops, you need a VPN. Public connections are fine for reading news headlines and checking sports scores, but cannot be considered safe for e-mail, online banking, making purchases, or anything that involves a username and a password. A VPN, which encrypts that traffic from prying eyes, is the only way to make them safe.

Here’s how to set up a VPN that’s good enough for personal use. All you need is a home Internet connection, a computer at home, and the laptop you take on the road.

Of course corporations can set up VPNs that are much faster and much more robust, but this is something you can set up in a couple of hours on a weekend afternoon without spending anything.

Read More »Secure that public wi-fi with a low-tier, no-cost home VPN

I’m back.

Four words: Worst. Business trip. Ever.

I’ll give some more details later, after the airline decides what they’re going to do to make things righter (they can’t make it right). They managed not to crash the plane.  Which is less of an achievement than me managing to drive to the airport without crashing my car. Other than that, they didn’t do much of anything right.

I had a nifty VPN set up that let me connect back into my home network to post, but a power outage knocked out my proxy server, which I had forgotten to configure to auto-start. I wasn’t about to log in here via unencrypted hotel wifi, which was why I was absent here for a few days.

I’ll have some more stuff in a while, but for now I need to take care of a few other things.

Windows potpourri

I’ll give some random Windows tips tonight, since it’s getting late and I don’t really want to think. So here’s some stuff I’ve been putting off. So let’s talk utilities and troubleshooting.
Utilities first. Utilities are more fun. So let’s talk about a pair of reader submissions, from Bryan Welch.

Proxomitron. Bryan wondered if I’d ever heard of it because I’d never mentioned it. I’m sure I mentioned it on my page at editthispage.com because I ran Proxomitron for a couple of years. Proxomitron is a freeware proxy server that blocks ads, Javascript, cookies, and just about anything else undesirable. I’ve found that these days I get everything I need from Mozilla–it blocks popups just fine, and I can right-click and pick “Block images from this server” when I run across an objectionable ad, and of course I have GIF animation turned off and Flash not installed. That works for me, and it saves me memory and CPU time.

But if you want more than Mozilla gives you off the shelf, Proxomitron will give it to you. I used to recommend it wholeheartedly. I haven’t looked at a recent version of it but I’d be shocked if it’s changed much. If any of that interests you, I’m sure you’ve already run off to download it. It runs on any version of Windows from Win95 on.

98lite. Most of my readers run Windows 2000 or XP at this point, but about 20% of you are still running Win98 or WinMe. If you want to get a little extra speed, download and run 98lite to remove Internet Explorer and other not-quite-optional-but-mostly-useless cruft. It’s been pretty well established that Windows 9x runs 20-25% faster with IE gone. That’s more improvement than you’ll get from overclocking your CPU. Or from any single hardware upgrade, in most cases.

If you need IE, 98lite can still help you–it can break the desktop integration and speed things up for you, just not as much.

If you’re still running 98, I highly recommend it. How much so? When I was writing Optimizing Windows, Shane Brooks probably would have given me a copy of it, on the theory that its mention in a book would cause at least sales he wouldn’t get otherwise. I mentioned it (I think I dedicated half a chapter to it), but I didn’t ask him for one. I registered the thing. If I liked it enough to pay for it when I probably didn’t have to, that ought to say something.

Troubleshooting. Let’s talk about troubleshooting Windows 2000 and XP.

Weird BSODs in Premiere under Windows 2000. I haven’t completely figured out the pattern yet, but my video editing computer gets really unstable when the disk gets jammed. A power play at church forced me to “fork” my new video–my church gets its edited, censored, changed-for-the-sake-of-change version (pick one) while everyone else gets the slightly longer how-the-guy-with-the-journalism-degree-intended-it version. Re-saving a second project filled up nearly all available disk space and the machine started bluescreening left and right. After I’d done some cleanup last week and freed up over a gig on all my drives, and then defragmented, it had been rock solid.

So if you run Premiere and it seems less than stable, try freeing up some disk space and defragmenting. It seems to be a whole lot more picky than any other app I’ve ever seen. I suspect it’s Premiere that’s picky about disk space and one or more of the video codecs that’s picky about fragmentation. But if you’re like me, you don’t really care which of them is causing the BSODs, you just want it to stop.

Spontaneous, continuous Explorer crashes in Windows 2000. Yeah, the same machine was doing that too. I finally traced the problem to a corrupt file on my desktop. I don’t know which file. I found a mysterious file called settings.ini or something similar. I don’t know if deleting that was what got me going again or if it was some other file. But if Explorer keeps killing itself off on you and restarting and you can’t figure out why, try opening a command prompt, CD’ing to your desktop, and deleting everything you find. (I found I had the same problem if I opened the desktop directory window in Explorer while logged on as a different user, which was how I stumbled across the command line trick.)

I can’t say I’ve ever seen this kind of behavior before. First I thought I had a virus. Then I thought I had a corrupt system file somewhere. I’m glad the problem turned out to have a simple cure, but I wish I’d found that out before I did that reinstall and that lengthy virus scan…

Defragging jammed drives in Windows 2000 and XP. If you don’t have 15% free space available to Defrag (and how it defines “available” seems to be one of the great mysteries of the 21st century), it’ll complain and not do as good of a job as it should. In a pinch, run it anyway. Then run it again. Often, the available free space will climb slightly. You’ll probably never get the drive completely defragmented but you should be able to improve it at least slightly.

Ho-hum.

Another day, another Outlook worm. Tell me again why I continue to use Outlook? Not that I ever open unexpected attachments. For that matter, I rarely open expected ones–I think it’s rude. Ever heard of cut and paste? It’s bad enough that I have to keep one resource hog open to read e-mail, so why are you going to make me load another resource hog, like Word or Excel, to read a message where the formatting doesn’t matter?
The last couple of times I received Word attachments that were important, I converted them to PDFs for grins. Would you believe the PDFs were considerably smaller? I was shocked too. Chances are there was a whole lot of revisioning data left in those documents–and it probably included speculative stuff that underlings like me shouldn’t see. Hmm. I guess that’s another selling point for that PDF-printer we whipped up as a proof of concept a couple of weeks ago, isn’t it? I’d better see if I can get that working again. I never did get it printing from the Mac, but seeing as all the decision-makers who’d be using it for security purposes use PCs, that’s no problem.

I spent the day learning a commercial firewall program. (Nope, sorry, won’t tell you which one.) My testbed for this thing will be an old Gateway 2000 box whose factory motherboard was replaced by an Asus SP97 at some point in the past. It’s got 72 megs of RAM. I put in an Intel Etherexpress Pro NIC today. I have another Etherexpress Pro card here that I’m bringing in, so I’ll have dual EEPros in the machine. The firewall has to run under Red Hat, so I started downloading Red Hat 7.2. I learned a neat trick.

First, an old trick. Never download with a web browser. Use the command-line app wget instead. It’s faster. The syntax is really simple: wget url. Example: wget http://www.linuxiso.org/download/rh7.2-i386-disc1.iso

Second trick: Download your ISOs off linuxiso.org. It uses some kind of round-robin approach to try to give you the least busy of several mirrors. It doesn’t always work so well on the first try. The mirror it sent me to first was giving me throughput rates that topped out at 200KB/sec., but frequently dropped as low as 3KB/sec.Usually they stayed in the 15MB/sec range. I cancelled the transfer (ctrl-c) and tried again. I got a mirror that didn’t fluctuate as wildly, but it rarely went above the 20MB/sec. range. I cancelled the transfer again and got a mirror that rarely dropped below 50MB/sec and occasionally spiked as high as 120MB/sec. Much better.

Third trick (the one I learned today): Use wget’s -c option. That allows wget to resume transfers. Yep, you can get the most important functionality of a download manager in a 147K binary. It doesn’t spy on you either. That allowed me to switch mirrors several times without wasting the little bit I’d managed to pull off the slow sites.

Fourth trick: Verify your ISOs after you download them. LinuxISO provides MD5 sums for its wares. Just run md5sum enigma-i386-disc1.iso to get a long 32-character checksum for what you just downloaded. If it doesn’t match the checksum on the site, don’t bother burning it. It might work, but you don’t want some key archive file (like, say, the kernel) to come up corrupt. Even though CD-Rs are dirt cheap these days and high-speed burners make quick work of them, there’s still no point in unnecessarily wasting 99 cents and five minutes on the disc and half an hour on a questionable install.

As for downloading the file in separate pieces like Go!Zilla does, there’s a command-line Linux program called mget that does it, but it doesn’t follow redirection and it doesn’t do FTP except through a proxy server, so I have a hard time recommending it as a general-purpose tool. When it works, it seems to work just fine. You might try mget, but chances are decent you’ll end up falling back on wget.

Building a Squid server

I’ve talked about Squid before. Squid is a caching Web proxy, designed to improve network speed and conserve bandwidth by caching Web content locally. How much it helps you depends on how you use the Web in that particular environment, but it’s usually worthwhile, seeing as the software is either free or costs next to nothing (it comes with most Linux distributions) and it doesn’t take much hardware to run it. Don’t use your Pentium-75, but you can deploy a standard desktop PC as a Squid server and it’ll work fabulously, unless you’ve got thousands of PCs hitting it. For a thousand bucks, you can seriously reduce your traffic and chances are it’ll pay for itself fairly quickly.
And ironically, Squid integrates beautifully with Internet Explorer 5.0 and newer.

Here’s what you do. Build up a minimal Linux server. For this, I prefer TurboLinux 6.01–it’s more lightweight than the current version, and you can still get patches for it that keep it from being h4x0r h34v3n. Pick the minimum base install, then add Squid and Apache. Yes, you need Apache. We’ll talk about that in a minute. I don’t like to have anything else on a Squid box, because Squid tends to be a big memory, CPU, and disk hog. Keep your computing resources as free as possible to accomodate Squid. (For that reason it would probably be better under a 2.4 kernel using ReiserFS-formatted partitions but I didn’t have time to test that.)

Once Squid is installed, modify /etc/squid/squid.conf. You’ll find a pair of lines that read “allow localhost” and “deny all.” That allows Squid to work only for the local machine, which isn’t what we want. Assuming you’re behind a firewall (you should be, and if you’re not, I’ll help you make a really big banner that says, “Welcome, l337 h4x0r5!”), change the “deny all” line to read “allow all.”

Next, make sure Apache and Squid are running. Go to /etc/rc.d/rc3.d and make sure there are scripts present that start Apache (httpd) and Squid. If there aren’t, go to /etc/rc.d/init.d and make copies of the Apache and Squid scripts. Give them a name that starts with S and a number, e.g. S50httpd.

Next, let Squid build and configure the directories and logs it needs with the command squid -NCd1. No, I don’t know what the -NCd1 means. I found it in a forum somewhere.

Now, go to your DNS and add an entry called wpad.yourdomainname. How you do this depends on the DNS you use. Someone else handles those duties at my job, so I just had him do it. Point that to your squid server.

Now, in /home/httpd/html (assuming TurboLinux–use the default Apache directory if you’re using a different distro), create two files, called proxy.pac and wpad.dat. They should both contain the following Javascript code:

function FindProxyForURL(url,host)
{
return “PROXY 192.168.10.50:3128”;
}

Substitute your Squid server’s IP address for 192.168.10.50.

What’s this do? Well, when IE is set to autodetect your Proxy settings, it goes looking for http://wpad.yourdomainname/wpad.dat, which tells it where to find the Proxy server. You could use any Web server you wanted; I just use the Squid server on the theory that if the Squid server is for whatever reason unavailable, a Web server running on the same machine is the most likely to also be unavailable, so IE won’t find it and won’t use a proxy, giving you a degree of failover.

The cool thing is, this combination of Apache and Squid works well, and can be quickly implemented with almost no work since Internet Explorer by default goes looking for a proxy and most people don’t uncheck that checkbox in the control panel.

We did this to reduce traffic on a T1 line for a short period of time (it saves us from needing to get multiple T1s) and so far we’re very impressed with the results. I recommend you try it.

12/17/2000

Radio Free Linux? I found these instructions for broadcasting audio with Linux very interesting, though of questionable legality. When you broadcast music, you’re supposed to pay the artist, or the artist’s representative, a cut. That’s how Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney made their money–they bought up rights to songs besides their own. Their record royalties are a pittance in comparison.

I’m guessing we’ll be seeing plenty of Linux-based pirate Radio stations, since the required software’s all free and the system requirements minimal.

Search engine hits. I’ll take these recent search engine queries as questions. Editthispage keeps track of the links people follow to get here. I’m sure some of the privacy people out there are throwing a fit about this, but that’s pretty standard behavior for Webservers. The better you know your audience, the better you can serve them, as I’m going to attempt to demonstrate. (Might as well reward these people if they come back, eh?)

As usual, the difference between good and evil or right and wrong comes down to the answer to one question: What’s your motive?

The built-in memory test. I assume this person was looking for information on the standard POST (Power-On Self Test) built into every PC. What about it? It’s worthless. If the memory module is in really bad shape, it might fail that test. But many of these tests simply count the memory, since fast memory tests give the impression of being a faster board. For a good memory tester, see RAM Stress Test (expensive, unfortunately). For troubleshooting, maybe a local computer store has a memory tester. For preventative maintenance, it’s less expensive to buy quality name-brand memory.

Windows Me DNS cache. Ah, someone’s thinking. A DNS cache is an outstanding way to speed up or optimize Internet access. The only true DNS cache that I know of that runs under Windows is Naviscope , which also does ad blocking but doesn’t do as good of a job as AdSubtract or Proxomitron. Since Naviscope can use a proxy server itself, you could point it at Proxomitron, assuming you have buckets of memory for running Internet utilities.

If you happen to be running a Linux box to route packets to a broadband connection, you can take this advice.

Underground ADSL. No idea what the user meant but I know exactly why it hit. I’ve talked about ADSL, and the site’s name will produce a search hit. Since DSL uses existing underground cable, sites talking about DSL installation will get hits, as will a lot of sites of questionable character (hacking and phreaking sites).

Windows keyboard tricks

Those promised keyboard tricks. To get a Windows key, download the Kernel Toys. The keyboard applet, which works under 95 and 98, allows you to remap the caps lock, control, or alt keys to a Windows key. You can also remap the caps lock key to control or alt if you want. 

To assign My Computer to a hotkey, create a new shortcut with the following command line:
explorer.exe /n,/e,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

Next, click on the shortcut key and hit a key (I suggest “m” or “c”) and that’ll give you instant two-pane access to My Computer any time you hit ctrl-alt and that key.

If you want single-pane access (I don’t think it’s as useful, but hey), use this command line instead:
explorer.exe /n,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

I finally fixed my firewall. I souped up the firewall a while back, then it never worked again. (I guess that’s the ultimate in security, eh? No one can hack in if you’re offline.) I forgot which ethernet card was outgoing and which was pointing inward, to my LAN. Finally, I tried stopping and restarting PMFirewall, which printed my network configuration. When both NICs were assigned to the address 192.168.0.1, I knew I was in trouble. With that tip-off, fixing it took just a matter of minutes.

Speaking of Linux, a speed tip. If you’re running Red Hat Linux as a NAT/IP masquerade gateway to share an Internet connection, do yourself a favor and install the BIND and caching-nameserver RPMs, then set your first DNS entry on your other PCs to your gateway’s IP address. This will make your proxy server look up DNS addresses for you and store them, reducing network traffic slightly but noticeably. The overhead is minimal; I’ve got Steve DeLassus running IP masquerade and caching nameserver on a 486SX/20 and it’s more than up to the task. For a small home network, a 386SX/16 has enough horsepower as long as it meets your distribution’s minimum memory requirements. I’d be more comfortable with a 50 MHz or faster 486 for a small office, but that’s as much due to expected age and reliability as it is to CPU requirements.

If you’re running a close derivative of Red Hat (Mandrake is certainly close enough, and I believe even Caldera and TurboLinux are as well), go ahead and download Red Hat’s caching nameserver RPM. It’s just a couple of short text files, but it’s easier to download and install an RPM than it is to key them in.

Scanner troubleshooting secrets

~Mail Follows Today’s Post~

Scanner wisdom. One of the things I did last week was set up a Umax scanner on a new iMac DV. The scanner worked perfectly on a Windows 98 PC, but when I connected it to the Mac it developed all sorts of strange diseases–not warming up properly, only scanning 1/3 of the page before timing out, making really loud noises, crashing the system…

I couldn’t resolve it, so I contacted Umax technical support. The tech I spoke with reminded me of a number of scanner tips I’d heard before but had forgotten, and besides that, I rarely if ever see them in the scanner manuals.

  • Plug scanners directly into the wall, not into a power strip. I’ve never heard a good explanation of why scanners are more sensitive to this than any other peripheral, but I’ve seen it work.
  • Plug USB scanners into a powered hub, or better yet, directly into the computer. USB scanners shouldn’t need power from the USB port, since they have their own power source, but this seems to make a difference.
  • Download the newest drivers, especially if you have a young operating system like MacOS 9, Mac OS X, Windows ME, or Windows 2000. It can take a little while for the scanner drivers to completely stabilize. Don’t install off the CD that came with the scanner, because it might be out of date. Get the newest stuff from the manufacturer’s Web site.
  • Uninstall old drivers before installing the new ones. This was the problem that bit me. The new driver didn’t totally overwrite the old one, creating a conflict that made the scanner go goofy.
  • Buy your scanner from a company that has a track record of providing updated drivers. Yes, that probably means you shouldn’t buy the $15 scanner with the $25 mail-in rebate. Yes, that means don’t buy HP. Up until a couple of years ago, getting NT drivers out of HP was like pulling teeth; now HP is charging for Windows 2000 drivers. HP also likes to abandon and then pick back up Mac support on a whim. Terrible track record.

Umax’s track record is pretty darn good. I’ve downloaded NT drivers for some really ancient Umax scanners after replacing old Macs with NT boxes. I once ran into a weird incompatibility with a seven-year-old Umax scanner–it was a B&W G3 with a wide SCSI controller (why, I don’t know) running Mac OS 8.6. Now that I think about it, I think the incompatibility was with the controller card. The scanner was discontinued years ago (before Mac OS 8 came out), so expecting them to provide a fix was way out of line.
m I’ve ever had with a Umax that they didn’t resolve, so when I spec out a scanner at work, Umax is always on my short list.

And here’s something I just found interesting. Maybe I’m the only one. But in reading the mail on Jerry Pournelle’s site, I found this. John Klos, administrator of sixgirls.org, takes Jerry to task for saying a Celeron can’t be a server. He cites his 66 MHz 68060-based Amiga 4000, which apparently acts as a mail and Web server, as proof. Though the most powerful m68k-based machine ever made, its processing power pales next to any Celeron (spare the original cacheless Celeron 266 and 300).

I think the point he was trying to make was that Unix plays by different rules. Indeed, when your server OS isn’t joined at the hip to a GUI and a Web browser and whatever else Gates tosses in on a whim, you can do a lot more work with less. His Amiga would make a lousy terminal server, but for serving up static Web pages and e-mail, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Hosting a bunch of Web sites on an Amiga 4000 just because I could sounds very much like something I’d try myself if I had the hardware available or was willing to pay for the hardware necessary.

But I see Jerry Pournelle’s point as well.

It’s probably not the soundest business practice to advertise that you’re running off a several-year-old sub-100 MHz server, because that makes people nervous. Microsoft’s done a pretty admirable job of pounding everything slower than 350 MHz into obsolescence and the public knows this. And Intel and AMD have done a good job of marketing their high-end CPUs, resulting in people tending to lay blame at the CPU’s feet if it’s anything but a recent Pentium III. And, well, if you’re running off a shiny new IBM Netfinity, it’s very easy to get it fixed, or if need be, to replace it with another identical one. I know where to get true-blue Amiga parts and I even know which ones are interchangeable with PCs, but you might well be surprised to hear you can still get parts and that some are interchangeable.

But I’m sure there are far, far more sub-100 MHz machines out there in mission-critical situations functioning just fine than anyone wants to admit. I know we had many at my previous employer, and we have several at my current job, and it doesn’t make me nervous. The biggest difference is that most of them have nameplates like Sun and DEC and Compaq and IBM on them, rather than Commodore. But then again, Commodore’s reputation aside, it’s been years since I’ve seen a computer as well built as my Amiga 2000. (The last was the IBM PS/2 Model 80, which cost five times as much.) If I could get Amiga network cards for a decent price, you’d better believe I’d be running that computer as a firewall/proxy and other duties as assigned. I could probably get five years’ uninterrupted service from old Amy. Then I’d just replace her memory and get another ten.

The thing that makes me most nervous about John Klos’ situation is the business model’s dependence on him. I have faith in his A4000. I have faith in his ability to fix it if things do go wrong (anyone running NetBSD on an Amiga knows his machine better than the onsite techs who fix NetFinity servers know theirs). But there’s such thing as too much importance. I don’t let Apple certified techs come onsite to fix our Macs anymore at work, because I got tired of them breaking other things while they did warranty work and having to fix three things after they left. I know their machines better than they do. That makes me irreplaceable. A little job security is good. Too much job sercurity is bad, very bad. I’ll be doing the same thing next year and the year after that. It’s good to be able to say, “Call somebody else.” But that’s his problem, not his company’s or his customers’.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: rock4uandme
To: dfarq@swbell.net
Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2000 1:22 PM
Subject: i`m having trouble with my canon bjc-210printer…

i`m having trouble with my canon bjc210 printer it`s printing every thing all red..Can you help???
 
 
thank you!!    john c
 
~~~~~~~~~

Printers aren’t my specialty and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Canon BJC210, but if your printer has replacable printheads (some printers make the printhead part of the ink cartridge while others make them a separate component), try replacing them. That was the problem with the only Canon printer I’ve ever fixed.
 
You might try another color ink cartridge too; sometimes those go bad even if they still have ink in them.
 
If that fails, Canon does have a tech support page for that printer. I gave it a quick look and it’s a bit sketchy, but maybe it’ll help. If nothing else, there’s an e-mail address for questions. The page is at http://209.85.7.18/techsupport.php3?p=bjc210 (to save you from navigating the entire www.ccsi.canon.com page).
 

I hope that helps.

Dave
 
~~~~~~~~~~
 

From: Bruce Edwards
Subject: Crazy Win98 Networking Computer Problem

Dear Dave:

I am having a crazy computer problem which I am hoping you or your readers
may be able to give me a clue to.  I do have this posted on my daily
journal, but since I get very little traffic, I thought your readership or
yourself may be able to help.  Here’s the problem:

My wife’s computer suddenly and inexplicably became very slow when accessing
web sites and usually when accessing her e-mail.  We access the internet
normally through the LAN I installed at home.  This goes to a Wingate
machine which is connected to the aDSL line allowing shared access to the
internet.

My computer still sends and receives e-mail and accesses the web at full
speed.  Alice’s computer now appears to access the web text at about the
speed of a 9600 baud modem with graphics coming down even more slowly if at
all.  Also, her e-mail (Outlook Express) usually times out when going
through the LAN to the Wingate machine and then out over the internet. 
The LAN is working since she is making a connection out that way.

File transfer via the LAN between my PC and hers goes at full speed.
Something is causing her internet access to slow to a crawl while mine is
unaffected.  Also, it appears to be only part of her internet access.  I can
telnet out from her computer and connect to external servers very fast, as
fast as always.  I know telnet is just simple text, but the connection to
the server is very rapid too while connecting to a server via an http
browser is much much slower and then, once connected, the data flows so slow
it’s crazy.

Also, dial-up and connect to the internet via AOL and then use her mail
client and (external to AOL) browser works fine and is as speedy as you
would expect for a 56K modem.  What gives?

I tried reinstalling windows over the existing set-up (did not do anything)
and finally started over from “bare metal” as some like to say.  Reformat
the C drive.  Reinstall Windows 98, reinstall all the drivers, apps, tweak
the configuration, get it all working correctly.  Guess what?  Same slow
speed via the aDSL LAN connection even though my computer zips out via the
same connection.  Any suggestions?

Sincerely,

Bruce W. Edwards
e-mail:  bruce@BruceEdwards.com
Check www.BruceEdwards.com/journal  for my daily journal.

Bruce  🙂
Bruce W. Edwards
Sr. I.S. Auditor  
~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dave Farquhar [mailto:dfarq@swbell.net]Sent: Monday, October 23, 2000 6:16 PM
To: Edwards, Bruce
Cc: Diana Farquhar
Subject: Re: Crazy Win98 Networking Computer Problem

Hi Bruce,
 
The best thing I can think of is your MTU setting–have you run any of those MTU optimization programs? Those can have precisely the effect you describe at times. Try setting yor MTU back to 1500 and see what that does. While I wholeheartedly recommend them for dialup connections, MTU tweaking and any sort of LAN definitely don’t mix–to the point that I almost regret even mentioning the things in Optimizing Windows.
 
Short of that, I’d suggest ripping out all of your networking protocols and adapters from the Network control panel and add back in TCP/IP and only the other things you absolutely need. This’ll keep Windows from getting confused and trying to use the wrong transport, and eliminate the corrupted TCP/IP possibility. These are remote, but possible. Though your reinstall should have eliminated that possibility…
 
If it’s neither of those things, I’d start to suspect hardware. Make sure you don’t have an interrupt conflict (rare these days, but I just saw one a couple weeks ago so I don’t rule them out). Also try swapping in a different cable or NIC in your wife’s machine. Cables of course go bad more frequently than NICs, though I’ve had horrible luck with cheap NICs. At this point I won’t buy any ethernet NIC other than a Bay Netgear, 3Com or Intel.
 
I hope that helps. Let me know how it goes for you.

Dave 
~~~~~~~~~~
From: Bruce Edwards

Hi Dave:
 
Thank you for posting on your web site. I thought you would like an update.
 
I verified the MTU setting was still at 1500 (it was).  I have not used one of the optimizing programs on this PC.
 
I removed all the adapters from the PC via the control panel.  Rebooted and only added back TCP/IP on the Ethernet card. 
 
I double checked the interrupts in the control panel, there do not appear to be any conflicts and all devices report proper function.
 
I still need to 100% verify the wiring/hubs.  I think they are O.K. since that PC, using the same adapter, is able to file share with other PCs on the network.  That also implies that the adapter is O.K.
 
I will plug my PC into the same hub and port as my wife’s using the same cable to verify that the network infrastructure is O.K.
 
Then, I’ll removed the adapter and try a different one.
 
Hopefully one of these things will work.
 
Cheers,
 
Bruce
~~~~~~~~~~

This is a longshot, but… I’m wondering if maybe your DNS settings are off, or if your browser might be set to use a proxy server that doesn’t exist. That’s the only other thing I can think of that can cause sporadic slow access, unless the problem is your Web browser itself. Whichever browser you’re using, have you by any chance tried installing and testing the other one to see if it has the same problems?
 
In my experience, IE 5.5 isn’t exactly the greatest of performers, or when it does perform well, it seems to be by monopolizing CPU time. I’ve gotten much better results with IE 5.0. As for Netscape, I do wish they’d get it right again someday…
 
Thanks for the update. Hopefully we can find an answer.

Dave 
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A nice Internet utility

Another Internet utility. I found a link to Naviscope (www.naviscope.com) this week. Naviscope is a swiss army knife Internet tool, providing ad blocking, DNS caching, prefetch, logging and a few other features. As such, it can replace Proxomitron, FastNet, and Netsonic–three utilities I mention in Optimizing Windows.
I find I like it, but I really miss Proxomitron’s ability to freeze animated GIFs. I absolutely, positively detest anything that moves on Web pages, so I love that feature and find I hate living without it. You can run Naviscope through another proxy server, so I may just try running the two in conjunction with each other. Maybe one will catch ads the other won’t.

I do like the prefetch, which is much more polite than NetSonic (though you have to configure it, but it prefetches only a few links, rather than prefetching everything that links like NetSonic), and the DNS cache is great. Of course I can do that with a Linux box with BIND set up (a great use for a 386 or low-end 486, by the way), but this is easier for most people.