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Binary file editing and hardware compatibility

Binary file editing. I’ve recovered many a student’s term paper from munged disks over the years using Norton Disk Edit, from the Norton Utilities (making myself a hero many times). Usually I can only recover the plain text, but that’s a lot better than nothing. Rebuilding an Excel spreadsheet or a QuarkXPress document is much harder–you have to know the file formats, which I don’t.
But at any rate, I’ve on a number of occasions had to run NDE to recover meeting minutes or other documents at work. The sheer number of times I have to do this made me adamantly opposed to widespread use of NTFS at work. Sure, the extra security and other features is nice, but try telling that to an irate user who just lost the day’s work for some reason. The “technical superiority” argument doesn’t hold any water there.

Enter WinHex (www.winhex.com). Now it doesn’t matter so much that the powers that be at work didn’t listen to my arguments. ๐Ÿ™‚ (NDE from vanilla DOS would still be safer, since the disk will be in suspended state, but I guess you could yank the drive and put it in another PC for editing.)

For those who’ve never done this before, you can recover data using a brute force method of searching for known text strings that appeared in the file. For example, I once worked on recovering a thesis that contained the line “I walk through a valley of hands.” Chances are, if I search for that, I’m gonna find the rest of the document in close proximity. A Windows-based editor makes this kind of data recovery very nice–search for the string, keeping Notepad open, then copy and paste the strings as you find them.

Knowledge of the underlying filesystem (FAT or NTFS) is helpful but not essential, as is knowledge of the file format involved. If worse comes to worse, you can recover the strings out of the file and have the app open to re-enter it (being aware that you run the risk of overwriting the data, of course).

I found some useful links on the WinHex site detailing certain file formats.

This is a program I suspect I’ll be buying soon, since my need for it is probably more a matter of when rather than if.

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From: “James Cooley”

Subject: Tip for tat?

Hi Dave,

I waded through all your views (That’s where all those hits came from!) and I like your style and learned a great deal. Here’s another tip I didn’t see mentioned: in autoexec.bat, add the following: set temp=C:\temp set tmp=C:\temp set tmpdir=C:\temp

You could use the ramdisk drive you mention, of course. I don’t know if this speeds things up, but it sure helps minimize the clutter from most installs when you clean the temp directory periodically. I use C:\temp2 for those disposable downloads because some programs hate extracting into their own directory. Norton Anti-Virus comes to mind: if you run the updates from C:\temp it hangs.

I ordered _UNIX in a Nutshell_ from a recommendation on your site, but got a 500 page tome instead of the 92 pages you mentioned. If you recall the O’Rielly book I’m talking about, could you give me the exact name so I needn’t hunt it down again?

Hope your hands are healing.

Regards,

Jim

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Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it (but isn’t that an awful lot of reading?)

I’ve seen the tmpdir trick; fortunately not a whole lot of programs use it anymore but that is useful. Thanks.

And yes, as you observe it’s a good idea to use a separate dir for program installs. I try to avoid hanging it directly off the root for speed considerations (a clean root dir is a fast root dir)–I usually stick it on the Windows desktop out of laziness. That’s not the best place for it either, but it’s convenient to get to.

The 92-page book is Learning the Unix Operating System, by Jerry Peek and others. It’s about $12. The 500-page Unix in a Nutshell is useful, but more as a reference. I’ve read it almost cover-to-cover, but I really don’t like to read the big Nutshell books that way. Information overload, you know?

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From: “al wynn”

Subject: MAX screen resolution for Win95/98/2000

Do you know the MAXIMUM screen resolutions for Win95/98/2000 (in pixels) ? Which operating systems can support a dual-monitors setting ?

NEC 15′ MultiSync CRT monitors max out at (1280 x 1024 @ 66Hz); for 17′ CRT’s, it’s usually (1600 x 1200 @76Hz). Do you know any 15′ and 17′ models that can handle denser resolutions ? (like (1792 x 1344 @68Hz) or (1920 x 1440 @73Hz) ?

Also, which Manufacturer/Model do you prefer for flat-panel LCD’s ? Which 15′ or 17′ LCD models boast the highest resolution ?

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I believe Windows’ limit is determined by the video drivers. So, if a video card ships someday that supports some obnoxious resolution like 3072×2560, Windows should support it. That’s been the case in the past, usually (and not just with the Windows platform–it holds true for other systems as well).

Windows 98 and 2000 support dual monitors.

I’ve never seen a 15″ monitor that does more than 1280×1024, and never seen a 17″ that does more than 1600×1200. I find anything higher than 1024×768 on a 15″ monitor and higher than 1152×864 on a 17″ strains my eyes after a full day of staring at it.

As for flat-panels, I don’t own one so I can’t speak authoritatively. I’d probably buy an NEC or a Mitsubishi if I were going to get one. The price difference between an off-brand flat-panel and a big name is small enough (relative to price) and the price high enough that I’d want to go with someone I know knows how to make quality stuff–I’m not gonna pay $800-900 for something only to have it break after two years. I’m totally sold on NEC, since I bought a used NEC Multisync II monitor in 1990 that was built in 1988. It finally died this year.

A 15″ flat-panel typically does 1024×768, while a 17″ does 1280×1024.

Sound card and hard drive troubleshooting

Sound card woes. Gatermann recently ran into some problems with sound cards forcing his Internet connection to drop. It had literally been six years since I’ve seen a problem like that before, but he kept running into it. Finally, it dawned on me: Try changing slots to force it to use a different interrupt. Therein was the silver bullet. The problem didn’t go away completely, but the culprit arose: the Sound Blaster 16 emulation. So I had him go into Device Manager and put the SB16 emulation on a different interrupt, and the problem went away.
It’s been forever since I’ve seen an honest-to-goodness interrupt conflict. This particular PC has every expansion slot filled with something or other, which is why he ran up against it. Keep that in mind: Just because we have PCI and plug and play these days, doesn’t mean you won’t ever see an interrupt conflict. On a well-expanded system, this ancient problem can occasionally rear its ugly head (while Microchannel required their cards to be capable of interrupt sharing; PCI only *recommends* it–so not every PCI device can share an interrupt, particularly if an ISA device has grabbed it. Alas, Microchannel fell victim to IBM’s greedy overly restrictive licensing terms and raw-dead-fish marketing, so as a result we have cheap PCs today but more headaches than we necessarily need. Speaking of raw-dead-fish marketing, I could mention that the Amiga’s Zorro bus had true plug and play and hundreds of interrupts from Day One in 1985, but nobody wants to hear that. Oops, I said it anyway.)

This problem used to happen all the time when people would put their modems on COM4 and a serial mouse on COM2 (or COM1 and 3). Since those ports by default shared interrupts with one another, you got goofy symptoms like your Internet connection dropping whenever you moved the mouse. People don’t configure their COM ports that way anymore, which is what’s made that problem so rare.

I think I finally got that G4 deployed. Wednesday it decided it didn’t want to shut down, and I had to reinstall the OS to fix it. Then on Thursday, it decided it didn’t want to recognize the mouse button anymore. I still don’t know what exactly I did to fix that–I booted off a spare MacOS 9 partition, ran a battery of disk repair tools and a defragmenter, and the problem went away. So while Mac users can snicker about interrupt problems, their machines aren’t exactly immune to weird problems either.

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From: “Gialluca, Tony”

question: RE Optimizing Windows and Temp files

Hi Mr. Farquhar,

In you book on page 112 you discuss placing temp files on a ramdisk. On this page you show an example where:

Set temp=ram disk letter:\temp Set tmp=ram disk letter:\temp

Shouldn’t you also include changing

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer\Volum eCaches\Temporary files\folder] to “ram disk letter:\temp” also ??

Per the description

([HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer\Volu meCaches\Temporary files\description]) says: “Programs sometimes store temporary information in a TEMP folder. Before a program closes, it usually deletes this information.\r\n\r\nYou can safely delete temporary files that have not been modified in over a week.” The only potential pitfall that I can think of is if windows or programs (say during installations) need this area to remain persistant through reboots, even though the files may be of
a temporary nature…

Your thoughts would be appreciated …

Respectfully,

Tony

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To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know that registry key existed (nor did the book’s technical reviewers, evidently). That registry key, too, should be changed, yes. Thanks!

You are correct that if a program does a hard reboot (rather than just exiting to real mode and reloading Windows), you’ll lose the contents of the ramdisk and thus the temp folder. Fortunately, most programs seem to use the temp directory the way they’re supposed to–for temporary, fleeting things. Now if they’d just learn to clean up after themselves…

Of course, this also applies to my advice on creating a temp partition, on page 62.

Thanks much; this is very good information.

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From: “Gary M. Berg”

Subject: Maxtor hard drives

Since you’ve been talking about WD and Maxtor hard drives…

I heard rumors just after Win2K SP1 came out that the service pack had problems with machines with Maxtor hard drives. I’ve not been able to find much of anything else on this. What have you heard?

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That’s a new one to me. Maybe another reader has heard something, but it sure seems odd. I can’t imagine Microsoft didn’t test SP1 on the major drive manufactuers’ drives (Fujitsu, IBM, Maxtor, Quantum, Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital), and with Maxtor being one of the Big Two in retail….

Once I get my current big project off my back this weekend, I’m half-tempted to try it just to see. Unless someone already has…

Ultra-useful Windows and DOS utilities (plus Linux stuff)

4/3/00
There are loads of links in this mail. Explore them; you won’t be disappointed.

Hello. I maintain the Interesting DOS programs website and I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email telling me my site was mentioned in your book as a download reference site for XMSDSK.

While I only provided a link to the XMSDSK file on Simtel, it was still great to see my site which I never thought will ever get mentioned in any book, especially a Windows one ๐Ÿ™‚

I got your book and I like it (a lot). However, there were some tools I thought should have gotten mentioned (most are mentioned on my site)

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On Page 65, you mentioned FIPS as a tool to resize partitions. While I haven’t tried FIPS, there is another freeware utility which I’ve used several times :

Partition Resizer v1.33 It resizes/moves your FAT16/FAT32 partitions safely without losing the data on it. It doesn’t eliminate the need for FDISK. You use Partition Resizer to resize and rearrange the FAT16/FAT32 partitions to create free space on your drive and then run FDISK to create the partition.

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The Infozip link at http://www.cdrom.com/pub/infozip is orphaned and is no longer updated. An updated link is at ftp://ftp.info-zip.org/pub/infozip/Info-ZIP.html

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On Page 209, you mentioned that internal Zip drives lack DOS drivers, this is not true as I have an internal ZIP drive and I access them from DOS. Perhaps you were trying the older drivers that came with the first Iomega parallel port drive?

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FastVid v1.10 Improves video performance on Pentium Pro and Pentium II PCI/AGP systems. I haven’t tested this myself but you may want to check it out.

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LFN Tools v1.48 These are DOS commands (as stand alone EXE’s) that can handle long filenames in plain DOS. Supports FAT32

For example there is LCOPY which works like XCOPY under a DOS window (copying the long filenames) but in plain DOS. This is useful for diaster recovery situations when you can’t get into Windows and you need to get files off your Windows drive. Other commands include

LMD – create a long directory name LRD – remove a directory with a long directory name (e.g lrd “Program Files”) LDIR – like the DIR command showing long filenames.

The Tools are released under the GPL so source code is available and it is free.

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AVPLite Build 134 Free (yet powerful) command-line antivirus detection and removal program.

The engine is only is only 49K (the antivirus updates are about 1.7MB) but it can scan inside ZIP, TGZ, CAB, mail folders in Netscape and Outlook, DOC files). If there is a virus on a machine, you can have a bootable disk with XMSDSK to create a ramdisk, then have the AVPlite and the antivirus update on separate floppy disks unzipped to the ramdrive and then run AVPlite from the ramdrive.

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Some Linux links :

SET’s editor v0.4.41

GREAT text editor with the fimiliar Borland IDE interface with syntax highlighting. This is literally the FIRST app to install after you boot Linux. Editing text files with Joe, Vi and Emacs were ummmmmm….. kinda difficult ;-). Released under GPL.

(SET edit is also available for DOS with a built-in MP3 player ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

The one page linux manual A PDF containing a summary of useful Linux commands You mentioned on your Silicon Underground that you wished there was a command reference for Linux. This one is close

————————————————————————- Since you mentioned Win3.x program manager, thought I’ll mention this

Calmira II v3.02 Freeware Win95 shell/interface for Windows 3.x, including explorer, etc.

Mask for Windows – PRWin98 Gives Win3.x apps the look and feel of Win9x apps

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Looking forward to your upcoming Linux book (I agree with your sentiments on Silicon Underground – documentation is the main holdback for Linux)

Dev Teelucksingh
devtee@trinidad.net
Interesting DOS programs at http://www.opus.co.tt/dave
Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society at http://www.ttcsweb.org

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Wow. Thanks for all the links. That’ll keep my readers busy for ages and ages to come. I did immediately go download SET edit. Very, very nice.

I’m very glad you like my book and look forward to the Linux book. It’s coming along, faster than the Windows book did, but not as quickly as I’d like. I’m not even willing to hazard a guess when it will be finished at this point.

A year from now, there will probably be twice as many Linux books available as there are now. Maybe more. The quality will vary widely. But we need them. The stuff coming out of the Linux Documentation Project is getting better (or maybe I’m just getting smarter) but the stuff available even six months ago very frequently had gaps that a newcomer wouldn’t be able to climb over: missing steps, poor or inaccurate description of output–all kinds of little things that suggest the author didn’t take the time to step through the process one last time. A plethora of available Linux books will help in more ways than one.

Back to DOS and Windows… Although many people deny it, DOS is still an integral part of Windows, and some things just can’t be accomplished without diving into DOS. Even under NT, I always keep a command line open. I can tell you the last day I didn’t use a command line. It was in June of last year. I know because I was in New Mexico, far away from work and from any of my computers.

So Iomega finally got around to releasing Zip drivers that work with the internal IDE and ATAPI models? About time. We bought a big batch of them at work about two years ago, and I needed to access them from DOS, and nothing. The drivers wouldn’t work. We contacted Iomega, and their line was, “These drives require Windows 95 or newer.” A year later, when I was writing that chapter, drivers still hadn’t appeared. But better late than never.

Thanks again.