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Microsoft’s Slammer pain is good for everybody

SQL Slammer hit where it counts, including HP–historically, one of the biggest Microsoft supporters around–and Microsoft itself.
This is good. Really good.

Microsoft is one of its own biggest customers. Part of this is due to one of the worst cases of not-invented-here syndrome in the industry, and part of it is marketing. If Microsoft can run its enterprise on mostly its software, its argument that you ought to be able to run all of yours on it is much stronger.

When Microsoft feels our pain, that’s good. Problems generally get fixed. Not necessarily the way we want them fixed, but fixed. When Microsoft for whatever reason doesn’t feel our pain, things languish. Witness the development of Windows 9x late in its lifecycle, after Microsoft was able to run everything internally, including laptops, on Windows 2000. While Windows 98SE was fairly good, all things considered, Windows Me was so horrid that one of my magazine editors wrote me and asked me the least painful way to escape it. Windows Me was fast, but it was less stable than 98SE.

What happened? The patches were difficult to install, poorly tested, poorly documented, and it was extremely difficult to know when you needed them. Microsoft’s inability to keep its own servers sufficiently patched illustrates this.

Several things are likely to happen now. People will take non-Microsoft solutions more seriously and, in some cases, deploy them. A not-as-homogenous Internet is good for everybody. Meanwhile, Microsoft will be cleaning up its act, making it easier to ensure that their patches actually work and can be deployed with reasonable ease.

I still think we’ll have disasters like SQL Slammer again. But this is a good step in the right direction.

A nice Labor Day.

Yesterday was nice. I got up late, then bummed around all day. I did a couple of loads of laundry, and I put a different hard drive in my Duron-750. Then I ignored my e-mail, ignored the site for the most part, and installed Wintendo (er, Windows Me) and Baseball Mogul. Around 6 I went out and bought a CD changer. My old 25-disc Pioneer died around Christmas time and I never got around to replacing it until now.
I knew I didn’t want another Pioneer. I’ve taken that Pioneer apart to fix it before, and I wasn’t impressed with the workmanship at all. And current Pioneer models are made in China. So much for those. I looked at a Technics and a couple of Sonys. Finally, swallowing hard, I dropped $250 on a 300-disc Sony model (made in Malaysia). I still suspect it’ll be dead within five years, but maybe it’ll surprise me.

I am impressed with the sound quality. It sounds much better than my Pioneer ever did. It’s really sad when you can tell a difference in sound quality between two CD players, but I guess that just goes to show how many corners Pioneer cut on that model. Next time I go CD player shopping, I’m going to bring a disc or two along to listen to in the store so I can hear the difference.

Anyhoo, I played two seasons of Baseball Mogul and guided Boston to two world championships and a boatload of money. But something happened that made me mad. I noticed over in the AL Central, Tony Muser’s Losers, a.k.a. the Kansas City Royals, were above .500, with essentially the same team that’s looking to lose 100 games this season. Well, there was no Donnie Sadler, Muser’s secret weapon, currently batting about .137 (which also seems to be about Tony Muser’s IQ, seeing as he keeps playing the guy). So the Royals minus Muser and Sadler were a .500 club. That’s nice to know.

Then, for 2002, Kansas City went and got the biggest free-agent bat they could afford. They also didn’t trade superstar right fielder Jermaine Dye, and they re-signed shortstop Rey Sanchez. And what happened? Well, the first round of the playoffs was a Boston-Kansas City affair, that’s what. I’d used the previous year’s windfall to buy myself an All-Star team, so I rolled over Kansas City in four games. I felt kind of bad about that, but it was partly because of my record against KC’s rivals that year that they made it that far, so not too bad.

It’s all I can do to keep from e-mailing Royals GM Allaird Baird and asking him why, if Tony Muser insists on playing Donnie Sadler every day, he doesn’t consider letting the pitcher bat and have the DH hit for Sadler instead.

And shocking news. HP is buying Compaq. I didn’t believe it either. Compaq’s recent problems, after all, were partly due to its purchase of Digital Equipment Corp. and its inability to digest the huge company. The only benefit I see to this is HP getting Compaq’s service division and eliminating a competitor–Compaq’s acquisition of DEC made more sense than this does.

Linkfest.

I felt downright awful yesterday, but it’s my own fault. I remember now why I don’t take vitamins with breakfast. Very bad things happen.
So I’m whupped, and I’m not going to post anything original today. Just some stuff I’ve found lately and haven’t gotten around to posting anywhere.

But first, something to keep in the back of your mind: If The Good News Players, a drama troupe from the Concordia University system, is ever visiting a Lutheran church near you, be sure to go check it out. They are amazing. I put myself together enough to catch them at my church last night and I didn’t regret it in the least. They tell Bible stories in the form of mini-musicals; they’re easy to understand, professional, and just plain funny.

Linux OCR. This is huge. It’s not quite production-quality yet, but then again, neither is the cheap OCR software shipped with most cheap scanners. Check it out at claraocr.org.

It would seem to me that this is the missing link for a lot of small offices to dump Windows. Linux has always been a good network OS, providing fileshares, mail and Web services. Put Zope on your Web server and you can update your company’s site without needing anything like FrontPage. WordPerfect for Linux is available, and secretaries generally love WordPerfect, as do lawyers. ClaraOCR provides an OCR package. SANE enables a large number of scanners. GIMP is available for graphics work. And we’re close to getting a good e-mail client. And the whole shebang costs less than Windows Me.

Linux VMs, without VMware. This is just plain cool. If, for security reasons, you want one service per server, but you don’t have the budget or space for 47 servers in your server room, you can use the User-Mode Linux kernel. (The load on most Linux servers is awfully light anyway, assuming recent hardware.) This Linux Magazine article describes the process. I could see this being killer for firewalls. On one machine, create several firewalls, each using a slightly different distribution and ruleset, and route them around. “Screw you, l337 h4x0r5! You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike!”

And a tip. I find things by typing dir /s [whatever I’m looking for] from a DOS prompt. I’m old-fashioned that way. There’s no equivalent syntax for Unix’s ls command. But Unix provides find. Here’s how you use it:

find [subdirectory] -name [filename]

So if I log in as root and my Web browser goes nuts and saves a file somewhere it shouldn’t have and I can’t find it, I can use:

find / -name obnoxious_iso_image_I’d_rather_not_download_again.iso

Or if I put a file somewhere in my Web hierarchy and lose it:

find /var/www -name dave.jpg

Windows XP activation cracked. Here’s good news, courtesy of David Huff:

Seems that the staff of Germany’s Tecchannel has demonstrated that WinXP’s
product activation scheme is full of (gaping) holes:

WinXP product activation cracked: totally, horribly, fatally and
Windows Product Activation compromised (English version)

02/20/2001

Windows Me Too? I’ve read the allegations that Microsoft aped Mac OS X with the upcoming Windows XP. Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t see much resemblance beyond the resemblance between two cars made by different manufacturers. The Start menu has a new neon look, which is probably Apple-inspired to some degree. The Windows taskbar has had Dock-like functionality for several years now–it was added with IE4. The biggest change seems to be the Start menu–they’ve taken the Windows 2000 initiative, where only commonly used stuff is shown, to an extreme, and now the Start menu, at least in some screenshots, looks bigger. I don’t know if it really is or not–I saw another 1024×768 screenshot in which the Start menu actually takes a little less real estate than my current box at the same resolution. And they’ve re-drawn some icons.

As a whole there’s a more textured look now, but some of the Unixish Window managers have been doing that stuff since 1997. The login screen bears a definite resemblance to some of the Unixish login screens I’ve seen of late.

Microsoft is claiming this is the most significant user interface change since Windows 95. That’s true, but it’s not the big step that Windows 95 was from Windows 3.x. It’s an evolutionary step, and one that should have been expected, given that the Windows 9x Explorer interface is now older than the Program Manager interface was when it was replaced. Had 24-bit displays been common in 1995, Microsoft probably would have gone with a textured look then–they’ve always liked such superficialities.

Stress tests. New hardware, or suspect hardware, should always be stress-tested to make sure it’s up to snuff. Methods are difficult to find, however, especially under Windows. Running a benchmark repeatedly can be a good way to test a system–overclockers frequently complain that their newly overclocked systems can’t finish benchmark suites–but is it enough? And when the system can’t finish, the problem can be an OS or driver issue as well.

Stress testing with Linux would seem to be a good solution. Linux is pretty demanding anyway; run it hard and it’ll generally expose a system’s weaknesses. So I did some looking around. I found a stress test employed by VA-Linux at http://sourceforge.net/projects/va-ctcs/ that looked OK. And I found another approach at http://www.eskimo.com/~pygmy/stress.txt that just speaks of experience stress testing by repeatedly compiling the Linux kernel, which gives the entire system (except for the video card) a really good workout.

And the unbelievable… Someone at work mentioned an online President’s Day poll, asking who was the best president? Several obvious candidates are up on Mt. Rushmore: Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt. Most people would add FDR and possibly Harry Truman and Woodrow Wilson to that list. I was talking with a good friend the other day about just this issue, and I argued in favor of Lincoln. Washington had a tough job of setting a standard, and he was great, but Lincoln had an even tougher job of holding a bitterly divided country together. So if I had to rank them, I’d probably say Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and then we have a mess. I don’t agree with their politics, but FDR and Woodrow Wilson probably belong in there. James Madison and James Monroe belong in there, the question is where. Then it starts to get really tough. Was Harry Truman in those guys’ league? Not really, but he’s worlds better than Warren G. Harding and Bill Clinton. Fine, pencil him in at 9. Now who gets #10? Some would give it to Ronald Reagan. It seems to me that Reagan is at once overappreciated and underappreciated. A lot of people put him at the very bottom, which I think is unfair. But then there was this poll  that put him at the very top, by a very wide margin. When I looked, Reagan had 44% of the vote, followed by George Washington at 29% and Abraham Lincoln a distant third at 14%.

When I speak of the hard right in the media, that’s what I’m referring to: blind allegiance to an icon, however flawed. Don’t get me wrong, Reagan was no Warren G. Harding–he did win the Cold War after all. Conservatives say his economic policies saved the country, while liberals say it very nearly wrecked it. All I can tell you is my college economics professor taught that Reagan at the very least had the right idea–the big problem with the theory behind Reagan’s policies is the impossibility of knowing whether you’d gone too far or not far enough. Fine. FDR played a similar game. Both are revered by their parties and hated by the other party. But as president, neither Ronald Reagan nor FDR are in the Washington and Lincoln league. As a man, FDR probably was in that league, and if he was not the last, he was very close to it. But with the truly great presidents, there is very little doubt about them–and in the cases of Lincoln and Jefferson, their greatest critics were the voices inside their own heads.

Great people just don’t run for president anymore, and they rarely run for political office, period. It’s easy to see why. Anyone truly qualified to be President of the United States is also qualified to be en executive at a large multinational corporation, and that’s a far more profitable and less frustrating job. And the truly great generally aren’t willing to compromise as much as a politician must in order to get the job.

Early on, we had no shortage whatsoever of great minds in politics: Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe certainly. Plus men who never were president, like Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton. We had, in effect, from Washington to Monroe, a string of men who met Socrates’ qualifications to be Philosopher-King. (Yes, John Adams was single-term, but he was a cut above most of those who were to follow.)

But as our country developed, so many better things for a great mind to do sprung up. Today you can be an executive at a large company, or you can be a researcher, or a pundit, or the president of a large and prestigious university. In 1789, there weren’t as many things to aspire to.

If we’ve got any Benjamin Franklins and Thomas Jeffersons and George Washingtons and Abraham Lincolns out there today (and I believe we do), they’ve got better things to do than waste time in Washington, D.C.

No, our greatest president wasn’t Ronald Reagan, just as it wasn’t Dwight Eisenhower or John Kennedy. That’s nostalgia talking.

01/23/2001

Mailbag:

More Networking

What’s going on with memory prices? Every time I say they’re stable, they drop again. I’m not going to say anything about current prices, except they’re low. Face it: I remember five years ago, paying $48 for an 8-meg stick, and I felt like I was stealing it. Kingston memory for $6 a meg! Unbelievable!

I told Dan Bowman on Sunday that you can get a 128-meg PC133 Kingston module at Outpost.com for $59 with a $20 mail-in rebate. Then yesterday he sends me word that I can get a 128-meg PNY PC133 stick from globalcomputer.com for $49. No rebate hassles whatsoever, and plenty of stock. So $6/meg has become $.31/meg. Prices may stabilize there, or they may free-fall some more.

What happened? Overproduction. Millions of chips were produced for millions of computers that didn’t sell over Christmas, which is supposed to be the heaviest buying period of the year. Not a whole lot of upgrades were bought either. And now, with demand for Rambus increasing a little and DDR looming overhead like the Enola Gay, they’re stuck with a bunch of inventory that’s living on borrowed time. Gotta move it, because demand’s moving elsewhere. There’ll be demand for SDRAM for many years to come (just as there’s still some demand for EDO DRAM today), but its days as the memory everybody wants are about to come to a close.

So as long as you have some use for SDRAM, this is a great time to buy. But keep in mind that the stuff you buy now probably won’t move with you to your next PC. A current PC with 384 MB of PC133 SDRAM will be useful for many years to come, true, but next year when you buy a motherboard that takes DDR or Rambus, you’ll have to buy new memory again, so it makes absolutely no sense to hoard this stuff.

So should you buy? Windows 9x sees diminishing returns beyond 128 MB of RAM, unless you’re playing with RAM disks. Windows 2000 really likes 256 MB of RAM, but for the things most people do, there’s little point in going past that. Of all the OSs I use right now, Linux does the best job of finding a use for such a large amount of memory. So if you’re below any of those thresholds, sure, buy. But if you’re there already, you’re better off banking that money until the time comes for your next major upgrade.

But if you are buying, let me reiterate: Get the good stuff. I had a conversation with someone on a message board today. He asked why, if 95% of all memory chips are fine, it makes sense to pay more for a brand name. I pointed out to him that with 8-16 chips per module, a 95% rate means you have a 25-50 percent chance of a bad module, since it just takes one bad cell in one chip to make the module unreliable. It’s much better to get A-grade chips, which have a .1% defect rate, and buy from a name brand vendor, who will in all likelihood do their own testing and lower the defect rate another order of magnitude. To me, knowing that I won’t have problems attributable to bad memory is definitely worth the few bucks. Even the bottom-feeders aren’t beating that Kingston price by much, and the shipping will make the cheap, nearly worthless memory cost more than the good stuff.

Tracking down memory problems is a real pain, unless you’ve got a professional-quality memory tester. I do. Still, verifying a memory problem and then isolating it to a single stick can take hours. I have all the facilities necessary to let me get away with buying the cheap stuff and I won’t do it. That should tell you something. Buying generic memory isn’t like buying generic socks or generic spaghetti. In memory, brand is a lot more than status.

Partition Magic. I tried unsuccessfully last night to track down a copy of Partition Magic 6 so I can revise the article on multi-booting Windows 98 and Windows Me that won’t go in the March issue of Computer Shopper UK. It’ll be in the April issue instead. I also had to deal with some personal issues. It’s not like my whole world’s upside down–it’s not–but a pretty important part of it is right now.

Mailbag:

More Networking

01/07/2001

Mailbag:

HD; disk I/O tweaking

There was cause for celebration last night. And celebration means dinner at Courtesy Diner, where the specialty is the heart attack on a plate. That pretty much means anything but the pancakes, but the favored selection is usually some combination of chili, eggs and hash browns–known here in St. Louis at least as a slinger.

So Gatermann and I had our slingers as we listened to the denizens’ weird selections on the jukebox, then we headed out to a world-famous St. Louis landmark–Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard. We were surprised to find it wasn’t busy, because it was the first warm Saturday we’ve had in weeks. It was actually over 30 degrees and the snow was melting, but the wimps stayed home. Going to Ted Drewes’ and not having to wait in line for 20 minutes is a rarity. I’ll have to remember that January is the time to go there. In August, that place is lined up well out into the street. Incidentally, there’s a Baskin-Robbins right next door that makes a killing off people who decide fast service and air conditioning sound a whole lot better than waiting forever in line in the world-infamous St. Louis heat and humidity.

As for why Ted Drewes’ is any better than any other frozen custard in the world, I haven’t figured that out. I think it’s nostalgia as much as anything. It’s just about the last remaining landmark in St. Louis on what used to be U.S. 66, a road so famous that there used to be a TV show about it. I know it’s even known in Europe, because Depeche Mode recorded a heavily synthesized version of that show’s theme song in the late 1980s.

Well, Route 66, now known as Missouri 366–you can tell the difference between a city slicker and a countian by what they call 366, because it’s Chippewa in the city, but Watson in the suburbs–pretty much looks like any other metropolitan drag these days. Its distinctive features are mostly gone.

They tore down the 66 Park-In Theatre (where many a St. Louisan was conceived) and the Coral Courts motel (where Bonnie and Clyde hid out, and also where many a St. Louisan was conceived) back in 1993, so what’s left? A bunch of strip malls, as well as real malls infested with 14-year-olds trying to look 25. Well, that and a run-down custard stand with hand-lettered plackards announcing the day’s specials. It’s easy to see what has the most charm.

So we got our custard and entertained ourselves by watching 16-year-olds driving in what’s left of the snow. One of them peeled out in the parking lot and just about nailed a dumpster with his mom’s minivan.

Yes, a good St. Louis celebration.

Oh yeah, I forgot to say what the cause was.

I made it over to Gatermann’s around 5 or so. I’d suggested over the phone that he try disabling the L2 cache on Tim Coleman’s PC and see what happens. Well, when I got there, Tim’s computer was sitting there at a command prompt–further than it had been in a long time. He popped in a Windows Me CD, and it made it through the installation. Parts of it were fast, but the final stage was painfully slow. We didn’t complain though–it was working. We got it installed and Tom did some quick-and-dirty optimization (I taught him everything I know). Then I took the helm. I re-enabled the L2 cache, and nothing. It started booting, but at the point where the floppy drive should seek, it kicked into 132-column text mode and gave me a flashing cursor in the upper left. I powered down, powered back up, entered the BIOS, turned off the L2 cache again (no original Celeron jokes please), and the old Cyrix fired right up. Ironically, the CPU is one of the few parts we haven’t blown yet on this thing.

So we ran through it, concluded that the speed is acceptable for what Tim uses it for, and called him up with the good news. I probably ought to give the board a thorough examination under magnification to make sure there’s nothing physically wrong with it and maybe try another CPU in it, but since I was lacking both a CPU and magnification at the moment and the system was working, that would wait.

So it was off to dinner, without Tim because he’s remodeling his kitchen. We would have offered to help, but Tim doesn’t trust either one of us with power tools. So we didn’t.

I’d say we thought of Tim as we watched the teenagers make fools of themselves in the parking lot, but he’d probably be offended. Besides, I’d be lying.

Mailbag:

HD; disk I/O tweaking

12/24/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Last night, I sent myself hurtling 120 miles at 75 MPH to Columbia, Mo. My mom lives there, and my alma mater, the University of Missouri, is also there. Today, after morning services, I’m headed another 120 miles to Kansas City, where most of my mom’s family lives. I don’t get back there very often, so I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve got some stuff to write, but I’ll be late for services if I do, so it’ll have to wait.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: A loyal reader w/a technical question

Dear Dave: I have a few questions, well, maybe just one, related to your book.  When you do a clean install of W98SE on a partitioned drive, if you wipe C: (where W98 is), how do you get the other programs on the other drives to run again?  Especially if you’ve wiped all the .dll files and other important stuff?  Secondly, what’s a good and fast way not to have to reload all the programs again if you wipe & reinstall W98?  If I used Drive Image 4.0 or a tool like that (or maybe even Norton Ghost), how do you copy images of your drive back onto your computer?  Lastly, what’s the best way to optimize your ADSL/highspeed Internet connection?  I’ve been using this program called NetSuperSonic which is supposed to adjust certain registry settings in Windows to optimize it for broadband use.  It seems to work pretty good, but I was wondering if you would have some other suggestions.  That’s pretty much everything.  Oh yeah, are you going to come out with a new, updated book?  I don’t know, just thought that I would ask. That’s for writing the book; it’s been extremely helpful.

Cheers.

~~~~~

I think that’s actually more than one question, but that’s ok of course.

The idea of a clean install is to start over, which of course means reinstalling everything. Reinstalling everything takes time, of course, but the benefit is that you’re rid of all those old, no-longer-in-use DLLs and other leftovers that hang around after you uninstall programs. You’ve also got fresh copies of everything and a brand-new registry, which is good because registries get corrupt and so can DLLs and even programs. The result is a faster, more stable system.

But if you’ve lost the installation files for some of your programs, you’ve got a problem. You can use CleanSweep or Uninstaller to package up the program, DLLs, and its registry entries for re-installation, but be sure to test the package on another PC before you wipe, because these don’t always work.

Ghost or Drive Image aren’t a clean install per se, because they preserve everything. Generally the way I save and restore images is to a network drive, or in the case of a standalone PC, to an extra partition or, better yet, a second hard drive. You can also span an image to multiple Zip, Jaz, or Orb disks but that’s slower and more cumbersome. These programs are absolutely invaluable for disaster recovery, but as optimization tools in their own right, their benefit is very limited.

If NetSupersonic checks your MTU and adjusts it properly (many of those utilities don’t), that’s a great start. You can measure your speed by going to http://www.pcpitstop.com/internetcenter.asp, and they have some suggestions on the site for fixing sub-optimal perfomance. Ad-blocking software will speed you up as much as anything else you can do, and FastNet99 (mentioned in the book) is also useful by reducing the number of DNS lookups you have to do (I accomplished the same thing by connecting my DSL modem to a Linux box running its own DNS, which I then used to share my DSL out to my Windows PCs).

As for an updated book, I imagine not doing one would probably kill me. But publishers are understandably hesitant to do one right now, since no one seems to know what Microsoft will do next. Is Windows Me really the end? Is Windows 2000’s successor really going to be suitable for home use? When will Microsoft manage to deliver another OS? No publisher wants to invest tens of thousands of dollars in producing a book only to find out they guessed wrong. Once there are answers to those questions, it’ll be time to write a new book. In the meantime, I’m writing magazine articles (there’s very little new in the article at www.computershopper.co.uk this month; there are a couple of new tricks in the article for February, and the article for March is almost entirely new stuff) and posting new tricks to my own site as I find them or think of them. So the answer to your question is, “probably,” but I can’t give you any kind of time frame.

Hopefully that answers your questions. If not, feel free to write back.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: Drive Image Pt. 2
However, IF I were to reinstall everything, erase my game drive, utility drive, and C: drive, reinstall W98SE, all my programs, and THEN take an image of my C drive after my brand new clean install, theoretically I shouldn’t have to ever reinstall everything again (unless I add new programs or whatnot) because the image I have taken of my C drive will be a nice, squeaky clean one, right?

How do you spell “segway?” as in, linking two opposite ideas together?

Finally, do you think it’s worth picking up Norton Systemworks 2001 when I have 2000?

Thanx again.
~~~~~

You are correct about imaging a fresh install. That’s the way we handle systems at work (my job would be impossible otherwise, as many systems and as few techs as we have). It’s nice to be able to restore to pristine condition in 15 minutes instead of 6 hours.

The word segue is pronounced “Segway.” I think that’s the word you’re looking for.

The biggest new feature of Systemworks 2001 is Windows 2000 and Windows Me compatibility. If neither of those matter to you, stick with what you have.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “John Doucette” <jdoucett@nospam.gienow.com>
Subject: windows memory use

Hi Dave

We have several high end Pentiums at work running Windows 98. These PC’s have 512 MB of Ram and run what I am told is a very resource intensive C+ program. Now I have not myself touched these machines yet and likely won’t as what is not apparently broken they will not likely let me fix (some might say break).

Now no work was done to the best of my knowledge to try and tune these PC’s. They merely installed Ram and ran the program till performance seemed to hit the ceiling.

Now I have always thought that Windows 9x would not perform any better with more than 128 MB of Ram. I think that if given the opportunity I could down grade these PC’s to 128 MB of Ram, tune them and get the same performance.
I would then have Ram to use were it could be of value.

I am curious with all your Windows tuning experience and some programming knowledge if I am pissing in the wind, or if you think that the PC’s would likely run the C+ program well with less Ram.

John

~~~~~

If the program really needs that kind of memory, they have no business running it on 98. They should be running on NT. Win98 definitely gives diminishing returns after 128MB; you see some improvement but not much. I don’t remember what the maximum memory for 9x is; it may be 512 or it may be 768, but you’ll get to a point where if you don’t specify a limit in the vcache section of system.ini, Windows won’t boot because the disk cache can’t handle that much memory and will crash. That may be the ceiling they hit.

I seriously doubt that program runs demonstrably better in 512MB than it would in 128 with some optimization. I’d set some parameters on the disk cache, optimize the hard disk(s), cut everything possible out of startup, kill anything cutesie the PCs are running, and add the line ConservativeSwapFileUsage=1 to the [386Enh] section of system.ini. I’d also use 98lite’s IEradicator to pull IE if they don’t need a Web browser–that increases system performance across the board by a good 15-30 percent. If the program’s really a resource hog, I could justify 256, but really I’ve yet to see a Win9x PC that truly benefitted from having more than 96 MB of RAM. It just makes more sense to by a 128MB stick than a 64 and a 32.

I’d say take one of the PCs, make a Ghost image of it so you can bring it back to the original, then pull 384 megs and optimize the sucker. I’m betting it’d make a huge difference. (And I’d love to hear the results.)

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Edwards, Bruce
Subject: Internet Connection Sharing

Good morning Dave:

I posted this over on the hardwareguys.com forum about internet conneciton sharing, where you kindly gave me a suggestion that helped a lot.  ๐Ÿ™‚

———————–

Hi Dave and other interested persons/Linux gurus:

Your suggestion about the gateway was part of what I needed, thank you.  In addition to not having the gateway defined on my internal Windows 98 client, I also needed to put the DNS server IP addresses on the clients in the TCP/IP configuration.  I was assuming it would get the DNS info from the Sharethe net gateway, where the DNS server is also defined.  Silly me!  There looks like there is both good news and bad news.  First the good news:

Once I was able to get it working, on the same hardware as the Wingate solution, my aDSL performance doubled!  

From the DSLReport.com scan I received this:
TCP port 53 is OPEN

GRC.com reported all ports (scanned for) were closed.

With port 53 open, I will be running the Wingate solution until I get some feedback or more info about what to do.  There is probably some bad vulnerability somewhere.  I still have not looked through the SharetheNet information I have enough to know if I can turn that port off easily (easily for a Linux newbie that is).  I seem to remember that there probably is an init file with all the services defined which would probably be easy to turn this port off.  Since this whole thing runs from a floppy, the files are actually active on a ram disk.

Here is some SharetheNet Linux configuration information specific to my current gatewayPC, in case any of you Linux gurus out there would be willing to point out what I need to do:

http://bruceedwards.com/journal/001218a.htm#connect

I’ve probably put enough info there to make hackers very happy.  Oh well, I won’t be running SharetheNet in that configuration and will not run it at all unless I can determine that it is safe.  Any comments appreciated.

Thank you,

Bruce  ๐Ÿ™‚

~~~~~

Port 53 is DNS. I wouldn’t be too worried about it. The critical ports are blocked, and even if someone does somehow manage to get into your system, since the configuration is on a write-protected floppy all you have to do is reboot. And they won’t be able to do much on your internal network since you’re running Windows, and your Linux box doesn’t have Samba installed.
 
That information you posted is mostly hardware configuration data; I don’t think there’s anything useful there unless some exploit happens to be discovered for a particular driver (possible but not worth worrying about).
 
I thought I knew once how to block specific ports, but that’ll have to wait until tonight for me to dig.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “J H RICKETSON” <culam@nospam.sonic.net>
Subject: FDISK?

Dave –

Where did you get an FDISK that asks you if you want to do big partitions?  Mine (DOS 6.22) thinks an 8+ gig disk is plenty big enough for anyone and refuses to even consider anything larger – and a ~2 gig partition is all anyone will ever need. I need a more user-tolerant FDISK!

Regards,

JHR
~~~~~

Windows 95B, Windows 98, and Windows Me’s FDISKs all handle larger than 8 GB drives. Partition size is a function of filesystem. FAT16 is limited to 2 gigs, period. FAT32 can be several terabytes.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Lawrence Kim” <lykim@nospam.telusplanet.net>
Subject: Recycle Bins and Boxers

Is there any way that one can make one recycle bin in only one partitioned drive, and have all the junk from all the other drives go to that one recycle bin instead of having recycle bins for each and every drive?  And what do you think about one of your ministers of the House of Common wanting to pass a law that would indict a boxer if he inflicts serious injury on another boxer, or kills him?  I personally think that should be out of the hands of lawmakers, as both boxers realize the risk that they are taking when stepping into the ring.  The only exception that I can think of is if a boxer continues to pummel away at his opponent after the bell has rung, and he’s straddling his opponent’s waist, hammering away at his face.  Okay, that can be prosecuted, but not if everything else is completely fair.  Anyway, enough of that.  Thanx again.

~~~~~

I wish it were possible to consolidate the recycle bins, but I don’t believe it is. I’ve never seen any trick to do that. The Mac does that, so I guess I could say get a Mac, but that feature isn’t worth the trouble and expense of switching platforms.

I’m not British, so I haven’t heard of that proposed law, but that’s ridiculous. When you’re playing sports, you’re at constant risk of injury. It’s a risk you take. And with what professional athletes make (at least in the States), that’s fair. Most professional athletes in the States should be set for life after just a five-year career, if they handle their money wisely (most don’t).

Baseball’s considered one of the safer sports, but there’s been one instance of a player killed when he was hit by a pitch (Carl Mays, sometime in the 1920s, I think). There’ve been countless career-ending injuries due to being hit by a pitch or a line drive. It’s up to the officials of the sport to ensure that players are sportsmanlike and don’t take cheap shots, not the government.

Then again, the United States has a much more laissez-faire government than most countries, and I’ve always tended to flutter between the libertarian and conservative points of view so I’m even more laissez-faire than the average U.S. lawmaker.

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.

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).