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12/13/2000

Windows and dot-matrix printers. Why do I remember this old, next-to-useless information? I was talking today with someone at work about traits inherited from our parents. We both thought we got our parents’ worst stuff, but I must have gotten my dad’s memory.

But I digress, as usual. Over on Shopper UK’s message boards there was a question about using an old Star Micronics LX-10 dot-matrix printer with Windows 2.5. A Star Micronics rep (I had no idea the company was still in business!) was stumped–the printer’s old enough that it’s not in Star’s database, I guess. The model number seems vaguely familiar to me, but I don’t know anything specific about it other than it must be a pre-1987 printer because by then Star was making the NX-1000 and not much else (I know because I had one). But the trick to running a dot matrix printer with any piece of software if you can’t find an exact driver is to first try an Epson LQ series driver, then try an Epson FX series, then try an Epson MX series. In that order.

Virtually all dot-matrix printers (Okidata, Star, Citizen, Panasonic) were Epson-compatible; the major differences between various printers were number of pins (24, 9, or 7), speed, and number of built-in fonts. An Epson driver won’t get you all your printer’s unique features, but it will at least get it working.

I don’t know how many people need this kind of information anymore, but I might as well put it online as it comes up. Since search engines have this site indexed, people will find it.

Speaking of Shopper UK, Chris Miller tells me my first “Optimise Your PC” article is now up on their site, at www.computershopper.co.uk . Registration is required (sorry), but it’s there if you want to read it. The second article in the series will appear in the February issue, and the third (which I’m writing now) in March. Presumably that means they’ll be online in approximately a month and two months, respectively.

I’ve come up with a method to dual-boot Windows 98 and Windows Me (or any other two systems that don’t get along) using Partition Magic and Boot Magic. It’s so easy it ought to be considered cheating. Now to accomplish the same thing with XOSL… And I thought I had more to say but I’m out of time. If you mailed me the last couple of days, I’ll get back to you shortly.

12/05/2000

The Asus A7V motherboard and Unix. I’ve been seeing a lot of search engine hits with phrases containing “Asus A7V” and various Unix bretheren (NetBSD and Linux, most recently). I know exactly what posting is turning up under that query–the dream system of a few weeks back.

Is there something weird about the A7V and the BSDs and Linux that people should know about? Installation difficulties? Or are people just trying to confirm compatibility?

Any of you intrepid searchers care to comment? I have to admit, you’ve got me curious.

When replying to reader mail, remember that we spam-filter the addresses. I insert the word “nospam” into the address somewhere, in order to prevent this site from being a bonanza of e-mail addresses for spammers. You can reply by clicking their link, but remove the “nospam.” in their e-mail address before hitting your Send button.

I like reader mail because it builds community, but I hate spam and don’t want that penalty for readers who participate.

I used to keep a trap for spambots on the page, but this is more effective. Though maybe I should set a trap again. Depends on how vindictive I feel, I guess.

Disable your screen saver before playing DOS games inside Windows. I forgot to mention this little tidbit in Optimizing Windows, and I also forgot to mention it in my upcoming Computer Shopper UK article, which is about getting cantankerous DOS games running, even under the reputedly DOS-unfriendly Windows Me.

The games will run, but if you’re sitting there thinking for a long time and your screen saver kicks in at the wrong moment, your system may freeze. Doesn’t seem to happen all that often, but it happened to me yesterday when I was playing The Secret of Monkey Island (I’d forgotten how much I love that game).

That game also makes me feel old. I first played it on a CGA system. Needless to say, it looks a lot better in VGA.

My standard screen saver advice. Screen savers are generally a bad idea anyway, because most screen savers do more harm than good these days. In the days of low refresh rates, images could burn into the screen’s phosphers if the screen sat idle for too long. The high-refresh monitors made since 1994 or so are largely immune to this. But people continue to use screen savers out of the mistaken belief that they’re good for your computer, or because of tradition, or because they look cool.

The more colors a monitor has to display in rapid succession, the more likely it is to deterriorate quickly. The easiest color for your monitor to display is black, because all the guns are off. Keep a rapidly changing image up on the screen, and your monitor actually ends up working harder. As does your CPU–the 3D screen savers make your CPU work harder than Word and Excel and Outlook do. Combined. This increases heat and electrical usage, two things that businesses tend to worry about a lot. They buy green PCs, then keep their energy-saving features from ever truly kicking in (other than spinning down the disk, the savings of which is negligible) by not banning screen savers. Yet they think they’re being all eco-friendly.

Case point: one of the PCs I use at work was first used by a contractor we let go back in March after he’d been there about a year. He had every gimmicky blinky obnoxious screen saver out there, and he used them, leaving the monitor on all the time. The monitor still works, but the color is all messed up. The color quality on my ancient NEC MultiSync 3FGe at home is much, much, much better than on this two-year-old Micron-branded monitor.

If you want to treat your monitor right, use the Blank Screen screen saver or another blanker. And don’t fret if you have to disable it from time to time.

12/01/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Darkening the site for World AIDS Day? This site’s always pretty dark. OK, my excuse: I didn’t know. I’m a bit out of touch. My apologies. So I’ll comply with the alternative suggestion: I’ll tell a story.

I’ve never been close to anyone living with AIDS. But I know someone who has. I’ll tell his story because his story is one of the greatest stories of hope I know.

I moved to a small town in 1983. We weren’t particularly close to either set of next-door neighbors, but we were very close to the family across the street. They co-owned one of the most popular restaurants in town, and had three kids fairly close to my and my sister’s ages. Di became very close with their daughter; I was very close to their two sons.

The kids had an uncle named Mark. Mark was, as I recall, about 22 at the time. He’d gone off to seminary but decided to come back, worked as an assistant manager at the restaurant (owned by his brother and brother-in-law), and dabbled in plants and antiques. There are a very few truly, truly nice people in this world, and Mark was one of them. At the time, Mark was probably the nicest guy I’d ever met. Seventeen years later, I still have to rank him somewhere in the top five.

He was also one of the least fortunate. That summer, his pickup was stolen and never recovered. There was a fire at the carriage house he was living in. Then, the unthinkable happened. As the saying goes, the good die young.

Mark was having problems with headaches. Finally, he went to see a doctor about it. The doctor came back with the worst possible news. Mark, you’re terminal. You have cancer. There’s very little we can do. You have about six months to live.

Mark, being the class act that he was, didn’t tell his family right away. He didn’t want to distress them. He did tell his girlfriend. She left him. Mark never blamed her; she just couldn’t handle watching him die and he totally understood. Sensing that the end was near, Mark made his own funeral arrangements. He paid for everything, picked out everything, including his own coffin, and had everything taken care of. He planned to tell his family, then hand them an envelope and say, “Everything’s taken care of. All that’s left to do is wait.”

But something happened when he picked out that coffin. Something arose inside him. A voice said, “There is no way in hell they’re going to put me in that box.”

Mark determined to spend the rest of his life fighting with every ounce of his considerable resources. Fight he did. He underwent aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. One of the best-known cancer treatment centers in the world was in St. Louis, about an hour away, so he took advantage of it. His hair started falling out, so he shaved his head. In this conservative small town, his shaven head brought him considerable ridicule. And in this place, which was still small enough that everybody knew of everybody (it wasn’t quite small enough to know everybody personally), whenever he ventured out of his house, he got weird looks, like he was a ghost. Aren’t you dead yet?, he imagined them saying.

It became too much for Mark to bear, and things were getting worse, so he moved to St. Louis to be closer to his doctors and to lose himself in a crowd. His six months was up, and he was still alive.

At some point, Mark met an American Indian who was also dying of cancer. A very old and wise man, he took Mark under his wing. “I’m very old and I’ve lived a full life,” he told him. “I’ve outlived my family. I have no one left. But you… You’re too young for this. These beads have been in my family for generations. There’s no one for me to give them to. Take them. And live.”

Mark dismissed the beads as superstition, but didn’t underestimate the power of the mind. He took the beads and wore them. They reminded him that he was fighting the battle of his life.

In 1986, Mark went into remission. He credited his outstanding medical treatment, his determination to live, and his faith in God with saving his life. Grateful to his doctors, his hospital, and God that he’d lived far longer than he was supposed to, he wanted to give something back. He wanted to help others who were dying, to give them hope. There weren’t many terminal cancer patients his age. But there were a number of people his age who were dying of a frightening, still little-known disease known as AIDS.

Mark wasn’t afraid of AIDS or of the AIDS patients. He was patient with them, but firm. Giving up gets you nowhere. That was Mark’s message.

Mark’s volunteer work continued for a number of years. When I last saw him and spoke with him in 1994, he had stopped, but he knew he would go back. “I just need to spend some time in the land of the living,” he told me. “I’ll know when it’s time to go back.” Mark told me he would never live to be an old man–his body was that of a man nearly twice his age and he looked older than his 33 years–but he was still grateful. He and his doctors had traded life expectancy for ten years (at the time) he wasn’t supposed to have.

Mark and I lost contact soon after that. But I’ll never forget his message. I’m sure that’s true of many (and there are many) of the people Mark touched.

Mark didn’t overcome AIDS. And while there’s still no cure, Mark’s attitude will go a long way towards helping those who are living with AIDS to gain years that they, too, weren’t supposed to have.

Thanks to a glitch Wednesday, I was in the Top 100 at editthispage.com. Top 100 sites generally have at least 25,000 hits to their name; this one has about 10,000 so it’s not quite halfway there. I find when I concentrate too much on stats I concentrate not enough on content and everything goes downhill, but 10,000 hits in 6 weeks is pretty good. Thanks to all of you who read regularly. I really do appreciate it.

For those who aren’t Mac people… Let’s revisit yesterday for a minute. Yes, a 45-second boot time on a Mac is very good. Anything under a minute and a half is considered good. For comparison, I took the fastest Mac I have available that’s capable of booting from a RAM disk (G3s and newer cannot), installed a lean, mean OS to it, defragged it and ran DiskWarrior (defragging doesn’t make the ramdisk physically any faster but it helps the filesystem work more efficiently) and rebooted a few times. I timed it at 30 seconds.

That’s a 133 MHz machine with EDO RAM, but that makes me think that you’ll never get a G4 to boot in less than 30 seconds, even with a high-end SCSI card and a 15K RPM hard drive. Slow RAM is still several orders of magnitude faster than any hard disk; that 30 second boot time must be due to the limitations of HFS (Hierarchial File System).

And Di’s two cents. Hey, she’s my sister, and she helps out with the site, so when she wants to say something, she gets to say it. In yesterday’s post, I lamented about focusing on what works right, not what’s wrong. Her comment:

[That’s] the whole basis for occupational therapy, osteopathy, and psychology. It’s all related to the holistic approach.

Hmm. My dad was an osteopath (an osteopath is a medical doctor, but with a slightly different underlying philosophy, but a D.O. can do everything an M.D. does) as were both of his parents. I was never close to his parents so I can’t speak for them, but Dad lived and breathed osteopathy. And my sister has a psychology degree and is working on an OT degree. So no wonder I agreed with him!

I’ve got more, but I’m out of time. I’ll be back tomorrow with more–I’ve been writing long this week anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Ab
Subject: That virtual memory thingy.


Hi Dave
 
I’ve just read your article in Computer Shopper and came a bit unstuck when I got to specifying my own virtual memory settings.  I’ve got 64Mb ram, so, as you suggested I want to give myself a 64Mb swapfile.  I’m just wondering how exactly you enter this in the Min and Max boxes, as I’m fairly new to all this setting changing business.  I tried entering it as just ’64’ in both boxes, but this appears to be wrong, ‘cos  my games starting complaining that my swap file was too small, so I thought I might as well try emailing you to make sure I get it right.
 
I found the rest of the article to be really informative – keep up the good work.
 
I’d be really grateful if you’d mail me back about my problem.
 
Thanx alot
 
Ab
(England)
~~~~~

I’ve never seen a game complain that 64 megs of physical RAM plus 64 megs virtual isn’t enough, but hey, if it says it’s not enough, then it’s not enough. Sounds like you got it right, and for your combination of hardware and software, I’m wrong. My apologies on that.
 
Safe bet is to go 128 instead of 64–it’s overkill, but in Windows 95/98 and Windows Me little too much is better than not enough. If you’ve got really obnoxious games, it may take 192 to appease them, but if they’re really using that much virtual memory, my guess is they’re not running very well.
 
I’m glad you liked the rest of the article. There’ll be another in the Feburary issue, and another in March.
 
Let me know if anything else comes up. I post all the mail I get about my articles and book on my Web site so it can help other people if something I write confuses them–that’s inevitable in this business.
 
Thanks!

Computer buying advice

Some sound computer buying advice. Here’s a Washington Post article on buying new PCs. Easy to understand in layman’s terms. And the advice is for the most part sound too, though I recommend always buying a good video card–a TNT2 will just add $60 or so to the cost of a low-end box and everything will run more nicely. The box I’m typing on right now has a cheap Cirrus Logic-based card in it, and the high CPU usage of its drivers hurts multitasking noticeably, even if I’m just browsing the Web while listening to music.

In a year this’ll be a moot point, as all chipsets will have serviceable embedded video. Even the enraging Intel i740, though not good for games, was great for productivity use and much better all around than this Cirrus and Trident garbage, and Intel’s newest chipsets have i740 derivatives in them. Future VIA chipsets will have S3 video in them. Same story.

I buy crap so you don’t have to–but don’t get me wrong. I buy the good stuff too. That way I’ll know the difference.

No more wimpy PC sound for me. I just connected an ancient but still awesome Harmon/Kardon 330A receiver (built in the late 1960s, I’m guessing — it once belonged to my dad) to my computer along with a pair of KLH 970A speakers I picked up for 30 bucks at Best Bait-n-Switch (unfortunately, the only nearby place that sells KLH speakers). These things are scarcely bigger than the cheap desktop speakers that came with the last PC I bought — 7 3/8″ high x 4 5/8″ wide by 4 3/8″ deep — but with the volume cranked to about 1/3 I can hear it throughout my apartment. I imagine at 2/3 I’d meet my neighbors. I won’t try that — I’m not interested in sharing my great tunage.

I can’t believe neither my mom nor my sister wanted this receiver — honestly, every time I’ve mentioned this thing at an audio place the salesperson has asked if I was interested in selling it — but hey, my dad would have wanted me to have a kickin’ audio setup for my PCs, right? This’ll work great for Royals broadcasts over the ‘Net once baseball season starts again, but not only that, this combination kicks out the jams almost as hard as punk legends The MC5, so I’m not complaining.

I’m happy enough with the results that I think rather than replacing my dying CD changer, once my Windows Me experiments are over I’ll mount my extra 15-gig drive somewhere on my LAN and put my Plextor Ultraplex CD-ROM drive to work ripping my entire CD collection, which I’ll then encode at 320 kbps. I doubt I’ll notice much difference.

If you’re like me and live with several PCs in close proximity to one another, rather than plugging an endless number of cheap desktop speakers into them, pick up an inexpensive receiver or use a castaway. You can plug a PC into any stereo input except phono, so most modern receivers should accomodate at least three PCs, and the speaker options are limited only by the receiver’s capabilities and available space. You’re likely to be much happier with such a setup than with any desktop speakers you’ll find, and a receiver plus speakers will usually cost much less than multiple pairs of any set of desktop speakers worth having would. Just be very careful to isolate your speakers away from any floppies and Zips and other magnetic media you might have. Some bookshelf speakers may be magnetically shielded, but don’t count on it.

Running something other than Windows is theft

Another example of how Microsoft just doesn’t get it. This one courtesy of The Register. If you buy a PC without an operating system (so as to load an alternative on it, such as Linux, xBSD, OS/2, BeOS, or something else that “nobody wants to run anyway”), you’re a thief. Story here.

Which reminds me, I really do need to get an OS/2 box running again, and get serious about BeOS while I’m at it…

Windows Me can’t handle more than a half-gig of RAM. This also from The Reg. Story here. The vcache workaround is legit; no one has ever demonstrated to me the benefit of using more than 4 megs for a Win9x disk cache anyway.

Boot multiple operating systems for free

~Mail follows today’s post~

XOSL doesn’t seem to like my Promise Ultra66 controller. At least not all the time. I don’t like that. I also don’t like how XOSL installs itself in the root directory–my poor root ballooned to over 40 entries after installing it. That’ll cause some system slowdowns. I don’t like having any more than 16 entries in there if I can avoid it.

Fortunately you can install XOSL to a dedicated partition, and that looks to be the better method.

But when XOSL works, it seems to work well. It’s slick and versatile and gives you a great deal of freedom over how and where you install your OSs, as well as how many you can install (and let’s face it, with 30-gig drives selling for $99 at CompUSA, running multiple operating systems is going to get common).

And I see from Brian Bilbrey’s site that patents may accomplish what the RIAA could not. Makes me wonder why one of the RIAA members didn’t just buy Fraunhofer Institut (who owns the applicable patents on MP3) and start charging outrageous royalties immediately. That’ll kill new technologies faster than anything — just ask Rambus.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Dustin D. Cook” <dcook32p@nospam.htcomp.net>
Subject: Windows Me
Dave,

Here’s my two cents on Windows Me.

I have been testing this operating system for some time now before I begin pre-installing it on new computers. We’ve run the gamut of stress tests, benchmarks, and usability tests, and we have some interesting results.

All tests were run on multiple machines with a minimum system being an AMD K6-2 500 with 64MB RAM and a Voodoo3 3000 graphics card. The best system tested was an AMD Athlon 1.0 GHz with 512 MB Mushkin PC133 2.0 memory and
a GeForce2 GTS 32MB DDR. We used the same HDD for each machine. It is a Maxtor DiamondMax 45 Plus (ATA/100, 7,200 RPM).

Windows Me should take home a gold medal for speed. It booted quickly, it loaded programs at blistering speeds, and it performed very well in our 3D tests. All-in-all, Windows Me is about one percent faster than Windows 98 SE. This came as something of a surprise to me. I was expecting slightly degraded performance due to the additional system overhead of Internet Explorer 5.5 and the new features of Windows Me. Either Microsoft did some serious “tweaking” to their code, or I’m missing something entirely about this operating system.

Stress tests were a different story. Occasionally, Windows Me would lock-up on us for no apparent reason. The same computer running Windows 98 SE would never falter during our tests. Actually, sometimes Windows Me would lock-up when we were not even running the tests! We replaced some hardware in the machine, but it did this on all of the test PCs. This was a big problem for us. We still haven’t officially tracked down the killer, but we think it involves the new version of Internet Explorer. We had already completed our tests before the new service pack was released, so I don’t have any data from that version. The stress tests involved opening a 25 MB Excel 2000 spreadsheet and minimizing it; open eight browser windows and loading miscellaneous things like Flash movies, several animated GIFs and PNGs, and several Java applications; having The Matrix DVD-ROM’s menu playing in WinDVD 2000; and running Unreal Tournament at 1280x1024x16bpp with our custom “movie”. Windows 98 SE performed admirably, but, as I had mentioned earlier, Windows Me couldn’t do it.

In the usability tests, we had some elderly people try out each computer. This isn’t really a test that can be easily replicated, but overall Windows Me seemed easier for them to use.

What’s my opinion on Windows Me? I think Microsoft made a fairly good product. I’m not very impressed by the lack of native DOS support. I frequently use that to diagnose customer’s computers. What do I do if I have forgotten my boot diskette? I return to the shop and grab one instead of making one right there. The stability issue is a big concern of mine. I’ll try to reproduce those results after downloading the new Internet Explorer service pack, and I’ll write back to you with those results. The speed is commendable. I appreciate the extra “oomph” that Windows Me appears to have behind it. The boot time is quite impressive!

My prize goes to Windows 98 SE. Speed is a very good thing, but when it comes at the cost of stability…we have a problem. My customers don’t want their machine freezing every time they try to open http://thesiliconunderground.editthispage.com/ . ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sincerely,

Dustin D. Cook,
A+ Campus Computers
Stephenville, Texas – USA
~~~~~

Thanks for the info!

You can add DOS support back in with a utility available at www.geocities.com/mfd4life_2000 — that was one of the first things I did after installing WinMe. As for stability, IE5.5SP1 might help. Running 98lite (www.98lite.net) to remove IE 5.5, then replacing it with IE 5.01 (or not at all) could help. I’m not at all impressed with IE5.5, so I’m inclined to speculate the blame lies at its clumsy feet.

I’ll keep experimenting with it myself. And I’m hoping my page is simple enough that it won’t crash any browsers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Impressions of Windows Me

Afternoon: Short shrift thoughts on WinMe. I’ve got it running on a Celeron-400. I installed a 15GB Quantum Fireball lct I bought some time back and never used for anything, so as to preserve my existing Win98 setup. I see little difference between WinME and 98SE, with a few exceptions:

Improved Defrag. Defrag’s speed now rivals that of a third-party package. It still won’t give the results that a well-tuned Norton SpeedDisk will, but at least the days of 18-hour defrags are over.

Improved boot times. When I saw people bragging that WinME made their systems boot in a minute and a half, I was hardly impressed. I can get even Win95 to boot many systems in under 30 seconds. WinME booted this C400 in 15 seconds. I did the boot speed tricks out of Optimizing Windows, and got the boot time down to 14 seconds. So Microsoft has obviously streamlined the boot process considerably. The old tricks still work, but don’t give much improvement. But what would you rather do, pay $50 or $90 for a faster boot time, or spend 5 minutes streamlining your MSDOS.SYS file?

Stability. WinME is a bit more solid on this C400 than vanilla Win98 was. I’m currently serenading my neighbors with an MP3 tune from A Flock of Seagulls (I’m sure they appreciate it) while I’m on the Web. That was a great way to make the system bluescreen before. Of course, that could just be due to a fresh installation as well. That 98 installation is about 14 months old, so it’s due for a scrubdown.

Speaking of sound… I bought the SB Live! card in this machine mostly for its voice recognition abilities, but the sound quality coming out of this thing is far greater than any other sound card I’ve seen. If you’re in the market for a sound card, give Creative’s SoundBlaster Live! series a long, hard look. Now that their main competition is buried I don’t know how long they’ll keep making good stuff, but this card is something else.

Morning: I finally did it. I did what I recommend no one do. I bought a copy of Windows ME last night. I’m making a bit of a living writing about 9x, so I had no choice. I’m writing a Windows optimization series for Computer Shopper UK, and I have to cover ME because that’s what an increasing number of people have.

I could review it here but I doubt I’ll bother. I can’t imagine anyone would be interested. The best advice for any Microsoft 9x product is to not buy it unless you buy a new PC that comes with it. That was true for four years, and with ME’s lack of backward compatibility with DOS, it’s probably even more true.

My new project is starting to rival the ramdisk project in difficulty. Windows ME appears to be faster and more stable than its predecessors but I don’t like the installation program. It seems to take liberties I wish it wouldn’t with the existing Windows directories it finds. Why do I care about that? You’ll find out if I’m successful — I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up yet. Plus a little air of mystery is always a good thing.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Dustin D. Cook” <dcook32p@nospam.htcomp.net>
Subject: Memory Brands
Dave,

First let me say that I’m probably not the first person to question your choice in memory, and I probably won’t be the last.

Have you ever heard of a company called Mushkin, Inc.? They were just purchased by Enhanced Memory Systems (the fine makers of the first PC-150 SDRAM chip and HSDRAM modules). I have used Mushkin’s memory modules for a little over one year now, and I must say that I have been very pleased. Out of several hundred of these parts that I have sold to my clients, only one such module has ever failed. The best part: it worked fine until their building was directly struck by lightning.

Read Anand Tech’s “PC133 SDRAM Roundup – April 2000” here http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.html?i=1213 . You’ll be amazed at the performance of the Mushkin modules. Unfortunately, this performance comes at a cost. Their 128 MB High-performance revision 2.0 modules cost $166.00 each. (I get a small discount since I’m a reseller, and I order in large quantities. This price is retail.)

These modules are also very stable. I’m using mine with my timings set for “Turbo”, my CAS Latency set for “2”, and my memory clock at “133 MHz” in the CMOS setup. Using both Windows 2000 Professional SP1 and SuSE Linux 6.4, I have not yet had a lockup or error. The system has been running stable for almost three months.

I have used Micron memory in the past, and I will probably use them again. If a customer either does not want to pay the price for the Mushkin parts, or they simply don’t believe me when I tell them that those few extra dollars almost guarantees a more stable and higher performing part, then I will gladly sell them the Crucial/Micron memory. I don’t want to keep pushing something that I know my customers won’t buy.

My point is this: since you’re recommending parts based on “money is no object” then you should go with the best parts available. I believe Mushkin fulfills that role.

Sincerely,

Dustin D. Cook Campus Computers Stephenville, TX – USA

PS: I really enjoyed your book on optimizing Windows. I have used many of those tips to enhance my Windows 98 machine at home. Thanks for the great information!
~~~~~~~~~~

Subject: (no subject)

Well, all this time of posting that picture of your book “Optimizing Windows” paid off. I saw it in the store today and bought a copy.

I don’t know if it’s such a good idea to post a picture of yourself, though: I have vinyl records older than you.
(What are vinyl records?)

~~~~~

Thanks! I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.
 
Hmm, vinyl records. LPs spun at 33 1/3 rpm; singles came on smaller discs that spun at 45 rpm. Older records spun at 78 rpm. You had to put little plastic inserts in the holes in 45s so you could play them on most turntables. I read about them in history class.
 
Actually, I bought records in the early 1980s. I think CDs became commercially available in 1983 but they sure weren’t commonplace until later–I know the first recording to sell a million copies on CD was U2’s The Joshua Tree, in 1987. I didn’t get a CD player until 1989, so until then I was buying records and tapes. I know around here somewhere I have vinyl records older than me too.
 
Not sure if my age is a disadvantage or not. I frequently tell people that computers are the only thing large numbers of people want a 25-year-old’s opinion on. I spend enough time talking about Amigas that people probably figure out pretty fast that I didn’t become interested in computers in the 1990s. I was always fascinated with them (I first saw one in 1981) and from second grade on, we had them in school. I was writing simple programs when I was 10, and by the time I was 15 I had enough confidence to take them apart and work on them. There are plenty of writers with as much or more computer experience, but there won’t be very many who’ve spent as great a percentage of their lives with them.
 
I know when I was selling the things, the younger you looked, the more credibility you had. Then again, people equate age with wisdom, and I grew a beard mostly because it gives me a few years and I notice the difference at work. I’ll probably change the photo at some point, but for now I’ll see how this one flies.
~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dan Bowman <DanBowman@nospam.worldnet.att.net&gt;
Subject: Okay, I’ll parallel you…

I picked up a Compaq on clearance at Office Depot as a kid’s present for Christmas. I’ll be firing it up this week to see what I can see. “Me” is the base install.
 
Off to sing and learn and have a good time,
 
dan
~~~~~

Cool. So far I don’t see anything in WinMe that I object to, and maybe, just maybe, there’s enough in it for the $50 “limited time” step-up from 98/98SE to be worth it (especially if you can get it at a slightly discounted price). If your system is old enough to be running Win95, however, I see no use for it. There aren’t enough new features to be worth the $90 going rate and the system is likely to be marginal enough that WinMe will be a slug on it.
 
The Zip folders feature is nice, making working with Zip files in Explorer just like working with any old folder. That saves you whatever WinZip costs and I think I like it better. Internet Connection Sharing, of course, is a must for some people. Those two make it worth upgrading from vanilla Win98. I can’t comment yet on stability or compatibility.

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  ๐Ÿ™‚
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 
~~~~~~~~~~ 

10/22/2000

Discussions should now be live. Thanks to Al Hawkins for the pointer. (Dan Bowman found it too, but Al said it first.)

And this is the last change for today. Constant changes so you’re always showing up on Weblogs.com’s most recently changed list is a good strategy for getting more hits, but I’ve got a magazine article I need to be working on, and a World Series to ignore!

Speaking of sports, with the Chiefs and Rams playing I couldn’t be too disappointed regardless of the outcome, but my Kansas City loyalties are very happy with that upset. (I’m from KC but live in St. Louis and normally pay little attention to football.)

And discussions… Dan Bowman asked me to turn on discussions “so [he] can make rude comments directly from the browser.” I’m used to rude comments so I kind of like them, but I can’t figure out how I managed to turn off that Discuss button, nor can I figure out how to bring it back.

In Prefs –> Editorial, site access isn’t set to editors only. Anyone have any other ideas?

Thanks a ton.

The page should render faster in Netscape now. I cut it down to three tables (it had been five, for no really good reason). It’s not as fast as I’d like, but Netscape 4.x just doesn’t handle scalable tables very quickly.

My best songwriting ideas come from church. One of our seminarians came up at the start of service and asked what kinds of songs we sing during the week. Are they songs like the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction that put the focus on and glorify ourselves, or on God?

Well, I was writing a song yesterday. The chorus was to go something like “I want to use it all up before You call me home / I want to flame out for you.” It’s speaking to God, but the focus is on me, and it’s works-oriented. Remember, this is Christianity. Christianity has the DH rule. If we’re truly putting everything we have into living for Christ, the work is happening through us, but it’s really God doing it. We’re just allowing it. It’s when we’re taking the bat out of the Specialist’s capable hands and going up there to hack away ourselves that we find ourselves in trouble.

So I bounced it off my songwriting partner to see what he thinks. I may write the lyrics, but I still want his editorial opinion. He likes the idea but not necessarily the exact words. Making it grace-oriented rather than works-oriented will be a challenge.

Getting back to secular songwriters for a minute… I have trouble understanding one-hit wonders. Aimee Mann is basically that, and her huge hit with ‘Til Tuesday, Voices Carry, was one of the first songs she wrote by herself. The first worship song I wrote is decent (better than the one I’m working on now), but will anyone remember it in a year? I’ll be surprised. You get better with time.

And the one-hit wonders who survive illustrate that. Listen to Mann’s latest, and it’s as good as anything Lou Reed ever did. Listen to ‘Til Tuesday’s first album, and the majority of it sounds like the stuff Madonna was doing at the time.

Another Day. It’s amazing once I kick into design mode, how much I just want to change the design just a little… No, wait, better change it back. Hmm. Sheesh, even the location of the search engine tool (it’s working now, not that there’s much to search yet) is a big deal.

Imagine once I get around to scanning a photograph of myself to put up here, how big of a deal that will be. I guess there’s more graphic designer in me than I thought there was, which is strange because I don’t like to draw all that much. But I am creative, so that’s probably where the designer comes from.

I still have to clean up that list over to the left. I like having the search engine there rather than on its own page, so I need to get rid of that page link over there. And so on. It’ll happen later.

I see 254 page reads on yesterday’s post, which is higher than I expected. When I stopped tracking my last site, my high for a day was the day my review of Mandrake Linux 7.0 appeared on LinuxToday.com. That was just under 1,100 reads if I remember right. So for a weekend, on a new site, 254 seems really high. Thanks.

Windows speed tricks. The Register, the great British IT tabloid, has a collection of Windows ME speed links at http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/1/14154.html. I wasn’t impressed with such online collections two years ago, and I’m not impressed now. There’s some good info there, but it’s pretty light. One writer boasts of Windows ME booting his system in 50 seconds. I’ve gotten a Pentium-200 with Windows 95 to boot in 15. (Granted, it was after putting a 7200 RPM hard drive in it, but I’m betting this guy has a 7200 in his system too, and a much faster CPU.) If you’ve got a NIC and a modem in your system, it’s never likely to boot much faster than 30, but come on. Fifty? That’s pathetic for an OS that’s supposed to boot fast.

Believe it or not, turning off the Windows splash screen at boot yields tremendous speedups. Unide c:msdos.sys, then load it into Notepad. Scroll down to [options] and add this line:

logo=0

Now save it and hide the file again. This trick works on all flavors of Win95, 98, and ME. I thought this would only make a difference on pitifully slow machines, like 486SX/20s. I was wrong. Even if you’ve got a 1.2 GHz Athlon, that splash screen slows things down. With Windows 9x, you’re rebooting enough that this is worth doing.