|Speed||90 MHz||400 Mhz|
|Ram||16 Meg||64 Meg|
|HD||1 Gig||6.4 Gig|
|Video Ram||2 Meg||8 Meg|
|Sound||SB 16||SB Awe 64|
|Monitor||17" .26||17" .28|
KEEPING UP April, 1998
by Paul Howard (NCTCUG)
Hey Norton! You’re Supposed to Keep Me Out of Trouble!
Not drop me in and raise my blood pressure a few dozen points! Granted, my home computer isn’t the source of my livelihood, but after yesterday’s installation of Norton Utilities 3.0 for Windows ‘95, I may be off the upgrade trail.
More times than I care to tally, I’ve taken Friday off before our newsletter deadline to write one column or another, and do a mini-review of a new piece of software. Yesterday was another in the chain, and the latest version of Norton Utilities was to be the upgrade of the day. It took four hours - seems somewhat excessive for a program designed to help us computer nerds and our systems to stay healthy!
Should Symantec doubt my sincerity, I’ve got remnants of prior installations dating back to DOS version 4.5, circa 1988. (No, not lingering pieces floating on my computer - just manuals and original diskettes.) While I may have missed a version or two along the way, I know I’ve bought most of them. I used to love NDOS, which was a great series of extended DOS commands that allowed lots of file sorting and copying options before M$ got a ‘round tuit. (I think NDOS was in fact licensed by Norton / Symantec from another company, but it was a great addition to the other Utilities.) Perhaps Symantec needs to look into their history again - in August 1991, when the initial release of Version 6 caused lots of grief. Symantec sent out a new set of diskettes to their customers to cure a number of problems.
Yesterday’s installation went well, finding and removing the old version, loading the new one, directing me out on the ‘net for a 1.4 meg file of the latest tweaks and virus definitions. This ‘live update” feature is a great advantage to many new programs. The install took about an hour, including getting the update file and installing it. This version of Norton Utilities needs 60 megs of hard drive during installation, and a permanent 40 meg block of space in the standard installation. Custom installations can shed some components for a smaller space total.
My problems started after the installation was completed. I began trying out some of the new tools and features of the program, but after invoking the Optimization Module, I thought I was going to have to buy a new computer. This module looks at your swap file and supposedly determines the optimum size and drive location for it, supposedly checks your applications and finds the optimal way for them to load quickly, and analyzes and repairs your registry. Don’t even think about doing this until you go to the Symantec website (www.symantec.com) or the faxback support line, and get the tech support notes on what to do when “You ran the Optimization Wizard. Now Windows or other programs no longer work.”
After re-booting from the Optimization Wizard changes, man, was I hosed up! You know you’re in trouble when the display changes to 640 x 480 ... and ... everything ... slows ... way ...down!
Windows ‘95 was screaming for the Win95 install disk, looking to reinstall hardware, compatibility mode drivers were everywhere, yada, yada, yada.. It would have been nice to go to the ‘net for answers, but the computer didn’t recognize the modem, wouldn’t run virtually any application I tried, and when I went to print out some help instructions for reloading the display drivers, the computer helpfully only wanted to print to my fax program - really handy, eh?
You know a software problem’s big time when it’s mentioned only three levels down in the voice mail system on the Tech Support line! This directed me to their Faxback Line (541-984-2490) and document # 914199. I attempted to put the Tech Support line (not toll free, by the way) on the speaker phone while I went over to the fax machine to call for the document - and despite 25 years of professional experience working for Ma Bell, disconnected myself from Tech Support - I was in the hold queue. Rhetorical question: Why did I get out of bed today?
I wanted to get a live person to assure me that all the problems I was experiencing were going to be solved by the fax! Within ten seconds of hanging up from ordering the document via touch-tone input, the fax started coming. (From the ‘net, in Symantec’s KnowledgeBase section:
The solution involved removing the attributes from the registry files (SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT) and copying the backups (after changing their attributes also). After re-booting, I was back in business - four hours after I started.
Back in the earlier throes, I had also fixed the “alleged” optimization of the Windows swap file drive. The program did an analysis of where the swap file would be most efficient. Naturally, it chose to eat up all the free space I had created on my C: partition created with PowerQuest’s Partition Magic discussed in last month’s column! This might have led to all the Registry problems, because I also got an error message that Windows was having problems finding space for three copies of registry backups, and it didn’t make sense to me at the time - ‘cause I “knew” I created all that free space on C: last month!
Well, Symantec, I’m not sure I’d put this version of the Norton Utilities in the success column just yet! Even M$ Internet Exploder4 waits until you try to take it off your system before “exploding!”
Next month, I think I’ll write about Corel’s current Gallery Magic offering - what could go wrong with a program of 200,000 clipart images, photos, fonts, sounds, etc?
KEEPING UP March, 1998
by Paul Howard (NCTCUG)
I took the day off to write this column, but it didn’t work out quite as I planned - what ever does? Promptly at 9 AM, the power went off! Ten truck Virginia Power alarm on my street - trucks and crews everywhere. The cause of all this dates back to circumstances I wrote about in our August, ‘96 newsletter. Back then, we were having power failures to the tune of about one every ten days. In addition to summer thunderstorms, one of which killed my modem and a Tripplite power center, it was a trying time to use a computer.
Virginia Power’s been plugging away, replacing sections of their underground primary cable. The insulation on the old cable has been breaking down, with the cable arcing between the inner primary conductor, and the ground conductor woven around the outside of the insulated primary. The permanent solution is interesting. VA Power is cutting the primary voltage from 20,000 to 7,600. This requires our neighborhood’s transformers to be replaced, which is this morning’s project with the multiple crews.
The VA Power teams worked fast - power restored at 11 AM. What with lunch, and one thing and another, including a break to line up a speaker for our May Virginia General Meeting, I didn’t get back to “computing” until about 3 PM. Before I got around to loading any new software from my infamous upgrade stack (now neatly ensconced in Pendaflex hanging files), I needed to do something about my C: partition.
My system includes two hard drives: 1 gigabyte, partitioned into a 300 meg C: boot drive, and three additional, equal-sized partitions, designated E:, F:, and G:. My second physical drive is 2.5 gig, holding partitions D:, H: thru O: at 252 megs, and P:, with the rest of the capacity of the drive, about 169 megs. What I’ve been running into, and touched on in previous columns, is the shrinking capacity on my C: partition, as I continue to load new software.
Even though you load the bulk of a new program onto another partition, new programs add to the DLL files stored in the Windows Systems subdirectory. Some software families, such as Quarterdeck and Symantec utilities, add sub-directories on C: for common files. We ran into the “no more space on C” problem with our demo computer at a recent NCTCUG meeting, when we tried to load Quarterdeck’s CleanSweep - primarily to clean up that drive. Sure enough, the install program aborted when it couldn’t find a spare byte to load CleanSweep’s DLLs!
I planned to add more space to my C: partition with PowerQuest’s Partition Magic, but first, I needed to make a backup of the hard drive. Frankly, I think I goofed - my first step should have been to fully optimize the partitions - otherwise known as “de-fragmenting.” I had to run Norton Utilities’ Disk Doctor to fix some “lost chains” problems, and forgot about defragging. It took four hours to back up and verify the 733 megs on the four partitions of my primary drive! My tape backup is a Connor Tape-Stor, using tapes with a compressed capacity of 420 megs. Clearly, I wasn’t getting the maximum compression with the data on my drive, since I filled two full tapes and about 45 megs of a third. I’m using Seagate Software’s Backup Exec, version 2.0 for Windows 95, to handle the backup chores.
Finally, I was ready to get more space on my C: partition. What I needed to do conforms directly to an example from the Partition Magic manual: Moving free space from a logical partition to a primary partition. You’ll need to create a system floppy disk when you do this, and it would probably be easier if you loaded your mouse drivers on that disk as well - how strange it seems to hold down the <alt> key and the underlined letter to control software, after several years of Windows use! While Partition Magic can run from your hard drive, it can be run against the partition you’re working on, so it’s easier to run it from a floppy, IMHO.
Here’s the steps to the process, taken from the manual - in my case, I worked with the C: and E: partitions, because I have two physical drives, and the C: and E: partitions are adjacent on the first physical drive: (1) Shrink (Resize) your D: partition to create free space outside of D:. (2) Move the D: partition to the right of the free space. (3) Select the extended partition. (4) Chose <Resize to move the free space to the outside of the extended partition. (5) Select the C: partition and Resize (expand) your primary C: partition into the free space.
This process took less than 30 minutes - dinner, and several phone calls, interrupted, so I wasn’t able to time it. I moved 50 megs of free space into the C: partition. Now, I should be able to load some more programs and updates on my computer, and report about them next time.
Virginia General Meetings
Our March 4th meeting will feature a video from Microsoft, covering various products, including Internet Explorer 4.0, several games and related hardware products, Expedia Trip Planner, Picture It, Greetings Workshop, and FrontPage 98 Web authoring software.
Barring conflicts which may pop up between now and May 6th, our plan is to have David Ellis speak to us about using Visual Basic and computers to control building heating and air conditioning equipment. Dave is a professional engineer, with a practice devoted to building automation, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. Visit his website at: http://www.e3o2.com.
KEEPING UP February, 1998
by Paul Howard (NCTCUG)
My name is Paul ... I’m an upgrade-aholic. There are two companies that feed my addiction. They call me once a quarter, and offer me the opportunity to get the latest and greatest for a wonderfully low special price. Cubic zirconium jewelry is available for those special occasions ...
In past years, I had the software I was going to install - real soon now - in a plastic milk crate. This was because it came in big, bulky boxes, with lots of diskettes and bulky manuals. Now, most of these offerings are on CDs, or are very compressed and squeezed onto maybe 3 diskettes. Manuals have shrunk - biggest in the current crop is 188 pages. When you’ve got a CD, the majority of the documentation winds up there - after all, something needs to fill the 680 meg capacity of the CD!
I’ve still got the software and docs in a milk crate, but now it’s in hanging file folders, and I’ve got two or more programs in each of three or four folders! The two big (and there aren’t many remaining competitors) vendors of utility programs, Symantec and Quarterdeck have been stocking my milk crate larder regularly. Upgrades awaiting installation are: Symantec’s Norton Utilities, version 3.0, and pcAnywhere, version 8; Quarterdeck’s CleanSweep Deluxe, and Hijack Pro. Awaiting initial installation is Quarterdeck’s Fix It, which is supposed to find and fix Windows 95 problems - it turns your PC into a Mac, I guess! This (allegedly) finds conflicts between applications, intercepts crashes, and slices bread - I’ll let you know when I find the ‘round tuit.
Quarterdeck’s QEMM and TuneUp
Recently, I installed several Quarterdeck products, and I’ll describe how I resolved problems with these installations. After the installation of QEMM97, an update of Quarterdeck’s foundation memory management product, I received an error message on boot-up:
"The UPDATEIT.EXE file is linked to missing export MFC42.DLL:6453"
Device attached to system is not functioning"
UPDATEIT is a function of QEMM that allows the user to go to the Quarterdeck Web Site (or ftp location) and automatically get the latest patches or other updates for the program. Quarterdeck has several ways of getting technical support, including via an 800 # faxback service, automated telephone answering system support, from the Tech Support portion of their web site, and “live” - deposit your credit card, please! I chose the web site approach, and went to the Support section. One of the options at the Service and Support page was “Search our Knowledgebase.” That seemed like a good choice - I picked it, got a form, where I entered a query of “MFC42.DLL:6453" and selected QEMM in the product entry block. Up popped a list of possibilities, and the first I selected sent me to a Technical Support Bulletin with my exact problem! It seems that when the installation software was loading a new MFC42.DLL, that program was in use, so no replacement could take place (guess why startup installation suggests you close all other programs!) Anyway, I had to go to C:\Windows\System, rename the existing file as “MFC42.OLD”, rename “MFC42.1" to “MFC42.DLL.” Reboot - no error message now. And “UPDATE” does its thing - although, so far, Quarterdeck hasn’t issued any update patch files!
TuneUp is one of the latest additions to Quarterdeck’s product line. It competes with Oil Change by Cybermedia. It’s a software package that allows you to get updates (supposedly for 3000 products) and drivers from the manufacturers via the Internet. I used it to get updates to Win ‘95 from Microsoft. The good news is that you get a rundown on what any particular update does - if it doesn’t apply to something you’re using, you don’t need to download it!
In addition to the update feature, the product also includes TuneUpAV, an anti-virus product. Given the danger of nastys blitzing your computer, you can’t have enough virus checkers, ‘tho I wouldn’t have several operating in the background, checking all your downloads and disk operations. Multiple programs doing the same thing at the same time seems like a recipe for conflicts, other disasters, or s l o w i n g w a y d o w n. However, running different virus checkers against your file system regularly, with updated virus definitions, may save you some serious pain.
After going through a cycle of downloading and installing various updates, and running the anti-virus program, I decided to update the virus definition files. I clicked on the button for the program to access and download a new definition file from the Internet, which was in the form of an .EXE file. The download went fine, but, as soon as I ran it, I got a nastygram: “QVUpdate could not find any Quarterdeck AntiVirus Programs on your computer.” That seemed amazing - how could I have run the virus check successfully (several times!), and then get a message like that?
I moved the definition update executable file to the TuneUp directory, and ran the program again - same answer. How could this be - I downloaded the file from the ‘net again, thinking perhaps the original file was corrupt - same nastygram! I went thru the tech support channels - but TuneUp didn’t have many appearances in the ‘net Knowledgebase, the voice response system, or the faxback system. Unfortunately, live tech support from Quarterdeck now comes with a price - and I wasn’t willing to pay for a live Tech Support session right away.
Interestingly - I got a call from Quarterdeck, offering to feed my addiction with yet another product, Real Help, which sounds like a combination of TuneUp and Fix It. I expressed my dissatisfaction with TuneUp, hoping for an empowered employee, who could transfer me right to Tech Support - too much to hope for, apparently! Well, I did not provide my credit card number this time - no new stuff until the old stuff works!
After a week or two, I decided to try to download a new virus definition update file. The new file was bigger than the old one, with a later date - a good sign, I thought. That proved to be correct - the new file found the virus definition files to update - and since I watched the process, I found where they were hiding. In addition to the dll files that get tucked away in Windows/System, it seems that a number of programs, including those for Quarterdeck and Symantec, are establishing directories of common files separate from the location of the individual program files. I guess the first virus update didn’t account for the fact that some of us partition our hard drives into multiple logical drives, and didn’t provide a wide enough search path to find this common “brand family” of files. In my case, the virus definition files that needed to be updated were in C:\Program Files \Quarterdeck\Shared.
If, like me, you partition your hard drive into a number of logical drives, this practice of establishing the “brand family of files” on the C: drive may be hazardous to the health of your system. These files suck up space on your C: partition that may be needed for all those things that Windows programs insist on putting there - lots of .dll files wind up in WINDOWS\SYSTEM. On my system, Quarterdeck’s appropriated about 850kb, and Symantec about 3 megs. I’m also concerned that these directories will grow with updates or as additional programs are installed on the computer. Let’s petition the software companies to allow options to put this stuff where you want it, and have them supply the appropriate pointers for their software to find the new “optional” location.