Monday, June 29, 1998 - My friend Steve Tucker emails me to tell me about the great deal he just got - $150 for a 9.1 GB SCSI hard disk. It turns out to be a Differential SCSI drive, of course. Differential SCSI uses balanced transmission - 2 wires for each signal - instead of the single wire used by single-ended (ordinary) SCSI. Because it uses balanced transmission, Differential SCSI has much more noise resistance than single-ended SCSI, and can use longer cables - 20 or 25 metres versus 1.5 metres for single-ended. Diff SCSI is primarily intended for large-scale systems - linking disk farms together in a glass house. It's not really appropriate for PC-class systems, so I email Steve and tell him to send it back, if they'll take it. I better get to work on some paying stuff...

Spend the remaining two hours before lunch making what I hope are the final corrections to the DHCP chapter for Windows NT TCP/IP Administration. My editor printed out the whole book Friday and spent the weekend marking it up manually. Now there's some question as to whether he was working from an older version of the draft. Nope, as it turns out, he was working with the current version, thank god.

I make the changes he requested and save the Word 97 document, which immediately generates a Word GPF. I remember now. This is the document that Word doesn't like for some reason. Every time I save it, it GPF's. It's only this document, and I can't figure out what's special about it. I've tried selecting the entire contents and saving it to a new document. Same result. It saves correctly, and other folks can call it up and read it, so I'll just write this one off to another inexplicable Word peculiarity.

Afternoon: I need to order a VGA switchbox so that I can share one monitor between/among two or three systems. I have plenty of monitors - it's horizontal space I'm running short on. At any rate, I decide to order one from Black Box. Their stuff isn't cheap, but it's built like a tank. As a matter of fact, a lot of it even looks mil-spec. When I dig through my catalog stack, the latest Black Box catalog I can find is dated 1992. Probably no longer valid. I hit their web site at www.blackbox.com to locate a VGA switchbox.

This has to be the worst web site I've seen in months, maybe years. I'm able to search for information, and the site returns a list of related documents. You can't actually look at the documents, mind you. They're in Adobe Acrobat format, so you have to download them first. I try downloading one directly to the Acrobat viewer, but that doesn't work. I download it directly to the hard drive and use the Acrobat viewer. Still no luck. I think I have the latest version installed (I just installed Framemaker 5.5), so what's going on here is a mystery. I finally end up filling out the on-line catalog request form. Geez.

Still haven't heard from the editor about whether she wants me to do the article or not, and UPS hasn't showed up yet with my replacement TrippLite UPS. A typical day so far...

I still need a box to run MT5 on. It looks like the best bet is the Dell XPSM200s I'm working on right now, but it has only two DIMM sockets, both of which have 32MB DIMMs installed. The manual shows the maximum memory as 64MB, which isn't really enough for MT5. However, when it was written, 32MB DIMMs were the largest available. There are 64MB and 128MB DIMMs available now, and I'm hoping that I can replace one or both of the 32MB DIMMs with something larger. I hit the Dell web site to check on this.

Unlike the Gateway 2000 web site, the Dell web site actually has useful information arranged so that I can find it. Alas, the spec sheet for the XPSM200s still lists 32MB DIMMs as the largest supported. Hoping that this information is out of date, I call Dell tech support to ask if this machine supports the larger DIMMs. Unlike my experience with Gateway tech support yesterday, I end up connected to a technician within five minutes, and he seems to know what he's talking about. It turns out that 64MB is the maximum memory this box supports. Upgrading the BIOS won't do any good either - it's the chipset itself that's limited to 64MB.

It looks like I need to buy another computer to run MT5. You can bet it'll be another Dell rather than a Gateway. It used to be that Dell computers sold for a $200 or $300 price premium over an equivalent Gateway. When I bought this computer six or eight months ago, that disparity had completely disappeared. Let's see. Same components, same price, much better support. It kind of makes one wonder how Gateway continues to sell as many computers as they do.

Tuesday, June 30, 1998 - I've decided to go ahead and attempt to install MT5 on my main Dell workstation. Although I try to keep my main workstation stable by experimenting with it as little as possible, this is the machine that it makes the most sense to use. For one thing, it has three hard disks installed in it, which I'll need when I'm working with the MT5 Fault Tolerance features. I'll go ahead and do a couple of complete backups, and promote a BDC to PDC of this domain before proceeding. When I'm done, I hope to be able to dual boot Windows NT 4 and MT 5. More later...

Late Afternoon: Six hours later. Well, that was a catastrophe. MT5 setup kindly converted all of my NTFS4 partitions to MTFS5 partitions, without so much as asking if it was okay to do so. You'd think MT5 would know enough about NT4 to be able to figure out that an NTFS4 partition that had NT4 installed on it probably shouldn't be converted to MTFS5 if you wanted to ever be able to boot NT4 again, but no. Sherlock has three disk drives in it, and they had a total of one FAT and 8 NTFS4 partitions. When I finished MT5 Setup, I had one FAT and eight MTFS5 partitions. It runs MT5 just fine, but isn't much good for anything else.

This whole thing reminds me of that old M*A*S*H episode where Hawkeye was disarming the bomb while reading the instruction book. "Cut the red wire" - (he cuts the red wire and turns to the continuation of the directions on the next page) - "after first removing the yellow ..."

I ended up getting MT5 bootable again and using it to read the (formerly) NTFS4 partitions. I Xcopy'd them all to other servers (fortunately I have about 50 GB of free disk space on my network), fdisk'd all three hard drives in the server, ran NT4 setup, created all the old partitions, installed NT4 twice (once for the real installation and one to boot to so that I could copy the files back over the real installation while it wasn't running), and did all the file copying. Then came the joys of working with SIDs - sherlock is still named sherlock, but the SID is different, so NT now thinks it's a different computer, and my domains' structures are now trashed.

For my last birthday, one of my friends gave me one of those things that kamikaze pilots wore around their foreheads. I wore it the whole time I did the upgrade (seriously). After 6 hours of wasted effort, I'm kind of back to where I was. Sherlock is running NT4 again, and MT5 has been wiped from the disks. The good news is, at least MT5 installed and ran. The moral of this story is that you shouldn't install MT5 to anything but a machine that doesn't have anything on it that you care about. To be fair, however, MT5 looks pretty good. I just need a completely separate machine to install it on.

UPS showed up this afternoon with the replacement UPS from TrippLite. After my last experience (and the way this day is going), I think I'll plug it into a receptacle somewhere other than in my office and plug a lamp or something into it to test it. Still no news about the magazine article...

Evening: spent the evening verifying that all of the software on sherlock still works (it does) and making what I hope are the final edits to the DHCP, WINS, Routing & RAS, and IIS chapters in Windows NT TCP/IP Network Administration. I plugged the replacement TrippLite UPS in for a couple of hours per their recommendation, and it appears to work fine. I moved an old APC Back-UPS 600 out from under my desk and replaced it with the TrippLite. The old APC goes on my wife's computer.

Just to see how long it would run, I plugged a 100 watt lamp into the APC. It kept the lamp lit for about 3 minutes, versus the hour or more that it would on a good new battery. Looks like it's time to replace the battery. Still, about 90% of our power failures around here last 5 seconds or less, so the APC will at least keep her computer from crashing during those short outages. I see on the APC page that I can order a replacement battery for $66. I wonder what the voltage is. Perhaps I can connect a standard deep-cycle marine battery instead of the APC unit.

Wednesday, July 1, 1998 - started the morning with a little work on this web site. More later...

Mid-morning: I receive email from the magazine editor. The article is mine if I want to write it. I've never done magazine work before, so I accept immediately, before I can talk myself out of doing it. Like singles vs. doubles tennis or contract vs. duplicate bridge, there are a lot of superficial similarities that disguise substantial differences. I suspect that the differences between writing a computer book and writing a computer magazine article will be greater than the similarities. It should be a good learning experience, however, and at least the magazine sent me an Author Guidelines document. To work...

Afternoon: Writing a magazine article is definitely different, and mainly because word count is at a premium for magazines. Doing a 5,000 word article on this topic would be simple. Doing a 2,000 word one is considerably harder. Only an author truly understands the old complaint, "I could have made it shorter if you'd given me more time." Relative to writing a book, some sentences in the magazine article must do the work of a paragraph, and some words the work of a sentence.

Email back and forth with Jerry Pournelle. His copy of FrontPage is running very slowly on a dual-processor Pentium running NT, and he can't figure out why. Although I make a couple of suggestions, I don't really know why, either. I'm just glad it's him and not me.

My article is already over a thousand words, and I haven't really gotten started yet. The heck with it. I'll just write naturally. If it turns out to be 5,000 words, I'll cut it back to 2,000 when I'm finished. That'll be easier than trying to be adequately terse as I'm writing it.

My editor at O'Reilly mails me to say that Windows NT TCP/IP Network Administration has gone to production. Craig and I are out of loop now until we receive the final proofs.

Thursday, July 2, 1998 - worked from about 8:00 a.m. until mid-afternoon on the magazine article. I'm up to about 2,500 words, with a few points left to cover. I'll come back to it later to fill out the unfinished topics and trim the article back to 2,000 words.

Afternoon: Spent a couple hours reading magazine articles and checking the Dell, Micron, and Gateway web sites to figure out what kind of computer to buy. I think I'll convert my current Dell main workstation to an MT5 test bed, and buy a new computer as my main workstation. Dell lists an intriguing tape backup unit with their systems - an EIDE 10/20GB tape drive for only $268. It must be a Travan TR-5/NS20 unit. These were announced by Seagate, Tecmar, and others late last year, but I can't find anyone on the web who is selling them. I call Dell to ask about the unit. The salesman doesn't know anything about this unit except that there's a 30 day lag on getting systems with this drive installed. He says they're actually shipping them now, but there aren't enough to go around, so I'd have to go on a waiting list. He says he'll get back to me with the specs, and emails me later to tell me that it's a Seagate TR-5 unit. That's interesting, because Seagate lists only SCSI units on their web page. Only Tecmar shows an IDE NS20 unit.

Friday, July 3, 1998 - other than doing my standard weekly full network backup and checking mail periodically, I'm going to take today and the rest of the holiday weekend off.

Updated: 31 May 2002 14:22

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.