A (mostly) daily journal of the
trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert Bruce Thompson, a
writer of computer books.
November 23, 1998
I installed Quicken Deluxe 99 yesterday. I did so on my
own system first, just to make sure it wouldn't screw anything up on
Barbara's real Quicken installation. My immediate reaction was that I
didn't much like the product. I've never been a fan of Intuit or their
software. That puts me in a minority, obviously, but Intuit is guilty of
practices that I find abhorrent.
First is the "have it our way" philosophy. This
is exemplified in this release in several ways. First, it installs things
you not only didn't ask for, but that you specifically told it not to
install. I chose the "Custom" installation option, and cleared
the check box for Internet Explorer 4.01 with 128-bit encryption. Setup
installed IE4 anyway, screwing up my existing IE installation. There's
simply no excuse for this. Then there's the forced reboot. Since when
should a simple application like a checkbook manager--which is, after all,
what Quicken is really about--force you to reboot NT to complete setup?
And before you tell me that the forced reboot is required because IE was
installed, this occurs even when you install Quicken 99 on a system that
already has IE 4.01 installed.
Second is that Intuit apparently regards their customers'
interests as taking a distant second place to their own. Quicken is
notorious for "nagging" users to register. That may be
appropriate in a shareware product. It is completely inappropriate in a
commercial product that people have paid money for. If there's an option
to turn off this obnoxious behavior, I can't find it. Apparently, the only
way to do so is to register the product. This by itself is enough to cause
me to put this product on my "not recommended" list.
Then there are the advertisements. Intuit says "You
can turn off advertisements that appear in the Online Financial Services
Center. Advertisements in other areas of Quicken cannot be turned
off.", which about sums it up. People who pay money for a product
should not be forced to view advertisements, period. Intuit justifies this
by saying that forcing users to view ads allows them to deliver
"free" content. How about at least giving people a choice to to
pay for the content they want rather than being forced to view their
I don't much like Intuit, and I certainly don't like this
latest release. It came off my system quickly, and I wasn't sure that I
wanted to put it on Barbara's system. For one thing, it converts the
existing data to a new format, which apparently makes it impossible to
revert to the earlier version without re-entering any data you've put into
the new version. There was no export option I could find to export Q99
data to a format readable by Barbara's current version.
So I decided to copy all of Barbara's real Quicken data to
a trash directory and let her play with Q99 on my computer using a copy of
her live data. She spent 5 minutes doing different things with it, and
announced that she loved it. So, Q99 went on Barbara's computer. I still
don't like Intuit or Quicken, but I'm forced to admit that this opinion is
not shared by many whose opinions I respect.
* * * * *
And the following mail from Gary M. Berg. We'd been
discussing via private mail the Promise FastSwap, a drive cage/carrier
combination that allows you to hot-swap IDE drives.
That sounds good; I'd like to hear a review
of the FastTrak from someone who didn't care only about the striping
capability, but was more interested in the mirroring. One concern I do
have has to do with the reliability and stability of the drivers under
NT4 (actually, under any OS). Because it's a non-standard controller,
you are totally dependent on Promise.
Maybe, and maybe not. Running as the tertiary or quaternary
ATA port, almost certainly. But running as the primary and secondary,
maybe not. The FastTrak may be visible to the OS as a standard ATA port
for each drive pair. If so, that'd mean your mirrored set would appear to
the PC as just another ATA drive. Promise did tell me that the FastTrak
requires only one IRQ, which means it may emulate a standard ATA port. If
so, it could use the standard channel 0 base address for one pair of
drives, and the standard channel 1 address for the second pair.
So you have to run your EIDE chain outside
of the computer, or does this masquerade as a SCSI device like their
iRaid units do?
I'm not sure. I believe that the FastTrak card plugs into
the back of the FastSwap cage, and that mounted drives are simply internal
ATA devices that happen to be externally accessible.
We're looking a bit at setting up some
servers, and I'd like to use an external drive cage. But most companies
go off of the deep end, with lots of support for hot-swap and such. To
be honest, let me put in 6 9Gb drives, configure one as the Raid 5
parity drive and another as an automatically used replacement (hot
drive). That gives me 36Gb of RAID drive space, and even if one drive
fails I've still got redundancy as soon as the hot spare drive kicks in.
In my environment, I can afford to take the server down to swap the
replacement drive. But most of the external Raid drive systems are hot
swap, which runs the price up greatly.
I don't think the FastSwap is going to run up the price
much. You use standard ATA drives, and simply insert them in carriers that
fit into the FastSwap cage. Your analysis is correct, but ignores one
issue. When one drive fails and the hot spare kicks in, you're still
operating with a degraded RAID 5 array until the rebuild completes, which
could take anything from an hour or two to overnight. When RAID 5 is
operating in degraded mode, multi-block reads actually require a read of
every remaining drive in the array, along with the overhead needed to
recalculate the missing data from parity. Writes have even more overhead.
When you add the overhead required for the rebuild operation, your
degraded RAID 5 array may have the throughput of a floppy drive until the
array has healed itself.
A degraded mirror set, on the other hand, isn't much slower
than a healthy one. No multi-disk reads are necessary, and the data is
simply read from an existing drive rather than having to be reconstructed
from parity. The rebuild operation is also faster and less resource
intensive, because it is essentially just a simple copy to the replacement
disk, which can occur during otherwise unused cycles.
The real reason for RAID 5 is to provide redundancy while
minimizing wastage of disk space. At the current cost of disk space,
that's much less a factor than it used to be. Rather than using six 9 GB
drives in a RAID 5 arrangement, with one on-line hot spare, I'd consider
buying five 18 GB drives, using four of them as a pair of mirror sets, and
keeping the fifth sitting next to the server as a ready replacement. The
mirror sets will provide about the same read performance as RAID 5, and
noticeably better write performance. If a drive does fail, the degraded
RAID 1 array will provide essentially the same read/write performance as
the healthy one (but will, of course, lose redundancy on the affected
mirror set until the bad drive is replaced and rebuilt).
All of this, of course, assumes that the FastSwap ships
soon and works as advertised.
The best choice we've found so far is the
APS "Short Stacks", which hold a pair of drives and have
a good ventilation system. At least they don't add tremendously to the
cost of the drives with lots of features we'll never use. But I'd still
rather find a similar case holding 5-6 drives. I'm likely to be forced
to go with just plain mirroring with the Short Stacks, buying just one
pair of 18Gb drives.
Well, I suspect that the cost of five 18 GB IDE drives, the
FastTrak controller, and the FastSwap cages and carriers will end up being
considerably lower than the cost of the SCSI RAID 5 implementation. Good
luck, and I'll let you know what I find out.
November 24, 1998
The book of the week this week is The
Saxon Shore: The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte, the fourth
volume in a superb series that retells the tale of King Arthur as straight
historical fiction, minus the dragons, wizards, and magic.
* * * * *
I was reading in the business section of the paper this
morning about the AOL/Netscape/Sun deal. Apparently, this is a $4 billion
stock swap whereby AOL gets the Netscape browser and Sun gets the Netscape
server products. That makes me wonder. I'm not sure how Netscape can be
worth much at all, let alone $4 billion.
The Netscape browser is now free, and they've released the
source code for it. It's not even a very good browser compared to Internet
Explorer, its (free) competition. It's hemorrhaging market share to IE. I
just checked my web site logs, which show that IE is more popular than
Navigator at about a 55% to 45% ratio. So, unless I'm missing something,
AOL just paid a ton of money to get a free browser that's rapidly losing
popularity. Some deal. Or perhaps AOL thinks that Netscape's
"portal" is worth all that money, although I can't see why. It
seems to me that the whole idea of portals has run its course. I sure
wouldn't want to buy one.
Then there are the Netscape servers that Sun gets from the
deal. I'm not sure what the attraction is here, either. Netscape server
software isn't free, but they compete against two very good products that
are: Microsoft Internet Information Server and Apache. Those two share the
vast majority of the server market, where Netscape commercial server
software has become a niche player.
Looking at the value of Netscape based on revenues and
profits, it's pretty clear that its stock is grossly overpriced. On the
other hand, with some technology stocks selling at 50 or even 100 times
earnings, I guess that's par for the course. Perhaps the way to look at it
is that one company is trading its own grossly overvalued stock for an
equivalent amount of grossly overvalued Netscape stock. Weird.
* * * * *
I got a call yesterday afternoon from my friend Steve
Tucker, who said that one of his NT boxes was blue screening at boot.
Saturday evening Steve was out running errands and I was working at the NT
box in his kitchen. I tried to load FreeCell, and NT displayed a disk
error message. I wish now I could remember exactly what it said, but I
remember thinking that it sounded a lot like a hardware problem. I did
some checking and eventually decided to run Diskeeper Lite to check the
fragmentation. It was at something like 60% fragmented, with only about
10% free disk space. I eventually got the thing defragged, and restarted
it. It appeared to be working normally when I left.
When Steve called, he said that he was getting a blue
screen every time he tried to boot. This was occurring during the BIOS
screen display at boot, before NT ever started to load. I told him that it
sounded like a memory error, so he started swapping memory around. That
didn't help, and after several phone calls through the afternoon and
evening, it became clear that the problem was disk related. Steve
downloaded and ran the Western Digital diagnostics, which said the disk
What's not fine is the CMOS Setup. The drive is a Western
Digital 2.5 GB IDE, but CMOS insists on seeing it as a 455 MB drive, no
matter what Steve does. He's sure it was set up to use LBA addressing
originally, but even LBA now shows the drive as 455 MB. He's tried
swapping IDE ports, cables, etc. with no results. When we last spoke last
night, Steve was getting ready to pull the drive and install it in another
NT box downstairs as a secondary drive. If anyone has run into a similar
situation and figured out how to fix it, I'd appreciate some hints.
* * * * *
And the following mail from Frank McPherson, with a
warning about Quicken 99 and Windows 95:
It sounds like you had much better luck
installing Quicken 99 than I did. I tried installing it this past
weekend on my Windows 95 OSR 2 PC and ended up with all sorts of blue
screen errors related to VxDs. I selected the Express Installation, and
noticed during that it was installing IE 4.0 128-bit (which I already
had) and Winsock2. The Winsock2 is probably what screwed up my PC,
because when I removed all network connectivity the blue screen errors
went away. I removed Quicken 99, and fortunately for me I discovered
that Winsock2 made a backup directory and included a batch file which
restored the original back up files. The batch file also runs a program
that removes Winsock2 from the registry.
Now I am left with a small dilemma, do I
give Quicken 99 another go via Custom installation? I am not sure why
the Winsock2 was a problem. I do have a 3 Com Ethernet card in this PC
for my home network. What I really suspect, though, is that Quicken 99
is really looking for either Win 98 or NT.
I think it's worth giving it another try. I installed
Quicken 99 first on my own workstation, kerby, which runs NTS4 and had
Internet Explorer 4.01 installed. I used Custom installation, and told
Setup not to install IE4, which it didn't. I then deleted Quicken 99 from
kerby and installed it on Barbara's main workstation, thoth, another NTS4
box, which also had IE4 installed. Again, I used Custom Setup, but this
time it installed IE4 despite the fact that I'd told it not to.
I'm not sure why Setup acted differently. The boxes are
nearly identical--Pentium II's running 128 MB and NTS4 with SP3 as domain
controllers. I'm 100% sure that I told Setup not to install IE4 on
Barbara's box. She was sitting there with me as I installed Quicken, and I
explained to her why I was clearing the IE4 check box.
I can't believe that Quicken wouldn't run on Win95. That
must be about 95% of their market. If anything, I'd expect the problems to
occur with NT. In fact, last spring I bought TurboTax Federal and NC State
versions directly from the Intuit web site and ended up getting a refund
because they wouldn't run under NT. When I called them to complain about
this and to observe that the prior year's version had run on NT, they said
something to the effect of "Oh, yeah. This year's version used to run
on NT, but we made some fixes and broke the NT support without realizing
it." And people complain about Microsoft's regression testing...
November 25, 1998
I spent most of yesterday evening on the phone with Steve
Tucker trying to get his NT problem straightened out. Barbara was at the
mall doing Christmas shopping. When she got back, she said she was
surprised I hadn't just gone over there. To make a long story short, the
disk that Steve was having problems with in his kitchen system is
accessible when installed as the second drive in another NT box. Even when
we installed it as the first drive in that box, we still couldn't get it
to boot, however. The NT box in the kitchen was the primary domain
controller for Steve's domain, and he didn't have a backup domain
controller, so we ended up having to reinstall NT from scratch to create a
We're still not sure what caused the problem, but we
suspect that the motherboard or the ATA interface in the kitchen system
shot craps. And that got me to thinking about cables, which was one of the
possible causes we considered. Nobody thinks much about IDE cables.
They're ubiquitous and pretty much interchangeable. Just about any IDE
cable works with any drive and interface. That's starting to change,
though. Ultra-DMA/33 drives are much more sensitive to cable length and
quality than earlier drives.
If you have random problems on a system with a UDMA/33
drive, suspect the cable first. UDMA/33 drives should be connected with
the shortest, highest quality cable you can find. The cable supplied with
the drive is usually fine. Most problems arise when people use the IDE
cable already in the computer instead of the cable that comes with the
drive. It's worth taking the time to replace the old cable with the higher
quality one supplied with the drive.
The forthcoming UDMA/66 drives will be even more
cable-sensitive. In fact, to run them at the 66 MB/s rate, you must use a
special 80-wire, 40-pin IDE cable. This cable is backward-compatible with
older ATA devices, but includes 40 new ground wires that are needed to
support the 66 MB/s transfer rate of Mode 4 DMA. You can connect a UDMA/66
drive with a standard 40-wire IDE cable, but the drive senses the absence
of the additional 40-wires and automatically configures itself to run at
the 33 MB/s Mode 2 transfer rate.
* * * * *
And this mail, from a reader who asked to remain
I don't buy books from your
links because all you ever list is hardbacks. I only buy paperbacks. I
would consider buying from your links if you listed the paperback
version. Why don't you list them?
Hmm. Good point. I'd never even thought about
that, because I'm exactly the opposite. I almost never buy paperbacks
other than trade paperbacks like computer books or mass-market paperbacks
for titles I just can't find in hardback. In fact, I'll cruise the used
book stores looking for a hardback copy of a book I want before finally
giving in and buying the paperback. I know that I'm the exception there.
Many people think of a book as something to buy and read, but not
necessarily to keep forever. I see a book as something to buy and keep. In
fact, other than books by authors I collect, I usually read a library copy
first and only buy the book after I've already read it. I get a first
edition and put it on the shelf in pristine condition. In fact, when I
want to re-read a book, I often go to the library and check it out, even
though I have that book on my shelves. That keeps my first editions
But you're right. Most people buy books to
read them, and paperbacks are just as good for that, and much cheaper.
I'll start putting in links for both the hardback and paperback versions
if both are available. Often, though, the books I review are very new and
only available in hardback form. Thanks for pointing out something I
hadn't given any thought to.
* * * * *
There may not be much in the way of updates here tomorrow
and Friday, although I'll try to get something up if possible. We're
hosting the family Thanksgiving tomorrow, and Friday will be occupied with
November 26, 1998
Thanksgiving Day, and the family is on the way over here
to spend the day, so I won't have time to do much. I will be spending some
time at my PC, because there have been developments in the negotiations
that Pournelle and I are involved in to co-author a big book. We've gotten
a nice offer for it, although David Rogelberg, our agent, is still
hammering out the details. But we don't want to let any grass grow under
us, so we've already gotten started on the book. That means a flood of
messages going back and forth between us, and I need some means to
organize all this stuff. So, I'm going to create empty documents for each
chapter in the preliminary outline. That will at least give me
semi-organized holding bins into which I can dump the raw material that
Pournelle is sending me.
This project is going to be a ton of work, but it's also
going to be a lot of fun.
November 27, 1998
Thanksgiving Day is over, and I'm fully recovered. I have
a bunch of stuff to do today, so I won't have time to write much here.
However, I did get the following mail from from Tom Syroid, who connects
to the Internet via cable modem and has some interesting questions:
Just arrived home from work to
find a HUGE bundle of instructions from my ISP regarding upgrading my
system to changes they have made in their traffic structure. The upgrade
itself is pretty much automatic through invisible software invoked
changes, but I'd like to know exactly what all this means in technical
Yes (sheepish grin), I know if I had bought one of your books it would
probably answer the questions I'm about to ask, but I am truly looking
-- I just haven't found one at any of my favorite haunts yet.
I got a long sheet with a whole hockey sock of TCP/IP info on it. In
IP Address: 126.96.36.199
Servers 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 (??)
That's pretty strange. Ordinarily, you'd get
two different IP addresses: one for the primary DNS and a different one
for the secondary. Those are also pretty strange IP addresses. You have a
Class A network address subnetted as a Class C. It appears to me that Shaw
has created a private IP network behind a proxy server/NAT, and is
subnetting it to put different groups of customers on different IP
subnets. If that's the case, you aren't actually connected to the Internet
directly. You're connected to a private IP network that is gatewayed to
the Internet. This means that you don't have any machines that are
directly visible to the Internet, and so couldn't run an Internet server
of any type locally and have it accessible by the world.
Proxy S http://proxy:8080
I know what a DNS is, so we
don't need to go there. Likewise with the obvious of SMTP, POP, and
But it would appear that Shaw Cable have gone away from a dynamic server
assigned IP to a static IP -- Yes? Next to the above IP address is the
notation: Your unique address on the Internet. There is also a note
somewhere I read but cannot find at the moment that this could possibly
change in the future. Hmmm.
1. Is this the unique IP we were talking about seeing if I could be
assigned by my ISP?
Maybe. A couple things aren't clear to me
here. First, the address you've been given is a Class A, subnetted as
Class C. Second, that line about the Proxy Server. It may be that your ISP
is running a Proxy Server, with everything behind it (like you) given a
private address. If that's the case, the address they gave you is a bit
odd, because 10.x.x.x is the Class A private address range, which is what
I would expect them to use. It appears that they may be using a Network
Address Translator (NAT) at their own connection point to the Internet. If
that's the case, your 24.x.x.x address is private, and not visible to the
Internet. I think that's probably what's going on, but I'm not sure. I
would be very surprised, however, if Shaw Cable has its own Class A
network address. The only organizations that have Class A network
addresses are huge companies like IBM and big governments. I'd be
surprised if the Canadian government even had a Class A.
2. If I am online and someone
types the above address into their browser, would it give them access to
my system? This is a two pronged question: One from the vantage of
security, and two, could I give it to you then instruct you where to
find a file to download.
Assuming that you have a public IP address
(which I don't think you do), yes and no. Assuming that you leave your PC
turned on all the time, anyone can access it in a way, but not necessarily
a bad way. For example, I could ping your IP address and get a response
that tells me it's up and running. As far as access in a bad way, probably
not. Unless you're running some sort of server (web, ftp, etc.), there's
no trivial way to gain access to your system. There may be "back
door" ways into your system, but probably not. One way to make sure
is to run one of the security testing programs like SATAN, which will test
known hacks. You should run the latest service pack and hot fixes at all
times to make sure that any security fixes are implemented.
3. When I set up a web site,
could I use this address for people to find my pages, then register this
address through a naming service?
Again, assuming that you have a genuine public
IP address, yes. You can register your domain name with InterNIC (e.g.
syroid.com), which costs $70US for the first two years, or with the
Canadian domain name registry if you want to use a (probably free) .ca
domain name (e.g. syroid.saskatoon.sk.ca). When you register a domain
name, they're going to want primary and secondary DNS addresses. Your
primary is your own IP address--you run a DNS server on the box that
connects to the Internet. Your secondary server could either be provided
by Shaw (assuming they're willing), or you could find someone else in a
similar position and do a deal with them. You'd provide secondary DNS for
them and they'd provide secondary DNS for you.
4. I'm planning on installed
NT4WS and Office 2000 on a spare HD I have this weekend. When I setup
NT, would I give the setup process the above info or use
"dummy" addresses? I've never setup TCP/IP on NT specific to
using it for a cable modem/LAN connection to the net.
Yes, you would use the IP configuration
information provided for one computer that connects directly to your cable
modem. If you wanted to provide Internet access for other computers on
your local network, you'd set up a proxy server of your own, running on
that connected computer. You'd run a private IP network internally, with
your 24.x.x.x machine as that private network's gateway to the Internet.
I'm really not sure what they're doing, although my strong suspicion is
that they're giving you Internet service via proxy. You can tell if that's
the case by determining what you have to do to access the Internet with
your web browser. If you have to configure it to use a proxy server, then
that's what they're doing. The only reason I hesitate to say for sure that
that's what they're doing is that I can't believe they'd do it. There are
all kinds of potential problems in using proxy access, not least of which
is that all their customers would have to configure their software to use
proxy access. There are also a lot of apps that won't run behind a proxy
server, or that are a real problem to configure to do so. If that's what
they're doing, they can expect their support calls to increase
Hmm. Okay. I just went over to ARIN to check the network address. I notice
that 220.127.116.11 - 18.104.22.168 is registered to Shaw, which means you may
in fact have an honest public IP address. 22.214.171.124 is registered to @Home.
It appears to me that the Class A 24 address may have been broken up by
subnetting and that different 24.x blocks have been assigned in lieu of
Class B addresses. Let me know when you're connected with this new address
and I'll try pinging your address.
I'm going to go ahead and post this message on my site in case anyone else
Upon reflection and some more checking, it appears to me
that Tom probably really does have a valid public IP address. I didn't
spend a lot of time checking, but it appears that Shaw Cable must be a
part of the @Home network. If anyone knows for sure what's going on,
please let me know.
* * * * *
And the following response from Shawn Wallbridge, who also
has a cable modem and uses Shaw for Internet access:
Hello, I have recently signed up with a
cable modem :) I have done some testing, here is what I found.
When the cable modem is first set up it uses
DHCP to get an IP address. I can capture an ipconfig command later and
send it to you.
Okay, that makes sense. That's how most ISPs do it, but
from what Tom says, it sounds like they're going to static IP addresses.
Have you heard anything about that?
When I tried pinging my IP address from a
PSINet connection, I get a timed out response. When I did a tracert it
told me that I was going from Winnipeg, to San Francisco to Boston then
to the @home network in the states. This could be because the traffic
from Winnipeg is going through Toronto until our line to the states is
done. When I telnet into a local ISP and try to ping my address I get
That all makes sense, too, except not being able to ping
your address. If you're trying to ping from one Shaw address from another,
perhaps, but coming in from PSINet, you should be able to ping your
address, assuming that that connection is up.
When I ran Quake 2 as a Server, I am able to
get in. A friend of mine regularly plays multiplayer racing games with
other people on Shaw.
From what the technicians have told me our
cable modems use an encryption to prevent people from being able to
'see' their neighbors. The signals are decrypted at the 'hubs' and then
go over fiber to the main office. I have done a ping to all IP addresses
within 50 +/- of mine and none of them returned anything.
Yes, that makes sense. Essentially, everyone who's on one
cable segment would otherwise be able to grab packets from others on the
same subnet. It sounds like, in essence, each cable modem is setup to make
a point-to-point connection to the border router using something akin to
PPTP to establish a secure connection.
About the Class A addresses, Shaw is part of
the @Home network and I just assumed that the numbers belonged to @Home
and they just assigned them to Shaw.
Yes, I think that's true. I left my original response to
Tom as it was written, but I'd subsequently done a little checking and
found that 24. belongs to @Home, of which it sounds like Shaw is a part.
P.S. I am in the middle of your TCP/IP book
and loving it.
Thanks for the kind words.
* * * * *
And I've been spending some time today working on my
network. I need to do several things, so I decided just to get started. My
Dell Dimension XPSM200s box is currently running as sherlock, the
Windows NT Server primary domain controller for my TTG domain. It also
runs the WinGate proxy server, which I use to give the other boxes on my
network access to the Internet. It has three physical hard disks in it, a
6.4 GB and two 4.3 GB. I set it up that way because I needed a box with
three physical disk drives in order to write the sections about Windows NT
Server fault tolerance for the MCSE training courses I did for
DigitalThink. At this point, however, having three drives in this box is a
waste, so I decided to do some juggling.
The 6.4 GB drive is partitioned into a 1.0 GB C: volume
formatted as FAT. I have some of the Win9x stuff that Dell originally
installed on that volume, but it doesn't have Windows installed right now.
There's also a 2.0 GB NTFS D: volume that boots Windows NT Server 4.0 as sherlock,
a 1.5 GB NTFS E: volume where I keep stuff I download with ftp, copies of
distribution CDs, etc., and another 1.5 GB of free space. The first 4.3 GB
drive has a 1.5 GB NTFS G: volume where I keep my on-line xcopied backup
of the data directories on thoth, which is my main data store.
The second 4.3 GB drive is empty right now--not even partitioned.
I think what I'm going to do is: (a) create a logical NTFS
K: volume in the free space on the 6.4 GB drive, (b) move the stuff
currently on G: to K: and compress it, (c) delete the G: volume, freeing
up both 4.3 GB disks completely, and (d) rename K: to G: so that the batch
files I use to copy data around don't break. Once that's done, I'll
install Windows 98 in the C: partition so that I can run sherlock
as a dual-boot WinNT/Win98 machine. That also has the advantage of giving
me a USB testbed, because sherlock has USB hardware installed.
(And, yes, I know I've been promising a report on experiments with USB,
but just try getting USB hardware!)
And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to
convert bastet (the Gateway Pentium/133 tower) from a testbed
into a stable box (that is, one I don't mess with). It currently has 64 MB
of memory and a 4.3 GB drive. There are also a Seagate/Conner TapeStor
Travan tape drive, and a CD-ROM drive, so I have one free IDE connector.
Perhaps I'll install one of the 4.3 GB drives I salvage from sherlock
and mirror the two drives with NTS software RAID 1. I can then move the
modem to bastet and install WinGate on it to allow it to be my
Internet gateway box. I can also install DHCP Server and some other system
services on it. I have Win98 installed on bastet right now,
but I can blow that away and reformat the partition as NTFS and use it to
That leaves sherlock as a testbed system I can
mess with to my heart's content. One of the things I hope to install on it
soon is the Promise IDE RAID controller. I should have one of those coming
in the next couple of weeks. I should also have some big Maxtor ATA drives
coming that I can use with the Promise. We'll see.
I doubt that I'll get all or even most of this done
immediately, but I'll post an update tomorrow about what I do get done.
For now, I'd better get started on my regular Friday network backup. A
good idea in any case, and a better one with all the juggling I plan to
November 28, 1998
I got Windows 98 installed successfully on the Dell
system, with only a couple of minor glitches. I booted the PC from the
Win98 startup disk I'd created when I installed Win98 on the Gateway box,
choosing the CD-ROM support option. Locating the correct drive letter for
the CD took a minute. It turned out to be F:
Once I located the CD, I ran Setup, which proceeded
uneventfully. I named the computer osiris and made it a member of
the TTGNET workgroup. After making yet another startup disk--I guess you
can't have too many of those--Setup copied the files and did the first
forced restart. At this point, I got my first pleasant surprise.
When you install Windows NT, it creates the file boot.ini
in the root directory of the partition from which the system boots. That
file contains a list, in ARC format, of the bootable operating systems and
the partitions where they reside. When you install Windows NT on a PC that
already has Win9x installed, NT Setup automatically modifies boot.ini
to enable dual-boot. I was doing the opposite, however, installing Windows
98 to a system that already had Windows NT installed, and I expected to
have to edit boot.ini manually. I didn't have to, because Win98 Setup
modified it for me. And did it correctly, too, which kind of surprised me.
The only thing I take minor exception to is that it made Win98 the default
OS. I suppose that's reasonable, since it was Win98 I was installing.
Still, I'd prefer it have left Windows NT as the default OS.
The system restarted automatically under Windows 98, and
proceeded to copy more files, configure the system, and so forth. The only
time I departed from the default choice was when I set the timezone. I
cleared the checkbox that causes Windows 98 to adjust the clock
automatically for daylight saving time. Since I already have this enable
under Windows NT, leaving it enabled here too would result in a two hour
change every time daylight saving time changed.
After going through the configuration process and another
reboot or two, I finally arrived at the Windows 98 desktop. After driving
a stake through the heart of the Welcome To Windows 98 screen and the
Channel Bar, I configured networking. Strangely, Windows 98 defaults to
using DHCP, although there's no DHCP server on my network right now. It's
easy enough to detect the presence of a DHCP server, so you'd think
Windows 98 networking would use DHCP only if it found a server, and
otherwise default to manual configuration.
At any rate, I told it to use manual TCP/IP settings, and
assigned addresses for the computer itself, the netmask, the default
gateway, DNS, etc. As always, the settings changes required a reboot.
After the system restarted, I logged on successfully and was able to see
the shared resources elsewhere on the network. Everything appeared to have
My first sign that that was not the case was during the
exhaustive system check I always perform on a new system by playing a game
of FreeCell. When I won the game, the cards moved much too slowly. This
box has a Matrox Millenium II PCI video adapter in it, which is a
reasonably fast card--much faster than was evident on screen.
I right clicked on the desktop, chose Properties and then
clicked the Settings tab. Under Advanced, I noticed that Windows 98
thought I had a plain vanilla VGA card. That's strange. I know there's a
Millennium II in this box just by watching the boot screen. So I fired up
the Add New Hardware wizard and tried to add the card manually. Under
Matrox, the only card they had listed that was even close was
"Millennium". Not the Millennium II PCI. I tried loading that
driver and rebooting, but Windows 98 still thought it had a vanilla VGA
I hit the Matrox web site and downloaded a Windows 98
driver for the Millennium. After making some adjustments to the monitor,
the new driver worked fine. I'm not sure why Win98 didn't find the card.
This is a stock Dell box. The only thing that's been added or changed on
it are the two 4.3 GB drives. All the components are using default IRQs
and base addresses. Surely Win98 must know about the Matrox Millennium II.
At any rate, the system now boots into Win98 properly and everything works
as it should.
With all of that done, I restarted the system under
Windows NT 4.0 and started to do some cleanup. I formatted the remaining
1.5 GB of free space on the 6.4 GB Disk 0 as an NTFS K: volume and copied
the contents of the G: volume located on Disk 1 to the new K: volume. That
done, I deleted the G: partition, leaving Disk 1 empty, and renamed the
new K: volume to G: That's one nice thing about NT Disk Administrator--it
allows you to rename volumes on the fly.
At this point, I plan to convert sherlock/osiris
into a testbed system, which means that I need to migrate anything that
matters to a stable system. The only thing running on it at the moment
that matters is the WinGate proxy server that serves as a gateway to the
Internet for my entire network. I plan to convert bastet (the
Gateway Pentium/133 tower) into a stable server that will provide file and
Internet services. That'll involve moving the modem and installing RAS on bastet.
While I'm at it, I also want to install DHCP, DNS, and WINS on bastet.
Before I do that, though, I want to get some more disk on bastet
by installing the Promise FastTrak ATA RAID card and a couple or four big
Maxtor drives, so I guess it makes sense to wait to do the upgrade until I
have everything I need in hand.
Once done, the upgraded bastet will be a resource
server for the network. It will provide all the network services--DHCP,
DNS, WINS, Internet gateway, etc.--and also have (I hope) about 30 GB of
visible disk, arranged as a RAID 0+1 striped and mirrored array. That'll
also leave me with the two 4.3 GB drives that are currently in the Dell
box looking for a new home. I think what I'll do is install one each in my
main workstation, kerby, and Barbara's main workstation, thoth.
Each of those already has a Seagate 4.3 GB Ultra DMA drive in it
configured as the Primary Master and a CD-ROM drive configured as a
Secondary Slave (and, yes, I know that having only a Slave on a channel is
not officially permitted).
I can add the 4.3 GB Ultra DMA Western Digital drives as a
Secondary Master and use Windows NT Server mirroring to create a mirror
set, which will give each of our main workstations a 4.3 GB mirrored
volume. Incidentally, several people have commented to me about how slow
NTS fault tolerant disk sets are. The problem is not so much Windows NT
Server, although software mirroring is always slower than hardware
mirroring. The problem is that some people set up a mirror set with the
two drives configured on the same ATA channel. The Master and Slave
devices on one channel share an interrupt, which means that the OS can
access only one of them at a time. By putting the two drives on different
channels, the OS can read and write to both of them simultaneously, which
speeds things up quite a bit. I'll also have more to say later about
enabling Ultra DMA support, which is usually turned off by default.
Enough for now. I have other things to be working on.
November 29, 1998
I decided to go ahead and install the network services on bastet.
Back to the original Windows NT Server 4.0 CD, as usual. I installed the
DHCP Server, the WINS Server, and RAS. That done and the system rebooted,
I decided I'd better install the Routing & RAS upgrade from 11/97
before I reapplied Service Pack 4. It promptly informed me that I had to
remove RAS before installing the update, which it offered to do. I
accepted the offer, it removed RAS and then forced a reboot.
After the system rebooted, I was starting to get
concerned. It appeared to hang on the OS Loader screen. I waited a minute
or so, and was just getting ready to restart using the Last Known Good
configuration when the original boot started working again. After logging
on, the Routing and Remote Access Setup program again offered to install
RRAS. I accepted the offer, and chose to install only RAS (as opposed to
LAN Routing or Demand-dial Routing. Although I'd configured the original
RAS installation for dial-out only, the newly installed RRAS assumed I
wanted it configured for dial-in only. I fixed that, and RRAS Setup
installed RAS and forced yet another reboot. The guys who designed the
low-level architecture of NT should take a close look at Linux. All this
rebooting is ridiculous. This time, at least, the reboot spent only a
couple seconds at the OS Loader screen.
With the reboot complete, I logged on and inserted the
Service Pack 4 CD. I tried to access the CD, only to get an
"Incorrect Function" error message. I ejected and re-inserted
the CD, and SP4 autoran the HTML home page for the CD. Well, this turns
out to be a mess. I chose the recommended method to install the Y2K fixes,
and installation hung. It raised a dialog that allowed me to cancel that
procedure, which I did. I then clicked the Install SP4 link on the left
side of the page, and setup began installing SP4.
In the mean time, the Y2K fix Setup apparently hadn't
really died, even though I'd explicitly killed it. In the middle of the
main SP4 installation, the Y2K installation came back to life, told me the
Y2K installation was complete and forced a reboot, which killed the main
SP4 installation. Geez. After the reboot, I ejected and reinserted the SP4
CD to get it to Autorun again. Fortunately, it appears that the forced
reboot interrupted the main SP4 install before it actually started copying
files, so the fresh SP4 install appears to have completed normally. I
restarted the server, again, and logged on normally.
The next step is to configure the DHCP Server. First, I
checked TCP/IP Properties to verify the static IP address assigned to this
server. It turns out to be 192.168.111.203. I'm using the private Class C
network address block 192.168.111 behind my firewall. For historical
reasons (I subnetted a real Class C back when I had a direct Internet
connection) most of my systems are in the range 192.168.111.161 through
192.168.111.188. I don't want to have to reconfigure all these systems
right away, so I think I'll allocate 192.168.111.1 through 192.168.111.99
to the DHCP pool, from which DHCP will assign dynamic addresses.
Rather than defining the DHCP scope to cover only 1
through 99, however, I'll define it to include 1 through 254 and then
exclude 100 through 254. This makes it easier to expand the range of IP
addresses assigned to the scope later on. If I defined it as 1 - 99 and
then later wanted to expand it, I'd have to delete the original scope and
recreate the larger one.
So, I fired up DHCP Manager and defined a DHCP Scope by
assigning a Start Address of 192.168.111.1, an end address of
192.168.111.254, and a Subnet Mask of 255.255.255.0. I then added an
exclusion range of 192.168.111.100 through 192.168.111.254. Incidentally, never
assign either 0 or 255 to the DHCP range. 0 is the network address itself,
and 255 is used for broadcasts. You don't want a host assigned to either
address. I left the Lease Duration at its default of 3 days. All my
systems remain connected permanently or at least for very long periods, so
I could have allowed an Unlimited lease duration, but that's very bad
With that done, and the Scope saved and activated, the
next step is to configure DHCP options. The DHCP Scope itself
supplies DHCP clients with the two critical pieces of IP configuration
information--IP address and subnet mask. Numbered DHCP Options allow you
to configure the DHCP server to provide additional IP configuration
information to DHCP clients--things like addresses for the default
gateway, DNS Server, WINS Server, etc. I defined Option 015 (Domain Name)
as ttgnet.com, Option 044 (WINS/NBNS Servers) as 192.168.111.203, and
Option 046 (WINS/NBT Node Type) as 0x8 (p-node).
With all of that done, it's time to reboot the Dell box
into Win98, reconfigure Win98 to use DHCP, and see what happens. When I
restarted osiris (the Win98 box), it booted correctly. I ran ipconfig
/all to check that both DHCP and WINS were operating as expected,
which they were. I went back over to bastet and fired up WINS
Manager to see what was going on. There's not much that needs to be
configured for WINS. All of the defaults are usable. The only change I
made was to enter a static reservation for bastet, because it is
the server. The following figure shows what WINS is doing.
The mappings pane shows the assignments WINS has made. The
00h entries for BASTET, OSIRIS, and TTGNET are
standard NetBIOS computer names or Workstation Service names. The 03h
entries for BASTET, OSIRIS, and THOMPSON are
used by the Messenger Service. The 20h entry for BASTET is the
Server Service name used for resource shares. The IP address shows the
address being used by each entity, a static IP address in the case of BASTET,
and a DHCP-assigned dynamic address in the case of OSIRIS and the
other entries. The checkmark in the A column indicates Active, and the
checkmarks in the S column for BASTET indicate that this machine
is using a static WINS reservation. The Expiration Date column shows when
the assignments expire, never in the case of BASTET. The Version
ID number is used internally by WINS for tracking.
Enough for today. I can't work on RAS until I get some
phone lines shifted around and some other stuff done. I'd better get
started on the laundry.
Coming Soon (I hope)