Week of 2/1/99
Friday, July 05, 2002 08:07
A (mostly) daily
journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert
Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.
February 1, 1999
Beginning this week, I've made two
changes to the links column on the left:
- Search TTG - Robert
Morgan pointed out last week that he wasn't even aware that a search
page existed. The only place it appeared was on the Triad Technology
group home page. So, I've added a link to the Search page. Note,
however, that I've been having problems lately with the Search
function. The web server that my site is running on is so busy that
sometimes the Search simply times out with a "web server too
busy" error message.
- Special Reports -
I'll be doing more reports in the future. These will be too large to
embed in my Daynotes page, so I've created a Special Reports Home page
and added links to it. At first, I'll just use this page to
consolidate older reports that already exist scattered throughout the
site. As things progress, I'll rearrange this page into a hierarchical
home page, with links to product evaluations, system build logs,
how-to reports, and so on.
I did a lot of reorganizing of the site yesterday, although much of it
isn't yet visible to readers. But in moving stuff around, creating a new
folder structure, etc., I ended up "changing" many older files,
at least from Frontpage's point of view. The upshot is that many older
files now have yesterday's date on them. If you load them, they'll appear
to refresh as though they contained new material, but they don't. Only the
regular stuff--today's Daynotes, the index page, etc.--really has new
stuff. The rest of it may have a couple of new links (to the Search page,
for example) or old links that point to files now located in new folders.
So, don't trust your refresh today to tell you what's new and what isn't.
* * * * *
Jerry Pournelle had this to say on his
web site last Saturday about the time he spends working on the site:
"Roberta says I spend too much time here, and that I start
in the morning, which means that everyone else gets me thinking about
what THEY want me to think about rather than what I want to think about.
She has a point, so I think I'll start doing this work at night, after a
Roberta Pournelle is a very smart woman. I have the same problem here,
although not to the extent that Jerry does. There are many days that I
burn two or three hours first thing in the morning working on the web
site, and I can't afford to spend that much time on it. In the past, I've
been updating my site regularly in the morning, with occasional updates
during the day and evening. Starting this week, that's going to change.
I'll do my primary update in late afternoon or during the evening, say
17:00 to 23:00 my time. I'm Eastern Time (GMT -0500), so the update will
typically occur between 22:00 GMT and 04:00 GMT.
I'd actually tried going this route a couple of months ago. What I ran
into was server response problems later in the day. My web hosting company
is located in California (GMT -0800). If I updated my web site by about
9:00 or 10:00 a.m. my time (6:00 or 7:00 a.m. theirs), the update
proceeded normally. If I waited until after open of business on the west
coast, the update would frequently blow up. I assumed that this was
because the local load on their servers increased once the business day
started out there, but who knows? Most of the timeouts occurred after the
updates were already published to the web server and while FrontPage was
doing maintenance and cleanup chores. Such timeouts don't appear to damage
anything, so I may just live with them.
At any rate, I'll try doing updates in the afternoon, starting this
afternoon. If the timeouts become too bad, I'll shift to doing them in
late evening, once the people in California have quit work for the day. If
that doesn't work, I may actually write the material the preceding evening
and wait until the following morning to publish it.
* * * * *
This from Peter N. Linden [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
regarding controlling children's use of the phone:
We would like a security system which
requires a security code before any outside call be placed. Do you know
of anything like this. This would probably be a hardware/keypad
Sure, but they're not consumer items as far as I know. And
that's the problem. I know any number of telephone supply distributors
that sell devices to block or restrict outbound long-distance calls on a
per-line basis, but they don't sell to individuals.
The units I've seen are made by Viking and similar
companies, and hook directly into the CO line at the demarc. The premise
wiring then connects to the device. Most of them are single-line devices,
so if you need to protect multiple lines, you'd need one for each line.
Some of the very inexpensive devices simply block any call that begins
with a "1" or a "0", which means they also block
toll-free calls. Better ones are more configurable (for example, they may
allow you to block or allow specific area codes), and allow you to
override the block by entering a code on the telephone pad.
If you want to get a device like this, the best bet would
be to call a local company that specializes in business telephone systems
and tell them what you need. They'll probably sell it to you, but they may
want to install it. I'd recommend that you let them do it if the price is
reasonable. It shouldn't take an experienced installer any more than half
an hour to hook it up at the demarc.
Before you buy something, check to see if your local telco
offers such a service. I'll also post this in case one of my other readers
knows of a consumer source for such devices.
* * * * *
This from Robert Morgan [mailto:email@example.com]
regarding pair.com mail policies (the final paragraph actually came as a
separate mail message, but I combined them for brevity):
Today [Sunday, 1/31/99 RBT] you mentioned
your mail problems again, and also pair's mail handling policy. Pair
forwards any and all mail addressed to your domain to one pop account. I
use this feature when giving my mail address to any site: I just use a
new address on the fly so I can find out if the site is giving away my
mail address (ie. if I didn't know your site and needed to register I'd
probably use firstname.lastname@example.org).
Then, I set up filters on my mail program
(still Eudora pro) to place mail addressed to each address in its own
Also, if you choose pair's basic account or
better, you can write a .forward file in your home directory on the pair
server to arbitrarily forward any mail to anywhere else, including a
file, or /dev/null.
A good solution is a linux box running the
fetchmail program. That will get all the mail from pair's single pop
mailbox and place the mail in individual pop mailboxes on the linux box.
Presumably it would run round the clock, and your workstations would
send and receive mail through the linux machine.
If you ultimately decide to go for a true
SMTP mail host on one of your NT boxes, I can recommend Qualcomm's
Worldmail server over MS Exchange. Exchange is a real dog for small
offices. Worldmail is inexpensive ($159 for ten users).
A quick net search also came up with Cmail
from www.computalynx.com, which is a mail server running on Win95/NT,
and will fetch mail addressed to multiple addresses from one pop
account. More expensive - 149 pounds.
I'm not completely sure that pair.com mail policies will
make them a non-starter for me. Basically, the way I'm setup now at BigBiz
is with one actual POP mailbox, whose name happens to be
email@example.com. I have many mailboxes (firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
etc.) that autoforward to my single mailbox.
I also have several mailboxes (email@example.com,
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.) that forward to external
mailboxes. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org forwards to our dialup account
at bellsouth.net, from which she POPs. Steve's and Craig's forward to
their own local ISP accounts. I also have my mail configured so that any
mail to a non-existent *.ttgnet.com account (e.g. email@example.com, which
I actually got one addressed to) is forwarded to my main mailbox.
If I understand you correctly, pair.com mail policies would
allow me to do the same thing without paying for additional mailboxes,
right? If that's true, my major objection to pair.com disappears. Of
course, my main objection to BigBiz has already disappeared. Their
connectivity is now normal, although the server they're running me on is
still slow. I just used the TopHosts.com
hosts connection testing page to check
out the responsiveness of pair.com and www.ttgnet.com. They scored 99/100,
and I got a 98/100.
As far as installing Linux and fetchmail, you're correct.
That'd be the way to do it if I wanted a local mailserver. I don't think
I'd buy an SMTP smart mailer for NT, though. I'd just install sendmail on
Linux, although I might also install the Microsoft SMTP Server (a mail
relay) on one of my NT boxes.
* * * * *
re-reading my reply to Peter N. Linden about long-distance call blocking,
it struck me that I wasn't clear when talking about the local telcos. When
I suggested that that the local telco might provide such a service, I
wasn't referring to them installing call-blocking hardware. What I meant
was that they might be able to enable that function in their own switch
for Mr. Linden's line(s), and simply charge him a monthly service fee for
doing so. Some telcos have this service available and others don't. All or
nearly all of them will block long-distance calls, but the override
function may or may not be available.
* * * * *
And I note that FrontPage isn't doing as good a job as I thought in
converting readers' email addresses to mailto: links. When I clicked on
the link to Mr. Linden to send a clarification, I noticed that it had
butchered the address by adding a second mailto: I've gone back and fixed
the mailto: links here, but there may be some I missed elsewhere. My
readers are smart enough to figure them out, though.
* * * * *
This from Bo Leuf [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
BTW, thanks for posting those links to the
short-list webhosts. I found both and the comparison I made between the
two most interesting and enlightening. It clarified a somewhat vague
picture I had developed about how webhosting is structured these days,
and confirmed the notion that most of the "hosts" one sees are
in fact space resellers, one or more rungs down in the hosting
The number of actual physical hosts, server
farms, may turn out to be much lower than one imagines.
There are certainly many web hosting services that simply
resell space. In fact, I could do that with my own account if I wished.
But there are certainly hundreds of services that run their own servers,
although many of them are co-located in glass houses that belong to other
companies. For me, the sine qua non of a web-hosting company is its
connectivity. Obviously, that's necessary but not sufficient. But without
great connectivity, the best prices, policies, and support are worthless.
* * * * *
And more from Robert Morgan ]email@example.com]
about pair.com and mail:
I wasn't aware of the Tophosts site,
interesting. In their top 25 list, they rank pair.com second. Not bad at
You do understand me correctly. A .forward
file in your home directory can selectively forward mail based on the
header. I have the ftp account, and I just tried it and it worked. Well,
I didn't test selective forwarding, I forwarded all my mail to another
box. This is all documented in sendmail. I've forgotten much of it.
Note 5 at the bottom, which confirms free forwarding and autoresponders.
The nice thing about this business is that
you don't need to remember the how's, just what's possible. See http://support.pair.com/howto/mailfwd.html
to read the specifics on mail forwarding.
Yes, it appears that I may be able to get along with the
pair.com mail policies. Just to confirm, I sent them another query letter
this morning to ask specificially how they charge for mailboxes. I don't
mind, for example, paying a buck a month to get Barbara her own POP
mailbox, or even paying two bucks a month to get mailboxes for Barbara and
me. What I wanted to make sure about was that I wouldn't end up having to
pay fifteen or twenty bucks extra a month to cover all the other mailboxes
I use for various purposes. It looks like I won't have to do that.
* * * * *
Friday at 12:18 p.m. I sent pair.com a query message. I got an
autoresponder message in reply immediately that said that they take care
of existing customers first and that their response to queries about new
service might be delayed for a few days. I got the following response from
pair.com tech support at 11:18 a.m. this morning, which I think is pretty
1. If I sign up for Advanced hosting, I assume that you
would provide one static IP address, and the three hostnames
www.ttgnet.com, mail.ttgnet.com, and ftp.ttgnet.com. Is this correct?
You are correct.
2. The cost of hosting my domain using your Advanced
service appears to be $15 Setup, $16.95/month for the service, $25 setup
for the virtual domain, and $1/month for the virtual domain. I'm unclear
about what you waive for transferring an existing domain. Do you waive the
$15 account setup, the $25 domain setup, or both?
We do not waive either of the above fee's.
We do not charge extra for generating the transfer paperwork or
processing the transfer on our end.
3. I write computer books for a living, and would plan to
POP my mail from your server. Occasionally, people send me rather large
files (e.g. a chapter manuscript zipped with figures). At various places
on your site, you mention limits on mailbox size of 500 KB, 1 MB, and 3
MB. Which, if any, of these are hard limits? I normally POP my mail every
few minutes during the day, but there is a chance that mail in excess of
the above sizes would accumulate overnight. This would happen relatively
infrequently, but it would be nice if the limits were soft.
We do not enforce the above storage limits
unless things become a problem (seldom). The only hard limit is on
incoming mail. Mail in excess of 2.5Mb will not always be accepted by
the mail server.
4. If I choose to host (as opposed to park) another domain
(e.g. my hardwareguys.com domain) on this same account, am I correct in
assuming that: (a) that second domain is assigned its own static IP
address, (b) that you provide the three hostnames www.hardwareguys.com,
mail.hardwareguys.com, and ftp.hardwareguys.com, (c) that the cost to do
this would be $25 setup and $1/month for service, and (d) that both
domains would share the available 40 MB of disk storage and the 200 MB/day
You are correct.
5. If I sign up for your service, I want to minimize
interruptions to my existing website readers. Can you provide me with my
new IP address initially, which I can them provide to my readers on my
current site so they can at least get to my new location by entering the
IP address? I would then delay changing my InterNIC record for a few days.
I doubt that BigBiz.com will be very helpful about changing the TTL on
their nameservers to help the change proliferate quickly. Or is there
something else you can suggest that will minimize the service disruption
when I move to your service?
The best way to do this is to setup the
account, domain name, and web pages on our servers first. Once that is
done, send the transfer template that we generate for you to InterNIC.
As long as you send the template from the e-mail address
"thompsrb@BELLSOUTH.NET" the transfer should not involve your
old host. InterNIC just needs to see that the change came from either
the Administrative or Technical contact.
If you have any other questions, let me
So I sent them a followup query just to make sure I understood their
* * * * *
This from Tom Syroid Tom Syroid [firstname.lastname@example.org]
notes on web updates with interest today..
As you know
I've had my share of problems over the past 2 weeks, and while the
solutions are not clearly focused yet, I suspect a good deal of my grief
is coming from the time-of-day I update. There are other factors in the
puzzle, of course, but those pieces are the hazy part still floating
around in my head.
servers -- and the net in general of late -- have been incredibly
slothful between 7pm and midnight (Saskatchewan local), which leads to
spotty FTP uploads; always slow and sometimes incomplete due to
time-outs. Which in turn leads to incomplete page updates.
schedule out, but I suspect you will encounter some of the same troubles
I have and end up going to your Option C: Write your page
updates one day, post them early in the morning of the next. This is the
route I'm going this week -- we'll see what comes of it.
Yep. The problem with figuring out what's causing web
server delays is that there are so many variables. The connection the
client has to his ISP; the connection from that ISP to the backbone; the
connection from the web hosting provider to the backbone; general backbone
congestion; the load on the web server itself, etc. etc. Broadly speaking,
you can break down the problem into being caused by either connectivity,
web server performance, or both.
In my case, until recently I had no problems with BigBiz on
either score. Except that my problems updating my site during business
hours were probably being caused by inadequate response time on the server
itself. The mess late last week resulted from both problems. BigBiz was
having connectivity and router problems *and* their web server was running
very slowly. At this point, the connectivity problems appear to be
resolved, but I'm still running on server #1, which is apparently
overloaded. BigBiz offered to move me to server #5, which is much more
lightly loaded. If I stick with them, I'll accept that offer. But I may
well be moving to pair.com. If that's the case, I don't want to put BigBiz
through the effort of relocating me to server #5 for such a short time.
My mother had a dentist appointment at 1:30 to have some teeth extracted
to prepare for her getting dentures. Barbara took her over and brought her
back about 3:00 p.m. She seems to be doing well. Barbara and I had spent
the morning working on the ATX test
bed system, but hadn't gotten it finished. When they returned and we
got my mother settled in, Barbara and I went back to working on the
system. We got everything installed and connected, did one final quick
check to make sure we hadn't left a screwdriver in the patient, and then
did the smoke test. Nothing happened. Nothing. The fan didn't even spin.
We verified all the connections, and tried again. Still nothing. At this
point, I'm not sure if the power supply is bad, or if there's a problem
with the system board. I have some EPoX system boards on the way, which I
hope will arrive this afternoon. I'll try one of them before I pull the
power supply and take it back to CSO for a replacement.
I'm going to try posting this update to the server now (about 16:30
EST). We'll see what happens. If it posts, fine. Otherwise, I'll try it
after dinner, and then again before bed if necessary. If none of those
work, I'll post it first thing in the morning. Whatever happens, this will
be the last update until tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon or evening.
16:30 EST - I
tried and failed to update the web site. I started the publication
process, which seemed to begin normally. After about a minute, Front Page
returned a server error: "Web <root web> is busy. Please try
again." So I tried again, with the same lack of results. I'll give it
a try after dinner.
17:15 EST -
Decided to try to update the web site again before dinner. I started the
publication process, which seemed to begin normally. Ordinarily, the
publication process takes perhaps two minutes, and the modem lights flash
pretty constantly during the early phases. This time, the modem lights
would flash quickly for a second a two, followed by a minute or more of no
activity.After ten or twelve minutes, the process finally timed out with
the server error described above.
18:00 EST - I'm
going to try again... Well, that one worked, but it took twenty
minutes--from 18:02 to 18:22--to get the job done.
February 2, 1999
UPS showed up at 6:00 p.m. yesterday with a box from EPoX,
a first-rate motherboard manufacturer. Although they're perhaps not as
well known as some of their competitors, I've had nothing but good
experiences with EPoX motherboards, and recommend them frequently. I've
never heard anyone have anything bad to say about EPoX, and many people
swear by them. One measure of my confidence in EPoX is that I bought an
a Baby AT Pentium II board with an Intel 440LX chipset, to build Barbara's
main workstation around.
So when I started to look around for motherboards to evaluate as
possible candidates to recommend in my books, I naturally contacted EPoX.
They sent me three motherboards, an EP-BXT
(Slot 1 BX ATX board with integrated i740 video and Yamaha sound), a KP6-BS
(dual Slot 1 BX ATX board), and an EP-58MVP3C-M
(Socket 7 MVP3 100 MHz AT board). I thought about using the EP-BXT to
replace the Intel Seattle-1 SE440BX in the test bed unit to verify that I
indeed have a bad power supply, but I was pretty tired. That can wait
until tomorrow. You'll be hearing more about these boards in the Special
Reports section soon.
* * * * *
This from Joline Newman [email@example.com]
regarding how to make a bomb:
I am very intrested in pyrotechnicians, and
bomb making could you please e-mail me with some information and
proceeders on how to make some hame made explosives, I would be most
My best advice is, don't.
When I played around with bombs and pyrotechnics as a
teenager 30 years and more ago, things were very different. Nowadays, even
if you somehow avoid blowing yourself up, you're likely to end up in jail.
I saw a report recently of a man who was arrested and jailed, with bail
set at a million dollars, simply for manufacturing cherry bombs and
selling them to his co-workers. In the aftermath of Oklahoma City, the ATF
and other law enforcement agencies have even less toleration for people
playing around with explosives than they used to have, and that wasn't
Do yourself a big favor and don't even think about trying
to making things that go boom.
* * * * *
For some reason, tonight seems to be a popular time to ask me how to do
illegal things. This from Murilo Maia [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Eu sou pesaroso que eu não posso responder a esta
pergunta. Alguns fabricantes unidos dos estados fazem silencers da
pistola, mas seus venda, uso, e possessão são restringidos firmemente
nos estados unidos. Se os silencers fossem legais em Brasil, sua loja
local dos firearms seria provavelmente uma fonte boa. Se os silencers não
forem legais em Brasil, eu recomendo que você os evita.
Who much make one silencer for Taurus PT-58
You can help me???
(I am sorry that I can't answer this question. Some United
States manufacturers make pistol silencers, but their sale, use, and
possession is tightly restricted in the United States. If silencers are
legal in Brasil, your local firearms store would probably be a good
source. If silencers are not legal in Brasil, I recommend that you avoid
* * * * *
The following from Mitch Armistead [email@example.com]:
Love your site. Any thoughts, or comments on
AGP ports with Windows NT. Everything I found at Microsoft says that
it's not supported till NT 5.0, though that seems not to be the case in
Reality. Anything will be appreciated.
Thanks. As far as AGP support in W2K, I don't know. I have
had various builds of Windows NT 5 and Windows 2000 installed here,
although I don't have it running on anything at the moment. All of the
machines I've installed it on have had PCI video, so I haven't had the
opportunity to test AGP support in the betas. I have heard, although I
don't know whether it is true, that Microsoft already has both AGP and USB
support implemented for Windows NT 4, but decided not to ship it in
Service Pack 4. The theory goes that they decided to withhold it as an
added incentive for people to upgrade to W2K. My best guess is that we'll
see full AGP support implemented in W2K.
* * * * *
The following from Warrick M. Locke [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Don't know how relevant this is, but the Web
has been extremely slow for me over the last two weeks. Connect times
averaging 3 minutes, sometimes no connect at all for 10 minutes at a
I'd thought it was my ISP (wf.net, MIL-TEL
Communications, Wichita Falls, TX, talking over Southwestern
Slow^h^h^h^hBell's voice network) coupled with my archaic computer. (I'm
just a browser; I've nothing to put on a web site.)
Is there some new net-virus going around? Or
is MCI having hiccups?
I don't know, but the web indeed seems to be running pretty
slowly lately. We're just fortunate that packet switching in general and
TCP/IP in particular are as well thought out as they are. They degrade
gracefully under load. If they didn't, we'd all be getting the IP
equivalent of constant busy signals.
* * * * *
Late afternoon: Another
frustrating day. Barbara and I started the day by replacing the Intel
Seattle-1 SE440BX motherboard in the ATX
test-bed system with the EPoX EP-BXT motherboard that just arrived
yesterday evening. We got everything connected, powered it up, and still
nothing worked, not even the fan. I called Computer & Software
Outlook, and they told me to bring back the power supply and they'd pull a
new one from stock.
Then my mom's cleaning lady called up the stairs to tell me that she'd
flushed the toilet and it'd backed up to nearly overflowing. That happens
periodically when the switch in the ejector pump gets clogged. Ordinarily,
I just jiggle one of the pipes to the pump and it starts running. I went
down and jiggled the pipe with no results. Jiggled harder. Still no
results. I figured that maybe a breaker had blown, so I went to check the
breaker panel. No breakers had blown.
So I went into the finished area of the basement and unplugged a
working lamp. It was lit when I pulled the plug. I took that back to the
ejector pump and plugged it in. No light. Flipped switch a couple of
times. Still no light. Aha. We have a bunch of GFCI receptacles. Since no
breakers had blown, I figured it must be one of the GFCIs. I went around
and checked and reset all of them. No joy. I took the lamp back into the
finished area of the basement and put it back where it had come from. I
didn't light there, either. Flipped the switch a couple of times. Still no
light. Okay, everthing has to die sometime, and strange coincidences while
troubleshooting are nothing new.
I grabbed the DirtDevil hand vacuum and plugged it in the the same
receptacle as the ejector pump. It ran fine. That's depressing. A dead
receptacle is easy to deal with, but now it looks like I need to call the
plumber. I called him, and he showed up an hour or so later. I got them
started and headed back upstairs. I have WinGate set to redial 99 times
and when I sat down back at my desk it was sitting there redialing. Okay,
that made sense. My modem doesn't connect directly to a phone line.
Instead, it connect through my telephone system. I looked over at my desk
phone and, sure enough, it was dead.
I figured that the plumbers had thrown the breaker before working on
the ejector pump, and it just happened to be the same circuit that my
telephone system is on. I tried to kill the WinGate dialer, but it refused
to dial. Finally, after listening to it try to dial every five seconds for
about 15 minutes--surely much more than 99 times--I headed downstairs to
ask the plumbers if they'd mind just unplugging the pump and turning its
breaker back on. They hadn't thrown the breaker to start with. Something
had caused a GFCI to blow, and it happened to be the one that my telephone
switch is connected to. I reset the GFCI, and both phones and modem
started working again.
And when the modem started working, mail started arriving again. To add
to the day's weirdness, here's what showed up (name and address omitted),
along with my reply:
I just rec'd my M/C bill and lo and behold I
find a $95.00 charge from you folks dated 12/25/98. My name is [name
removed by RBT] and I am requesting you to please review and
advise me of what I (didn't) purchased. Thank you, [address
removed by RBT].
Huh? We don't even have a merchant account (and never have
had one), so we can't take credit cards. You must be thinking of someone
The good news is that the plumbers suggested a fix for our occasional
backflow problem. They headed out to pick up a 2" check valve to stop
the backflow, and about five mintues later Barbara got back home from her
errands. She has a new power supply, which I sincerely hope works. A few
minutes after she got home, she took our four year old Border Collie
Duncan on his long walk. A few minutes after that, she came running back
in the house to shout that Duncan had been attacked and was injured.
As they were walking, Duncan stopped to stick his snout down a storm
drain, a habit of his that we can't break. Barbara told him to come and
kept walking. Duncan disobeyed and stayed at the storm drain. Barbara
turned around just in time to see something come up out of the
storm drain and go for Duncan's face. She described it as "a
monster" and said that it snarled ferociously. She said it was brown,
bigger than a squirrel, and smaller than a leopard, but couldn't otherwise
describe it. In retrospect, she thought perhaps it was a raccoon or a a
very large cat. It went for Duncan, he went for it, and when she finally
got Duncan pulled back, his snout was "dripping blood". Barbara
was terrified, thinking that Duncan had been seriously injured.
As it turned out, he wasn't injured, but you should see the other guy.
By the time they got home, no blood was evident to me. Apparently, all the
blood originated with the monster, and Duncan must have licked it off his
snout. I called the vet and made an appointment this afternoon for them to
look at Duncan (who appears to have no injuries) and give him booster
shots for whatever. Barbara was afraid that whatever was down there was
still alive and might attack a child or another pet, so she called animal
control to report a vicious animal. Personally, I think it was probably a
cat that made the mistake of fighting instead of running. Any cat that
stands and fights a dog deserves what it gets. The jaws of a 70 pound dog
are nothing to be taken lightly.
This is one of those days when I just won't be able to get much done.
Since I can't get any writing done for all the interruptions, I decided
to swap out the power supply. Four screws, and two minutes later, the
system boots. The moral here is, don't use cheap power
supplies. I wouldn't have wasted a couple of hours and
Barbara's trip back to CSO if I'd started with a good power supply in the
first place. Unfortunately, good power supplies aren't cheap items. The PC
Power & Cooling 300 watt ATX unit I'd like to put in this machine
costs $120. Not many people will spend that on a power supply, but in my
experience it's a worthwhile investment.
It's 16:30 now, and I'm whacked. The plumbers are back, and Barbara is
getting ready to leave to take Duncan to the vet. The plumbers had to go
four places to find a replacement switch for the ejector pump. I'm not
surprised it needed replaced. It must be seven years old by now, and it's
spent its life submerged in sewage.
I'd like to spend the evening reading, but my unread stack is almost
non-existent. I'll watch Buffy tonight (it's a re-run, but they're all new
to us) and then vegetate with a junk novel.
* * * * *
And I got the following response to my query from pair.com tech
Thanks for the quick response. I do have one final
question, this one about mailboxes. Basically, the way I'm setup now at
BigBiz is with one actual POP mailbox, whose name happens to be
email@example.com. I can freely create mailboxes within my own domain
(firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.) that autoforward to that
single mailbox, from which I POP. I also have several mailboxes
(email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.) that
forward to external mailboxes. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org forwards to
our dialup account at bellsouth.net, from which she POPs. Steve's and
Craig's forward to their own external local ISP accounts. I also have my
mail configured so that any mail to a non-existent *.ttgnet.com account
(e.g. email@example.com, which I actually got one addressed to) is
forwarded to my main mailbox. If I understand you correctly, pair.com mail
policies would allow me to do the same thing without paying for additional
Once you have a domain name setup for the
account, all mail directed to the domain will be sent to your main
mailbox. You can then forward specific messages as you choose. No cost.
What I don't know is whether with pair.com I can POP
directly from "virtual" mailboxes that I create in the
ttgnet.com domain. With BigBiz, for example, I could create the mailboxes
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, and then configure my own mail
package to POP directly from firstname.lastname@example.org and my wife's mail
package to POP from email@example.com. The only limitation is that all
virtual ttgnet.com mailboxes have the same password. Is this also the case
with pair.com, or would I have to create and pay for individual mailboxes
for each virtual ttgnet.com account name I wanted to POP from?
We do support extra POP boxes, but there is
a charge attached. Each extra mailbox costs $1 per month per box. These
boxes all have thier own POP login and password. You can request these
extra boxes through our upgrade system.
So it appears that I won't have to buy a whole bunch of extra mailboxes
if I move to pair.com. If I do that, I may just leave things as they are
now, with Barbara's mail forwarding to our ISP account, or I may pay a
buck a month for a real POP mailbox for her at pair.com. At least it's not
going to cost me $20 or $25 a month more to have all the autoforwarded
mailboxes I need.
* * * * *
Okay, it's about 17:05 EST, and I'm going to try publishing this again.
If the past is any indication, at best it'll take ten or twenty minutes to
publish and at worse I'll get a server tiime out.
February 3, 1999
And the publishing process completed normally. I started at 17:05, and
it finished up a few minutes later, in about the usual time it takes me to
publish in the morning.
With everything else that happened yesterday, I forgot to mention that
the one of the fluorescents in the downstairs kitchen died, this the same
day that Jim Wilson replaced the ballasts. I mailed him yesterday, and he
mentioned that one of the tubes had a ring around it. We'll try replacing
that tube today and see if that helps.
* * * * *
And I think I'll go back to publishing in the morning. It seems dumb to
just leave stuff that's ready to go sitting there unpublished all day
long. The ATX test-bed system is up and running. More details on the special
reports page for it. That page is very much a work-in-process page,
though. Once it's finished and cleaned up, I'll send Pournelle a copy to
post on his web site. That's what the stubbed out notices at the top and
bottom are all about, in case you were wondering.
* * * * *
Mail from last night:
This from Bolo [firstname.lastname@example.org],
regarding batteries for the Pentax Spotmatic:
Hello, I loved reading about your old Pentax
Spotmatic on your web page. I have a Spotmatic that I got when my father
passed away. Our 17 yr old son wants to use it for a photography class
at school, so we dug it out. Still looks brand new, kinda proud of that.
However, the only battery (for the light meter) that was in the case has
absolutely NO markings on it. Would you have any idea what kind of
battery this takes? Thanks in advance for any information you can
Thanks for the kind words. As a matter of fact, you're the
third person in the last couple months to ask exactly the same question
(see my Daynotes for the weeks of 11/16 and 12/28). I took the battery out
of my Spotmatic, and it's a standard Energizer EPX76 silver oxide hearing
aid battery that you can buy in most drugstores. I also dug out my
1970-vintage copy of Herbert Keppler's The Honeywell Pentax Way, which
specifies a Mallory RM400R or equivalent.
* * * * *
This from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net]:
In years past, it's seems like the
"net" has often slowed down in January as all those people who
bought PCs for the family for Christmas sign up with AOL, CompuServe,
Prodigy, etc. Those one month free trials are irresistible, and I think
these users contribute to an increase in net congestion. So it might be
until the end of the month when the net starts to respond better. And,
with the way people keep adding bandwidth to the net, they'll catch up
with the added users soon too.
Good point. I hadn't thought about all those Christmas PCs,
but that makes sense. And you're right about bandwidth. When I got started
on the Internet back in 1987, the backbone itself ran at 56 KB/s, which
was considered a "high speed" connection back then. Nowadays,
they're deploying miles of fibre optic cable every day. I suspect it won't
be long until little mom and pop ISPs have OC48 links.
* * * * *
And here's something from Chuck Waggoner [email@example.com]
that might explain some of the slowdowns people have been experiencing:
I can report that, for about 2 weeks, up
until last Thursday (28 Jan), I was experiencing incredible slowness
with everything from logging on, to getting pages to load and email
checked without timing out. This has been an occasional problem--after a
few days of such behavior, it usually goes away. But after not even
being able to log on after 5:00pm for almost a week, I was sure it was
my ISP's fault.
During all these periods of problems, I had
noticed, that occasionally the modem handshake would fall back to a
31.2k connection, and everything would work perfectly during that
connection. I had wanted to try forcing a slower connection, but I
couldn't find any of my old modem manuals with the AT commands--nor were
they on USR's site, whose modem I have (forget what they now uselessly
call a manual--it's really an advertisement for Web access). But
aggravated beyond belief last Thursday, I contacted a buddy who knew the
right info--and boy am I glad.
Since then, I've been forcing a 32k
connection (anything slower does not enable error correction in my
modem), and things have never worked so well. I haven't had a single
failure of any subscription to download, or email to be checked, and
those were formerly frequent--even when I thought times were good. In
checking over the modem logs, both of those activities are happening in
less than half the time they were when the modem was left to connect at
its own discretion, which was usually between 44 and 52k. I can't
explain this, and it seems counter-intuitive, but for others who are
experiencing slowness, try this first. On my modem it's AT&N20 for a
32k forced connection. It's sure working faster for me when it's set
That's a new one on me. I still use a USR v.Everything 33.6
modem, so 56 K speeds are outside my experience. Off the top of my head,
the only thing I can think of that might explain what you're experiencing
is a TCP/IP retry situation. That is, if your ISP has a whole bunch of
high-speed modems in a large bank, it's possible that the cumulative
throughput of all of them is swamping the ability of a router or other
TCP/IP network component to keep up. Simplying grossly, your
DCE-to-DCE rate may be, say, 50 K. If you're using that 50 K to deliver
three packets in the time that the router can only process two, you're
getting a lot of dropped packets and retries, which can easily translate
into timeouts. However, I'd expect dropping the DCE speed to improve that
situation only if you were connecting to a different physical network,
which usually implies dialing a different phone number. So, I don't really
know. I'll post this message. If anyone else has any ideas, I'd love to
February 4, 1999
Barbara had another bad experience while walking Duncan last night.
This time, she twisted her ankle and fell. She had some minor scrapes on
hands and knees, and a slightly sprained ankle. We applied ice to the
sprain and Neosporin to the scrapes. But what worries me is that she hurt
herself under the bottom rib. I think it's probably just a muscle pull,
but she doesn't want to go to the hospital.
Our health insurance expired as of 1/31/99, and we're still waiting on
Blue Cross to process our application. Tomorrow, I'm going to call the guy
and tell him he has through the end of this week or he can forget it. We
applied in mid-December, at which time they told us that we could expect
an answer in about 30 days. Every time I call, they put it off longer. I'm
tired of being jerked around. We're not really without health insurance,
because we have 60 days to retroactively re-activate our old coverage
under COBRA by paying the back premiums. I just hope that Barbara didn't
avoid going to the hospital because of our health insurance situation.
Barbara is still hurting this morning. I asked her if she'd at least go
to the doctor to get looked at, and she's thinking about it. She's a lot
like me in that respect. Even before, she refused to go to the doctor
unless there was a real problem.
* * * * *
Microsoft has apparently changed their position somewhat on Windows NT
4 and Y2K compliance. In the past, they've said that installing SP3 brings
NT4 into Y2K compliance with minor exceptions. Now they're recommending
that users install SP4 to ensure Y2K compliance. The complete story in the
InfoWorld article Y2K
nips NT users.
I've been running SP4 on one of my servers since shortly after it was
released, and have not had any stability or performance problems or
incompatibilities. I've heard few reports of problems with SP4, and those
that I have heard about have been relatively minor. Conversely, SP4 fixes
scores of bugs, some of them pretty major. You can view a complete list of
the bugs fixed by SP4 (and earlier SPs) at http://www.nthelp.com/nt4bugs.htm.
I'd decided to run SP4 on one server for three months before committing
to upgrading my entire network. Although the press of other business
prevents me from doing so immediately, I plan to upgrade all my servers as
soon as I can make the time to do so. I recommend that those of you
running NT4 do the same. As always, it's worthwhile to do a complete
backup before you apply the service pack, and then keep that backup
available until you have satisfied yourself that SP4 works properly on
your own system.
* * * * *
The following message from Jeff Erickson [firstname.lastname@example.org].
If anyone can help him any more than I was able to, please email him
directly. My guess is that he has an Intel Seattle-1 SE440BX or a
Seattle-2 SE440BX2, but I can't say that for sure based on the information
First off, let me congratulate you on an
excellent web site. I've found tons of good reading and lots of useful
My reason for writing you is that I am in
desperate need of a little technical help. You might not be able to
help.. or even really care.. but I thought I'd ask anyway. I have a
Gateway 450XL (Pentium II) with 128MB of SDRAM and a crap-load of good
stuff. My problem arose as I tried to move my motherboard from my
Gateway "mid-tower" case to a slightly larger tower case made
by Enlight. The whole operation went fine up to the point that I went to
connect the various wires leading to the front switches. It seems that
Gateway uses a "Front Control Panel" set of pins to connect to
their case. Enlight, and the rest of the modern world, uses individual
wires leading to things such as the power switch, hdd light, speaker,
etc. Gateway's Front Control Panel is basically a cluster of pins with
no markings. I checked Gateway's web site for information on the pin-out
for this Front Control Panel.. no luck. And, taking my existing case
apart didn't help much as the wires are poorly marked and their
connections to the front of the case are obscured by the front plastic
grille. A phone call to Gateway Tech Support resulted in lots of
"uhhhh.. I don't know" type responses.
Hillary Clinton and I are just sure that
this is all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy to stop Gateway
customers from switching cases. But, I'm still determined to figure out
this pesky Front Control Panel pin-out. My question to you is this: In
your experience with your Gateway system or in the contacts you have
with others, have you ever come across a pin-out diagram for a Gateway
Front Control Panel? For more background on the issue, you can download
any of the Pentium II BX motherboard manuals off of Gateway's site. They
all have a very pretty diagram of the Front Control Panel... but not a
single pin-by-pin listing of what it does.
Hmm. Off the top of my head, I don't know what to tell you.
As you've noted, there are two possibilities:
1. Figure out what the unlabeled motherboard pins are for
by examining the motherboard itself. Although Gateway uses third-party
motherboards, they may use different motherboards in the same nominal
computer model, so the real problem is finding out exactly which
motherboard you have, by manufacturer and model. If you can do that, you
can visit the original manufacturer's web site and probably find the
information you need. The last time I looked, Gateway was using a lot of
Intel motherboards, so that may well be what you have. Gateway assigns
their own internal ID numbers to motherboards. You can locate that number
on your invoice or on the motherboard itself. Once you've done that, you
should be able to find someone in Gateway tech support who can translate
their internal ID to the real manufacturer and model. With that
information, finding the connector pinouts shouldn't take long.
2. Figure out where the wires to the front panel connectors
lead. I haven't looked at a Gateway case lately, so I'll assume that
you've already done your best with this. But if you haven't popped the
front bezel yet, doing that should expose the wires and connectors enough
at least to tell which color wires lead where. That's probably the best
There is, of course, a third possibility. Take your best
guess. I've never damaged a motherboard by misconnecting front panel
connectors, and I think it's theoretically impossible to do so. If you
want to take a chance (obviously, you do so at your own risk), find out
what the Gateway motherboard ID is, call up the picture of it, and compare
it to some likely candidates like the Intel Seattle. If the component
layouts look identical and the front panel connector block looks
identical, chances are they are identical. My Intel Seattle board, for
example, has the following connectors from left to right, where
"X" is position with a pin and "B" is a position with
no pin installed::
1. SPEAKER, 4 positions, XXBX
2. RESET, 2 positions, XX
3. PWR LED, 4 positions, BXBX
4. <one vacant postion>
5. HD LED, 4 positions, XXBX
6. <one vacant position>
7. INFRARED, 6 positions, XXXXBX
8. <one vacant position>
9. SLEEP, two positions, XX
10. PWR ON, two positions, XX
And, of course, the other problem you may run into is that
the cable jumper blocks on the front panel wires on your new case may not
match up with the pins on the motherboard. Sometimes, for example, you'll
have a 4-position connector with position 2 blocked, and find that it
needs to connect to a block of header pins that has all four pins present.
That's easy enough to deal with by bending the surplus pin backward
slightly so that it's out of the way (or by cutting it off, if you're
really brave). What's worse (and it happens frequently) is that you have,
for example, one four-position header-pin connector on a cable, with all
four wires connected. You find that two of those wires need to connect to
header pins on one side of the motherboard header pin array, and the other
two wires need to connect to two pins on the other side.
* * * * *
And Scott Kitterman [Kitterma@erols.com]
sent me, without comment, an interesting web page about a new method of
predicting the stock market. I sent him following:
Hmm. I don't think I'll paste this one into my web page. I
take it that you sent it to me as another example of the predictive value
of collective opinion.
To which he replied:
Yes, that's correct. It struck we coming so
close on the heels of your experiment.
Here's the URL we were talking about:
February 5, 1999
Last week, we discussed whether problems
existed with running Diskeeper 4 on a Windows NT computer with SP4
installed. We concluded that a serious problem that may cause data loss or
corruption does exist, but the problem is not really with Diskeeper. The
problem is a bug in the "repair" or "/r" option of the
SP4 chkdsk program, and it can manifest even on an SP4 system that does
not have Diskeeper installed. Also note that a similar problem may occur
even under SP3 with volumes larger than 8.4 GB.
Unfortunately, running Diskeeper
Directory Consolidation with the CHKDSK option enabled may cause this
problem to rear its ugly head. Executive Software has posted updates for Diskeeper
3 and Diskeeper
4 that address the problem.
Didn't get a whole lot done yesterday, with my mother recovering from
oral surgery and Barbara "whores de combat" (as a student once
wrote in a paper I was checking). My mom seems to be doing better, and
Barbara seems to be recovering. She's still sore, but it appears that it
was a muscle pull after all. She never did go to the doctor.
I emailed the Blue Cross/Blue Shield guy, and he tells me that our
application will be processed today. We'll see.
* * * * *
I've been having an exchange of mail with Tom Syroid about expanding
system memory that I thought might be of general interest, so I'll include
it here. It started with the following statement that Tom made on his web
Yep. My rule of thumb for NT
is that if it ever hits the page file, that's too often. I don't know
about there, but down here PC100 memory is about $1.50 US per MB. I
standardized on 64 MB for NT client systems a couple of years ago, 128 MB
a year ago, and now I think I'll start putting 256 MB in any new ones I
build. More for serious servers, of course.
Continuous "file thrashing" has
become a rigor-du-jour for my system these days
If you don't have at least 64 MB, you
should run out and get some memory ASAP. If you have 64 MB and are doing
much multitasking, you'll probably be surprised just how much difference
going to even 96 MB will make.
Mmmm. High agreement on all
your points. I have 64 MB, but since I've started "Web
Designing", I've found myself habitually having 4, 5, 6... windows
open at any given time and switching between as tasks dictate. I've held
off buying any more ram for this system to date because (a) I plan to
build a new system this year and it will definately have 256MB P-00
installed, (b) when I do, this system will be relegated to a games/Win95
system for my daughter, and (c) the max RAM capacity is only 128MB, and
with what I have and what I want to get, I'll lose what I have currently
installed in upgrading. Fiddle-faddle. Oh well. Looks like I'm going to
go ahead and bite the bullet anyway. At least I'll be passing on a
'maxed' out machine to Danielle.
Umm. Before you do, I forgot one
thing. You're running on a Pentium, right?
A lot of Pentium chipsets support
more system memory than they can cache. For example, the current 430TX
supports 256MB of system RAM, but can only cache 64 MB. If you have a
chipset with this restriction, adding memory above 64 MB can actually slow
the system down. On balance, I think that your system would probably run
faster with more than 64 MB even if it had such a chipset, because even
uncached RAM is much faster than the disk accesses that are occuring when
you hit your page file.
Umm Indeed. Never
heard of that one before...
The 430HX is the best
Pentium-class chipset that Intel ever made. It supports up to 512 MB of
system RAM, all of which can be cached. About the only thing it lacks
relative to newer chipsets is support for SDRAM. You'd mentioned a 128 MB
limitation, which must be something Compaq did. One other possibility is
that Compaq specified the limitation of 128 MB because of the amount of
cache RAM installed. If so, you can also upgrade the cache RAM, which will
allow you to support additional system RAM, fully cached.
I agree with your analysis
of the pros and cons of this 64 limit as regards to pagefile access. But
is there a way I can find out whether or not my chipset is indeed
limited in cache size or not? My MB is a Compaq proprietry with a Triton
One other thing to look for: the
430HX was Intel's butt-kicker Pentium chipset. It supports dual CPUs, and
an awful lot of HX motherboards have an unused CPU socket. If that's the
case, since you're running NT, you could install a second CPU in that box.
It should match your current CPU in all respects. With two Pentium CPUs,
you may find that your existing box runs faster than a lot of uniprocessor
Pentium II boxes.
Although this started as a private
exchange, we're discussing some stuff that may well interest others.
Unless you object, I'm going to post our exchange.
No problem, post
I *wish* I had dual
processor sockets. If I did, I'd certainly have 2 processors driving NT
Curious point you make,
though about the 512 MB max. My board came without an external cache
chip and I finally found one (by Kingston) which my wife bought me for
Christmas -- very spendy, but any improvement is progress with a P-100.
I'm wondering aloud if the RAM max is specified by Compaq due to the
normally absent cache, or if it is indeed hard-coded into the MB. At any
rate, my plans include an upgrade to 128MB ASAP. My next machine,
though, will very definately have provision for a second CPU. I may not
fill the spot at first, but it will *definately* get filled eventually.
Without knowing anything about the motherboard, I can't
really say. But I'd guess that your motherboard probably came with a
certain amount of soldered-on cache and an empty socket for adding more
cache. If that's the case, it may well be that the amount of soldered
cache was adequate to cache only 128 MB, and so Compaq specified that as
the system maximum.
Another possibility is that the SIMMs of the required size
weren't available when the motherboard shipped. For example, if your
motherboard has four SIMM sockets, although the chipset itself may have
support for 64 MB SIMMs and 8 SIMM sockets (for a total of 512 MB), it may
be that only 32 MB SIMMs were available in quantity when the motherboard
shipped. Accordingly, Compaq may have listed maximum memory as 32 MB X 4,
or 128 MB.
As far as your next machine, I think getting a dual-CPU
capable system is a good idea. Running NT, you're likely to find that
having two slower processors yields a faster machine than having one
faster processor, and the total price may well be lower. Because of the
way Intel prices the different CPU speeds, two mid-range processors (e.g.
Pentium II/333) are also often cheaper than one of their current
top-of-the-line CPUs (e.g. the Pentium II/450). Although using two Pentium
II/333 CPUs doesn't literally give you the equivalent of a Pentium II/666,
it does give you more power than the single 450.
As far as starting with one CPU, just be careful that the
CPU you get will still be available when you want to add the second one.
For example, if you start with one Pentium II/333, you need to keep a
careful watch on the market to make sure that Pentium II/333's don't
disappear before you get your second one. Of course, if your first CPU is
a 100 MHz FSB one, you could always later add a second faster CPU and run
both of them at the slower speed. Alternatively, you could also add a
second faster one and run both it and the original at the faster speed.
Pentium IIs are still overclockable, although that capability is going
away soon, because Intel is putting PLL circuits on their CPUs to restrict
them to running at their nominal speed.
A lot of people don't understand the dynamics of
overclocking and CPU speeds. When Intel first ships a given model of CPU,
their yields are relatively low, and they produce many units that won't
run at the highest speed. So, they test each CPU as it comes off the line.
When they first started producing Pentium IIs, for example, the few good
ones that'd run at 333 got put in one bin. Those that wouldn't run at 333
but would run at 300 got put in that bin, etc. all the way down to 233.
But as their lines ramp up, their yields improve greatly,
and the percentage of CPUs that will run at the fastest rated speed
becomes much higher. Once they get all the kinks worked out, essentially
all of the CPUs coming off the line will run at the fastest speed. But
their pricing structure demands a premium for the fastest rated CPUs, and
many people want the slower versions. So Intel arbitrarily pulls CPUs and
marks them for the slower speeds, even though they would in fact run at
the faster speeds.
What that means right now is that if you buy, say, a
Pentium II/350, chances are excellent that it will run successfully at
450. At least until Intel starts putting the PLLs in to restrict each CPU
to running no faster than its rated speed. And that fact in itself is
telling. Because they have to set the PLL-restricted speed *before* they
test the CPU. That means they're not concerned about wastage, because
they're arbitrarily marking Pentium IIs at 350 that might have passed the
test for 450.
* * * * *
This from Timothy Werth [email@example.com]:
Someone has probably told you this already
but the link at the bottom of the page for the atx-testbed report points
to the same page. The link: An extended version of this report,
including benchmark tests, is available at http://www.ttgnet.com/Reports/atx-testbed.html
Is on page:
Hope you have fun playing w/all of the new
m/boards & hard drives. I look forward to reading your adventures.
Thanks, Tim. I was actually aware of it, and put a notice
to that effect somewhere (I can't remember where). The reason that link
points to its own page is that I am going to write the document in its
entirety and post it at that URL. I'll then edit the document down to a
much shorter length, and send it to Jerry Pournelle to post on his site.
The link at the bottom is a way for people who want to read the additional
information to jump over to my site. Same thing with the stuff at the top
which welcomes visitors from other sites (except that part will stay for
my site and go away for the version I send to Jerry).
February 6, 1999
This week has been a bad one from start to finish. But it's ending on a
great note. My agent, David Rogelberg, mailed me yesterday to say that we finally
have a signed contract from O'Reilly for the book that Jerry Pournelle and
I are doing. There were a lot of things to get worked out. More than once,
we thought we had everything worked out, only to find that one or another
thing had popped up and we had to go back to the drawing board. But now,
it's a go. I'm really looking forward to working with Jerry. I'm going to
learn a lot.
* * * * *
This from Dave Farquhar [firstname.lastname@example.org],
responding to my comment about Windows NT 4 Setup restricting the size of
volumes created during installation to 8 GB or smaller:
I've run into the same problem in the past
with NT only using 8.4 GB of a large drive. The only solution to this
I've ever found is to extract ATAPI.SYS from NT SP4, throw it on a disk,
and when NT asks to set up mass storage devices, tell it to skip
detection and feed it that disk. As long as your BIOS supports the big
drives, NT will happily support it with this fix.
Going into Disk Administrator after
installing SP4 also works, but if you like to partition your drives at
installation time, this is the only way you're going to be able to do
it. Here's a link that goes into more detail:
I've never tried that method, but it makes sense that it
would work. I suspect that limitation won't affect most people, though,
even those with large hard disks, because few people install NT in a huge
partition. I generally create a 1 GB C: system partition for NT (or a 1 GB
C: primary partition for Win9x and a 1 GB D: volume for NT, if I'm going
to dual-boot) and then use Disk Administrator to partition the remainder
of the drive. I suspect most people do the same. I'm just not comfortable
having NT floating around in a huge partition with a bunch of other stuff.
The BIOS support Dave referred to is Extended INT13 Support. The major
BIOS manufacturers--AMI, Award, and Phoenix--patched their core BIOS code
in very late 1997 and very early 1998. If your BIOS predates that, you'll
need to update your flash BIOS before you install a hard drive larger than
8.4 GB. Most drive manufacturers provide software workarounds for this
problem, but I've never thought that using a device driver for something
as fundamental as drive support was a good idea. Patch your BIOS instead.
And Dave follows up by saying:
I normally do the same thing. Monster NT
boot partitions scare me, and they require some serious Partition Magic
trickery anyway, since FAT partitions are limited to 2 GB and NT
installation creates NTFS partitions by creating FAT partitions and
converting to NTFS.
But since it's a little disheartening to
have NT erroneously identify my drives, I tend to do this trick anyway.
There was one occasion where I put a 10 GB DiamondMax Plus drive in a
system, and for some reason I never figured out, the system BIOS
autodetect misidentified the drive size. I ran into problems during the
partitioning stage (for obvious reasons), but since both NT and the
system were misidentifying the drive, I had a devil of a time tracking
down the problem. When PartitionMagic also misidentified the drive, I
went into the system setup and set the drive type to AUTO (overriding
the values autodetect put in), rebooted, and the problem went away.
This was a really odd episode. I'm guessing
that over the past five years I've built about 70 systems and upgraded
about 500. I've only seen this particular problem once. But ever since,
I've liked to have the OS work properly from square one with monster
hard drives, just in case.
Speaking of partitioning, I wouldn't mind
hearing some good discussion on partitioning. I'm in the habit of
creating a small partition, changing NT's TMP and TEMP variables
(Control Panel --> System --> Environment in NT; SET TMP=E:\TEMP
and SET TEMP=E:\TEMP in AUTOEXEC.BAT on older MS systems) and pointing
them at a subdirectory residing on that partition; moving Web browser
cache into another subdirectory on that partition; and then storing
programs and data separately (data preferably on a network drive, but on
standalones, on a separate partition), on the theory that programs, left
to their own, aren't terribly likely to get fragmented. Browser cache
and temp files, on the other hand, by their very nature are the most
likely to get fragmented, but at least by quarantining them, they're not
fragmenting my important stuff.
Some programs don't behave and use
C:\WINDOWS\TEMP regardless of what I do, but the majority seem to follow
whatever I set those environment variables to use. Ever since I started
doing this, I've found I don't need to defragment nearly as often.
The other advantage I've seen to
partitioning is that sometimes the OS (especially DOS-based OSs like
Win95/98, but I've seen NT and OS/2 do this too on a couple of
occasions) will corrupt data in its own partition after an especially
nasty system crash, but usually the other partitions will survive.
Isolating the OS to its own partition provides some damage control, and
makes disaster recovery with Drive Image or Ghost really nice.
Hmm. I've dealt with a lot of disk drives over the years,
and I don't recall ever having a system mis-identify a drive. As a matter
of fact, I'm not even sure how that could happen. I think it was ATA-2
that implemented the IDENTIFY DRIVE command. When the ATA interface issues
the IDENTIFY DRIVE command, the embedded drive controller returns the
string stored on ROM that contains the drive model, CHS counts, etc. I
don't doubt that it happened to you, but it would be interesting to
understand the sequence of events that allowed it to happen.
I don't go as far in segregating stuff as you do. I usually
create a 1 GB or 2 GB partition for the OS and applications and put the
data on a network drive. Since the drives in my systems run from 3.1 GB up
to 10+ GB, that leaves me with a lot of unused space on workstation
drives. I take advantage of that space by creating dedicated volumes for
various stuff. For example, I use one of my workstations as a distribution
server. It has a "left over" 6 GB partition filled with copies
of distribution CDs. It's shared with the network, so I can install
anything any time without tracking down the original CD. I put other
leftover partitions to similar tasks. I have a partition dedicated on each
of two machines to storing the backups that I do via batch file several
times a day. I have plans for one huge leftover partition to store MP3
audio files. That way, I'll be able to play my music from a network server
instead of loading the original CDs. I also find the leftover space
convenient for doing snapshot backups with DriveImage.
As far as pointing standard Windows directories to other
locations, I made an executive decision a long time ago not to do that. As
you point out, everything usually works fine, but you'll inevitably run
into applications written by stupid programmers who hard-coded directory
names (and even volume ID letters) into their programs. So, I just let
Windows point where it wants to. I don't worry much about fragmentation. I
have Diskeeper 4 set to auto-defrag at 3:00 a.m. each morning, and my
fragmentation level seldom rises above 1% on any volume.
And Dave follows up again:
The only cause that I can think of for the
problem is a flub-up at the CMOS level. I don't remember if there were
any CMOS checksum errors around that time or not. I know that system's
original motherboard was troublesome, but I don't remember now if I put
the drive in before the motherboard swap or after.
It was certainly odd -- I've only seen it
once time out of hundreds of systems and I'll be very surprised if I
ever see anything like it again. But I tend to be over-cautious, if
anything. Computers are just too valuable, from a practical if not from
a monetary standpoint, to be reckless with them.
I do know that once I got the Maxtor drive
working properly, it kept right on working properly, not to mention
quickly. I can't say enough about the DiamondMax Plus drives. A Seagate
Cheetah is a little bit faster, but the Cheetah plus a decent host
adapter will cost three times as much and give you (at best) 20% better
I agree that a problem with CMOS seems the only
explanation. And I share your high opinion of the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus
drives. As you say, the Seagate Cheetah is marginally faster, but it's
also a 10,000 RPM SCSI/Fibre Channel drive intended for departmental and
enterprise servers. In my opinion, you can't beat the Maxtor DiamondMax
Plus drives for individual PCs and small servers.
* * * * *
This from Shawn Wallbridge [email@example.com]:
Of course, if your first CPU is a 100
MHz FSB one, you could always later add a second faster CPU and run both
of them at the slower speed. Alternatively, you could also add a second
faster one and run both it and the original at the faster speed.
Actually this is not possible unless you buy a 300 and a 450. Intel
locks the multiplier on their chips. So a 4.5x 300 will run at 450 but
you couldn't take a 350 and run it at 450 (without overclocking the
bus). I have a PII 300 SL2W8 that has the 4.4ns cache chips on it, so I
run it at 450 and it is perfectly stable. Intel has not officially said
that they are planning to clock-lock any CPU's yet but I have heard
rumors, that they are planning to. This would be the end of overclocking
without physically modifying the chips.
I just purchased a Celeron 300A and I plan to run it at 450. This has to
be the biggest bang for your buck ever. I paid $140CN and I have a
machine that is faster than a PII450. This will give me two PII450 class
machines to play with. If you are looking at overclocking a PII the only
motherboard to buy is the Abit BH6. It allows you to adjust the core CPU
voltage in .5v increments.
Arggghhh. You're right, of course. One of the hazards of
using modern tools like word processors is that they've made it *too* easy
to cut, paste, and edit. Then there's the fact that I'm so busy that
sometimes I don't pay close enough attention to what I'm doing. Thanks for
As far as Intel locking CPUs, I believe that it's now
reality. It may count as rumor, because I haven't verified it myself, but
I've been told (unofficially) that Celerons now shipping into the channel
are locked. I have a Celeron/333 sitting here that I haven't done anything
with. It runs a 66 MHz FSB with a 5.0 multiplier. I may plop it into this
EPoX EP-BXT motherboard and set the FSB to 100 MHz to see what happens
when you run a Celeron at 500 MHz.
The Abit BH6 is indeed a good board, but I suspect many
readers won't understand your reference to voltage. For their benefit,
I'll explain that CPUs (indeed any chip) "like" higher voltages
better than lower ones (within reason), and lower temperatures better than
higher ones. For example, years ago we used to test DIP RAM chips. Our
tester allowed us to vary the voltage from the nominal 5.0V and test how
reliable the chips were at various access speeds. If we found a chip that
was reliable for 60 ns applications when running at 5.0V and normal room
temperature and then re-tested that chip at 4.75V and a higher
temperature, we'd typically find that it's reliable access speed became
something like 125 ns. Same deal in reverse. A 120 ns chip running at
5.25V with an ice-cube sitting on top of it (literally) would test
reliably at much faster speeds.
The same things hold true for processors. When
manufacturers rate speed on CPUs, what they're really rating is how fast
that chip can reliably run at nominal voltage and temperature. If you put
a cryogenic cooler on a CPU and boost the voltage slightly, you can run it
much faster than its rating. Then, of course, there's the small matter
that the actual reliable speed of a chip may be much higher than its rated
speed, simply because the manufacturer needed some "slower"
chips to meet market demand. That's the case with the Celeron you have. It
never really was a 300 MHz CPU. It was a 450 MHz CPU with a 300 MHz label
And Shawn adds:
I have been keeping up with
the clock-locking. I have read reviews of the Celeron 400 and the
PIII500. The Celeron 400 would boot at 600 but would crash almost
immediately. The PIII would also boot at 620 (5x124) but wouldn't run
stable. The PIII was a engineering sample, but the Celeron was
production. I read at www.tomshardware.com
that his sources at Intel denied the clock-locking. I would think that
the engineering sample would contain the clock-locking. Either way I
have two PII 450 class processors for about $500CN. I am happy for now.
Dunno. But I should have some current production samples of
the Pentium II/450, Celeron PPGA, and Pentium III coming in the next month
or so, so I'll check them out.
And I agree that the Celeron offers by far the most bang for the buck for
mainstream use. Relative to the Pentium II, about its only real drawback
is its lack of support for SMP. But if you're building single processor
boxes, the Celeron's 128 KB of full CPU speed cache doesn't give up much,
if anything, to the Pentium II's 512 KB of cache running at half CPU
My guess is that the Pentium II will continue to sell for a while, at
least while the Pentium III is priced high. Once the Pentium III prices
start to drop, though, I'd bet the Pentium II will disappear, leaving the
Celeron as their mainstream CPU and the Pentium III for servers and SMP
* * * * *
This from Dan Bowman [DanBowman@worldnet.att.net]:
Thank you for posting the story about memory
links in men and women. The staff here absolutely loved it. I think that
everyone (regardless of gender) could relate some aspect of the tale.
* * * * *
This from Tim Werth [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Since you have been discussing changing your
web hosting service I thought you would find it interesting that pair
networks does the webhosting for Tom's Hardware Guide. I believe Tom's
gets A LOT of hits so a word from Fredi recommending pair networks says
something. Talk to you later.
Yep, there's no doubt that pair Networks has superb
connectivity. My problems with BigBiz have pretty much gone away, though,
and inertia says it's easier to stick where I am for now. If I move, I'll
almost certainly move to pair Networks, but I've got so many other balls
in the air right now that moving is lower on the priority list than a lot
of other stuff.
* * * * *
This from Ken Scott [email@example.com]
regarding main memory cacheability with Intel chipsets:
Regarding your discussion with Tom Syroid
about motherboards and the amount of RAM that can be cached --
From everything that I have seen and read, a
TX chipset can cache as much RAM as is installed on your system. The
chipsets that couldn't were HX, FX and earlier sets. HX boards could
cache more than 64MB of RAM if you installed a Tag RAM chip on the
motherboard. These typically need to come from the motherboard
manufacturer, and not all motherboards supported it.
Just wanted to clear that up a little
I think you've gotten some wires crossed somewhere. The
original Triton chipset (82430FX) supported a maximum of 128 MB system
RAM, of which it could cache 64 MB. Intel introduced the 430HX and 430VX
as a "family", with the HX being their "performance"
chipset and the VX their "economy" chipset. The HX supports a
maximum of 512 MB system RAM, all of which can be cached. As you say, not
all motherboards have the necessary amount of SRAM on board to cache the
full amount, but most allow it to be added. The 430VX supports a maximum
of 128 MB system RAM, of which only 64 MB can be cached. The 430TX
(Intel's current Pentium-class chipset) supports a maximum of 256 MB
system RAM, of which only 64 MB can be cached.
Ken's message got me to questioning what I thought I knew, so I bopped
on over to:
which confirms what I thought.
February 7, 1999
Barbara is mostly recovered, but I suggested that we not bother doing
the weekly cleaning today. She insists on doing it, although we'll do a
lighter job today than usual.
* * * * *
I've gotten several messages from people who are angry to discover that
their chipsets won't cache the full amount of system memory. Some of them
seem to think that Intel somehow misled them or produced an inferior
product. That's not the case, however. In the first place, it's not just
Intel that produced chipsets that won't cache all of the installed memory.
Many chipset manufacturers did the same, and a 64 MB limit on cacheable
RAM was pretty standard.
To understand why, think back to what you were paying for memory a few
years ago. Fifty bucks a megabyte, more or less, right? Well, at $50/MB,
64 MB of RAM comes to something over $3,000. Chipset manufacturers
assumed, reasonably enough at the time, that no one was likely to install
more than $3,000 worth of memory in a low-end PC. And they did
make provision for people who did need to install a lot of memory. Intel's
high-end chipset of the time, the 430HX, supported 512 MB of system
memory, all of which could be cached. Then, too, the chipset manufacturers
never made a secret of those cacheability limits. Their spec sheets are
right out there for anyone to look at. So being angry with them for
products they produced several years ago is like being upset that Office
97 won't fit on that 10 MB hard disk you pulled from your old XT.
* * * * *
More on the Diskeeper issue. This message from Diskeeper tech support
showed up in my in-box yesterday afternoon. I've removed the salutation
and material at the beginning and end of the message that talks about
being removed from their mailing list. The key section follows:
Free Update improvements have been made in
Diskeeper 3.0 and Diskeeper 4.0. This email is being sent to notify you
of these changes and to let you know you can download these updates for
free at our web site. To download go to: www.diskeeper.com/download/
Improvements in these two versions: When the
CHKDSK option is selected in the boot-time defragmentation dialog box,
it is now only run once before the boot-time defragmentation process,
greatly speeding up the entire operation.
Diskeeper 4 Build 202 (Intel Only) is for
Diskeeper 4.0 workstation and/or server owners.
Diskeeper 3.0 Build 178 (Intel Only) is for
Diskeeper 3.0 workstation and/or server owners.
If you have not upgraded from 3.0 to
Diskeeper 4.0, try it now to check out the latest in increased speed and
performance. If you want to try Diskeeper 4 (build 202) go to
To which I replied:
I notice that your message makes no mention of data
corruption that can occur when running Diskeeper with Windows NT 4.0 with
Service Pack 4 applied, or when running Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3
applied on hard disks larger than 8.4 GB.
I assume that the primary purpose of these updates is to
solve the data corruption problems (which I understand are caused by bugs
in Windows NT rather than in Diskeeper). If this is the case, it seems to
me that you owe it to your users to mention the existence of that problem
and to encourage them to apply the patch before using Diskeeper again.
Can you comment, please?
* * * * *
This followup from Ken Scott [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I also found the original sources that I had
seen, and lo and behold, I didn't remember what I thought I did. That's
what I get for writing from memory! It also reminds me that my main
machine has a TX chipset and 96MB of RAM installed. Maybe I'll get to
swapping some of that RAM to a deserving machine.
Thanks for listening,
Yep, we all get burned on occasion when working from
memory, but what's the alternative? If we took the time to check
everything we were pretty sure we knew was true, we'd never get anything
done. As far as downgrading your memory, there's a good chance that doing
so will improve system performance, but it'd probably be worthwhile
running some benchmarks before and after.
* * * * *
This from Jurgen Beck [email@example.com]
regarding the new Travan TR-5 NS20 tape drives:
I read with interest your article about the
latest Travan tape drives. Great article and suggestions!
You mentioned that the NS20 tape drives can
be purchased for around $350.00. Would you happen to have a good source
for them. The cheapest I have been able to find the Tecmar NS20 drive is
$470.00 for an internal with the software. Is that the lowest? Thanks
for your help!
I wrote that article well in advance of its expected publication date,
so I had to guess at prices. As it turns out, though, I guessed pretty
well. I just jumped over to http://www.shopper.com/cgi-bin/nph-find?tag=st.sh.fd.se&a0=NS20
where I found that Tandberg is selling a bare SCSI NS20 drive for $324,
and Aiwa has one for $275. If you're interested in an ATAPI version, I see
that the Seagate TapeStor NS20 (http://www.shopper.com/cgi-bin/nph-sort2?a0=289448&a1=4)
is showing up for about $350 from the least expensive places.