THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
December 21 - 27, 1998
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 words.
|Previous Weeks of The View:||For an index
of previous pages of view, see VIEWDEX.
See also the New Order page, which tries to make order of chaos. These will be useful.
For the rest, see What is this place? for some details on where you have got to.
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The LINUX pages are organized as the log, my queries, and your responses and advice parts one, two, three, and four. There's four pages because I try to keep download times well under a minute. There are new updates to four.
Highlights this week:
December 21, 1998
I can't wait for Linux. I need to log all the problems we are having with Windows 95 and Windows 98, none of which are necessary and some of which don't make sense. Roberta's older Pentium 200 Joizy was Gateway's first P-200, and the BIOS won't accept anything larger than a 2-gigabyte hard drive. This is full, and it's very hard to add more disk space. So I built her a new machine and networked her old one. Installing the network card required that I remove the internal modem, which is all right because I wanted to replace it with a new external Creative Modem Blaster anyway. So I removed the modem and uninstalled the software, and installed the network card and the problems began.
Roberta's machine came with an early CD/R and she likes having two CD-ROM drives. OK. But that requires a SCSI device. OK, she has two CDROM drives, one of which can be used to write CD's. But with the network card installed, the system decided that it could see only the SCSI CD-ROM and not the IDE CDROM. There were big yellow question marks in the System Device Manager Properties under IDE controller. Removing the net card and the SCSI card got the IDE drive back, and putting in the net card, bringing the system up, and THEN putting in the SCSI card restored things to their normal state. So far so good, but now I needed more disk space on Drive C. I desperately needed that space. Found that the swap file was on C: while there was about 300 megs left on the D drive (which is the rump partition of a 2.5 gig hard drive that came with the system). So I put the swap file onto the D drive. Rebooted. And now the system says it has one and only one CDROM, and that's the SCSI. The BIOS sees the IDE CDROM, but Windows won't. So I have removed the net card and SCSI card and I am starting over hoping that this will produce a stable system with two CD-ROM drives...
Well, that one at least wasn't a big problem: installing Adaptec EZ SCSI 4.0 with new drivers did the trick. We now have two CDROM driver in her machine, and I expect the other SCSI devices will work just fine.
The Creative Modem Blaster works just fine too off COM1:, and connected at 52 kilobaud first shot. So we are off and running
Meanwhile, Scarlet, the big 8-gig system, continues with some problems, which may or may not be disk drive related; it may be that USB wasn't the difficulty. I need to try the USB mouse again, and I will. I first tried to install Norton Utilities, and that blew up on installation. I finally told Scandisk to do nothing but report problems, and then I deleted all the files that claimed to have cross links. None seemed important but one was related to the game that kept locking up, so it may be that it wasn't the USB mouse, although why did changing to a PS/2 mouse stop the problems? Anyway, I'll try USB mouse again. I do all these stupid things so you don't have to. Once I got Scandisk to run to completion I installed Norton again, and let it do it's thing on the disk drives, and perhaps Scarlet is stable again. Scarlet has lots of disk space. What Scarlet doesn't have is Roberta's application software installed, and that she needs NOW, so I am going to return Joizy, without a network card, to her for temporary, and when the boys come home for Christmas we'll impress them into installation service to get Scarlet set up for their mother. Meanwhile, does anyone know what kind of memory (DIMMS but very early DIMMS I guess) work in a Gateway 2000 Pentium 200? None we have tried will work: we just get long beeps at start up and that's the end of that. The one that came with it has Samsung chips but NO designation as to what it is. And it's 16 megs only; if I had 32 I'd change her system to OSR2 and FAT 32 and make a good bit more disk space. And I may yet just put another physical hard disk in there for her. But first I have to get more memory.
All this is enough to make me long for Linux, but that has its problems too, as you will see when I get today's mail up. Sigh.
Joizy is back in service, and the Creative Modem Blaster is working extremely well. Of course the Mannesman Talley printer is not feeding paper properly. Probably dust and dog hair in the works; it sat upstairs as the unused standby spare printer for a year or more. It's a good old laser printer, a bit out of date, and if you can make a page feed it PRINTS all right, so it's just the feed mechanisms I need to worry about.
I have been working on Roberta's web site. I have started work on a way to allow Chaos Manor subscribers to send money by Visa or American Express to Roberta's account for a subscription to this site. I should have that done this week, in time for next year. It won't be fancy, but it ought to work. Meanwhile, do order books from Amazon through this place: I don't get a lot of money that way but it has added up to nearly $2000 since last June; not the Earth, but hardly trivial. I don't always mention it here but I do add to the book reviews at intervals, and I've got a link there to past books of the month from the columns; I've been slowly adding those, too.
So the day was again devoured by small tasks. But at least I have got Joizy working again (if only I could find more memory to fit that machine!) and Scarlet seems stable after the disk adventures. I don't know what cross-linked a number of files. It has to be the Disk Operating System, IE Windows 98, of course. My first attempt to fix it I told Scan Disk to try to rescue the files by providing a copy of any shared resources to every cross linked file that referenced them. That turned out to be silly, and doesn't work: it just puts ScanDisk into what appears to be an infinite loop ended only by hardware reset. The thing to do is look at the files, decide if any are significant, and delete the cross linked files. That fixes things. Now to test Scarlet with games again, and I do want to try that USB mouse again.
But the USB mouse did not work in "Safe" mode; fair warning, you had better know your windows arrow key commands...
Apparently one of the cross linked files that got eliminated was CDSTART.EXE, which I can no longer find. Was it a file specific to one CD, or is it a Windows 98 system file? It does not seem to exist on any machine I have or in the CABS file nor does CDS*.* exist anywhere. It's not on any W 95 a or b system I have. But when I try to autostart any disk on Scarlet, I get the message that it can't find CDSTART.EXE It must be a Windows 98 thing; anyone have a copy?
I hope I am not going to have to install W 98 all over again. If anyone has a copy of CDSTART.EXE please tell me where it can be found in the Windows registry, and what I should do. I am blasted if I will reinstall W98 because MICROSOFT's web site sent me "updates" that couldn't handle a large disk and ended up crosslinking some files. It was, after all, a Disk Operating System that DOS was supposed to be. No? So now Windows can't do safe disk operations? There has to be a way to find that stupid file. (For one explanation of what's going on see Mail.)
December 22, 1998
I have solved the CDSTARTE.EXE problem, and I suppose I have a kind of explanation. It's pretty goofy, but I did learn something. Many of you sent mail, some of which hinted that it was a Norton problem that might be solved by upgrading Norton Utilities; that worked, but the interesting thing was that at the time I did not HAVE Norton Utilities on the disk: its installation had failed. And that, it seems is the critical event involving CDSTART.EXE. Meanwhile, see mail about sfc.exe and another important if obscure Windows 98 utility.
Recall that the problem began with cross linked files. In an attempt to fix that I tried t install Norton Utilities 3.0. That blew up: I was unable to install, and it caused even more cross linked files. Apparently one of those cross links involved CDSTART.EXE, which is a NORTON file, not a Microsoft file; but for reasons not clear to me, Windows 98 then believed that it needed a file it normally never sees in order to run CD's. Note that this is NOT AUTOSTART, which is a Windows file. This is a Norton file.
I ended the cross linked files problem by running ScanDisk and when it found cross linked files, most of which have to do with Java, I told it to kill them. One was a part of the failed Norton installation, and it was after that I got the error message about CDSTART.EXE missing.
Once I got ScanDisk to run properly I ran VOPT98. I prefer that to the Microsoft Disk Optimizer because VOPT is much more careful to check for problems. It is also MUCH faster. For more on VOPT see www.goldenbow.com. Then I installed Norton Utilities 3.0, which worked all right, although I had to manually start up the setup program. When I did, Setup reported that it failed to initialize properly and I might not be able to uninstall. Joy, rapture; but it was a bit late to worry about it, so I let installation proceed, and it worked. Then I let the automatic update do it's thing, which took over an hour at 28.8, which was the fastest connection I could get. While it was doing that I wrote my Intellectual Capital column.
The Norton update went smoothly, and once it was installed I let it do its thing. It found a whole bunch of invalid shortcuts in C:/JOIZY/C/WINDOWS/DESKTOP/, which isn't surprising since that's the backup to Roberta's Joizy. It proudly reported those as serious errors to be fixed, which isn't too smart, but for the most part Norton Utilities worked very well. I tried a number of tricky games and Scarlet seems both smooth and stable. Now I'll disable the PS/2 mouse and go to USB again, and test that.
The original cross-linked files came from downloading a bunch of those "automatic installation" files from Microsoft. That has made me very wary of doing that again. Note that this "upgrade" was nearly the first thing we did after installing Windows 98.
The most important outcome of this story was that I have been forced to learn more about Windows 98, including the resource kit which I found among the files on the Windows 98 disk image in Windows/Options/CABS; but even more important about sfc.exe, which is a wonderful program. It's described in detail in The Windows 98 Bible (recommended), and it's really nifty. Every time I am ready to condemn Microsoft I find some new obscure and all but undocumented feature that's very neat
Eagle One is running again, with a new AMD K6-2 3D Now! chip. I believe it is running at 66/300, but I have run it at 100/300 and will again. I'll also try USB with it. Eagle One is strictly a test machine, so it doesn't matter if I blow it up; one of my problems with Scarlet was that she's destined to be Roberta's new system, and thus has to be stable.
Yesterday I solved some scripting problems with Roberta's web site www.readingtlc.com involving credit card transactions, and given an hour I now know how to set things up so you can send me money by VISA or American Express. I'll have that implemented within a week. Meanwhile, thanks to the flood of you who've subscribed recently.
I have been reading about the latest news on education in Kansas City. This would be broad farce if it were not so tragic: first a mad Federal judge spent over a billion dollars in educational frills and bussing trying to end racial imbalance, with the result that the schools were less integrated than when he began. Then the voters managed to get control of their schools, and wanting to do the right thing, invited the education establishment educrats to set up a thoroughly modern school system, The result was progressive education -- now called "outcomes based" -- which, while excellent for self starters and children of the upper and middle classes who are disciplined at home, is an absolute disaster for children without ingrained work habits. The gap between black and white test scores -- the only measurable 'outcome' -- went from very bad to plain ghastly. If there's anything more likely to keep the blacks in their places, it's not educating their children, and every single study demonstrates that unstructured progressive education widens the gaps between the bright and the average, and even more between those with good study habits and discipline and those without. Progressive education is a boon for the naturally talented, not good for the average, and a full disaster for those belonw average. Last time I looked, fully half the children in the US are below average except in Lake Woebegone.
Worst, though is reading: while about 25% of all kids of all races learn to read pretty well on their own and another 25% or so will learn given almost any rational system of instruction, fully half need structured and didactic instruction in the principles of phonics; otherwise they never learn to read words they have not seen before, which is a terrible handicap. Once again, a good home environment can make up for a lot of bad schooling, and once again, children with good study habits and discipline may well do better under progressive education methods than under traditional systems; but of course one reason lower social classes are "lower" (in income, etc.) is the lack of disciplined structure. (This is a statistical observation; I am aware that there are other reasons, some quite tragic.)
The point of all this is that reading is a key skill in this society, and if you don't learn to read by grade four you will probably have a fairly menial career -- and you cannot rely on the schools to teach children to read by fourth grade. Roberta Pournelle has worked most of her life trying to correct that. You can find out more at www.readingtlc.com, and you should. If you have the slightest doubts about your children's reading ability - for instance, if your seven year old cannot look at the words diethylchloride and Constantinople and Petersburg and antidisestablishmentarianism and SAY them -- then they may be headed for a lifetime of trouble. Fortunately, illiteracy is curable, and if caught before age 10 most of the consequences can be avoided. Again see Roberta's page on this: her program works.
GAK! We are still having power management problems with Scarlet. Windows 98 apparently does not really understand very large disks. There is also the power management fiasco, with nothing available as a fix at Microsoft. See Mail for some details. A partial fix is that if you are using Norton to do disk work, wiggle the curser every now and then. Perhaps an auto de fe for Ralph Nader would help as well. Turning off the monitor is one thing; strangling the computer is another. Feh.
I just saw this on Slashdot, and I thought it made an interesting parallel to your arguments about a disciplined, structured education. The gist of the article is that college students should be taught Unix rather than Windows, because the discipline that Unix requires (and encourages) will be far more generally useful than merely learning how to push buttons on a "user friendly" interface.
Talin (Talin@ACM.org) Talins first law:
http://www.sylvantech.com/~talin "Computing power is infinitely wasteable."
Interesting. Thanks. I don't know if I agree or not. That was, after all, the rationale for requiring serious scholars to learn Greek and Latin before they could be admitted to university. But the ancient Greeks demanded you learn mathematics before studying rhetoric and philosophy.
Understand, I have no quarrel with tracked education so long as the lower tracks are given serious education; the argument for putting all in one track is that the upper classes will insist on decent education for their children and the lower classes will benefit. I am not sure it works that way, though. UNIX as Greek
December 23, 1998
Shopping is done. Roberta has been doing safety research on SUV's. The Mercedes wins hands down; the Dodge Durango doesn't fare too well. The Ford Explorer looks better than all but the Mercedes, interestingly. The boys will be home this week and I am sure I will get lots and lots of advice...
Power management, AMD K6-2, big disk drives, and Windows 98 do NOT go together. For instance the only way to optimize a big hard disk under Windows 98 that I have found is to watch it and jiggle the mouse every now and then. Otherwise the machine goes to sleep and will not wake up. Interestingly it wakes up when it is doing anything else, but not when disk optimizing. (And probably it will kill it if you are doing a big download and let it sleep.) I have so far found this only with BIG disks, Windows 98, and the AMD K6-2 chip. I have not tried it with a Celeron, but we'll be getting a Celeron and iWill mother board soon to play with. My advice: if you are using Windows 98 experiment with power management before doing anything critical; if you see problems, turn off power management in the BIOS, and fiddle with the settings in W 98, and even then for anything mission critical keep the machine awake while it is happening.
I have sent my Christmas greeting to the mailing list and a separate one to subscribers. They probably overlap a lot. Not much I can do about that at the moment. I'm always a bit sensitive to Christmas sentiments with regards to my Jewish friends, but I don't have any solutions. Peace on Earth to men of good will seems an appropriate wish for anyone. If you are supposed to be in the Subscriber list, and didn't get a subscriber Christmas greeting, you probably ought to send me mail to that effect. If you want to be on the general mailing list and didn't get the general mailing list greeting, send me email with "MAIL LIST" in the subject and NO OTHER INFORMATION since I am NOT going to read it; it will be sorted into a list builder. I'm now going to work on the Visa/AMEX payment scheme.
I believe I have it. I think that if you CLICK HERE it will take you to a page that will record your credit card information, encrypt it, and send it to Roberta Pournelle, who has the keys; it will also send you an acknowledgement page that will allow you to send me email to the effect that you have done this. I'll sort that mail into a holding tank until Roberta can process it including all the credit card stuff, and send me the results. Because it's going to take time on her part to do all this there is a built in "shipping and handling" fee. With luck this will work. I have modelled it after her own order page that does work. Note that this will take you to a page devoted only to paying me. If you want to order her reading program -- and if you have a child seven years or older who cannot look at the words methylene alcohol and pronounce them (regardless of comprehension) you need that program -- go to www.readingtlc.com and click on the "order now" bullet.
Well that works, but she's getting the old categories. We'll sort all this out another time, but we are receiving subscriptions. Keep sending them..
For imporant information on Upgrading Windows 98, see Mail 21.
Did a bunch of updates to Eagle One. Amazing problems with power management. Norton Utilities updating was a horrible experience, but once updated, and after about 20 reboots (I do not exxagerate in this case) to get it to install itself, Norton has in fact cured the problems. Hurrah! for Norton. Get it, update it (through the web; it's automatic) and use it; it really works wonders on Windows 98. Recommended.
I have started a long update of Windows 98 for Eagle One. I have had horrible power management problems with that system, and I am being forced to the conclusion that the difficulties started when I installed Play's GIZMOS. Worse, Gizmos doesn't seem to have an uninstall capability, so I don't know what DLL's it loaded. I have taken its rocket launcher out of the startup menu, but I am still getting lockups when the system goes to sleep. That's better than I used to have, when it would crash with random craziness on the screen during games like This Means War, and even with the crash of Explorer. Installing and updating Norton seems to have cured THAT nonsense, I am pleased to say. Now the only real trouble seems to be that the system goes to sleep and will not wake up. What happens is that the monitor never gets a signal (there is a light that turns yellow when there is no input signal, and turns green when the signal appears; when standby is working properly you see that light change color well before the screen warms up and shows any information; but lately it never changes from yellow, and I have to reboot. Ugh.)
So I have gone to the Microsoft upgrade site and I have ordered about 2 hours worth, and now I am off to get my Ericson digital cell phone activated and do a bit of last minute grocery shopping. The boys are home and gone off shopping. Young and old, men tend to put that sort of thing off to the last minute. And until I get Wingate working I can't post this while Eagle One is downloading since they have to share a phone line. I'll see what I can do about THAT shortly.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all.
O ye, beneath life's crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
Look now! For glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!
Yet with the woes of sin and strife,
the world has suffered long
Beneath the heavenly strain have rolled
two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
the tidings that they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
and hear the angels sing!
And so to Mass. Merry Christmas to all.
Merry Christmas to all. Roberta was scheduled to sing for the Cardinal today, but alas she woke up with a sore throat. On the other hand all the kids are here. And it is one gorgeous day outside.
On Eagle One's problems:
If you got a system that runs at 100/300 and you have any mysterious problems, change it to 66/300 and they will probably go away. It's flakey memory. Once again the "certified" memory I had doesn't work. Get genuine Kingston PC 100 memory or don't try the 100 experiment at all! That system was GOOFY.
Later: Well, that diagnosis is positive: all the power management problems and a bunch of other goofinesses are cured by changing the board from 100 to 66. I will get some Kingston PC 100 memory -- it worked when I had that in the system, but that memory is now in Roberta's machine -- and try 100 again, but for the moment we are at 66/300, and all is well. Let me emphasize it again: if you are going to try running your board at 100, be CERTAIN that your PC 100 memory really is PC 100. Much to most of it is not, no matter what Fry's says. Get Kingston. Get Kingston. What I tell you three times is true. Get Kingston PC 100 memory.
I must have missed something. I keep looking at Jesse Berst's AnchorDesk site and it keeps telling me about all kinds of neat stuff I can downoad, but when I follow the "click here" I get a ZD NET page with more advertisements, long delays, descriptions of stuff, but no download link. So I follow the next link and I get a description of the individual program, more advertising, but no download link. So I follow another promising lead and I am back where I started but with yet more advertising. I still have not downloaded a thing. Am I doing something wrong?
I got a lot of answers to this, including my son Richard who says he doesn't bother with ZD web sites because the ads drive him nuts. I also have been sent an ad killer programI will have to try. And the addreses of some web sites where you CAN download stuff..
December 26, 1998
Went out to Fry's this morning. Big mistake. Long lines, and most everything was being pawed over, kids opening packages, no chance to talk to anyone. I'll wait until it calms down to get the stuff we need.
Playing Lords of Magic. An interesting game, a bit slow I fear, but if you have patience there is a good story line, and a fair amount of action. I am not sure I will play all the way to the end. I suspect it would be a better game with multiple himan players. If you do decide to play Lords of Magic -- and it's a rather nice, low paced game, with both strategic and reole playing elements -- be SURE to go to the Sierra Site which is somewhere around here (cut and paste and experiment):
and get the upgrade/bug fix patch. The game wouldn't even save without it (on my machine). The latest patch fixes all, though.
December 27, 1998
I am off to look at Explorer and 4 Runner, those being the short list now for reasons I'll get to later. We'll see. My son has been very happy with his 4 Runner in both Virginia and California and over 4 years, so that's a good testimonial, and driving his I find it's more like the Bronco II in handling than any other I have tried.
I have had wonderful response to the PAY BY CREDIT CARD capability we added. Do be sure to put the AMOUNT in the TOTAL box as that is what the bank sends us: we have no way to get at that, the credit card order goes direct to the bank, and we can't alter it.
Finally, the December 1998 column is posted. See the columns section.