THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
March 8 - 14, 1999
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. For more on what this place is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE.
|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.
If you subscribed:
If you didn't and haven't, why not?
For the BYTE story, click here.
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:
March 8, 1999
The column is off to Nikkei BYTE, and will go to CMP www.byte.com later this week. I am not sure what their publishing schedule is, but it shouldn't be long. I have some words about the Identification Number in the P III among other topics.
Les Moose, Alan Chapman's children's opera about The Operatic Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, with Karen Benjamin (Mrs. Alan Chapman) as Rocky and LA Resident Artist Malcolm MacKenzie as Bullwinkle, and Resident Artists Cynthia Jensen Theo and Eil Villaneueva as Natasha and Boris was wonderful. I got some good pictures and I'll try to do a report. Cynthia, our lively (and lovely for that matter) mezzo made the slinkiest Natasha you could ever want to see. She was Rita the Rat in our Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I didn't recognize her in the Natasha outfit until I spoke to her after the performance yesterday. "You sure are slinky," says I. "Maybe a little more than I'm comfortable with," says she.
Anyway, the column is now done, and I can try to clear off my desk. Fat chance. I gather the return of BYTE is making some decent news. I'm glad.
March 9, 1999
Lots of big news running around about BYTE being BACK, and I've done a half dozen interviews and what not. Much publicity. Hope it lasts. If CMP BYTE doesn't get enough revenue from ads for this, then they won't keep it up, and, I must confess I like being paid. We wouldn't be open without subscribers here, though, and I'm generating a couple of special reports for them.
On that score, the rest of you can see the Rotary Rocket Rollout pictures now. I will probably be adding some to that page since Eric had one of my cameras and got some shots I didn't get. And I am preparing a new report for subscribers, but it will take a day or so more as I clear off my desk.
The column is in, but that will be available through the BYTE site, and won't be up for a few days I suspect.
The column addresses the Secret ID Numbers in Microsoft Word Documents, If you have no idea what I am talking about see mail.
March 10, 1999
Updating the DNS on my NT system improved things regarding Earthlink. Earthlink went to new DNS numbers, and despite changing all in Windows, I didn't get them all in my NT system. For the record, it's open Dialup Networking, click on the appropriate site to dial (unlike in Windows these are not icons, but a list). Select one, do MORE, EDIT, SERVER, TCP/IP, and you will see where to enter the DNS of the place you are dialing. (Not all places HAVE fixed DNS so don't do this frivolously). I was getting horrible problems with Earthlink, but that was in part because I was letting the system look things up instead of providing the DNS numbers. They work now, and all is well, and thank to Joe Zeff of Earthlink Tech Support for figuring out what I was doing wrong.
The reason MAIL was so wide this morning was that someone sent me mail with a "thanks" indented way over to the right. That did it. I try to catch those, but I often cannot. PLEASE DO NOT USE TABS or deep block quotes. I suppose I ought to do a macro that simply removes tab characters and be done with it. Maybe in a bit. Anyway, it's fixed now.
I've got a phone in my ear as Pacific Bell looks up what they can do for me on a DSL line. With luck that will happen pretty soon. We'll see.
Alas, I am too far from the switching center. There may be a commercial outfit that can supply DSL but the Phone Company won't do it. Pity.
I have got some very odd mail, which I have dutifully posted; as well as a great deal of really encouraging mail from people who are glad to see that BYTE is back. Indeed, we are getting so many people on site that Darnell is going to have to take drastic measures to upgrade how it is hosted. Thanks to all. Now if my cold will just go away I can get back to the Pentium II system and Linette...
LOG: Here's a howdy do. Building a Pentium II system, which will run Windows 98 for the moment. Six gigabyte hard drive, formerly from Linette, and partitioned for LINUX. FDISK cannot eliminate the Linux partitions: it finds there are logical drives when it tries to delete the Extended DOS partition, and won't do anything; but attempts to delete the logical drives fail since there are no logical drives.
Open a brand new box, Partition Magic 4.0. The manual says it can run in DOS TEXT mode, which is certainly what I need. Invoke DRIVE:/PQMAGICT and all will be well. That produces the result of "Bad command." There is no PQMAGICT on the Partition Magic 4.0 CDROM. Fortunately I have Partition Magic 3.0, and that, I find, does have PQMAGICT, which work, and lets me go in and kill all the Linux partitions and start over.
But since I booted in DOS 6.22 because that disk had universal CDROM drivers on it, I can't use that fdisk to create a new partition and format it. Bring out a floppy made by Windows 95b, use its fdisk, then its format, and voila! So I am ready to start installing Windows 98 on this. I confess I don't want to. I wish my life were at a point where I could put Linux on there, because of all the machines we have, Windows 98 isn't working very well on any but one of them. Most won't shut down properly. Roberta's Scarlet keepins crashing when you try to invoke HELP, meaning we are going to have to reinstall, Oh Joy, Oh Rapture. Eagle ONE won't shut down properly, and every now and then tells me that [UNKNOWN] performed an illegal operation and will be terminated. Letting it do that seems to set the machine back to normal, but what process is running that performs an illegal operation? There are no programs running, The machine has only a sound card and a video card; no Ethernet or anything else installed yet. I suppose I will have to do some scrubbing and reinstallations on that.
And Winnie won't run REGCLEAN, although the machine seems all right otherwise. Winnie is Windows 95b and FAT32, and is stable except that once in a while it blue screens, for no reason anyone knows, but only if sitting idle for hours. In use that doesn't happen. I suspect regclean would fix that, but I can't make regclean run. But it too will need some scrubbing and reinstallation I guess. This really is annoying, and it's not acceptable.
The one Windows 98 machine I have of all of them here that runs normally is the SYS Taskmaster Celeron, which seems to be doing just fine. Even shuts down normally. Of course it has the ATI Rage Pro video card built into the mother board, and ATI drivers have minor faults: you can't run font smoothing, which means TIMES ROMAN looks "all right" but not quite. One presumes ATI will Do Something about those drivers. At least the machine is stable, I can write with it the way it is, and it does pretty complicated games quite nicely. BIGSYS is about the best running system I have other than Princess (COMPAQ Dual Pentium Pro 200 running NT 4.0 Service Pack 4, which is what I am using for creating this site.) Princess will choke up if I keep about a zillion windows open, but that's just a matter of closing mail windows after I open and read a mail message, and not having 10 open documents in WORD. Common sense.
We use COMPAQ Armada portables, and we are very happy with them, but Roberta made the mistake of installing a program that had some cooperative deal with AOL, and now the verdammt AOL runner appears on her splash screen. I can't find any way to remove it, This is unconscionable: to install an add on her computer, and give her no way to remove it! Every time she boots up, there it is. I am thinking seriously of a lawsuit for damages agains AOL. Of course if I wanted to spend my time in a court room I would have been a lawyer. Or an axe murderer, which comes to mine contemplating AOL executives.
I recall someone told me a way to find that little AOL man in the registry and kill him, but I seem to have lost that correspondence. Anyone remember it? This time I will get it in VIEWDEX. On that score, Darnell says we will have Front Page extensions working properly Real Soon Now and when that happens we can have a site search engine. (THAT HAS BEEN FOUND, thanks to all who wrote. Wow some of you are quick!)
Good Grief! I used Partition Magic to delete all the partitions on that hard disk which was formerly a Linux disk. Then I created one big DOS partition. Then I formatted the disk with the /S option to make it a bootable DOS disk. Then I booted. And I got:
and it attempted to start Linux. Now of course it can't. This isn't configured the same as Linette. But it won't boot DOS either. Can someone, anyone, tell me how to get this thing back? And yes I recall a reader had that problem, and we had some letters on it. I confess I paid little attention. I should have. This problem is real. Apparently going to Linux is a one way street, and your disk drive can never recover from it? I suppose I can get on the web, find Maxstor, find a low level format utility, etc., but I really prefer not to have to DO that. So: HOW DO I KILL LILO and LINUX and let this poor disk go back to being a Windows/DOS drive? And yes, I know it looks as if the gods are trying to tell me something. But I can't play Baldur's Gate on a Linus Box. (This new Pentium II is mostly to be a games machine, and a test bed for hot new Video and Sound cards, and I can't DO that with Linux.)
Cancel Alarm. Problem solved within minutes of posting question. Wow. Thanks to all.
THAT WAS QUICK: fdisk /mbr. I'll put up the actual mail that told me about it tomorrow. It's 4:30 AM and I need to get to bed. Incidentally, format /mbr gives an "invalid switch" message. but fdisk /mbr just trundles: you never see fdisk at all, and next time you boot the system comes up in DOS.
Question: screens and screens of information about the LINUX startup attempt appeared when LILO was operating although I had in theory at least got rid of all the files and reformatted the disk. Where WAS all that data? Including how to try to boot Linux? I can guess, since I know that reformat doesn't actually write over the data on a disk, but still, how did Linux FIND all that? I'll print the most understandable explanation...
March 11, 1999
Bad things happen in bunches, like bananas. Installing Windows 98 didn't work: copied the CD to Windows/Options/Cabs as I usually do, ran setup, and 15 minutes into it got "Corrupt Cab File" from Setup. I never saw that message before. I'm now running surface scan on the disk. If that's not the problem, then I will try again; I sure hope this isn't some new and different copy protection scheme. I can always install from the CDROM and then copy that CDROM to Windows/options/cabs, but then I will have to tell the system where to find that when I go to change configurations os something. And the problem is I do not always have the CDROM with me at, say, the beach and yet I may want to change something that requires Windows to go find part of itself from the CDROM. Disk space is so cheap now that it's sure simpler to copy the CD to disk, but and that has always worked before. So what is this? Sigh.
Worse and worse. ScanDisk and a full surface scan show the disk is OK. Now though it doesn't even start: it just says there is a corrupt CAB file. It gets to "scanning system registry" and dies. I have been unable to find the "system registry". Now I have scrubbed all the system and hidden files from the hard drive, booted from a floppy with CDROM drivers, and will install from the CD itself. If that works I'll copy all the CD files to WINDOWS/OPTIONS/CABS so I will have them on the machine if needed. This is very odd. Let's see if it will install from a CD. If not, I will have to go back to my old system of installation...
SETUP is demanding a file called ebd.cab which is is not finding on the installation disk. That's for certain. Well, I can always go back to what I know how to do, but this is odd. What I am tryng to do is install the 98 that was on a machine that is now dead. Well, I have wasted far too much time on this. EBD.CAB does not exist on any machine I have. This is the first time I have tried to install Windows 98 with an OEM disk as opposed to an upgrade, and perhaps, perhaps, something odd is going on here. We will see. It could I suppose be the hardware but that seems unlikely.
I have one more thing to try, then it's upgradesville. Heavens, the reason people do Windows rather than Linux is that it's simpler to get it running, If they are going to make Windows this hard to install -- and it sure looks like they have what with it demanding a file that can't be found on the installation CD -- then why bother with it?
It appears we have made it to the NY Times Technology section. 'BYTE is back' seems to be a Big Deal, which is good...
Now I am fighting installation of Windows 98 on the new system. Never had this much trouble before. EBD has something to do with big disks. Why the "upgrade" windows had no problems while the OEM installation fails I don't know. I do know that two separate disks of W 98 OEM failed, while the W 98 Upgrade is working so far, and has certainly got farther than the OEM install did. EBD.cab is not on any machine I have, but there is an ebd executable that apparently has to do with FAT32. Well, I certainly spent enough time on this; it would have been cheaper to buy a machine at Frys.
I gave up trying to install OEM Windows 98 and used the upgrade version. That works, leaving me wondering just what is going on here. There's something decidedly odd about that ebd.cab file -- the file that doesn't exist. Ah well, I have managed to get it running. Eric points out that ebd is probably Emergency Boot disk, and that the EBD CAB is extracted from some other CAB. But why is it having problems FINDING that? I can use some kind of CAB magic viewer to go looking for EBD.CAB, extract it manually, and put it on the hard drive I suppose.
But the error messages I was getting involved "corrupt CAB files" and once you got that message it gave it QUICKLY, almost at the start of the installation process, making me belive there is something going on here as part of a scheme. Well, I got W 98 installed. I have few W 98 machines that shut down properly, but I suppose I ought to be grateful for the smallest favors, that 98 deigns to run at all...
March 12, 1999
I have some of the best readers in the world. I once said back in 1978 that "anyone in Western Civilization who tries will be able to get the answer to any question that has a defnitive answer." Now by gollies I have a web site where all I have to do is ask and the answers flow in. My thanks to all of you. I couldn't do this without you.
Two things worth indexing today: editing the registry to tell Windows where to find the source files (so you can install from a CD, then transfer the files to Windows/Options/Cabs; I'll get to why you should do that shortly) and sites where you can find ALL THE UPDATES and PATCHES for W95 and W98. Wow. And THANKS!
Then I got the complete explanation for what is going on with ebd. All in a few hours. Thanks!
More joys of email commerce. I decided to subscribe to the Norton Symantec "Pro" update services, mostly to see what it's like so I can report it to you. Mostly what it is like is waiting, staring at a screen on which NOTHING is happening, but there is a huge red warning:
VERIFYING CREDIT CARD INFORMATION CAN TAKE SEVERAL MINUTES. DO NOT CLICK BACK OR STOP UNTIL YOU HAVE RECEIVED A RESPONSE FROM OUR SERVER (which could be sometime in early 2002). Doing so could result in your being double-billed since your information will be resubmitted.
I have news for these people. My time is worth more than that. I would PAY DOUBLE not to have to have my machine tied up for -- so far fifteen minutes -- unable to do anything else with it. The joke is that I connected a modem to Eagle One mostly to shut Norton up; I kept getting these increasingly shrill messages about not updating my virus and other stuff, only when I took the trouble to attach a modem and send it off for all that, it didn't find any. But I noticed the "Pro" live update and thought, well, why not, it's something to write about. Well, I'll tell you why not: if you try to subscribe you will have your machine tied up while this imbecility goes on. I suspect Earthlink will time me out eventually and drop the line, and then I'll get double billed in addition to having wasted twenty minutes.
This is ecommerce? This is the hope of the future? I have things I want to do with Eagle One, who was finally finished off and set up to be an auxilliary work station here. Among other things, until Parsifal the Pentium II is finished, Eagle One (AMD 6-2 3dNow!) has Baldur's Gate on it. Not that I have time to actually play the game, but I would sure as heck rather be playing a game than watching a screen with that message. It's still up, by the way. I don't expect it to change. And for this people buy Internet stocks at 50 times earnings? This is the wave of the future? Feh. The worst of it is, that's got my modem line, so I can't even post this until I give up over there. Which I am about to do. If they double bill me I will have American Express deny the charges. Both charges. If their service is as lousy as their ecommerce, who would want it?
Twenty minutes. I hung up on them. I don't have time for this.
A few minutes later I got email thanking me for my order.Of course the machine I'd ordered it for is no longer on line, I'll let it try the "pro" update later tonight.
March 13, 1999
There used to be this wonderful book called Windows 95 Is Driving Me Crazy! and I wish I had time to write one on Windows 98. This morning I installed Creative Blaster Live! on Parsifal, the new Pentium II system. That went well except that I missed a step, had to go to Control Panel/System and remove all sound drivers, restart, and start over. It was my fault in that I went a bit faster than I should, but the installation wizard has no way to back out of a problem once you get to a certain state. Ah, well. I can live with that.
Then came the real annoyance that took almost and hour to do something trivial. Because Parsifal is going to become the main machine I work on, for writing as well as games, I wanted a desktop theme. No reason. I just like them. Sometimes. In particular the Da Vinci is nice, and if I tire of that I switch to Science. No reason. I just like them. Only Desktop Themes was not in the control panel. Help was no help, it said look for it in the control panel. Go to Control Panel, Install/Uninstall Programs, Windows Setup. Lo! It says Desktop Themes is installed. If so, there's no way to get at them. I looked. You can't find, or find can't find, the Desktop Themes icon or shortcut or anything else relating to it so I can't put the icon in the Control Panel, and for that matter I am not sure W 98 lets you add anything to the control panel yourself to begin with.
Uninstall Desktop Themes from the Install/Uninstall/Windows Setup, then install it again. The Icon appears on the desktop. Click on it. No themes. It's not connected. Uninstall again. Reinstall. Shut down. No joy.
What you must do if in a situation in which Windows believes a component of Windows Setup is installed but you can't find it is:
Which would be all right except that Windows 98 never TELLS you this. The people who wrote the wizard seem to think that the registry update happens immediately. All's well that ends well, I suppose, but sheesh!
On the other hand, I have to say that Parsifal, with a Pentium II/400, Number Nine Revolution AGP board -- the same board we had real problems with in the AGP slot on an AMD K6-2 3DNOW! video board -- works wonderfully well. So far he shuts down just fine, and does that fast, too. I'm putting in the network card, then I will log exactly what I put in and don't put into the machine to see what, if anything, causes him to hang on shutdown. Who knows, maybe that will tell me what's going on with the other machines. But there is this: of the several machines I have running Windows 98, the two that shut down properly are the BIGSYS the SYS Taskmaster http://www.SYS.com Celeron, and Parsifal the Pentium II/400. Both Intel chips. This may be coincidence. On the other hand, I do not think it coincidence that the Number Nine Revolution AGP didnt work with any of three AMD K6-2 3DNOW! systems, but does in the Intel Parsifal. Let me hasten to add that I have Number Nine PCI Revolution boards in two of those AMD K6-2 3DNOW! systems, and they work just fine. I like Number Nine; but apparently their AGP boards have some kind of conflict with AMD chip systems. I say apparently, from the above evidence.
Parsifal gets a network card and moves over here. BIGSYS, a good system, will stick around to become a test bed and games system while I beat up on Parsifal. And I need to revise the what we use and recommended pages on this site, although I will have to say, selfishly, that most of that kind of work is going into the O'Reilly book Bob Thompson and I are writing. With luck the Chaos Manor Guide will become a definitive but readable book that stays in print forever
Incidentally, SYMANTEC seems to have got my subscription, and presumably only once. I'll try it when I get Parsifal set up. But they sure made it a painful experience getting the subscription.
Slated for Parsifal: SCSI, CD/R drive, and the IDE internal ZIP that's at present in BIGSYS. Unless I say to heck with it and use an external SCSI ZIP on Parsifal just to save work. ZIP drives are what Niven and I use to pass work back and forth. A 100 meg ZIP holds more than enough, and making one of those as the communications medium makes yet another automatic backup. Speaking of which, I need to make some backups and archives this morning.
New Report Feature: Moshe Bar's Opinion, which is reprinted by permission from Open Source documents in his newsletter.
Let me urge you all to have a look at www.byte.com, and if any of the advertisements are interesting follow them. This is not a plea to you to waste your time; but if you wanted that information anyway, getting it through the BYTE site will help increase their revenue, which will in turn let them have a larger editorial budget, and while that won't affect my income (at least for many months) it will let them bring more of the old BYTE gang back aboard. I have mixed emotions on saying all this; but the fact remains that without advertisement income magazines like BYTE will have no editorial budget.
Understand that I don't know who advertises over there. My opinions remain mine for better or worse.
My Heavens I hate Windows 98. If you get one thing wrong at all, it blows up. Installing new hardware is either simple or a nightmare. This is complete insanity! Windows 98 won't let you browse to find things, so you need a second computer to take a floppy disk to so that you can find the subdirectory in which the file it is looking for has hidden itself. This is the sorriest excuse for user friendliness I can think of. Older versions of Windows were a LOT easier to work with. Manufacturers don't help much, when they hide the file you are looking for down in some subdirectory with an unguessable name like Win95_98 and don't bother to tell you that in the readme file. Windows 98 needs a thorough overhaul of the hardware installation wizards, and in particular, to add the BROWSE capability at any point where the dang thing wants a file!!!
Of course eventually I got my Bay Networks card installed; the trick is to keep trying. Now, though, Eagle One can be seen on the net but nothing can see it; nothing. It doesn't even see itself. I have tried turning off file and print sharing and restarting, then turning file and print sharing back on, and that doesn't do it. It sees all the other computers on the net, but none of them can see it! I cannot imagine why.
Over in mail I have a fascinating letter from a reader who has been warned not to use the term 'hyperspace' as that is a trademarked name. Insanity. As if I were to trademark Chaos, or Computer, and try to make everyone conform to this. Of course a trademark like a patent is a license to sue, not necessarily a win.
I've just seen Wing Commander, Now this is one movie you will either love or hate. I doubt there is much in between. If you liked that game, you will love the movie. If you can do willing suspension of belief enough to like Star Wars, you should love this. It has at least as good a story line, and the characters are believable, at least to me. And Maniac is no longer an idiot. Impulsive, yes, hot pilot with a high regard for his own abilities, but not a dope at all.
I liked it a lot. I truly did. The effects were quite good. Now you have to go in there with the view that you are going to suspend your analytical faculties, but that's true of a lot of good movies, and certainly so for Star Trek and Star Wars. If you can do that, you will love this movie. I did.
March 14, 1999
I am due to lecture in Ohio next week and I cannot shake this cold. I suppose it is time to resort to the medicos to be certain this isn't worse than a mere cold, although in fact I think it is no more.
My problems with networking EagleOne continue unabated, no matter what I do. I haven't got to the drastic stage of physically removing the network card -- the system is after all installed and works on the net, seeing all machines, only no machine including itself can see IT -- but it may come to that. John Ruff wonders if there is not a random number generator in Windows, and if you have an unlucky number you lose. That is as good an explanation as any. (Oops. If you don't know why I said that, good.)
This probably belongs in letters, but:
The latest edition of my european travel journal is now online! Tell your friends! Talins amazing European adventures, including extensive photos, notes, political and philosophical commentary, observations on hacking and technology, and much, much more! (OK, so Im a windbag :-)
My thanks to all of the people who have suggested places to go; although limits on time prevented me from taking many of your suggestions, I appreciate them, and hope you will keep the suggestions coming.
Talin (Talin@ACM.org) Talins third law:
http://www.sylvantech.com/~talin "Politeness doesnt scale."
I bet no one thinks HIS web site sucks. Oddly enough, he did the first shot at mine, a very long time ago.
I look out my window(tm) at the bluejay(tm) and wonder(tm) at just what this world(tm) is coming to. I note that all my mail from HyperSpace(tm) now has the (tm) even in the return address, although the first three or four notes from Mr. Cranstone(not TM so far as I know) did not.
Is this the brave new world, in which we fear to do anything lest we offend our legal masters? In any event the whole story including my changing thoughts on the subject are over in Mail, and it has all left me sadder and less hopeful. There is a note on domain names and trademarks with useful information.