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In the Trenches with LAROKE

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 06.17.1998 (Old Blue becomes the Old Guard Part II)

    Situation Report
    Take Charge And Move Out
    United States of America
    Mission Report
Previous Old Blue Articles:

Cyberdate 06.06.1998 Old Blue becomes the Old Guard Part I

Cyberdate 02.11.1998 The Domino Effect

Cyberdate 10.25.1997 More fun with P2, HAL and 4-Bits

Cyberdate 10.11.1997 P2's transformation slips into high gear

Cyberdate 09.20.1997 A typical week of headbangers

Cyberdate 09.13.1997 A tune-up for Old Blue

Cyberdate 06.14.1997 When it rains, it pours

Cyberdate 04.19.1997 Moving the HAL 9000

Cyberdate 12.19.1996 Restoring the file server "Old Blue"

Cyberdate 08.06.1996 Upgrading the file server "Old Blue"

Previous Johnny Mnemonic Articles:

Cyberdate 05.28.1998 Building Johnny Mnemonic Part III

Cyberdate 05.13.1998 Building Johnny Mnemonic Part II

Cyberdate 05.06.1998 Building Johnny Mnemonic Part I

Other LAROKE Resources:

Make Backups a Religion A sample backup procedure explained

Other Sources:

System Resources A detailed look at system resources. This page is at the excellent PC Guide Web site maintained by Charles M. Kozierok.

Windows 95 OSR2 FAQ Detailed FAQ about OSR2 and FAT32. The page is maintained by Sean Erwin.


Adaptec, Inc. Generic AHA-150X/1510/152X/ AIC-6X60 SCSI host adapter

Advanced System Products, Inc. AdvanSCSI Silver host adapter

ASUSTeK Computers, Inc. VL/ISA-PB486PC Mainboard

Cheyenne Division of Computer Associates, Inc. Computer Associates Backup (formerly Cheyenne Backup)

Corel Corporation CorelSCSI Drivers

Cybex Computer Products Corporation Personal Commander switch

Diamond Multimedia SupraExpress 288i PnP modem

Genicom Corporation TI Microlaser printer (formerly manufactured and supported by Texas Instruments)

Hewlett Packard Colorado Memory Systems Datastor Tape Drive

Invisible Software Invisible LAN network adapter and Network Operating System software

Microsoft Corporation Windows 95

Qbik New Zealand Ltd. WinGate v2.1 Internet proxy server / fire wall software


SITREP: At the end of the last log entry I was feeling relieved at having been successful in bringing Old Blue out of a coma. I didn't know he was still far from being healthy. I still had a lot of work ahead of me before I could begin installing application software.

TACAMO: 11:41 A.M. 5/7/98 When I returned to the scene of the crime this morning, I started Old Blue to see if he was still working. I wasn't sure if I had dreamed it or not. He was. I buttoned him up and put him back in his cramped corner of the Krash Lab. All the cabling connections were made, the DataStor tape drive and TI Microlaser printer turned on, and Old Blue was booted . . . No problemo!

This time when Windows 95 asked if I wanted to install drivers for the SupraExpress 288i PnP modem it found, I agreed. The modem's driver diskette was inserted into Old Blue's floppy drive, but Windows 95 could not find it. I guess my new sense of well-being was premature. Old Blue could recognize the other machines in "Network Neighborhood", however, so the driver diskette was inserted into "Johnny Mnemonic's" floppy drive.

Old Blue's driver installation Wizard was directed to this network drive and it proceeded to install the SupraExpress drivers without complaint. That being finished, I turned to Old Blue's new floppy drive problem. I opened up the "My Computer" Dialog and found, instead of a "3-1/2 Floppy Drive" Icon for drive A:, a generic "Removable Media" drive Icon in its place. Double-clicking this Icon produced a "Drive not ready" error message. In addition, the drive's activity light on the front of Old Blues's case did not even flicker which means it had not even been "interrogated" to see it there had been a diskette present (I did have a diskette in the drive).

Old Blue was recycled again, and after the POST tests, I held down the "Delete" key to enter the BIOS setup. Sure enough, the A: drive setting was disabled, but how did that happen? I hadn't changed it. I changed the setting to 3-1/2" 1.44Mb floppy drive, saved and exited the BIOS setup. Old Blue continued to boot into Windows. Drive A: was now working . . . but the network wasn't!

The darn PnP modem was thrashing Old Blue's system resources like a rogue elephant run amuck! I guess it had been using the IRQ that was now assigned to the floppy drive. That IRQ now being unavailable, it had appropriated IRQ3 which was the Invisible LAN network adapter's IRQ!

I had to make a choice now. I could try to assign a new IRQ to the network card, or I could try to find a way to disable the PnP features of the modem to tame it. The easiest course would be to reconfigure the network adapter since I was familiar with the procedure, whereas trying to disable the modem's PnP would require research. The gamble was the assumption that the modem would try to grab the same resources every time Old Blue re-booted. If it didn't, I would be open to more hardware conflicts down the road.

I took the gamble. Viewing the IRQ resources in the Windows 95 "Computer Properties" Dialog for Old Blue revealed that IRQ5 was free. I changed the Network adapter's IRQ to 5, saved the changes, and restarted Old Blue in "Safe command prompt only" mode. The Invisible LAN NIC EEPROM setup utility diskette was run from Old Blue's now-working floppy drive and the card was reconfigured to use IRQ5. Old Blue was rebooted into Windows.

The network was back. A test page was also printed across the network from the computer "HAL" to the TI Microlaser printer connected to Old Blue . . . That worked too. A cursory inspection indicated the HP DataStor tape drive was also present.

The modem was tested by opening up the "Modem Properties" Dialog in the Windows 95 "Control Panel", selecting the "Diagnostics" Tab, then the "SupraExpress 288i PnP" item installed on the "COM2" port. With "COM2" selected, the "More Info" Button was clicked which initiated a series of Hayes "AT" commands sent to the modem on COM2. All the test commands were successful!

Almost twenty-four hours from when this operation started it appeared Old Blue was healthy again. Whew! Just in time. The UPS courier just arrived with the Cybex interface circuit board and cabling I ordered last week to upgrade the Cybex Personal Commander Monitor/Keyboard/Mouse switch. Currently, using the Personal Commander, Old Blue and 4-Bits are controlled with the same monitor, keyboard and mouse. The upgrade parts will allow the new server, "Johnny Mnemonic" to be added to the switch. We'll save that for tomorrow. The Old Blue meltdown has not left me frisky enough to jump into the fray again right this minute.

4:05 P.M. 5/8/98 It's Friday afternoon when I usually setup a full tape backup for the next network PC in rotation (one PC per week gets a complete backup - the rest of the machines on the network get differential backups see "Make Backups a Religion" for an example of this procedure).

The Cheyenne Backup software for Windows 95 was installed earlier in the week to take over for the trial evaluation version of the same software. When the trial version was obliterated by the FAT32 re-formatting of Old Blue's hard drives and the installation of Windows 95 OSR2, the Cheyenne Backup database of previous backup activities was also obliterated. However, the last backup session last Saturday (after the network differential backup) was a backup of this database.

I brought the tape containing that session to the office this morning with the sole purpose of restoring that database for the new software. I was not successful, because Cheyenne wanted to restore the database to it's original location and that location no longer existed. I finally gave up and started a new database with new drive mappings to the other PC's on the network (for the purpose of backup operations).

2:40 P.M. 5/11/98 I noticed this morning when examining the "Performance" tab in the Windows 95 "System Properties" Dialog for Old Blue that "MS-DOS compatibility mode" was being used for "Virtual Memory" and all the Disk drives. Darn! I did not check these settings before installing the PnP modem, so I do not know if these were the same settings before the modem installation meltdown session interfered with the AdvanSCSI host adapter.

I also noticed that the AdvanSCSI host adapter was missing from the Windows 95 "Device Manager", nor do I ever remember seeing it there. At the Advance Systems Web site there is little mention of the VL Bus AdvanSCSI Silver adapter and no mention of it in the Drivers Download area.

The AdvanSCSI adapter had shipped with several disks of CorelSCSI drivers, but since it was before Windows 95 was released, there were no Windows 95 drivers included. Scanning the "AdvanSCSI Silver User Manual", I came across several references to "ABP-842". I went back to the Drivers page on the Advance Systems Web site and saw that the driver files for the PCI and ISA Narrow SCSI also applied to ABP-842. With this scanty tidbit of info, I decided to download the Windows 95 drivers file.

3:40 P.M. 5/11/98 The AdvanSCSI Windows 95 drivers file was unzipped into a temporary subdirectory on Old Blue's drive C:. I then proceeded to Install the drivers by double-clicking the "Add New Hardware" Icon in Old Blue's Windows 95 Control Panel.

I instructed the "Install New Hardware Wizard" not to search for new hardware (he hadn't found the adapter yet, so I did not think having him search again would be helpful). From the "Hardware types:" List, I selected "SCSI controllers", then the "Have Disk" Button in the next Dialog. After directing the Wizard to the subdirectory where the downloaded drivers had been copied, he gave me a list of drivers.

Good! The last item on the list was "AdvanSys VL SCSI Host Adapter". After selection, the Wizard installed the driver and indicated it had been installed with "I/O Address 0110h-011fh" and "IRQ 15" resources. Old Blue was restarted at this point to let the system changes take effect.

I went back to the Device Manager after restarting and found that the AdvanSys VL SCSI Host Adapter was present but not working . . . There was probably a conflict between the actual adapter's settings and the settings the Wizard had assigned to it. This is often the case in "hybrid" systems where PnP exists with older hardware that knows nothing about PnP.

Old Blue was rebooted. Just after the POST tests and the BIOS setup, the AdvanSCSI BIOS setup screen was entered by holding down the "<CTRL>+<A>" keys. Shore-nuff, the AdvanSCSI BIOS setup indicated that the current I/O Address for the AdvanSCSI adapter was "330h" and the IRQ was "10". Both these settings could be changed to the settings Windows had assigned, so they were reset to those settings and the AdvanSCSI BIOS setup was saved to the EEPROM and exited.

Old Blue continued to startup into Windows 95 and this time the Device Manager indicated that the AdvanSys VL SCSI Host Adapter was present and working. In addition, there were entries for the two SCSI hard drives in Device Manager where there had been none before. There was no entry for a floppy drive, however, and the Floppy drive was also the only item still using "MS-DOS compatibility mode".

I was not sure what the problem was with the floppy drive. Since the floppy drive runs off a connector attached to the AdvanSCSI adapter instead of the motherboard, maybe that was the conflict. I tried to use the Hardware Wizard to install Windows 95 standard floppy drivers, but it stated there was a conflict with another device, so I abandoned this line of resolution.

I rebooted Old Blue and entered BIOS setup and disabled the floppy drive. After saving the change and finishing the startup Windows indicated the same Generic Removable Media drive as before in place of the floppy drive. I started the Hardware Wizard again at this point and had it search for new hardware. The Wizard found the floppy drive, so I instructed it to install the "Standard Floppy Disk" Driver, and Old Blue was restarted yet again.

That only half worked. The "Standard Floppy Drive Disk Controller" was showing in the Device Manager, but it was not working, and only the two hard drives were listed under "Disk Drives". After removing the "Standard Floppy Drive Disk Controller" from the Device Manager and rebooting Old Blue, the Floppy drive was enabled in the BIOS setup again. The floppy drive Icon was back under "My Computer" Dialog, but we were also back to using "MS-DOS compatibility mode" under the Performance Tab for drive A: and there were no floppy drive items in the Device Manager.

I decided to let the Hardware Wizard have one last go at finding the drive under this hardware configuration. It's no big deal if the floppy drive has to work in "MS-DOS compatibility mode", but I still don't know why Old Blue is locking up every so often, and it seems a worthwhile goal to eliminate as many potential idiosyncracies as possible. The Wizard found the floppy again and I let it install the Standard drivers again.

MISREP: One last reboot . . . Success! The 3-1/2" Floppy Icon was showing and accessible in the "My Computer" Dialog, both the Floppy Disk and Floppy Disk Controller Items were showing as working in the Device Manager, and under the Performance Tab in the System Properties Dialog, Old Blue was reported as "configured for optimal performance". It's quitting time and the day has finished on a "feel good" note.

Old Blue is almost ready for the WinGate Proxy Server/Fire Wall software installation. Next time we'll fine-tune the Windows 95 environment and install the trial version of WinGate. I'll also encounter a brick wall at high speed while attempting to upgrade Old Blue's RAM memory.


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LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants
155 East Boca Raton Road
Boca Raton, Florida 33432
(561)368-0659 (Tel & Fax)

Issued Wednesday June 17, 1998

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