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In the Trenches with LAROKE

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 07.22.1998 (Old Blue becomes the Old Guard Part III)

    Situation Report
    Take Charge And Move Out
    United States of America
  • CM
    Configuration Management
    Supplementary Intelligence Report
    Mission Report

Tech Investigations Cyberdate 08.06.1998 WinGate - A Proxy Server / Firewall for Everyman

Previous Old Blue Articles:

Cyberdate 06.17.1998 Old Blue becomes the Old Guard Part II

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 Sources:

"Operating System Performance Optimization" This section describes several optimizations aimed specifically at improving the way the operating system in the PC functions. This page is at the excellent PC Guide Web site maintained by Charles M. Kozierok.


Alt-N Software MDaemon SMPT / POP3 Server for Windows 95 and Windows NT

Invisible Software Invisible LAN network adapter and Network Operating System software

Microsoft Corporation Windows 95

Quarterdeck Corporation WINprobe, RealHelp utility software

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


SITREP: It's been a busy month since the last log entry. I've been submerged in my day job (the one that pays the bills). Besides getting Old Blue running smoothly with the WinGate Proxy Server / Fire Wall and the MDaemon Mail Server, We've set up a new dual Pentium II 400MHz CAD workstation which I christened "Cygnus" after a binary star system (Cygnus Tau or Cygnus 61, take your pick). This new machine took the place of "Shamrock I" which I then had to move and reconfigure for another Architect in our office. Cygnus is running Windows NT Workstation 4.0 with Service Pack 3 as an operating system. This is our first NT machine and my NT knowledge is practically nil at this point. I'm learning to swim with it the way I always have . . . by being thrown into the deep end of the pool. Since everybody in the office now has Internet and e-mail access, and they didn't before, some training has also slowed me down . . . but not by much. Everybody in this office is expected to be a self-starter. It's "Lead, Lead, or get the heck out of the parade" . . . you'll be run down otherwise.

Eventually, a lot of the above will be khronicled in this log. For now, we'll stick to the continuation Old Blue's transformation from file server / intranet web server to communications server.


1:20 PM 5/13/98 The Windows settings were optimized by first setting the maximum and minimum size of the Virtual Memory swap file to 100MB to make it a permanent swap file and to keep Windows from constantly resizing it. Under the "File System Properties" Dialog's "Hard Disk" Tab, The "Typical role of this machine:" was changed to "Network server". Also the SYSTEM.INI file settings "MinFileCache=2048" and MaxFileCache=2048" were added under the "[vcache]" section to govern the Windows 95 Disk Cache size (rule-of-thumb: 1/8 of RAM Memory - e.g. 2Mb in kilobytes for 16Mb memory in this case. heavy disk use may require a larger cache).

These operating system optimizations are similar to the work we did setting up the computer "Johnny Mnemonic" in a previous episode. They were done with the help of "Operating System Performance Optimization" section the the PC Guide site.

Invisible LAN security for Old Blue was configured next. Users, Groups, and Permissions for Old Blue's resources were determined. Invisible LAN, and many other networks, are is setup by default without any security measures enabled. Once the LAN is in good operating order, security can be established, if necessary.

Old Blue's floppy drive A:(ALPHA), hard drives C:(CHARLIE) and D:(DELTA), and his TI Laser printer were set up as shared network resources. Access to the hard drives were restricted to the system administrator whereas the floppy drive and the printer were made accessible to everyone on the network.

In the last "In the Trenches" episode, we installed the drivers for the troublesome PnP modem. Now it was time to add a Windows 95 Dial-Up Networking (DUN) connection to my ISP. The "My Computer" Icon on Old Blue's Desktop was opened, then the "Dial-Up Networking Folder" was opened. The "Make New Connection" Wizard was started, and a new DUN connection was created using the existing DUN "connectoid" on the Hal 9000 computer as a guide.

After the Wizard was finished, I tested the new connection . . . OOPs! Old Blue choked and a "Dial-Up Adapter not working properly" error message displayed with instructions to remove the Dial-Up Adapter from the Device Manager, then reinstall it.

I deleted the "Dial-Up Adapter" from the Device Manager as instructed and reinstalled it (from the "Network" Dialog in the "Control Panel") along with TCP/IP protocol after restarting Windows. That worked. Old Blue was able to access the my ISP account after rebooting again.

3:31 P.M. 5/13/98 Time to setup WinGate v2.1b Proxy Server. I had downloaded WinGate Trial Evaluation on 05.05.1998 and now Old Blue was ready for the setup. I logged on to the WinGate Web site and applied for a thirty-day registration key that would make WinGate fully functional now that I was ready to try it out. I also downloaded the setup help file. A few minutes later when I checked my e-mail, the trial key had arrived.

9:58 A.M. 5/15/98 WinGate was setup on Old Blue, and the computer "4-Bits" was setup as the first client (See Tech Investigations Cyberdate 08.06.1998 "WinGate - A Proxy Server / Firewall for Everyman" for more detail). Some of the things the client setup utility was supposed to do didn't work as advertised, and that stumped me for awhile. The utility was supposed to setup a "HOSTS" file, and also configure the TCP/IP connection for the LAN Adapter to work with WinGate as well as configure the client's (4-Bits) Internet browser and E-mail applications. It configured the Browser and E-mail, kinda, but didn't setup the "HOSTS" file or NIC TCP/IP connection. There was ample documentation provided on the WinGate Web site, however, to allow me to find the problems and configure these items myself.

Within an hour, I was surfin' the Internet from 4-Bits through the Wingate Proxy Server/Firewall on Old Blue. Opening Internet Explorer on 4-Bits would cause WinGate to Dial-Up and connect to the Internet using the Modem installed on Old Blue and in a few seconds, the Web page would appear on 4-Bits' display . . . neat!

It took me a while longer to setup the first e-mail account through WinGate but, once again, the excellent help provided on the WinGate Web site saved my bacon. Now, I've got a lot of reading/configuration to do to get WinGate setup the way we want it, but at first glance, it seems capable of everything we want to accomplish with our first communications server.

CM: Before proceeding with Old Blue's evolution it was time to stop for a moment and do some housecleaning by installing and configuring utility software.

3:55 P.M. 5/27/98 Now that Old Blue's modem connection was in proper working order, The Cheyenne Backup's product registration and anti-virus innoculation file updates could be completed via modem. I also updated Old Blue's system documentation and created a FAT32 emergency boot diskette. WINProbe utility software was installed.

6:28 A.M. 5/28/98 The Cheyenne Backup application has provision for creating (and updating) an emergency bootup/restore diskette. I started to create this recovery disk, but hit a snag when the Recovery Disk Wizard tried to find the ASPI2DOS.SYS DOS driver for the SCSI host adapter the HP DataStor tape drive is connected to.

I found the ASPI2DOS.SYS DOS driver on original "CMS PowerDAT for DOS v4.01" diskette that shipped with the tape drive. This file was copied to drive C: root directory of Old Blue and the creation of a Cheyenne Backup recovery disk was tried again. Success!

The ASPI2DOS.SYS driver was not copied to the Recovery Disk, However. Nor was any mention made of it in the specialized CONFIG.SYS file the Wizard created on the Recovery Disk. For this reason I decided to leave it in the C: root directory in case some part of the recovery utility expects it to be there.

Quarterdeck's WINProbe 95 utilities has a nice system backup module that will backup the Windows 95 Registry and all the other important initilization files it can find along with required drivers, BIOS setup data and DOS tools and editors. In the case of Old Blue, it required five diskettes. All this "stuff" is compressed into a single executable file that spans all the diskettes. The file can also be saved to the hard disk and transferred from there to a network server. All-in-all, a pretty thorough utility.

The utility worked fine until it tried to backup the "boot record" of Old Blue's drive C: . . . this was probably due to the FAT32 file system which didn't exist when the WINProbe application was published. The utility did allow me to skip the boot record and continue, however. During the second backup to a recovery file on the hard disk, Old Blue locked-up solid! - had to recycle. Tried again and this time it worked. Next, I went to the Quarterdeck Web site to see if there was an upgrade for WINProbe that understood FAT32.

Oh, Oh! No mention of WINProbe at the Quarterdeck Web Site. It's probably time for me to think of retiring the software. Is it just me, or is it a trend for software publishers to start treating a product like a "red-headed stepchild" as soon as they discontinue selling it? For you "politically correct" (there's an oxymoron for ya) people out there - Back off. I'm red-headed . . . well, salt and red pepper anyway. First the product disappears from the "Products" section of the Web site and that's reasonable. Shortly thereafter, it disappears from the "Support" area of the site, and the only way to access data about it is to use the site's search engine (if one is available). The final blow comes when info about the product can't even be found in a search of the site! POOF! It's George Orwell's "1984". History has been rewritten. The product never existed! In many cases the product hasn't been off the store shelves more than a couple of years to be insulted this way.

Heck, I can go to a NAPA store and still find parts for "BillyBob", my 1955 Chevy pickup truck. You'd think the software industry could support their products a little longer . . . at least 'til the proverbial body's cold!

SUPINTREP: An "In the Trenches" log entry is hardly complete without report of a major meltdown or screw-up by yours truly, so here it is!

Old Blue was running with 16MB RAM memory which is minimal in his new role as a communications server. The WinGate proxy server seemed perfectly happy with this limitation, bless its heart. Memory costs being what they are today, I wanted to bring Old Blue up to 64MB RAM before the next step in Old Blue's transformation. After sea trials with WinGate, the next step will be to add mail server capabilities to Old Blue, and then FAX services. More memory could only help Old Blue in his duties.

The CAD workstations in this office had all been upgraded in memory and I had a pair of spare 32MB SIMMs which I decided to insert in Old Blue.

9:12 A.M. 5/31/98 Old Blue was taken off-line to replace the 16MB of memory I installed several weeks ago with 2-8x32 32MB 72-pin non-parity 60ns EDO SIMMs. Old Blue only has two of the 72-pin SIMM slots and four of the older 30-pin slots being a "transition" 486 motherboard. I swapped the SIMMs in a few minutes and then struggled to wrestle Old Blue back into his cramped corner.

Then came the "moment of truth" as I booted Old Blue . . . The CTX monitor connected to the Cybex Personal Commander switch that controls Old Blue, 4-Bits and Johnny Mnemonic started flashing a "No Video Signal" message. I recycled Old Blue but the result was the same. ~!@#$%^&

I restarted Johnny Mnemonic and got video from that machine through the switch. The video cable to Old Blue was not loose either. Cursing loudly, I manhandled Old Blue back out of his corner and carried him over to sit next to the PC called Kato. I connected Kato's Monitor and power cable to Old Blue as well as an old AT style keyboard from the "salvage yard".

Old Blue was booted again and Kato's monitor gave the same "No Video Signal" message. At least the Cybex switch was eliminated as a problem. I suspected a bad video adapter at this point. The only VGA Video board I had in my tool box had a PCI interface . . . Old Blue's Motherboard did not have any PCI slots.

I needed an ISA video board and they are becoming obsolete. I started checking system documentation and discovered that one of the junk yard computers, "Mr. Jones", had a Genoa VGA ISA adapter just like the one in Old Blue that I suspected of being bad. More cursing as I crawled under furniture in search of Mr. Jones. I finally found him. Not all my luck was bad today since he still had the Genoa adapter. I made the video card switch and started Old Blue again.

~!@#$%^&* The words "No Video Signal" continued to mock me from Kato's display. The silver lining in this dark cloud was that I still had two good ISA VGA video adapters in my dwindling inventory. The new memory SIMMs were removed now and the old memory inserted . . . Old Blue started up OK. So, he couldn't handle the new memory for some reason, or one of the new SIMMs could be bad.

My next move was to replace Kato's memory with the new SIMMs I had just removed from Old Blue. Kato did not have any problem with them. OK the memory was good. One last experiment. Two of the SIMMs removed from Kato were 2-8x32 16MB 72-pin non-parity 60ns EDO SIMMs. I put these in Old Blue next . . . Back to the "No Video Signal" message.

Old Blue just couldn't handle the faster EDO memory for some reason - I'll have to research the motherboard manual. ~!@#$%^ I'm sweating now and I didn't get much accomplished - Some days are like that.

MISREP: I was to find out some time after this incident that EDO memory will not work with 486 motherboards. Remember that folks, Ya heard it here last and, as parents have been saying for millenia, "Don't do what I do. Do what I say."

We still have to setup and configure the MDaemon mail server software, but that will have to wait. I'm so pleased with the WinGate proxy server / fire wall that I want to take some time to report the experience in depth, so the next update to the LAROKE site will be a TECH article about WinGate. After that, we'll get back to the trenches.


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

Issued Wednesday July 22, 1998

Updated Monday September 21, 1998

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