LinkExchange Network
You are here: HOME > TRENCHES INDEX > CYBERDATE 03.29.1999
Christophers Napkin Sketch by Al Gleichman
Site Map

Log Index
Previous Log Entry
Next Log Entry

In the Trenches with LAROKE

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 03.29.1999 (Constructing Grumpy Part I)

    Situation Report
    Take Charge And Move Out
    United States of America
    Mission Report
Previous P2 Articles:

Cyberdate 02.23.1998 Moving P2 is as much fun as pulling teeth

Cyberdate 02.04.1998 P2's lobotomy recovery

Cyberdate 12.23.1997 Re-glazing P2

Cyberdate 12.06.1997 P2's configuration suffers a relapse

Cyberdate 11.08.1997 P2 and 4-Bits - Light at the end of the tunnel

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

Cyberdate 10.11.1997 P2's transformation slips into high gear

Cyberdate 09.27.1997 Getting P2 ready for his new user

Cyberdate 09.20.1997 A Typical week of headbangers

Cyberdate 06.28.1997 Restoring a Flash BIOS Meltdown

Cyberdate 04.19.1997 Moving the HAL 9000

Cyberdate 04.12.1997 Case of the Phantom Printer

Cyberdate 02.24.1997 Where's my !@#$% FONT MENU??

Other Sources:

New PC Assembly Procedure This procedure describes how to build a modern, Pentium-class Windows 95 personal computer. Starting from components, the instructions here will tell you how to physically assemble the unit, get it running, test it, and even set up and optimize the operating system. This page is from "The PC Guide."


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

American Power Conversion Back UPS 200

Biostar Group M5ALA Motherboard

CDW Computer Centers, Inc. Mail order mouse, ups

Data Depot, Inc. PC Clinic diagnostic software

Creative Labs Speakers

Cybex Computer Products Corporation Personal Commander switch

Diamond Multimedia Stealth II AGP Video Adapter, Sonic Impact S90 PCI sound card

Enlight Corporation USA Enlight EN-7200 ATX desktop case

Insight Direct Mail order case, FDD, HDD, CD-ROM, video adapter, sound card, speakers, LAN card, SDRAM memory

Intel Corporation Pentium 200 MMX CPU

Linksys Combo EtherPCI LAN Card II

Logitech Cordless 3-button Wheel Mouse

Maxtor 539MB hard disk drive

Memorex 36x CD-ROM

Microsoft Corporation Windows 95, Windows 98

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

Seagate 3.2GB hard disk drive

Siemens AG SDRAM memory

TC Computers Mail Order Motherboard/CPU/Memory combo

TEAC America, Inc. 1.44MB 3.5" Floppy Drive


SITREP: Over a year ago the computer "P2" was refit to act as a clerical workstation in the reception area at the architectural firm where I work. P2 was a great improvement over "Christine", a Leading Edge Win 1122 (486/25Mhz SLC) IBM compatible PC purchased in 1993 that he was replacing.

I expected a pat on the back from P2's new user . . . Instead, I got a kick in the kidneys for my efforts. The user had never expressed much interest in the company computers before, but now she had discovered several CD-ROM applications that would help her in her personal life. Did I mention this individual is the boss's daughter?

P2 was set up fine for his architectural firm duties, but not for multimedia. He did not have a CD-ROM drive, sound card or speakers. We were able to jerry-rig the situation by mapping to a CD-ROM drive of another workstation across the network, but it's not the best solution.

The secretarial pool PC "Merlin", a CompuADD 320 (386/20Mhz) IBM compatible PC purchased in 1988, would not survive the upcoming turn of the millennium, and was scheduled to be decomissioned before that event transpires. I decided to replace Merlin with P2 when the time comes and build a new multimedia PC for the boss's daughter.

TACAMO: Every PC I work on gets its own name. The new machine's user was asked to provide a name or pick between "Dottie" or "Grumpy". I was in a mean mood for the heat I'd been taking over P2's failings, real and imagined, so I came up with "Dottie" from the movie Armageddon. It is the name given to the killer asteroid by the amateur astronomer who discovers it. He names it after his wife, "a vicious, BLANK-BLANK BLANK from which there is no escape!". If you've seen the movie, you know the quote. Luis, another architect at the office, came up with "Grumpy". P2's user selected Grumpy.

Grumpy was to be a skunkworks project (unauthorized budget expenditure), so I wanted to keep the costs low in case LAROKE had to eat it. I decided on an Intel P55C/200 MMX CPU with 64MB SDRAM memory as the basis for the new machine.

8:52 AM 12/31/98 I decided to give TC Computers another chance since I wasn't in a hurry. A Socket 7 ATX motherboard, 200 MMX CPU and 64MB memory combo special was ordered at their Web site (specials include refurbished and/or slightly out-of-date components but are tested and include a 1 year warranty). The order came to $224 and I waited for the e-mail confirmation of the order . . . It never arrived.

I had been very happy with the Enlight mid-tower case used to build "Johnny Mnemonic" so I ordered an EN-7200 Enlight desktop case from Insight Direct.

2:20 PM 1/6/99 The Enlight case arrived from Insight. I'm still waiting for confirmation of the TC Computers order.

11:42 AM 1/12/99 The TC Computers Motherboard/CPU/Memory package arrived this morning (never did get a confirmation or response to my e-mail inquiry about the order). The motherboard TC Computers sent turned out to be a BioStar M5ALA with the Intel Pentium 200 MMX CPU and a Siemens 64MB SDRAM DIMM installed.

2:29 PM 1/14/99 After reviewing the components at hand, an additional order to Insight was placed for a 3.2GB HDD, 1.44MB FDD, 36x CD-ROM drive.

5:13 PM 1/18/99 A bit of web research (not enuf research it would later be painfully apparent), then I ordered a Diamond Stealth II G460 AGP video adapter, Diamond Sonic Impact S90 PCI sound card, Linksys Combo EtherPCI LAN Card II, and Creative Lab speakers from Insight Direct. A Logitech Cordless 3-button Wheel Mouse, and APC Back UPS 200 were ordered from CDW.

1:35 PM 1/19/99 The 3.2GB HDD, 1.44MB FDD, 36x CD-ROM drive arrived from Insight Direct.

12:25 PM 1/20/99 Started Grumpy's construction by checking the power supply's 115v switch setting. Checked the new BioStar M5ALA motherboard jumper and dip switch settings against the manual. All settings were correct for the Intel CPU. Opened Grumpy's case and removed the small drive cage and the HDD cage to allow plenty of room for the motherboard test fitting. Removed the knockouts for the second 9-pin serial port and the two USB ports from the removable connector interface panel on the back of the case.

Test fitting revealed that there were mounting holes in the M5ALA motherboard for each of the Enlight case's five metal standoffs. I had enough non-conductive washers to mount the board but I could not keep them in place while positioning the board.

Rampaging around the office, I discovered that the little plastic coffee stirrers/straws in the galley were slightly smaller in diameter than the threaded holes in the metal standoffs. Eureka! I cut a 5/16" length of straw for each standoff to act as an alignment guide that would keep the washers in place. After positioning the motherboard, it was an easy matter to replace the alignment straws with mounting screws one at a time.

Unpacked Teac 1.44Mb floppy drive model FD-235HF. Checked connectors, and installed in removable drive bay box. Remounted drive bay box with drive in case. Tested faceplate alignment with case front cover.

Attached power connector to motherboard. Connected CPU fan power pass-thru connector. Connected ATX case power switch. Enlight labels most of the connectors in their cases which saves a lot of time. Connected speaker connector, reset switch and power LED.

Had trouble inserting ATI Mach 64 Video in PCI slots. I had this same problem with this same video adapter when installing it in "Trailer Trash". At the time I thought it was the no-name case that was at fault. Now I'm beginning to believe it's the adapter.

Attached FDD interface cable and power connector. connected spare monitor, keyboard and power cable. Started Grumpy for the first time. Everything is A-OK. The BIOS RTC setting was off by about an hour (TC Computers is one time zone away). The clock was reset to our time zone and will be checked next time Grumpy is fired up to see if the CMOS battery is good. Grumpy was shut down, cables removed and case buttoned up for the next phase.

12:50 PM 1/21/99 Checked Hard drive default settings and recorded s/n info. Removed drive bay cage from and installed drive. Re-installed drive cage into case. Connected Hard drive to motherboard as single drive on IDE Primary Channel. Started Grumpy and ran FDISK to make a single FAT32 partition. Ran FORMAT C: with the /S (system) parameter. Success!

Unpacked Memorex 36x CD-ROM drive. Checked settings and configured as master. Attached Enlight drive rails and installed CD-ROM drive in topmost 5-1/4" external drive bay. Connected EIDE cable from parts box (both motherboard and CD-ROM drive connectors had a pin missing for keying purposes and I had a spare cable that would fit only in this situation). Grumpy booted and the BIOS correctly identified the CD-ROM drive as the IDE secondary channel master device.

Installed the PCI Combo 10BaseT/10Base-2 NIC. Grumpy booted and the BIOS correctly identified the network adapter.

Copied Windows 95 OSR2 files to hard drive and began installing Windows. Installer choked horribly on starting Windows 95 for first time . . . restarted several times but could not recover. Ran FDISK again and reformatted drive C: Ran SCANDISK on newly formatted drive from drive A:

Tried three more times for a fresh Windows 95 install . . . 3rd time from CD-ROM instead of HDD, last time with PCI PnP NIC removed . . . No Joy.

12:59 PM 1/22/99 Booted Grumpy to record the Windows 95 startup error - the first error is "Msgsrv32 An error has occurred in your program . yada yada yada" with "Close" and "Ignore" buttons (no response to ignore button . . . Close button removes the dialog and reveals more serious "Msgsrv32" error dialog beneath. "This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down." The details indicate "MSGSRV32 caused a general protection fault in module SETUPX.DLL at 0016:00002e28. Registers yada yada yada". Rebooted off emergency floppy at this point to run Scandisk again. Scandisk reported a clean bill of health again.

Ran Data Depot's PC Clinic Pro. PC Clinic did not report any problems. BIOS settings for the HDD were changed from "AUTO" "NORMAL" to "AUTO" "LBA". The HDD was Fdisked and Formatted again. This formatted the drive as 503.96MB instead of 3.1GB - WRONG! back to the BIOS to change the settings to "AUTO" "AUTO" and try again, fdisk and reformat the drive. Damn! that formatted 1GB. Enuf of this back to the "AUTO" "NORMAL" settings.

Time to attack the problem from another direction. Purchased Windows 98. Install went well until "Starting Windows 98 for the first time" phase when the installer choked similar to Windows 95 installation, This time with an error trying to initialize "NTKERN". "Your computer will have to be restarted." When restarted, Safe Mode would be attempted, but would hangup, again similar to Windows 95 installer.

Windows 98 makes a more sophisticated startup disk than Windows 95 and insists on doing it early in the installation process. After trying to reinstall Windows 98 once more, the new startup disk was used to fdisk and reformat the HDD yet again. Curious . . . Where Windows 95 produces a FAT32 volume of 3.0GB, the volume created by the Windows 98 version of FAT32 was 3.2GB. This gave me some hope that the next installation attempt would work . . . No such luck. It broke in the same way.

9:59 AM 1/24/99 Went to Microsoft Knowledgebase and searched for "NTKERN". Found what I looking for (for a change). Knowledgebase Article ID: Q192397 indicated a problem with faulty RAM memory. The first workaround was to try to limit memory to 16MB by adding the line "MaxPhysPage=01000" to the [386enh] section of the SYSTEM.INI file, then running Windows 98 Setup again. That worked!! I was just lucky that wherever the memory fault is, it isn't in the first 16MB.

I didn't have a 8x64e 64MB 168-pin SDRAM DIMM memory module to replace the existing one for testing, but the M5ALA motherboard manual indicated two DIMM slots and four SIMM slots and I did have four 8MB EDO SIMM's of the proper specification. I opened up Grumpy's case to find that there were no SIMM slots installed (just a blank area on the BioStar board where they should have been). Drat! I'll have to get another DIMM module after all.

1:10 PM 1/26/99 Researched, located and ordered for overnite delivery from Insight Direct Web site what I hope is the correct memory module replacement for Grumpy's failed DIMM. It just arrived.

Replaced the DIMM, started Windows 98 and edited SYSTEM.INI to remove the "MaxPhysPage=01000" line. Restarted Windows 98. This time it started OK with all 64MB of RAM. The next step will be to add the sound card and experiment to see if the AGP Video adapter will work. Then a HDD reformat and a clean custom install of Windows 98.

Installed the Diamond Multimedia Sonic Impact S90 sound card. The audio cable that came with the Memorex CD-ROM drive did not have the proper connector on the sound card end to work with the sound card, but thrashing around in my spare parts cache produced an audio cable with the proper connectors at both ends, fortunately.

Set up the Creative Lab Sound Blaster SBS20 speakers and started Grumpy to install the sound card drivers. That's when the fun began! just before the Windows 98 logon screen, an error message informed that a certain dll file failed to initialize. I moved on to the logon screen then the Windows hardware installation Wizard noticed the sound card and set up to install the drivers. I tried to follow Diamond Multimedia's instructions but the Wizard failed to access the CD-ROM drive. At the same time, ugly sounds were coming from the HDD.

After a few minutes, a warm boot was initiated. Windows 98 recommended going into a Safe Mode Command Prompt, then running SCANREG. I did a few times, but I don't think it was working. Windows continued to fail to boot in a normal manner. I changed the BIOS Setting for PnP OS to "Yes" from the default "No" and the HDD to "AUTO" from the "User" Settings, but still no luck.

Grumpy was rebooted using the Windows 98 startup floppy. I tried a SCANDISK on the HDD - First time I've ever seen Scandisk lockup! A FDISK on drive C: was next - OH,OH! The Verify Integrity of HDD message stopped momentarily at 24% then restarted and cycled through to 100% a couple of times. FDISK had not done that before.

After FDISK was finished. Grumpy was restarted again with the Windows 98 System Disk and the command FORMAT C: /S was issued. The message "Formatting 3,095.36M" appeared (less than the last format). Then a new message "Trying to recover allocation unit x,xxx". It has been doing that for some time now with the x,xxx number changing every few seconds (with ugly sounds coming from the drive occasionally). This turn of events does not give me the warm fuzzies.

Murphy is with me today all right! While the format process was trundling away, I went online to order another 3.2GB HDD from Insight Direct for overnight delivery. In the middle of the process, the Wingate proxy server engine picked this time to quit responding. When this happens, the MDaemon mail server and Wingate have to be stopped and started again (it only happens every couple of weeks or so). The problem this time is that the Wingate server's (Old Blue) Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse were currently connected to Grumpy instead of the Cybex Personal Commander switch box that allows humans to interface with "Old Blue", "Johnny Mnemonic" and "4-Bits".

I aborted the never-ending formatting process on Grumpy and shut her down to re-cable the monitor, keyboard and mouse to deal with Old Blue's Wingate problem.

While Grumpy was shut down, I removed the new (and now sick) Seagate 3.2GB HDD and replaced it with a currently mothballed Maxtor 539MB HDD that was originally in Pentagon before his upgrade last year. After WinGate was up and running again, the monitor, keyboard and mouse were re-coupled to Grumpy and she was restarted with the Windows 98 Startup disk. FDISK was used on the Maxtor drive, then Grumpy was shut down again.

The sound card was reinstalled and the speakers and network cabling connected. Grumpy was restarted with the Windows 98 Startup Disk and the Maxtor drive formatted with the /S parameter which completed without incident. Grumpy was restarted again with the Windows 98 Startup disk w/CD-ROM support and a Windows 98 default test setup run from the CD.

The Windows 98 Setup process was much slower with the Maxtor drive and it choked in the "Configuring PnP devices" phase. Grumpy rebooted before this stage completed, then Windows wanted to enter "Safe Mode" which was accepted but Grumpy seemed to trundle forever until I finally got a BSOD (blue screen of death). I shut Grumpy off at this point and removed the sound card and network cable again.

The Maxtor HDD was reformated and Windows 98 Setup started again for the next test iteration. OOPs! ~!@#$%^& same results!

7:41 AM 1/27/99 Replaced the Maxtor test drive with the damaged Seagate drive again. Entered BIOS setup and restored default settings. Used the Windows 98 Startup disk to FDISK the HDD again. Rebooted and issued FORMAT C: /S again . . . am back to slow process of "Trying to recover allocation units" with the attendant ugly noises.

3:44 PM 1/27/99 Formatting process just completed (8 hours). Ran thorough SCANDISK next.

8:31 AM 1/28/99 Came in this morning to find the Scandisk process 1% complete and hanging. Rebooted Grumpy and started Data Depo's PC Clinic Pro.


1:02 PM 1/28/99 Several of the PC Clinic's HDD tests failed and it was still trundling away when I reset Grumpy to test some of the other components. I'm a little gun shy about putting the new HDD (that arrived from Insight yesterday) in Grumpy since I don't know what caused the other one to go south.

It's time to walk away from this one for a while and come back at it later in a refreshed state. Next time we visit Grumpy's construction site, we'll continue to battle baffling hard drive configuration difficulties awhile longer before moving on to other "brick wall" problems in the building of Grumpy. This grrrl turns out to be one hard machine to get running.


Site Map

Log Index
Previous Log Entry
Next Log Entry

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

Issued Monday March 29, 1999

copyright © 1996-1999 LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants all rights reserved

HotBot Search for