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In the Trenches with LAROKE

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 08.04.1999 (A few Chernoble events)

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

Cyberdate 04.14.1999 Countdown to midnight Part II - Y2K Preparations

Cyberdate 01.28.1999 Countdown to midnight Part I - Y2K Preparations

Cyberdate 12.30.1998 Old Blue survives his sea trials

Cyberdate 08.06.1998 WinGate - A Proxy Server / Firewall for Everyman

Cyberdate 07.22.1998 Old Blue becomes the Old Guard Part III

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 HAL 9000 Articles:

Cyberdate 04.14.1999 Countdown to midnight Part II - Y2K Preparations

Cyberdate 01.28.1999 Countdown to midnight Part I - Y2K Preparations

Cyberdate 10.28.1998 HAL proves that even IBM can make a lemon

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

Cyberdate 10.11.1997 P2's transformation slips into high gear

Cyberdate 10.04.1997 Putting out brushfires

Cyberdate 08.23.1997 When we last left our hero, HAL..

Cyberdate 06.14.1997 When it rains, it pours

Cyberdate 05.17.1997 HAL's softwarez feeding frenzy continues

Cyberdate 05.10.1997 HAL gets more software

Cyberdate 05.03.1997 Feeding Softwarez to HAL 9000

Cyberdate 04.19.1997 Moving the HAL 9000


ZDU Online Learning Introductory Linux Course


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

ATI Technologies, Inc. ATI Mach 64 video adapter Online software store

Compaq Computer Corporation Presario 800 Series desktop PC

CompUSA Compaq Presario purchase

IBM Corporation Aptiva Stealth PC, MM50 monitor

Diamond Multimedia SupraExpress 288i PnP modem

Kiss Software Corporation Modem Wizard diagnostic software

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

Symantec Corporation CleanSweep (formerly from Quarterdeck before Quarterdeck ceased to exist under the Symantec Corporate Banner)

STB Systems, Inc. STB Velocity 4400 video adapter


SITREP: The time has come to relate three "high anxiety" events. These are all short anedotes, none great enough to rate its own log entry, so I've lumped them together here for the telling, cleaning out my closet, so to speak.

The three machines affected by these meltdown events are "Comfounded", my Compaq Presario 800 series home PC; "Old Blue", the architectural firm's communications server; and "HAL 9000", my main workstation in the Krash Lab. One of the events was an act of God . . . the other two were acts of mine.


Comfounded is a 486/50 Compaq Presario 800 Series tower originally purchased from CompUSA.

This machine was my second IBM compatible machine purchased after I'd finally given up on the Apple II series, long after Apple Computer, Inc. had given up on it, I might add. I named him Comfounded primarily in protest over the proprietary Compaq hardware and software peculiarities that make these machines difficult for the non-Compaq technician to work on.

I'd also been confused when I found advertised software missing from the machine . . . and it had applications installed that were not advertised. I naively suspected substitutions during the production run, until many weeks after purchase, I happened to stumble across the name of a local law firm as the "registered" owner of some of the software. This machine had been sold to me as new and it is CompUSA's "strict" policy not to resell returned products. However, I have caught this particular store in Deerfield Beach, Florida, at the practice three times over the years.

Comfounded didn't get much use after I purchased HAL at the end of 1996 and was set up in the "guest" bedroom at the Krash pad for those sporadic occasions when I had to access the Internet at home.

I am investigating the use of Linux as the operating system for some of my server projects here at the Krash Lab, so I signed up for a Linux introductory course at ZD University. The course materials required purchase of a hard copy at the online Barnes & Noble site or a PDF file download from

I decided to try, so the purchase was made at the site and I received my download utility (which is keyed to the purchase). The problem is that the downloader would not work through the WinGate firewall here at the Krash Lab. An E-mail was sent to support for help - They came back with the standard answer "See your system administrator", instead of giving me a clue on how to configure the firewall to work with their downloader. Well, I'm the ~!@#$%^&* System Administrator and my solution, with tech support like that, is not to use again!

I took the downloader home with me on a floppy disk to try on Comfounded. I didn't have the WinGate problem there. If the downloader worked on Comfounded, I could then e-mail the resulting course material download to the Krash Lab. Unfortunately, things went terribly wrong at the Krash Pad.

7:38 PM 1/14/99 At home I entered the musty guest bedroom and hit the surge protector switch to bootup Comfounded for the first time in weeks. The BIOS password feature is enabled because this is an apartment complex and management lets service people in as required when I'm not around. I was fairly trusting until several hundred dollars in cash mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. Now everything possible is locked down.

The BIOS password login was displayed but keystrokes were not accepted. That's the first time that ever happened, and is it my imagination or do I detect a hint of ozone in the air? I turned Comfounded back off and on again for a cold reboot. This time the display stayed dark. What's that? SMOKE coming from Comfounded's tower case under the desk! Holy ~!@#$%^&

Shutdown and opened case - strongest smoke odor appears to be in vincinity of power supply. All other components seem OK visually. This is probably the end of Comfounded - I will have to cart him off to the Krash Lab for a tear-down-look-see, but he will mostly likely be scrapped for whatever parts were not destroyed while the power supply was cooking off.

It's a top priority - I disconnected and moved Comfounded out to the living area and he's been sitting by the door for the last five months waiting for transportation to the Krash Lab. I'll probably be moved to action when I stub my toe on him one time too many.

3:23 PM 4/18/99 Installed Kissco's Modem Wizard v4.0 on Old Blue, our ONLY communications server - BIG Mistake!! The Wingate dialer no longer could dial out . . . Our entire network was cut off from the outside world. Something had a grip on COM2 port and would not let go - even after turning Old Blue off and back on again. In a panic, I uninstalled Modem Wizard. The Uninstaller gave an error message about a certain DLL file being the wrong version (a Windows NT version), but the uninstaller seemed to work.

No joy - After rebooting, the WinGate dialer still could not take the port away from whatever had a hold on it. I reinstalled Modem Wizard, then Quarterdeck CleanSweep Deluxe. CleanSweep was used to uninstall Modem Wizard, then to clean the Windows 95 Registry. Old Blue was shut off then restarted . . . ~!@#$%^ The ~!@#$ COM port was still in use. The Wingate Registry Key was exported. The key was then deleted and the backup registry key from emergency diskette re-imported. No joy.

Old Blue's SupraExpress 288i PnP internal modem was deleted from the Modems dialog in Control Panel and Old Blue was rebooted with fingers crossed. Windows noticed the new device and drivers were installed. Whew! Wingate and MDaemon was functional again. ~!@#$%^& I save a special kind of loathing for software diagnostic products that cause more problems then they fix. There should be a software tool motto "First, do no harm!"

4:16 PM 4/18/99 After getting access to the Internet again, I visited Kissco where the Modem Wizard FAQ informed me that outdated modem drivers and/or DUN could result in a corrupt DUN configuration when Modem Wizard was installed. This is probably what happened. I visited the Diamond Multimedia site next and downloaded the latest SupraExpress modem drivers. When I get over the trauma I've just experienced from trashing the company communications server, I will probably udgrade the modem drivers, the DUN and try Modem Wizard again.

Actually, I'll probably wait until I upgrade the PC we call "Pentagon" to take Old Blue's place as "Communications Server". Old Blue will be fine-tuned at that point and placed in reserve. After the above was logged, I had my second bad experience with Modem Wizard (See In the Trenches Cyberdate 05.12.1999 "Murphy's House of Pain - Part II"). I hope the "third time pays for all"  as Bilbo Baggins was fond of saying in "The Hobbit", and my next experience with Modem Wizard will be a good one.

12:13 PM 5/8/99 Yesterday's activities: I'm gonna put a sign on the door to the Krash Lab "Abandon all hope ye who enter here!" ~!@#$% I installed the STB Velocity 4400 PCI video adapter (that I had originally purchased for the PC "Grumpy") to try and determine if the on-board ATI video circuits were causing the monitor problems . . . It did not go well. First, I could not put HAL into standard VGA driver mode - it was not a choice!! HAL's selection lists of manufacturers and devices was unlike any I have encountered thus far. Each entry in the list was preceded and followed by the "%" symbol (often used in DOS batch file loop routines). I changed the current ATI driver to the lowest resolution and color choice, then shut HAL down and installed the STB adapter.

The STB drivers were installed from CD and HAL was rebooted. The good news was that HAL recognized the new Video adapter and automatically disabled the built-in circuits . . . The bad news was that the Aptiva MM50 monitor was still manifesting rapid vertical scrolling and pincushion effects. HAL booted up to the logon screen, then choked in a "Fatal Error" loop that could only be resolved by turning off the machine. OK. I figure I know enough to be confident that the built-in ATI circuits are not causing HAL's display woes. I'll just remove the STB board and go back to the ATI Mach64 drivers. All video adapters except the ATI were removed from the Windows 95 Device Manager and HAL was shutdown. The STB card was removed.

HAL was rebooted and even the Windows logon screen exhibited the rapid vertical scrolling making it impossible to interface with HAL. !@#$%^ Another monitor was connected to HAL so I could see what I was doing. After the logon screen, Windows informed me there was something wrong with my display settings and shuttled me to the Hardware Wizard which allowed me to select the old ATI Mach64 drivers . . . except after the selection, the wizard demanded I insert the "ATI installation disk 1" in drive A:! I scoured the Krash Lab for ATI driver disks, but there were none for HAL or any of the other machines here. I knew that the entire default installation for HAL, including all drivers were on a bootable "Product Recovery" CD that shipped with HAL, but I didn't want to go back to the default configuration just to get the video drivers back. I tried having the wizard find the drivers on the CD and in the C:\WINDOWS\OPTIONS\CABS directory. No joy.

Finally, I took note of the first file the Wizard was looking for "ATI64DEF.CNT" and aborted the Wizard. I searched all of HAL's drives for this file and it was not found. Next the IBM "Diagnostics and Utilities" CD was searched for the same file. Better luck. It was found in the "\IBMBUILD\ATIVIDEO\WINDOWS\OPTIONS\CABS" directory. The wizard was restarted and pointed at the same directory when it asked for ATI Disk 1 again. This time the drivers were installed and HAL was back to the same configuration He was in before this exercise started three sweat-drenched hours ago.

MISREP: I'm glad I got those incidents out in the open. Now I can move on to other confusing head scratchers. LAROKE has just purchased a Dell Dimension XPS T550 Pentium III to replace the aging HAL 9000 as my main machine. It arrived with Microsoft Office 2000 Professional pre-installed, and I predict the glitch-ridden adventures are just beginning. Stay tuned.


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

Issued Wednesday August 4, 1999

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