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Katz's Maxims: "Where are the calculations that go with the calculated risk?"
In the Trenches with LAROKE
Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 08.04.1999 (A few Chernoble events)
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.
Chernoble event 1: Comfounded suffers a horrible end
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 Beyond.com.
I decided to try Beyond.com, so the purchase was made at the Beyond.com 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 Beyond.com 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 ~!@#$%^&* System Administrator and my solution, with tech support like that, is not to use Beyond.com again!
I took the downloader home with me on a floppy disk to try on Comfounded. I didn't have the WinGate problem there. If the downloader worked on Comfounded, I could then e-mail the resulting course material download to the Krash Lab. Unfortunately, things went terribly wrong at the Krash Pad.
7:38 PM 1/14/99 At home I entered the musty guest bedroom and hit the surge protector switch to bootup Comfounded for the first time in weeks. The BIOS password feature is enabled because this is an apartment complex and management lets service people in as required when I'm not around. I was fairly trusting until several hundred dollars in cash mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. Now everything possible is locked down.
The BIOS password login was displayed but keystrokes were not accepted. That's the first time that ever happened, and is it my imagination or do I detect a hint of ozone in the air? I turned Comfounded back off and on again for a cold reboot. This time the display stayed dark. What's that? SMOKE coming from Comfounded's tower case under the desk! Holy ~!@#$%^&
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.
Chernoble event 2: Old Blue turns mute
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
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 . . . ~!@#$%^ The ~!@#$
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. ~!@#$%^& I save a special kind of loathing for software diagnostic products that cause more problems then they fix. There should be a software tool motto "First, do no harm!"
4:16 PM 4/18/99 After getting access to the Internet again, I visited Kissco where the Modem Wizard FAQ informed me that outdated modem drivers and/or
Actually, I'll probably wait until I upgrade the PC we call "Pentagon" to take Old Blue's place as "Communications Server". Old Blue will be fine-tuned at that point and placed in reserve. After the above was logged, I had my second bad experience with Modem Wizard (See In the Trenches Cyberdate 05.12.1999 "Murphy's House of Pain - Part II"). I hope the "third time pays for all" as Bilbo Baggins was fond of saying in "The Hobbit", and my next experience with Modem Wizard will be a good one.
Chernoble event 3: HAL loses his vision
12:13 PM 5/8/99 Yesterday's activities: I'm gonna put a sign on the door to the Krash Lab "Abandon all hope ye who enter here!" ~!@#$% 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
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
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
Finally, I took note of the first file the Wizard was looking for
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.
LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants
Issued Wednesday August 4, 1999
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