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Runyon's Law: "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."
In the Trenches with LAROKE
Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 01.28.2000 (Pentagon's Transformation)
SITREP: At first, this log entry was going to be "Getting my Bearings", a telling of the changes to the computer system here at the architectural firm. Basically, a recounting of how my own "model railroad" has grown in the past year. I was two-thirds finished with that when I realized that what I'd written was pretty boring. There was nothing to bring tears to the eyes of my readers and make them feel better about their own computer problems. After a few moments of indecision, I erased that log entry and started over.
Instead, I've decided to report on the redeployment of a computer called Pentagon. Pentagon was our first Pentium PC clone (P5/90Mhz) leased in 1995 as a CAD Workstation. This machine was named Pentagon in honor of being the company's first Pentium PC. After serving as a CAD station for a few years for several different users, the lease period expired. We purchased Pentagon and upgraded his memory and operating system. He now serves as our second WinGate proxy server/firewall "Norad" and is connected between the new DSL router "Wormhole" and the rest of the LAN. Getting him setup in this new role has not been without its tense moments and the whole trial (and error) of that ordeal is what this log entry is about, so settle in.
SITREP: This tale begins back in June after the new Dell workstations were deployed and Pentagon ceased his life as a CAD workstation (See In the Trenches log entry Cyberdate 07.15.1999 "Out with the old, in with the new")
If at first you don't succeed . . . yada, yada, yada
4:38 PM 6/24/99 Located Pentagon in the Krash Lab for his transformation into a slightly better communications server to take Old Blue's place in that duty. Old Blue will then become a "Backup communications server" in case Pentagon should suffer catastrophic failure. the HDD was reformatted (Windows 95B OSR2 FAT32) with the /S parameter.
Pentagon was rebooted off the newly formatted HDD and a
Pentagon was rebooted off the HDD again, this time with CD-ROM support. A
10:01 AM 6/25/99 Installed the "generic" V90 K56Flex HSP 56K PCI modem from the computer Wan-hung-lo. Installed Windows 95B OSR2. At the end of the process, just like the last time I did this in January, Under Device Manager I found three items under HDD Controllers - The Windows 95 standard Primary and Secondary IDE Channels (which were not working) and a VIA PCI Dual IDE driver.
The problem is that this causes both the HDD and the CD-ROM to run with real mode drivers (read MS-DOS compatible slow). At the VIA Technologies, Inc. I found this chip (VIA VT83C561) was no longer supported, and was advised to use the Windows driver. I reviewed the
I tried removing the VIA Tech controller from Device Manager . . . That action removed the entire Hard Disk Controller category and caused Pentagon to lock up - a warm reboot caused SCANDISK to run, then the controllers were reinstalled - a review of Device Manager showed the same situation as before. A visit to WinDrivers.com turned up ZIP. I'm tempted to try a Windows 98 install.
4:17 PM 6/25/99 Using Grumpy's Windows Start Disk, FDISK and FORMAT was run on the HDD again. Then Windows 98 was installed. The installer didn't want to give the Invisible LAN NIC the IRQ3 it was set for, so the NIC's EEPROM writer utility was fired up afterward to change it to the interupt Windows wants it to have (IRQ10). That's better . . . Now all the Hard Disk Controller items are working and we have full 32-bit drive access. The Windows 98 installer found the generic PCI modem but lists it as a question mark "PCI Communications Device" in Device Manager with an exclamation mark indicating the driver is not installed.
11:37 AM 7/2/99 Reformatted HDD again as one large FAT32 partition using Pentagon's Windows 98 Startup disk. Copied Windows 98 SE installer files to
7:00 AM 7/7/99 Installed V90 K56Flex HSP 56K PCI modem drivers. The HSP installer made a special control panel applet and installed the modem on a virtual COM5 port. Installed Kissco Modem Wizard, Adobe Acrobat Reader v3.01
A new direction
The Pentagon reconfiguration project went on hold for a few months at this point due to more pressing concerns. By the time I got back to him, we had signed up for a DSL installation and the modem would no longer be needed. It would be replaced by a second network adapter to connect to the new router that would be supplied by the DSL ISP.
I had been researching DSL availability ever since our baby bell, BellSouth, had announced its pilot program in the next county South of us. I've been very unhappy with our AT&T dial-up service. We get dropped connections all the time and they changed their policy (outlawing WinGate) after we signed up. On top of that it was costing us $100 per month ($20 per month plus hourly charges over an agreed upon limit).
I'd visit the BellSouth Website periodically to find out what was available. They published service plans for residential users on-site (for areas where DSL was available), but they wanted you to contact a sales rep for commercial installations. Well, the heck wit that! I didn't want to be nickle and dimed to death on a machine-by-machine basis. I was ripe for the picking when CAIS (Capitol Area Internet Services) contacted us. While I was waiting for their info pack to arrive in the mail, I researched CAIS at a couple of stock market sites. I also checked out their reputation at DSLreports.com. I was impressed enough that I invested a small amount of my own meager funds in CAIS stock (it has tripled as I write this).
Warm and fuzzy as the info was, I was also aware of the prevailing horror stories regarding DSL installation. I planned to keep our AT&T connection in place until well after the DSL installation was up and running trouble-free. We signed up for a 192KB SDSL account for a two-year contract. The price for this was $99 per month and included installation. In addition the router would be ours to keep. We signed in mid-October and were given a five-week estimated install date wait. I considered this optimistic as I assumed BellSouth would be dragging her feet every step of the way (being a competitor and all). I settled in for a longer wait and was not disappointed. BellSouth installed the line on the 6th of January with Covad following with the router on the 11th.
Broadband, here we come
2:03 PM 01/13/2000 Last week, our long anticipated DSL Internet connection installation from Cais finally got underway. Patrick, our janitorial services provider, arrived in his day job capacity for BellSouth to install the DSL phone line. he ran the line to our telephone board which is just outside the Krash Lab and tagged it. On Tuesday, Roberto, the tech from Covad arrived to run the line from the telephone board to the Krash Lab and then to setup the FlowPoint router from there. Roberto managed to setup a jack next to the existing phone line jack and I assume the existing cabling is used since I didn't see him pulling any new copper. Next he setup and configured the router next to pentagon with his laptop. From that point it was up to me.
I didn't know that Roberto did not need to connect to our system so I had arrived early to prepare "Pentagon" for his new role. The HSP modem was removed. Pentagon was placed next to Old Blue and connected to the Cybex Personal Commander monitor/mouse/keyboard switch using the cabling from 4-Bits. Pentagon was booted with a Win 95 start disk and his existing Invisible LAN ISA 10BaseT/10Base-2 NIC was configured for the 10BaseT connector with the Invisible LAN DOS EEPROM programming utility. Pentagon was rebooted normally into Windows and the modem was removed from the Windows Device Manager. New LinkSys PCI 10BaseT/10Base-2 NIC drivers were installed in accord with LinkSys instructions before shutting down pentagon again to install the additional NIC.
A LinkSys PCI 10BaseT/10Base-2 NIC was installed in place of the vacated HSP modem. Pentagon was returned to his location beside Old Blue, cabled and restarted into Windows. Windows noticed the new PCI NIC and configured it with the drivers previously installed. An inspection of the Windows 98 Device Manager indicated both NICs were working properly without conflict. After a few mistakes on my part, TCP/IP Protocols were installed for both the Invisible LAN and LinkSys NICs. The MS Networking client and file and printer sharing components were installed and configured. Bindings of the MS client and sharing components were removed for security and Pentagon was rebooted despite a warning that I had not finished setting up the network. When Pentagon restarted into Windows the MS client and sharing components were not there. It took me a couple of laps around the block to get to the head-slapping conclusion. I was removing the bindings to the TCP/IP Protocols but since they were the only protocols installed and since the MS client and sharing components must be bound to a protocol to work they were not being installed. DUH!
I finally realized this and installed the NetBEUI Protocol for the Invisible LAN NIC only (which I would have to do eventually to connect to the other machines on the network anyway). The MS Networking client and file and printer sharing components were installed and bound to NetBEUI only and everything was now hunky-dory.
Pentagon's LinkSys NIC was connected to the new FlowPoint router in accord with the Covad instructions and TCP/IP for the LinkSys NIC was configured and tested per the Cais ISP instructions. Pentagon's Invisible LAN NIC was connected to the "Farpoint" network hub located in the Krash Lab. The Invisible LAN TCP/IP had already been configured for use with the WinGate Firewall/Proxy-server application. I visited the WinGate support site for instructions on setting up WinGate on Pentagon for use with xDSL in lieu of a modem dial-up connection.
CM: I found what I thought was precious little info. I was to learn (later) that xDSL was in fact easier than a dial-up setup. Not knowing this, I eventually set out to experiment on my own and installed WinGate server on Pentagon. The WinGate installer finished without error but I didn't know whether it was working or not. I setup my computer Buc Nekid as a client (this was merely a matter of reconfiguring proxy settings in Buc's "hosts" file and browser to point at Pentagon instead of Old Blue). With crossed fingers I started Buc's MSIE browser. The company Intranet home page appeared . . . good so far. The new WinGate server was working for internal addresses anyway. I typed in the URL for the Laroke web site. Wam-Bam! There it was! We had a high-speed on-ramp to Mr. Al Gore's invention!
The next couple of hours were spent configuring the new WinGate installation for security. We now have two firewalls between the company LAN and the Internet - Pentagon's WinGate which was christened "norad" and the Flowpoint router which I named "Wormhole". The router came pre-configured and I have to get a password from Covad (and do some substantial research) if I want to mess with its security settings. I'll content myself with finetuning WinGate's settings for the time being.
3:20 PM 01/19/2000 ~!@#$%^ Y2K problems are not over. Started initial installation of MDaemon mail server to run along side Wingate on Pentagon. On Old Blue, MDaemon runs "behind" WinGate. The first installation turned out to be a miscarrage. The install appeared to finish without conflict except when I tried to start the MDaemon server for the first time it blew up with a
Pentagon was warm-booted but this resulted in more havoc since MDaemon was installed as a service. This means it starts at the beginning of Windows Startup before the Logon screen. Pentagon got hung-up with the same page fault error before I got a chance to logon and I was unsuccessful getting to the desktop. A third reboot got the same results but this time I got to the Desktop and was able to abort out of the page fault. MDaemon was uninstalled. I searched the MDaemon KnowledgeBase online but found no reference to the error.
MDaemon was installed again. This time it was not installed as a service so it would not auto start during Windows 98 startup. When I rebooted and got back into Windows I tried starting the new MDaemon installation - No Joy. Same page fault. I had an itch - something was staring me in the face, but I couldn't quite grasp it yet. OK, shutdown WinGate and try again - same ~!@#$%^ page fault (but I was glad that WinGate didn't seem to be implicated). Wait a minute! Back the error truck up! This was originally a time-limited trial version of MDaemon that turns into a full-featured version after a registration key is entered. I had not been asked for a key during installation. I checked system time and date ~!@#$%^ January 19, 2094!!!
Pentagon had been "fixed" with one of the Millennium Pro cards (at $60 a pop) but Windows was not buying into that solution! I corrected the date and tried to start MDaemon again. This time in lieu of the Page Fault error I got a dialog announcing the trial period was over and requesting the registration key be entered to continue. The key was entered and MDaemon finished startup without further problems. Could it be the trial time period checking subroutine within MDaemon could not handle a date almost a century into the future?
While this problem with the Millennium Pro cards is not a big deal on P2, it is on this machine. I'll have to root about for a permanent solution to this problem. I will most likely remove the Millennium Pro card and try the Check 2000 PC software fix.
7:38 AM 01/22/2000 So far this morning I'm not doing so good, but I could be doing worse, so I won't tempt Murphy with complaint. I started by trying to setup up the new APC BackUPS Pro that arrived earlier in the week. The first thing I noticed when I removed the access panel is that the battery was already connected - a bad omen. The end user usually performs this task. The second thing I noticed was a back panel different from the other APC BackUPS Pros in the office. This one had five power connectors for devices and one for power source and they were all the specialized three parallel blade conectors, not the normal three-prong connectors (two blades and a round ground). To top it off there were only two of the specialized power cables provided that would work with these connectors and no cable was provided to connect the UPS to a power source! ~!@#$%^&
I had planned to protect Pentagon, the new router "wormhole", and the network hub "farpoint" with this UPS. for For the present, I will have to settle for the computer and the router, plus I had to rummage around for a spare power cable in the salvage yard to connect the UPS to the wall outlet power source. When I turned on the UPS, it went through its diagnostic routines and ended up with a low battery light and incessant beeps every fifteen seconds or so. ~!@#$%^ I have had nothing but praise for APC up to this point but now my opinion is a bit tarnished. I put the UPS in a closed room (because the beeping is irritating) to see if it will recharge in a few hours . . . No joy.
While waiting for the UPS battery to charge, I cracked Pentagon's case and removed the Millennium Pro card. When I fired Pentagon back up, Check PC 2000 was installed and run. It reported the BIOS non-compliant for Y2K and offered to fix it with a software solution. I accepted. After rebooting and running Check PC 2000 again it reported the BIOS fixed. I rebooted Pentagon again and prevented him from getting the correct time from the time server after logon . . . The year was 1994 instead of 2000 $%^&*(damn it. In Pentagon's situation neither the hardware or software Y2K solutions live up to the promise!
In prepping for a full backup, I noticed Cheyenne Backup was spending a lot of time estimating files in the WinGate cache . . . This should not be. My intention had been to configure WinGate not to cache files. The backup was aborted and the Wingate cache checked . . . over 15,000 files and 143MB! The cache index file was temporarily moved to the desktop and the entire cache directory deleted to the recycle bin. A new cache directory was created and the index file moved back to it. Tried to empty the Recycle Bin at this point but got a protected error message. Rebooted Pentagon and empted Recycle Bin which took about five minutes. Messed with the WinGate cache settings by matching those on Old Blue which seem to be working.
MISREP: The UPS never changed its tune. I traded batteries with a known good UPS and the battery was OK but the new BackUPS Pro was not. I used different power cables and connected to different power sources in the office, but the results came up the same every time - the UPS was not working properly. It will have to go back to Insight. I'm pretty certain I've got a UPS for the International market by mistake instead of a North America version (230v instead of 120v).
I will have to live with the Y2K glitch on Pentagon and not start the MDaemon mail server after reboots until after Pentagon retrieves the correct time from the time server Mnemonic. This annoyance will complicate automation, but as my boss is fond of saying to me when he wants to be especially irritating "It's not a perfect world".
LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants
Issued Friday January 28, 2000
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