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Christophers Napkin Sketch by Al Gleichman

In the Trenches with LAROKE

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 09.06.1997 (Kurrent Konundrums debut)

    Situation Report
    Take Charge And Move Out
    United States of America
    Intelligence Summary
    Reconnaissance Exploitation Report
    Mission Report
Previous HAL Articles:

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

Later HAL Articles:

Cyberdate 09.27.1997 Getting P2 ready for his new user

Cyberdate 10.04.1997 Putting out brushfires

Cyberdate 10.11.1997 P2's transformation slips into high gear

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

Cyberdate 10.28.1998 HAL proves that even IBM can make a lemon


Autodesk, Inc. AutoCAD r13 c4, WHIP ActiveX DWF Viewer

America OnLine Online Service

Dr. DWG Inc. Dr. DWG for Webmasters

IBM Corporation Aptiva Update Connector

Marketwave Corporation Hit List Standard Edition v3

Microsoft Corporation Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 PP1

Netscape Netscape Navigator 3.0

Quarterdeck Corporation CleanSweep

SoftSource Vdraft Internet Tools DWG/DXF plug-in viewer

Windows Magazine Wintune 97


SITREP: 5:26 PM 8/29/97 There are times when a problem down in the trenches is persistent and continues to defy solution. As time rolls by and it continues to be a pain in my...uh, side, I am finally reduced to a konfused, feisty state by the situation, and must issue a call for help, for the sake of my co-workers, if no other reason. A person whose job title is "Merlin" does not like to send out the S.O.S.

With this installment of In the Trenches I will introduce a couple of my "Kurrent Konundrums" in the hopes that one or more of you folks out there may have achieved victory over similar difficulties. Originally, I conceived Kurrent Konundrums to be a regular section of this Website, but putting all my technical failures and frustrations in one place was too depressing. In the end I decided to place the Kurrent Konundrums here and there in the regular Trenches articles where they can be balanced by some small successes, and possibly be viewed by more readers.

In the Kurrent Konundrums segments I will humbly ask for help. I will describe my PC troubleshooting problems I have not yet resolved, and the steps I have taken, and the results of those actions. I will kontinue to flounder away at the problem until: 1) I have happily solved it, 2) One or more of you have shown me the light, 3) I have found a workable kludge, or 4) new technology renders the problem academic and solution is abandoned. Anyone who helps will be given credit in an update of the article where the problem was first introduced.

In this particular installment of the Trenches, we will also continue with software installation on "HAL 9000" (see In the trenches Cyberdate 08.23.1997 "When we last left our hero, HAL..") and finish up with a discussion about my company intranet construction efforts.

TACAMO: First, some new stuff for HAL:

10:24 AM 6/5/97 I downloaded Wintune 97 utilities software from the Windows Magazine Website, unzipped and Installed it with CleanSweep Smartagent running. The program installed quickly without incident. As you can see, Wintune was installed in June (1997), and as I'm writing this article in September, I fired-up Wintune again to re-familiarize myself with the application. It runs a series of system tests and offers comparisons to similar systems tested by Windows Magazine, complete with charts, and placed in a database that they continuously update. It also offers performance tune-up tips. On HAL it reported low disk space on drive C:, recommended scanning and defragmenting drives C:, D:, and E:, and as a parting shot, told me to "take out the garbage" (empty the Windows 95 Recycle Bin).

As a consultant, I always take better care of my Clients' machines than my own. This trait might be hereditary, I don't know. My father was an automotive machinist early in his career, before he got into electronics, and he sometimes let the family car get out-of-tune, knowing he could probably get it going again if it stopped by the side of the road. Mom did not find this particular quality endearing, however.

HAL's drive C: was indeed dangerously low on space and needed immediate attention. I emptied the Recycle Bin as recommended, and also reduced it's size to 1% of the drive capacity. I went into Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 PP1 (Preview Platform 1) and cleared it's file caches, and it's saved "Subscription" caches as well. I did the same with the Netscape Navigator 3.0 caches. I started America Online, then cleaned and "compacted" it's file cabinet. AOL uses MSIE as it's browser, so I didn't have to clear it's caches, since that was already done.

Next, a "download" folder on drive C: was relocated to drive E:. This cleared about 38Mb. I started the Windows 95 "Add/Remove Programs" applet in the "Control Panel" and removed the failed "Hit List" installation (see below), as well as some children's applications that had come pre-installed on HAL. Seeing two America OnLine installations listed, I highlighted the 1st one and clicked the "Add/Remove" button. The AOL uninstaller utility was initiated, and I was pleasantly surprised, for a change, to see that it would optionally search for all AOL installations before removing any, a nice safety feature. It turned out that there was only one AOL installation although two were listed, so I didn't gain any space here.

Then, using Windows Explorer file manager, drive C: was searched for all files with "BAK", "TMP" and "$??" file extensions, and those without the current date were deleted. Many temporary files have extensions starting with a dollar sign. the question marks are DOS "wildcard" operators which ensure that all file extensions starting with "$" will be found. Files with the current date are not deleted because they might be in use. Since the "beta" MSIE 4.0 PP1 locks HAL up quite often, there was a lot of this "flotsam and jetsam" on the C: drive. Last, I had to dump the Recycle Bin again since the file deletions filled it back up (just like real housecleaning). These exercises yielded 80Mb of cleared diskspace, enough to put me back in the safe zone.

Finally, I ran SCANDISK on HAL's four drive partitions and recovered a few more lost clusters on drives C: and D: that were left over from system crashes of the past. All four drives were defragmented and HAL was back "in the pink".

== UPDATE ==

Cyberdate 10.10.1998
Wintune Update
Since this article was first written, the folks at Windows Magazine have continued to improve Wintune. The latest version is Wintune 98 which runs over the Internet through the Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browser interface. For those machines without a MSIE connection to the Internet, the older versions still exist which can be downloaded, and transfered to those machines via floppy disk.

7:34 AM 7/17/97 I downloaded Marketwave's Hit List from their Website (over 8 Mb). During the Installation on HAL an error dialog stated that some system files on HAL should be updated. I ignored this recommendation because I suspected it would cause possible problems with MSIE 4.0 PP1. The installation completed without these system file updates, and I logged back on to Internet and started Hit List.

The main program would not run until registration info was entered and transmitted to the Marketwave site. The registration module could not find the Website, even though I was viewing the site troubleshooting FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page with MSIE browser. An additional dialog for entering proxy server info kept popping up, even though we don't currently have one. After this dialog is canceled, I was booted out of program.

The Marketplace FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) advises triple-clicking the registration button to bypass this step, but in my case this did not help the situation. Reading farther down in the FAQ revealed that Hit List will not work with "beta" browsers (like MSIE 4.0 PP1). ~!@#$$% I'm not beaten yet. I Installed Hit List on "P2", the other PC in my office that shares the modem line. It installed correctly this time. I Sent registration information and setup the program to access the LAROKE site log files. I ran my first report.

Hit List is very nice, and gave me a great deal more information about LAROKE's stats than the log reporting utility offered by my hosting company. If you have your own Website, I highly recommend this product. Jerry Pournelle has a saying "If you need a product like this, you need it bad."

== UPDATE ==

Cyberdate 10.13.1998
Hit List Standard Edition Update
Since this article was first written, several events have transpired to make Hit List less useful to me.
First, the free version of Hit List is no longer available for downloading at the Marketwave site. This is understandable since the free edition has so many features there is little incentive to purchase the commercial version for the small site webmaster.
Second, my hosting service changed their format to daily logs that rollover some time around 11 PM EST every day. This means I have to investigate scheduling software to download and update the Hit List database unattended, and I haven't had the time to experiment with this yet.
Third, I haven't discovered how to make Hit List perform the way I want it to through the WinGate firewall / proxy server.
At some point, I may get the 2nd and 3rd issues straightend out, but it is a low priority project unless this site gets more popular. /P-)

INTSUM: The time has come to speak of Kurrent Konundrums:


3:28 PM 5/9/97 It was time to run the IBM Aptiva UPdate Connector Again. Oh, No! It doesn't work anymore. Just after the dialog where you affirm you've read the license agreement and push the continue button, It displays a "One moment please..." message and the program hangs.., or seems to.

I am nearly in complete puzzlement on this one. Since an Internet connection is established before running this application, maybe the problem today is on the Webserver side (I hope). I will try again tomorrow and kross my fingers.

Well, that didn't work. 1:45 PM 6/6/97 Visited AOL IBM Aptiva Message forums. Based on first couple of messages there, I moved the "UPGRADER.EXE" file out of the "UPDATER" subdirectory and "restored" the original "UPDATER" directory from the IBM Aptiva Recovery CD - This caused new problems "RUNTIME ERROR "-f)))" or something like that. Moved newer "UPGRADER.EXE" file back to the UPGRADER directory to be greeted by same hung-up condition as before this session, although I still don't know what additional damage I might have caused by restoring all the other files in the directory from CD.

Based on another message in AOL forum, I restored "WINDOWS/SYSTEM/WEBSTER.OCX" from the CD. Still no improvement.

I Tried again after installing MSIE 4.0 Platform Preview. UPdate Connector still hangs in the same manner.

If any of you Aptiva owners out there have run into this problem with UPdate Connector, and have solved it, I'd appreciate your help.


7:41 AM 11/2/98 I Downloaded aptie4us.exe software update from IBM Aptiva site in the attempt to fix the IBM Aptiva Update Connector. This update fixes several Aptiva applets that are broken when Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 is installed. After installing the update (which included Update Connector files) I tried Update Connector which showed no improvement. I thought this would be the case since Update Connector quit working before MSIE 4.0 was installed.

11:59 AM 11/2/98 I Downloaded ucocxfix.exe software update from IBM site in the attempt to fix the IBM Aptiva Update Connector. This is a Fix for Runtime 438 Error in Update Connector. I am not getting any messages whatsoever when Update Connector hangs, so I was hopeful that this update might finally solve the problem. No Joy . . . There was no noticable change after the update.


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RECCEXREP: On another front, In my day job at the architectural firm one of my "full-time" jobs is building and maintaining the company intranet. This office has several CADD workstations running AutoDesk's AutoCAD r13 c4. I've been experimenting with drawing file viewers so that the troops can access these drawings over the intranet.

First, I tried the Vdraft Internet Tools DWG/DXF plug-in viewer from SoftSource. This plug-in module for Netscape Navigator can view native Acad drawings (DWG) and Acad Drawing eXchange Format (DXF) files. The drawings can be embedded in a HTML Webpage or viewed directly. The viewer includes controls for panning, zooming and layers. The evaluation copy I downloaded and installed worked fine, but I eventually abandoned it because it only worked with Acad releases r2.5 thru r12, and all the firm's new work was being done in r13. If I committed to this product, it would come to $50 per workstation, and there were no promises as to when a release r13 version would be available.

Next, I Downloaded Dr. DWG NetView v2.0 32-bit zip file from the Dr. DWG Website. Dr. DWG is similar to Vdraft in it's operation and capabilities, and it works with Acad releases through the new r14. It also had some of the same limitations. It was a plug-in, it views DWG files in their native format, and it costs $40 per workstation. These are limitations in this particular situation because all the PC's accessing the company intranet will be using Microsoft Internet Explorer instead of Netscape Navigator and an ActiveX viewer would be more suitable than a Navigator Plug-in. AutoCAD files are large, typically one to several megs in size and native-viewing means the entire file has to download into the browser's cache for viewing. This takes too long, even over an Ethernet network.

AutoDesk's WHIP technology with their new DWF (Drawing Web Format) file format turned out to be the workable solution for this situation. DWF is a special compressed vector graphics file format for web viewing. The file is a small fraction of the size of a native Acad DWG file. I downloaded and installed the enhanced WHIP display driver on one of our existing AutoCAD r13 workstations. I now had a new AutoCAD command at my disposal on this workstation. Typing "DWFout" at the Acad command prompt would export the current drawing as a DWF file. I could then place that much-reduced file on the intranet Web server. I could now install the ActiveX DWF Viewer component in all the MSIE browsers on the Intranet. As a bonus, this technology is free to AutoCAD users.

Installing the ActiveX component turned out to be the "fly in the buttermilk". The ActiveX Viewer component would not work on HAL because MSIE 4.0 PP1 is "not ready for prime time", but will be eventually. P2 has the other modem connection in the office and is equipped with MISE 3.0 which does support the Viewer.

The technology that makes ActiveX components easy to use became a stumbling block for me, momentarily. When a user is surfing the Internet and comes across a page that requires an ActiveX component that is not already installed on the user's PC, that component is automatically downloaded and installed. This process is fairly seamless and transparent to the User and works quite nicely. In the case of the DWF Viewer, you are led to a page on the AutoDesk Web site that has a DWF drawing embedded in it. The DWF ActiveX Viewer downloaded and installed on P2 and, voila! I could view DWF files!

My problem was that the other machines in the network did not have modem connections and could not access the AutoDesk Website on the Internet. AutoDesk makes the WHIP.CAB file which contains the DWF Viewer installation files available for downloading via FTP, but there is no information that I could find instructing me what to do with the "CAB" file once I had it. My three reference books on ActiveX did not readily give up their secrets regarding this issue either.

Once you grasp how it works, it is pretty simple, so I eventually figured it out for myself after about a hour's worth of trial and error, "monkey see, monkey do" experimentation. After viewing the HTML code for the AutoDesk webpage that has the embedded DWF file, I made up a test page on the company intranet webserver using "cut and paste" methods to place the ActiveX code in my test page. Then I placed the WHIP.CAB file in the same subdirectory as the test page. Finally, I changed the AutoDesk FTP reference to WHIP.CAB in the source code to point at the WHIP.CAB file in the same directory on the intranet server. I fired-up Internet Explorer on one of the other workstations on the intranet and accessed the test page. The ActiveX DWF Viewer downloaded and installed, just like magic!

I then started producing a few webpages for displaying an architectural project's drawings. I made small GIF file thumbnail graphics of each drawing and put them in a table along with a text descriptions of the drawings' contents, and links that could actually download the native-format DWG files to the user's workstation. If the user clicks on the GIF thumbnail graphic, the DWF file is loaded into full-screen view where it can be "panned" and "zoomed" with the ActiveX Viewer component. This will allow the user to determine if this is the drawing s/he really wants to download for editing. A page like this with thirty images can load over the ethernet-based intranet in less than 15 seconds.

This amounts to three times the work for the webmaster (me), but the gains in page-loading speed and reduced network traffic are well worth it.

MISREP: When Mom thinks about Labor Day, it has nothing to do with unions. I passed another birthday milestone last weekend as I was preparing this installment, and it gave me pause for reflection. I've got to get "on the stick" here. I'm only two years away from "Centrum Silver", and I still don't know what I'm going to be when I grow up!


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

Issued Saturday September 6, 1997

Updated Tuesday November 3, 1998

copyright © 1997-1998 LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants all rights reserved

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