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Christophers Napkin Sketch by Al Gleichman

In the Trenches with LAROKE

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 10.04.1997 (Putting out brushfires)

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

Cyberdate 09.27.1997 Getting P2 ready for his new user

Cyberdate 09.06.1997 Kurrent Konundrums debut

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 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

Cyberdate 01.28.1999 Countdown to midnight Part I - Y2K Preparations

Cyberdate 04.14.1999 Countdown to midnight Part II - Y2K Preparations

Previous MAG Articles:

Cyberdate 07.12.1997 Setting up MAG


Adobe Systems, Inc. Adobe Acrobat document exchange application

Corel Corporation QuattroPro 7 spreadsheet application, Envoy 7 Web publishing application

Hewlett-Packard HP LaserJet 4L printer.


SITREP: This episode will khronicle fire drills with my system "HAL 9000" and two different client systems, one local in the South Florida area and the other one over 1,300 miles away. We'll finish up with a potentially catastrophic "three-alarm"  blaze on a co-worker's home system.


12:51 PM 9/16/97 I had just finished a invoicing a large project for my daytime employer. I saved the project billing summary file and closed QuattroPro, the spreadsheet application I use to keep track of project invoicing, and left the office for some errands.

When I returned, I opened up the project spreadsheet again to print the updated project information to Envoy, the application that is used to make copies of the updated data suitable for viewing on the company intranet (Envoy is similar to Adobe Acrobat in function).

Normally, when I bring up the "Print Preview" dialog, I get a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) depiction of what the printed document will look like . . . not this time . . . HAL got hung up, and all I got was a "blank sheet" and the Windows "busy" hourglass icon.

After thirty seconds or so, I performed the "three-fingered salute"  (CTRL+ALT+DEL) to bring up the "Close Program" dialog which told me QuattroPro was "not responding".  I clicked the "End Task" button which closed QuattroPro.

After a warm boot restart, the same steps were performed with the same results. Then I tried a cold boot without any other programs running . . . Ditto. Another cold-boot, and this time I opened a different spreadsheet file, and, "lo' an' behold",  Print preview works OK.

Encouraged, I open project spreadsheet again, and print preview works this time. Next, I switched to the first spreadsheet and closed the file. I came back to the project spreadsheet and tried Print Preview. ~!@@##$$%$ lockup again!!!

I rebooted one last time and managed to print my envoy files by loading both spreadsheets into QuattroPro. After the Envoy documents were saved, I saved the project spreadsheet, and closed the other spreadsheet again. I tried the Print Preview for the project spreadsheet one last time. It worked just like it was supposed to! What gives here! That little "lap around the track" took another hour out of my day, and I still have no idea what caused the buggy Print Preview performance.

== UPDATE ==

Cyberdate 06.09.1999
Envoy Update
I have not had the print preview problem in QuattroPro since I upgraded to WordPerfect Suite 8 which included QuattroPro 8
The Envoy printer driver was not included in WordPerfect Suite 8 (except the professional version). The Envoy viewer module is included. It appears that the next WordPerfect Suite will use Adobe Acrobat technology to replace Envoy.
I still use the Envoy 7 printer driver but see a switch to Adobe in my future. Even Envoy's developers, Tumbleweed Software, devote little attention to Envoy on their Web site.

My real estate client, who is experiencing WordPerfect printing problems that I haven't been able to resolve yet, has a new problem (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 09.20.1997 "A typical week of headbangers"). Josie, the single indian brave reporting to the several chiefs of this organization, called to report a BSOD afflicting her workstation. A warm boot would not work.

After explaining how to be reasonably sure the hard disk drive was not in operation, we tried a cold-boot after leaving the machine off for 60 seconds. Windows requested "Safe Mode" and I walked Josie through the prompts over the telephone. After starting in Safe Mode, I had her restart the PC normally. Everything seemed hunky-dory.

She called back two hours later to report that the screen keeps "goin' south"  about every twenty minutes or so of operation, and that it is happening in different Applications. I begin to suspect a bad monitor or video board. Today is Thursday, and I promise to visit this weekend to see what I can do about the situation.

6:30 AM 9/15/97 Well, I didn't get to the Client's office over the weekend, so I went this morning. I came to the office first and rummaged around in the "elephant's graveyard"  until I found a VGA monitor that was working reasonably well. After loading the monitor and a few tools, I headed for the client's office in "renegade", my jeep.

The monitor on the malfunctioning workstation was replaced with the "loaner" in short order (accented with some salty language due to inaccessible connectors and bumping my kranium several times).

SCANDISK and DEFRAG were both run on each machine by double-clicking the "My Computer" icon on the Windows 95 Desktop, right-clicking on the "C:" hard drive icon, and choosing "Properties" on the resulting context-sensitive menu. Clicking the "Tools" tab in the Properties dialog, then the "Check Now" button in the "Error-checking status" section starts the Windows 95 interface to SCANDISK. Clicking the "Defragment Now" button in the "Defragmentation status" section starts the Windows 95 interface to DEFRAG. I ran both programs accepting the defaults. DO try this at home, kids . . . Often.

Next, I dealt with the network. When I first setup this system for Microsoft Networking, I named the two PC's "Barron 2" and "Barron 3". Since then, I've found it a good practice to use DOS-compatible naming conventions because names with "illegal" DOS characters (like spaces) and longer than eight characters tend to confuse some older programs that are not Windows 95 aware (see LAROKE naming conventions).

I'd decided to uninstall the network and reinstall it with DOS-compatible names. "Barron 2" was started and the "Network" icon in the Windows 95 "Control Panel" was double-clicked to open it. Under the "Configuration" tab, the "Client for Microsoft Networks" line item in the "The following network components are installed" list was highlighted and the "Remove" button was clicked. The "File and printer sharing for Microsoft Networks" line item suffered the same fate. Under the "Identification" tab, the "Computer name" was changed from "Barron 2" to "Barron2". After clicking the "OK" button, Windows 95 requested a restart to make the changes take effect. Barron2 was allowed to reboot, and I went on to "Barron 3".

On Barron 3, the "Printers" folder was opened and the network printer that was mapped to the old "Barron 2" designation was deleted. Then I went through the same network uninstallation and reinstallation that had just been completed on "Barron2".

At this point both machines were "cycled" (cold reboots). When the Windows 95 "Login" dialog appeared for "Barron2", I changed the default "Barron 2" User name to "Barron2" and clicked the "OK" button without entering a "Password". I confirmed the blank password in a secondary dialog, and the Windows 95 Desktop appeared. I performed a similar ritual for "Barron3" and rebooted both PC's again.

I was happy to see the new User names "Barron2" and "Barron3" show up as the defaults in the "Login" dialogs. Sharing was still enabled for the hard drives of both machines, so all I had to do was restore the "permanent mappings" for these shared drives that had disappeared when the network was uninstalled. In both cases, the hard drive C: of the remote machine was mapped to drive E: of the local machine and made "persistent" (automatically mapped each time Windows 95 is started).

Whereas the old mapping for Barron2's E: drive was "\\BARRON 3\C" the new mapping is "\\BARRON3\C". In like manner, Barron3's E: mapping is now "\\BARRON2\C" in lieu of the old "\\BARRON 2\C". Normally, I use Phonetic Alphabet names for drive designations (see LAROKE network drive names), but since the only drives that would be mapped were "C:" drives, the designation would be "CHARLIE". The president of the client company is named Charlie, and I wanted to save him from an attack of vanity. Finally, I went to the Printers folder on Barron3 and installed a new network printer mapped to Barron2's Hewlett-Packard Laserjet 4L (\\BARRON2\HP). Both PC's were rebooted one more time and printing tests were initiated on the Barron3 applications printing to the network printer.

All the applications found the HP Laserjet 4L and printed to it with the exception of ~!@#$%^& WordPerfect. Upon startup, WordPerfect v6.1 consistently announces that no printer is selected. When entering the WordPerfect printer selection dialog, the Network printer HP Laserjet 4L is listed along with a "phantom" HP Laserjet 4L on LPT1 which does not exist. I deleted the phantom printer and selected the network printer which allowed me to print documents to the network laserjet on Barron2, but this process has to be repeated every time WordPerfect is opened, and the "deleted" phantom laserjet on LPT1 "magically" reappears every time. To be truthful, I didn't anticipate WordPerfect to be working again, anyway, but I wanted to get the kinks out of the network before uninstalling and reinstalling WordPerfect.

The client's personnel were beginning to arrive to open up their office, and it was time for me to hit the dusty trail. The loaner monitor on Barron2 had been working for 90 minutes now without a burp, and we decided to let it run for a day or two to be sure that the monitor was the problem. That would give the client time to determine if they wanted to replace their failing monitor or try to have it repaired.

== UPDATE ==

Cyberdate 06.23.1999
Monitor Update
It did turn out to be a failed monitor and we replaced it with a 15" Princeton, I believe. The last time I visited the client's office for remedial work, I noticed the screen to be low in brightness and contrast. The first time I saw this, I thought it to be a characteristic of the monitor, but now I think it's the video adapter.
This is a CTX PC with a "MB-8500TVX" motherboard with "Cirrus Logic GD-5436/46 VGA" video and we have one like it here at the architectural firm where the Krash Lab is located. The CTX here has had several different monitors connected to it over time and they've all been low on brightness and contrast.

MAG's Owner reported to me via telephone and e-mail that MAG's Windows 95 help system was not working. I asked for an e-mail with the error message MAG was reporting. The error message I got back in the email was:

WINHLP32 caused an invalid page fault in module WINHLP32.EXE at 014f:0014 ac4

I don't know if there is more to that error message or not, but it leads me to believe the WINHLP32.EXE file or one of it's components may be corrupted. Since my client is not sure when Windows "Help" quit working, I reasoned the best thing to do would be to restore the files from the Windows 95 CD-ROM and see if that solves the problem. Unfortunately, this operation involves the use of an unfriendly DOS command EXTRACT.EXE. Old-timer, "command-line cowboys"  actually enjoy this type of thing, but for normal people, it's a pain in the neck.

EXTRACT will decompress the required files from the special Microsoft "CAB" (Cabinet) files and restore them to wherever you direct. How does it work? If you type "EXTRACT /?" at the prompt in a DOS window you get the a "help" listing for the command similar to the following:

Extract Help Screenshot

Are you "regular Joes and Janes"  reaching for the Excedrin bottles? Even though this is a lot of help for a DOS command, it is still too kryptic for most of us. I'm aware that there might be shareware user-friendly cabinet file extraction utilities out there, but I didn't want to send my client off on a scavenger hunt, so I decided to try to work out the EXTRACT command syntax before calling my client and walking her through the process over the telephone.

If my limited "people skills" failed us, and that didn't work, I would try setting up a pcANYWHERE session between HAL and MAG over a modem connection which would allow me to manipulate MAG directly from HAL's keyboard.

Using EXTRACT with the "/D" parameter (directory listing only), I found that "WINHLP32.EXE" existed in different places depending on which version of Windows 95 you have. For example, on the Windows 95 CD-ROM that came with "HAL", my IBM Aptiva Stealth, WINHLP32.EXE is in the WIN95_05.CAB, but on the Windows 95 CD-ROM that came with "Cris Cross", the company's only Windows 95 version "B" PC, it is located in WIN95_08.CAB.

5:08 PM 9/18/97 OK, time to try to walk my client through the process of EXTRACTing a new WINHLP95.EXE file.

STEP 1: Open a MS-DOS window and verify the present location of WINHLP95.EXE. From the Windows 95 "Start" menu, open a MS-DOS window by clicking the "Start" button, then "Programs" menu choice, then "MS-DOS Prompt" submenu choice. The MS-DOS Prompt should open in the "Windows" directory on most systems and look something like "C:\WINDOWS>". In any case, the Windows directory must be made the current directory before issuing the next command:


So far, so good. The above command verified we were in the right directory by displaying a file listing which included the WINHLP32.EXE we were looking for.

STEP 2: Since MAG is a "B" version of Windows 95, I was going to try the following command first to verify the location of WINHLP32.EXE on the Windows 95 CD-ROM, after prompting my client to put the it in MAG's CD drive.


STEP 3: OK, now that we know where the file is on the CD-ROM and where it should go on MAG, we can finally extract the file with the command:


The EXTRACT command asks if it's OK to overwrite the existing file and we answered in the affirmative. After EXTRACT completes the operation and returns to the DOS prompt, we close the DOS window (and close the Windows 95 CD-ROM window if showing on the Desktop).

Finally, it's time for the "acid test". MAG's owner attempts to open "Help" from the Windows 95 "Start" menu. It works! OK, let's try one more test. Open another application that was causing the dreaded error message. MAG's Boss went to a printer application and tried for a second successful "Help" request..Two-for-two! I ring off. This is a good way to end the day.

7:03 PM 9/19/97 I'd just gotten the Friday night network backup set up and was in the process of closing down the office when I received a telephone call from Luis, one of my co-workers at the architectural firm. Luis had been deleting files in the "\WINDOWS" directory on the family PC when a Windows 95 error message poped-up telling him the Registry was corrupted and he needed to shutdown Windows and restore the Registry.

I responded with about thirty seconds of "dire lamentations",  and then we got down to work. Luis knows this character flaw of mine pretty well by now, and he waited patiently until I finished my tirade.

Somewhat calmer, I told him to shut his PC off and responded "No" when he asked about trying to shutdown Windows 95 in a proper manner. I was guessing that he had deleted either "USER.DAT" or "SYSTEM.DAT", the two main files that the Windows 95 Registry is created from every time Windows 95 starts up. I was also gambling that "USER.DA0" and "SYSTEM.DA0", the Registry backup files that are created when Windows 95 starts successfully still existed on his PC. I did not want to risk further corruption by trying to shutdown Windows with a flawed Registry.

Next I instructed Luis to restart his computer and to watch for the phrase "Starting Windows 95...", then to press the "F8" function key. This phrase usually appears after the basic hardware "memory check"  and "SCSI device initialization"  messages scroll by. Luis missed it the first time, and we waited while "SCANDISK" went through it's ministrations and Windows 95 got to the point that it displayed it's "corrupt Registry" message again.

Luis has the newer Windows 95 "B" version which reads the Windows 95 "LOG" file when it starts, and, if it determines Windows 95 did not shutdown properly the previous session, it will automatically initiate SCANDISK. After hard drive activity had ceased, he shut off the PC and tried again. This time, Luis pressed the "F8" key at the right time, and the "Windows 95 Startup Menu" displayed. I told Luis to choose "7. Safe mode command prompt only", then hit the "Return" key...~!@#$%^ I mean the "Enter" key (a holdover from my Apple II days I can't seem to purge). I asked Luis what the command prompt looked like. It looked like this:


I instructed him to make Windows the current directory by issuing the command "CD WINDOWS", which resulted in the following prompt:


I told Luis to type in the following directory command which should display the names of all files in the "C:\WINDOWS" directory with extensions beginning with "DA":


The files I wanted Luis to see were "SYSTEM.DAT", "SYSTEM.DA0", "USER.DAT" and "USER.DA0". He didn't see any of these, and an anxiety attack started brewing in me, until I realized my error. Luis waited on the phone while I messed around for a few minutes with my own new computer "4-bits", which was close in configuration to Luis's.

The next sound we both heard was the palm of my right hand slapping my forehead. The files we were looking for are "SYSTEM, READ-ONLY, HIDDEN" files and will not be displayed by the "DIR" command used above. We were still OK at this point. We tried the file Attribute command next:


That's better. Three of the desired files appeared in the list, "SYSTEM.DAT", "SYSTEM.DA0" and "USER.DA0". My mood brightened considerably. It looked as if Luis had deleted "USER.DAT" but, more importantly, the "DA0" Registry backup files seemed to be intact. Now, we changed the "USER.DA0" file attributes with the following command so it could be copied:


Now that the "Read-only", "Hidden" and "System" attributes were toggled off, we restored the missing USER.DAT file by copying the USER.DA0 file:


We then reset the file attributes for both files with the command:


One last command to check our work:


displayed all four required files with the proper attributes. I told Luis to shut off his PC again and cold-boot it. We both held our breath as SCANDISK ran it's course and waited for Windows 95 to start. As I heard the familiar Windows 95 "chimes", a memory from July 1969 flashed through my mind. "Copy that Eagle. We're breathin' again. You got a bunch of guys down here about to turn blue!"

Luis asked me if I'd done this before. I replied no and I mentally gave him a "dubious achievement"  award for forcing it upon me this first time. He asked if we could have gotten the file back by retrieving it from the Windows 95 "Recycle Bin". I honestly don't know at this point, but I don't think you can. I think we were very lucky. The above process works for single-user systems, but I think multi-user systems are more involved since USER.DAT files for those system are stored in \PROFILES directories (I need to research this more).

MISREP: Well, I've still got some smoke in my eyes, but the danger is past. Next week, the reconfiguration of the computer I call P2 will be speeded up somewhat. Hand-in-hand with that will be additional software installation on HAL and the initial setup of P2's replacement, a new LAROKE computer I've christened "Four-of-Eight". Happy trails 'til then.


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

Issued Saturday October 4, 1997

Updated Friday June 25, 1999

copyright © 1997-1999 LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants all rights reserved

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