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In this area I will relate some of my horrible (and not so horrible) experiences in the realm of PC consulting (hardware and software installation, trouble shooting, and general head scratching) in the hopes some of you may avoid the same dead ends I have traversed, or at least get a chuckle out of my misadventures.
Christophers Napkin Sketch by Al Gleichman

Koppett's Law: "Whatever creates the greatest inconvenience for the largest number must happen."

In the Trenches with LAROKE


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Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 10.18.1997 (A sidetracked Windows 95 installation)


    Situation Report
    Take Charge And Move Out
    United States of America
    Mission Report

SITREP: 6:05 PM 9/27/97 I had scheduled a Windows 95 installation on a co-worker's home PC for today. It was overcast, and " The Weather Channel" predicted 70% chance of rain and thunderstorms. I would have preferred putting off the installation in favor of a day we might be able to depend on more stable electrical power, but this installation had already been put off three times. I telephoned my client and, after explaining the situation, told him I was game if he was. He was.

I hadn't been to this house before, so I went to and, after entering his street address, was able to print a detailed street map that would lead me there. I highly recommend MapQuest. It is one of the best sites on the Internet. I packed up my tools including an Iomega Ditto 2GB portable tape backup drive, hardware tools for opening the PC should the need arise, the Windows 95 Resource Kit, and various utility software titles.

TACAMO: Because of the bad weather, I shut down HAL and disconnected his UPS (Uninteruptable Power Supply) to take along with me. I intended it to give us a little insurance against a power outage during the installation. If we did have an outage, the UPS would give us about 15 minutes to abort the installation and shut down safely if the power wasn't restored quickly. I loaded up "Renegade", the jeep, and traveled South to his location. The MapQuest printout guided me right to my co-worker's doorstep.

We set up the UPS first, then turned on his PC, a Compudyne P5/133 with Windows 3.x installed. During startup, I pulled the plug of the UPS out of the wall to test it. The UPS began a warning beep to show it was not receiving power, but the PC startup continued smoothly. Satisfied the UPS was in sound working order, I replaced the plug into the wall outlet.

The last time I installed Windows 95, I did a complete tape backup first (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 03.29.1997 "A Windows 95 Installation Adventure"). This time I wanted to refine the process, and clean up the hard drive before the tape backup instead of afterwards. I reasoned the backup process would take less time, if it didn't have to deal with many files that we would never want to restore anyway.

We deleted all "*.BAK", "*.TMP" and "*.$??" files using Windows File Manager. The system turned out to be remarkably free on extraneous debris. Next, we exited to DOS and ran SCANDISK in the "thorough" mode. Besides finding and repairing a few lost clusters, SCANDISK reported no errors.

I had forgotten to check the Windows 3.x Swap file, so Windows was restarted and the Windows "Control Panel" was opened by double-clicking its icon in the "Main" Group Window. In the Control Panel Window that opened, the 386 "Enhanced" icon was double-clicked, and in the Enhanced dialog that resulted, the "Virtual Memory" button was clicked. The Virtual Memory dialog revealed that this system was currently set to a "Temporary" Swap file, and since that was the setting we wanted for the Windows 95 installation, it didn't have to be changed.

We exited Windows to DOS again and DEFRAG was run in "Full Optimization" mode. The drive on this PC, which I call "RS", is a 1.6 Gig with only Windows 3.x and a couple of applications installed. Less than 10% of the drive capacity was in use, so there was plenty of room for the Windows 95 Setup.

I had disconnected the printer and setup LAROKE's Ditto 2GB parallel port interface tape drive to the printer port earlier. Now, I installed the MS-DOS version of the tape backup software from the CD-ROM that comes with the Ditto drive. The backup software ran and, after finding the tape drive, performed a short "confidence test" to determine the optimum settings for the tape drive on this system. The full backup and file compare operations only took about eighteen minutes each.

The Ditto drive was disconnected and the printer re-connected (and turned on) to give the Windows 95 Setup program an opportunity to find it during the "installed hardware search phase". We were ready, and things were going smoothly . . . too smooth, in fact. I was "waiting for the other shoe to drop." The shoe was indeed about to drop and when it did, it turned out to be a Microsoft Jackboot.

The Windows 95 Setup program started, checked the system for installed components and presented the "Registration" Dialog screen . . . You know the one . . . the long unreadable legal proclamation where the software publisher denies any responsibility for anything, then pins the user down regarding use restrictions, and finally asks you to click either the "Accept" button, which will allow the setup to continue, or the "Do not Accept" button which will abort the setup.

After we clicked the Accept button, Setup continued to prepare for the Windows 95 installation until we received the following error message: "Warning SU0168 Stop! Your computer already has an operating system installed, which cannot be upgraded by this version of Setup. Please obtain the Windows 95 Upgrade." This was a real "Catch-22."

We must digress for a moment here for some background info on this PC. When my client purchased RS from CompUSA, a friend advised him to have a Windows 3.x operating system installed instead of the Windows 95 environment with which the machine is normally set up. CompUSA complied and configured RS with Windows 3.x. The Windows 95 CD-ROM was included so that he could reconfigure RS at some point in the future, if desired. That brings us up to the present.

The Windows 95 CD we were stuck with is a special version of Windows 95 that ships with new systems on which is printed "For Distribution Only with a New PC." I guess it choked because it found Windows 3.x where it expected nothing . . . a clean hard drive with nothing at all installed on it perhaps? Foiling software pirates is one thing, but ensnaring legitimate users in the same "gill-net" trap is quite another.

We didn't have time to find out if there was a way around this dilemma using the practically useless (to us) Windows 95 CD that came with RS. We did not want to wipe the hard disk clean just to get by this error message, and then reinstall the other software applications afterwards, assuming, of course, that Windows 95 would install correctly once it found a clean disk. It was time for a road trip.

We jumped into my co-worker's Chevy S-10 pickup truck and, after a "Jack's Burgers" lunch, drove up to my office in Boca to find a "Windows 95 Upgrade CD-ROM." After digging around in my cluttered office for fifteen minutes, I discovered that all my Windows 95 installation CD's were of the "For Distribution Only with a New PC" variety. We were "On the road again," this time headed for my domicile where I managed to find a Windows 95 CD of the "Upgrade" breed.

Back at my client's house we started the Windows 95 setup process one more time. The Windows 95 Setup Wizard got through the "gathering information" phase without any hiccups. We opted to install in the existing Windows subdirectory so Windows 95 would be aware of the existing installed applications. A "Custom" installation was selected rather than the default "Typical" installation. This way we could pick and choose among the various applets that come with Windows 95 and more closely tailor RS to my co-worker's requirements.

The next phase "Analyzing your computer" is the first phase where things can go seriously wrong if the Setup Wizard runs into hardware it can't figure out. A lockup is possible, after which you have to go through a "safe recovery" process. RS made it through this first "gauntlet."

The next phase is the "Do you want to create a Startup Disk" phase, which we did. After the startup disk was made, the Setup Wizard started copying files from the CD. When it was finished, we launched the final phase "Starting Windows 95 for the first time." This is another potential lockup point, and this time we were unlucky.

After RS had been idle for some time without any perceivable activity, I decided it was a lockup and turned RS off. We waited a few seconds and turned the computer back on. The wizard picked up where it had left off and completed successfully as if the lockup had never occurred.

I went into the Windows 95 "Printers" folder and discovered that the Setup Wizard had found the DeskJet printer and installed drivers for it. We ran a test print by right-clicking on the "DeskJet Printer" icon and choosing "Properties" from the context-sensitive menu popup. In the resulting Properties dialog, under the "General" tab, the "Print Test Page" button was clicked, and the test page printed successfully. This is a good test to run because it prints the names and locations of the printer drivers being used and can be saved for future reference.

Next, we setup icons on the RS Desktop for the applications my co-worker uses most often. We stopped long enough to make another full backup at this point, again running the DOS backup software. This would be only a marginally useful backup because the DOS backup software cannot handle the Windows 95 "Long Filenames." Any long file name or long subdirectory name is reduced to eight DOS allowable characters by a Windows 95 translation scheme. The Windows 95 long file name

"C:\Program Files\The Microsoft Network\MSN E-Forms\metrocdorder.dlg"



when translated for DOS. The backup program will backup this file using the shortened DOS path and filename, but it does not save the long filename information, so it cannot be restored to its proper name and subdirectory.

I haven't tried this. Nevertheless, I suppose you could restore the file to a temporary directory, then rename it and place it in the proper subdirectory, assuming you knew exactly what file you needed to restore, and you knew its long path and file name designation. There are also a few Microsoft utilities for "propeller heads" on the Windows 95 CD-ROM that allow you to build a long file name/DOS file name translation table for backup.

At a later date, after all the fine-tuning is complete, I plan to come back and install the Ditto backup for Windows 95 and do a full system backup, including the Windows 95 Registry. We didn't have time for that today. The Ditto software for Windows does not have an uninstall feature that I've been able to find, a gross omission for a "portable" backup device, in my humble opinion. Because of this quirk, an uninstaller utility has to be set up for the sole purpose of removing the Ditto software, then be removed itself (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 06.07.1997 "a breach-birth tape drive installation").

The SoundBlaster sound card was not working correctly so the lines in the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files that were originally placed there by the SoundBlaster Windows 3.x setup were "REMarked" out and RS was warm-booted. My co-worker found his SoundBlaster installation diskette for Windows 95 and we ran it successfully. After observing that new lines were added to the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files by the SoundBlaster setup utility, we deleted the previously "REMarked" lines from both files, now that they were no longer necessary.

By the time we finished installing and testing Lotus Smartsuite 96, BattleChess, and Alone in the Dark (two DOS games that came bundled with the PC), it was past six in the evening. I intend to come back on a future occasion and optimize the system for its Number 9 9FX Motion 771 video adapter, the HP DeskJet printer, and any other hardware that the Windows 95 setup program installed generic default drivers for.

MISREP: I eventually found several better methods of getting around the "SU0168" error message above at the " WhertRA" (Where the Rocks Are) Web site maintained by William K. Walker. Bill's Computer Consulting firm is North Valley Digital and he also maintains the " ALK" (A Little Knowledge) Web site. I've found both WhertRA and ALK to be highly useful and am thankful to Bill for these two fine sites. Go to the SU0168 Error During Installation page at the WhertRA site to find four of the methods for bypassing this error message.

Next week we'll have more fun with the "P2", "HAL" and "4-bits" computers. The meat of the article will deal with 4-bits as I've found the "lost" network software that I needed to put her on the company LAN. See ya 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 18, 1997

copyright © 1997 LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants all rights reserved