LinkExchange Network
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

Avery's Rule of Three: "Trouble strikes in series of threes, but when working around the house the next job after a series of three is not the fourth job -- it's the start of a brand new series of three."

In the Trenches with LAROKE


Site Map

Log Index
Previous Log Entry
Next Log Entry

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 11.01.1997 (A trio of monitor problems)


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

SITREP: This episode deals with three different monitor meltdowns on three different clients' systems: "RS," a co-worker's home PC, "Cris Cross," a CAD workstation here at the architectural firm, and "Barron2," one of my real estate client's machines. The first problem with RS is a software configuration problem, while the other two are hardware failures.


Problem 1: RS draws a blank

6:57 A.M. 10/10/97 About a week back, Windows 95 was installed on "RS," a co-worker's home PC. This week, the video began to malfunction during Windows startup for no discernable reason. Last night, after work, I followed my friend home to try to fix RS.

When we installed Windows 95 (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 10.18.1997 "A sidetracked Windows 95 installation"), we didn't do any finetuning, leaving that for a later date. In fact, I didn't even check the video settings, as I recall.

My client had reported earlier that it almost gets to the Desktop before some screen distortion occurs and the Windows "Hourglass" appears against a black screen. Then the Hourglass disappears, leaving a black screen, and nothing else happens from that point on.

I started RS and let it continue its Windows startup to see this sequence of events for myself. It happened just as my friend stated, the screen distortion being a brief moiré pattern. I decided to see if things were OK in DOS mode. It would narrow down to a Windows 95 problem if there were no video problems in DOS.

After checking to make sure there was no hard disk activity I turned RS off for a few seconds. On the second cold-boot, I pressed the "F8" function key when I saw the "Starting Windows 95" phrase, to summon the "Microsoft Windows 95 Startup Menu". This menu varies in its choices depending on the computer's configuration. On this machine we chose "6. Command prompt only". While we were in DOS mode, we went to the Windows directory, and, using the ATTRIB and DIR commands checked the dates of the Windows 95 Registry files and backups (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 10.04.1997 "Putting out brushfires" for this procedure).

USER.DAT and USER.DA0 were the same size and date, as were SYSTEM.DAT and SYSTEM.DA0. This meant that the Windows 95 Startup process was completing successfully as far as Windows was concerned, even if we couldn't see it. This took a couple of minutes to do, and the video was still working normally in DOS.

RS was warm-booted at this point, and the "F8" function key was pressed again when "Starting Windows 95" appeared. This time we picked "3. Safe mode" allowing Windows 95 to startup with a bare minimum of generic drivers for troubleshooting purposes. Safe mode bootup was successful.

I right-clicked on the "Desktop" and chose "Properties" from the resulting context-sensitive menu. In the "Display Properties" Dialog under the "Settings" Tab, the "Change Display Type" Button was clicked which caused the "Change Display Type" Dialog to appear. This Dialog had "S3" listed as the current " Adapter Type" and "Unknown" as the current " Monitor Type."

The "Change" Button was pressed for the Adapter Type, and in the "Select Device" Dialog, the "Show all devices" Radio Button was chosen to get a list of display adapter manufacturers and models. I found my co-worker's Number Nine 9FX Motion 771 (S3) Adapter listed. We selected the Number 9 adapter and went on to find his monitor in the same way by clicking the "Change" Monitor Button. We were "two for two" tonight, as his NEC MultiSync XV15 monitor was also listed. We Selected the NEC monitor and closed all the display dialogs.

RS was rebooted and allowed to run through the normal Windows 95 Startup process. This time, Windows 95 started properly. I do not know why it worked for a few days before, and then started to malfunction "out-of-the-blue," but I suspect the Number 9 "Hawkeye" Windows 3.x utility that starts every time Windows does. Hawkeye allows changing screen resolutions in Windows 3.x without rebooting, among other things.

I could not figure out how to stop the Hawkeye utility from starting in the Windows 95 environment a couple of weeks ago when we setup Windows 95 on RS. I think maybe someone tried to use it, and it messed up the video configuration. It's the only possibility that currently comes to mind.

I knew more this trip than I did two weeks ago, and I put that new knowledge to work. When we installed Windows 95, I checked the "Startup Folder" for the presence of the Hawkeye utility, and it wasn't there. I didn't know were else to look then. Today, being somewhat wiser, I checked the " WIN.INI" file on RS for "Run" and "Load" commands. This is one of the ways Windows 3.x loaded programs on startup, and the "WIN.INI" and "SYSTEM.INI" files still exist in Windows 95 for backward compatibility.

"Shore'nuff," there was a load command for Hawkeye in the RS "WIN.INI" file. I "commented it out" by placing a semicolon in front of it so Windows 95 would not process it when it read the "WIN.INI" file on startup. We rebooted RS again and, Voila, we had a clean desktop this time without Hawkeye. We will do a more proper cleanup at a later date by removing the Windows 3.x version of Hawkeye with an uninstaller utility and installing Number Nine's Windows 95 version of Hawkeye.

My friend's children had played around with the "Alone in the Dark" DOS game I installed the last time I was here, and now it locked RS up every time it was run. I found the Alone in the Dark "Shortcut" and right-clicked it to get to its "Properties" Dialog. Under the "Program" Tab, the "Advanced" Button was clicked and in the "Advanced Program Settings" Dialog, the "MS-DOS Mode" Checkbox was clicked. This would force Windows 95 to close down before Alone in the Dark started, and after Alone in the Dark was finished, Windows 95 would be restarted.

Additionally, in the MS-DOS Mode Section of the Advanced Program Settings Dialog, You can specify new MS-DOS CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files specifically for Alone in the Dark that will bypass the normal CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT for RS. I edited custom CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files for Alone in the Dark based on the "pre-Windows 95" CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files. After a few test runs, we were able to fine-tune these two files to the point that the game would run.

Problem 2: the lights go out for Cris Cross

9:15 P.M. 10/16/97 Cris Cross's monitor finally goes "down for the ten-count." Cris Cross, one of the CAD workstations here at the architectural office has an old 16" NANAO 9070S Flexscan monitor. This old display has been slowly dying for some time.

For many months now, when the system was first turned on, the display was distorted and unreadable. When this behavior first manifested, we quickly learned that the monitor would work fine after about five minutes of warmup time. Since I'm the first to arrive every morning, my temporary band-aid solution to this problem has been to turn on Cris Cross when I first get here so it will be ready when its User arrives.

Lately, I've been noticing that the situation has been getting worse. Currently it takes the monitor about fifteen to twenty minutes of warmup before a readable screen displays. As of 9 A.M. today the NANAO ceased being a problem. His User popped into my office to tell me the screen had gone completely blank. After ten minutes of fooling around with it, I pronounced the NANAO dead.

After connecting my CTX monitor from 4-Bits to Cris Cross so my co-worker could continue, I jumped into my old pickup truck "BillyBob" (a big-lipped, fat-fendered, double-nickel, bowtie in hotrod-speak), and headed off in search of a monitor replacement.

I picked up a new Panasonic PanaSync E50 15" monitor at Office Depot for a reasonable price of $269. This particular Office Depot is a large free-standing store that has been open for a few months, but may be one of Boca Raton's best kept secrets. Nobody seems to know about it yet, and service is great . . . no lines . . . no waiting.

When I got back to the office, I reconnected the CTX monitor to 4-Bits. Then, I setup Cris Cross with P2's 17" Viewsonic GS monitor because it is a CAD workstation and bigger is better. Finally, P2 got the new 15" Panasonic monitor. All this grunt work had me foul-tempered and sweaty, and it had taken a two-hour chunk out of my day that I hadn't planned on, but "wot the heck ya gonna do?"

Problem 3: Barron 2 comes in out of the dark

A few weeks ago, I had set up my real estate client with a loaner monitor replacement (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 10.04.1997 "Putting out brushfires"). The saga continues . . .

11:30 A.M. 9/18/97. The client calls to say there have been no problems since we set up the loaner monitor on Monday morning (this is Thursday). I'm requested to price a replacement monitor.

9:18 A.M. 10/8/97 I updated all the system documentation for the Client's four PC's in anticipation of my return to the site to reinstall WordPerfect v6.1 on the system "Barron 3".

6:35 P.M. 10/13/97 Josie called this afternoon and requested me to get them a new monitor. I ordered a new Princeton Ultra 50 15" monitor from Insight Direct, one of their weekly specials.

2:20 P.M. 10/16/97. The monitor from Insight arrived. I unpacked it and set it up by connecting it to P2. It seemed to be working fine, so it was disconnected and re-packed for setup at my client's office this weekend.

8:36 A.M. 10/18/97. The new monitor and I traveled to the client site in "Renegade," the jeep. The first task upon arrival was the new monitor setup on the system I call "Barron 2". I disconnected the loaner monitor and placed it by the front door so I wouldn't forget it when I returned to my office. I connected the new Princeton monitor and turned Barron 2 on. The Princeton is a PnP (Plug-n-Play) monitor, and since Barron 2 has a PnP BIOS with Windows 95, a PnP operating system, all three of the components required for reliable PnP were present. The monitor was recognized by Windows upon startup and it was automatically configured. I changed the screen resolution to 800x600 256 colors, adjusted the monitor controls, and I was finished. The only thing this monitor didn't have that I've become used to is a degaussing control.

On to "Barron 3". This machine has been having trouble printing across the network from WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows 3.x. I had already reinstalled the network and printer resources the last time I was here. Today, I decided to remove WordPerfect and reinstall it, solving the problem in the bargain. That was the plan, anyway.

I had included CyberMedia's Uninstaller v4.51 in my toolbox for my main weapon in this battle. After installing Uninstaller and waiting for it to build its Smartlink database, I retrieved my client's WordPerfect installation diskettes. I stepped through Uninstaller's screens and completely removed WordPerfect from Barron 3.

Next, SCANDISK and DEFRAG were run to prepare the machine for the new WordPerfect installation. Finally, I reinstalled WordPerfect 6.1, diskette-by-diskette. Barron 3 was re-booted. WordPerfect still started with the error message "NO PRINTER SELECTED" . . . Curses! The situation in the "Printer Selection" Dialog was also the same . . . the "phantom" printer on LPT1 was still displayed and every time it was deleted, it was back the next time the Printer Selection Dialog was opened. Under the "File" Menu the last four documents "opened" were listed . . . these should not have existed for a new installation.

My conclusion: Uninstaller fibbed. It didn't remove everything associated with WordPerfect. Somewhere it had missed some configuration file(s), I think. I didn't have any more time to spare for this visit, but when I return, I intend to give Quarterdeck's CleanSweep Deluxe a shot at removing WordPerfect cleanly, and maybe, get this problem resolved.

MISREP: Despite the fact I've been working for months on reconfiguring and relocating the computer "P2" for a new user, I've still got a lot of work ahead of me on this project. Next week we'll get a little more done on what has turned out to be an endeavor of "epic proportions".


Site Map

Log Index
Previous Log Entry
Next Log Entry

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

Issued Saturday, November 1, 1997

copyright © 1997 LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants all rights reserved