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

Murphy's Technology Laws: #7. The attention span of a computer is only as long as it electrical cord.

In the Trenches with LAROKE


Site Map

Log Index
Previous Log Entry
Next Log Entry

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 12.06.1997 (P2's configuration suffers a relapse)


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

SITREP: Last week, the PC I call 4-Bits was at last configured, leaving the way clear to finish the setup of the computer P2 for his new role in the day-to-day operations at the architectural firm. The tasks that remain are to remove the remaining software applications from P2 (that his new user won't be using), installing the new user's software, and physically moving P2 to his new location.


Task 1: Remove old software from P2.

5:15 P.M. 10/21/97 P2 no longer has a modem, so modem and ISP shortcuts I had originally placed on the Windows 95 Desktop were removed by clicking on them and pressing the "Delete" key.

Next, the Windows 95 Control Panel was opened and the "Network" Icon double-clicked to open it. The "Dial-Up Adapter" component was selected and the "Remove" Button clicked. Then the "TCP/IP -> Dial-Up Adapter" component was removed the same way.

The Network Folder was closed and the "Modems" Icon in the Control Panel opened. The "SupraExpress 288i PnP" modem was selected and the "Remove" Button clicked. All of the items thus far removed are because P2 no longer has a modem. These same items were left in place at the time the modem was physically removed from P2 so that I could still refer to the settings for reference during the modem installation in 4-Bits.

I rebooted P2 at this point to let Windows 95 update its configuration files. Back in September, Cybermedia's Uninstaller v4.51 had been installed on P2 for testing (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 10.25.1997). I used it now to remove Marketwave's Hit List Standard v3 from P2, since Hit List was installed and running properly on 4-Bits. As far as I can tell, Uninstaller removed all references to Hit List from P2. My only complaint is the long time that Uninstaller takes to update its "SmartLinks" database whenever it removes an application.

A doomed diversion: P2's CD-ROM drive has been malfunctioning for some time now. Since it is only used for software installation, which can be accomplished over the network from another PC with a working CD-ROM, I've been ignoring this problem with P2 in favor of more pressing repairs. I'm currently having problems with a CD-ROM drive on a client's system, so I thought now would be a good time to fix P2's drive. Maybe I would stumble across a solution applicable to both systems.

First, I tried deleting the CD-ROM drive from the Windows 95 Device Manager, then rebooting P2. I was hoping Windows 95 might reinstall the CD-ROM drivers upon startup and restore the drive to a functional condition . . . no such luck . . . the CD-ROM was back in the device manager without evidence of having been reinstalled, and it still could not be accessed.

I went back to the Device Manager and, this time, I deleted both the CD-ROM drive and the SCSI controller it was attached to. P2 was again rebooted. Both items were missing from the Device Manager. So far, so good . . . I opened up P2's Control Panel and double-clicked the "Add New Hardware" Icon. I let the Add New Hardware Wizard search for the CD-ROM drive and SCSI Adapter . . . It found them, and I allowed it to install drivers for both devices.

P2 was rebooted, and during the startup process I observed that the light on the CD-ROM drive "pulsed" every few seconds. This encouraged me to believe a solution was at hand. Upon testing a CD in the drive, I was disappointed to see that the malfunction remained. Checking the Device Manager, was no help, as it indicated that both devices were working properly. Finally, I fiddled around for a while experimenting small adjustments to the CD-ROM's settings in Device Manager, then rebooting to check the results. None of my adjustments caused the CD-ROM to work. Drat! I gave up on the CD-ROM drive for the time being.

Back to Task 1: 2:53 P.M. 10/22/97 Cybermedia's Uninstaller was used to remove America Online v3.0 and the Microsoft Network Setup Link from P2. Having installed HiJaak Pro on 4-Bits, it was also removed from P2 with Uninstaller.

The legacy DOS application, GrandView, had been transported to 4-Bits with CleanSweep Deluxe. It was now removed from P2 by finding the associated files with the Windows Explorer file manager and deleting them. Since only a few files were involved, and I knew where they were, deleting them was quicker than using Uninstaller.

I removed Norton Navigator for Windows 95 v1.0 with Uninstaller . . . This was probably my first BIG mistake . . . too many small ones were made to count them. Navigator replaces the "shell" for the Windows 95 Desktop and many of the Desktop modules. It was very strongly integrated with the Windows system, too much so to remove with Uninstaller or CleanSweep.

After the Navigator uninstallation, P2 was rebooted again, and the Cybermedia PC911 DOS utility reported a missing "NET30.INI" file. This was confusing because NET30.INI was an outdated initialization file used with the DOS and Windows 3.x versions of the Invisible LAN network operating system. It had nothing to do with Navigator or the Windows 95 version of the network software. I let PC911 restore it anyway just to keep PC911 quiet on future reboots until I could take time to reconfigure the utility. This incident did not make me feel good about the Navigator uninstallation, but everything else seemed OK.

12:35 P.M. 10/23/97 Norton Utilities for Windows 95 was removed with Uninstaller and, upon restart, everything seems OK. Next, PC-cillin 95 v1.02 was removed with it's own uninstallation utility. Uninstaller was again started to remove the ActiveX Uninstaller shareware utility and the Logitech Senseware mouse software that came with the trackball that was now connected to 4-Bits and Old Blue through the Cybex switch (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 11.08.1997).

P2 was rebooted and PC911 noticed changes to the AUTOEXEC.BAT and WIN.INI files. The PC911 watchdog was allowed to make updated backups of these files and the restart continued without further interruption. I tested to see if the mouse still worked properly now that the Logitech Senseware mouse software had been removed. This was done by opening the FoxPro DOS v1.01 application in a DOS Window, about the only DOS program remaining on P2 that uses a mouse. The mouse still works for this program . . . as I've said before, I live for the small victories!

Next, the Microsoft Intellitype software that ships with the Microsoft Natural Keyboard was removed using the Windows 95 "Add/Remove Programs" wizard in the Control Panel.

Early after Windows 95 had first been installed on P2, I changed the standard Windows 95 startup sequence by editing the MSDOS.SYS file that is in the root directory. This file no longer serves the same purpose that it did in earlier MS-DOS operating systems. It is still required for legacy DOS programs that require its presence to work. In Windows 95 it is a text file (disguised as a system file) where Windows 95 stores initial startup settings. I edited it now to restore the Windows 95 default settings after toggling the "Hidden", "System" and "Read-only" file attributes off. Only after finishing the editing of the file and restoring the attribute settings did it dawn on me that I could have probably copied a default MSDOS.SYS file from one of the other Windows 95 machines on the company network. The good ole' PC911 watchdog caught the system file changes upon restarting P2 yet another time, and was allowed to save a "snapshot" of the new configuration.

P2 still had subdirectories for MS-DOS 6.2 and the Invisible LAN DOS Network Operating System files that were no longer necessary. They were "surgically removed" with the Windows Explorer file manager.

Miscellaneous scattered files on P2's hard drive . . . backups, orphans, etc . . . were deleted using Uninstaller's file cleanup applet. This utility works well, but once again I found myself tapping my desk with impatience while waiting for the time-consuming Smartlink database updates to complete.

Poking around with Windows Explorer I noticed the Norton Navigator subdirectory and files still existed under the "C:\PROGRAM FILES" directory even though Uninstaller had reported successfully removing this series of applications. I started the Norton-supplied uninstaller module from the Windows 95 "Add/Remove Programs" Wizard in the Control Panel . . . the method I should probably have tried first. This time most of the Norton programs were removed, and I performed the remaining mop-up with Windows Explorer.

A few months ago I had downloaded from the Microsoft Web site and installed the Microsoft Word Internet Assistant to help me publish Microsoft Word documents as Web pages. I removed this applet with the "Add/Remove Programs" Wizard. P2's new user would not need this software.

Every bootup since the MS-DOS 6.2 and the Invisible LAN DOS Network Operating System files were deleted above caused the PC911 watchdog utility to interrupt the process because it couldn't find critical network operating system files (it had been charged to protect) in their proper location. PC911 was opened from the DOS prompt in maintenance mode and directed to no longer monitor these nonexistent files. After this action P2 booted normally again.

A Windows 95 "User Profile" was setup for Christine, P2's new user at this point. Christine was also made the default user for logon purposes. For those of you out there who don't know about User Profiles, They are mainly used on network systems but can also be set up for standalone machines. They allow each user of a Windows 95 PC to have his/her own desktop settings including applications, menu items, shortcuts, wallpaper, screensavers, etc. When you set up Windows 95 for multiple users a logon screen will appear every time Windows 95 starts and after you enter a User Name and Password, Windows will load your Desktop to finish the Windows 95 startup. This is why the Windows 95 Registry is made up of the two files SYSTEM.DAT and USER.DAT when Windows 95 starts. SYSTEM.DAT contains information about the computer's hardware and drivers. There is only one SYSTEM.DAT file. USER.DAT contains information about the particular user's desktop. There is a USER.DAT file for every registered user on the system and it is usually stored in its own subdirectory under "C:\WINDOWS\PROFILES". I say "usually" because on network systems User Profiles can be stored on a server. When Windows 95 starts, it builds the Registry from the PC's SYSTEM.DAT and the USER.DAT for the person whose User Name and Password had been entered at the Logon Screen.

Garbage Strike - Trash piles up.. I noticed the Windows 95 "Recycle Bin" had become nonfunctional on P2. It was on the Desktop, but it could not be opened. Right-clicking to bring up the Recycle Bin's context-sensitive menu revealed missing menu items, the most important being "Empty Recycle Bin". The Recycle Bin's "Properties" were different too . . . they were now the properties of a normal "Folder" or subdirectory. In effect P2's Recycle Bin had become less than useless. I had a feeling this predicament was the result of the botched Norton Navigator/Utilities uninstallation since these programs "enhanced the functionality" of the normal Recycle Bin back when they had been installed.

I fired up CleanSweep Deluxe and used its "Registry Genie" module to remove Norton Recycle Bin references from P2's Registry . . . references that I thought should have already been removed either by the Cybermedia Uninstaller 4 or Norton's own uninstaller utility . . . No joy, the Recycle Bin was still nonfunctional.

Next, I started the CleanSweep "Registry Genie" on both P2 and 4-Bits. I searched for "Norton" references in the Registries of both machines. Only one reference was found on 4-Bits, a machine on which the Norton Navigator and Utilities applications had not been installed. This same reference and a whole lot more were found in P2's Registry . . . a complete uninstallation, my AS~!@#$%! I removed all the Norton references from P2's Registry except the one found on 4-Bits and rebooted P2 . . . No change . . . P2's Recycle Bin was still dead.

I checked the "C:\RECYCLED" Folder's file attributes on both machines ("Hidden" and "System" attributes both on) based on the hopeful hunch that the wrong file attributes might be responsible for the malfunction similar to the way the "Fonts" Folder works in Windows 95 (see In the Trenches Cyberdate 02.24.1997). This was a dead end. Both machines had the same file attributes for the C:\RECYCLED Folder, and the Recycle Bin on 4-Bits worked properly.

Out of desperation, I deleted the Recycle Bin Folder on P2 and, after emptying the Recycle Bin on 4-Bits, copied its Folder to P2 . . . I suspected this would not work, and it didn't.

I debated with myself whether this Recycle Bin problem was bad enough to justify a Windows 95 reinstallation on P2 or a complete hard drive restoration from backup tape . . . which would, incidently, undo all the software uninstallation I had just struggled through . . . I decided it wasn't that critical. Deleted files appeared to be going to the Recycle folder just as they were supposed to, and I thought I could get one out of there if I had to. Besides, Christine never deletes files . . . She figures file maintenance on her PC is my job.

Back to Task 1 again: 12:21 P.M. 10/24/97 Cybermedia's Uninstaller 4 was removed from P2 with its own uninstallation module. I used CleanSweep's Cleanup module to remove all the "Duplicate" files, "Redundant" DLL files, and "Orphan" files that it could find on P2's hard drive. I have to say that I am not entirely happy with either Uninstaller or CleanSweep . . . They are both very good programs, but they do not come near to living up to the marketing hype spewed out by Cybermedia and Quarterdeck regarding their respective products.

The setup of Christine's Desktop was continued by using the Windows 95 "Customize Start Menu" Dialog to eliminate deadends from her Start Menu.


Customizing the Windows 95 Start Menu
  1. Right-click a "solid" area on the Windows 95 "Task Bar" to display its context-sensitive menu, then choose "Properties".
  2. In the Taskbar Properties Dialog, click the "Start Menu Programs" Tab. This Tab contains two sections "Customize Start Menu" and "Documents Menu". Windows 95 tries to keep track of the last several document files you have worked with and keeps shortcuts to them in the "Documents" Folder on Windows 95 Start Menu. If you've ever used the Documents Menu, you know that Windows 95 doesn't catch every file you work with, especially older legacy Windows 3.x and DOS programs. If you click the "Clear" Button in the "Documents Menu" Section, the Documents Menu Folder will be emptied of shortcuts...It will immediately begin to fill up again though.
  3. See the separate tutorials below to learn how to use the "Add", "Remove" and "Advanced" Buttons of the "Customize Start Menu" Section.
ADD Button Tutorial

Most items are added to your Start Menu structure by the setup utility of the different programs you install. You can, however, add shortcuts for your own favorite programs or document files by clicking the "Add" Button in the Customize Start Menu section. This will bring up the "Create Shortcut" Dialog where you can type the drive, path and filename of the item you are creating a shortcut to (if you know it) in the "Command Line:" Field. You can also "Browse" your hard drive to find the file you want to make the shortcut for. This is by far the easier method. Then you can add any extra program parameters after the drive, path, and filename in the Command Line Field. This process is best illustrated by example, so here we go.

When Windows 95 is installed, several DOS system files are installed under the "C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND" subdirectory. One of these is "MEM.EXE", a utility for displaying existing system memory. If You open a DOS Window and type "MEM /?" at the Command Prompt, you will get a short Help Screen showing you how to use MEM. Several parameters are listed which determine how MEM will display memory information when invoked. The parameter which displays the most information when used with MEM is /D or /DEBUG. When this parameter is used, several screens of memory data are displayed. Since the data scrolls by to fast to read, another parameter, /P or /PAGE is provided to make the data pause between screens of memory data so they can be read. In this example, we are going to add the MEM.EXE utility to the Windows 95 Programs/Accessories/System Tools Menu with the /D and /P parameters so that when this item is chosen from the menu, the status of all modules in memory, internal drivers and other memory information is displayed a screen at a time.

  1. Right-click a "solid" area on the Windows 95 "Task Bar" to display its context-sensitive menu, then choose "Properties".
  2. In the Taskbar Properties Dialog, click the "Start Menu Programs" Tab. Under the "Customize Start Menu" Section, click the "Add" Button.
  3. In the resulting "Create Shortcut" Dialog, click the "Browse" Button. Find your "Windows" subdirectory Folder in the Browse Window and double-click it. Find the "Command" subdirectory Folder in the Windows Folder and double-click it. Finally find the "Mem.exe" file and double-click it.
  4. You are back at the Create Shortcut Dialog with "C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\Mem.exe" highlighted in the "Command Line" Field. press the "End" key on the keyboard to take you to the end of the line without erasing it. now type a space, then "/D /P". Your Command Line Field should look like this "C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\Mem.exe /D /P". Click the "Next >" Button.
  5. In the "Select Program Folder" Screen, Find the "Accessories" Folder under the "Programs" Folder and then the "Systems Tools" Folder under that. Select the "System Tools" Folder by clicking it, then click the "Next >" Button.
  6. In the "Select a Title for the Program" Dialog, you can either accept the "MS-DOS Memory Information" Shortcut Name suggested by Windows or type your own name for this Shortcut, then click the "Finish" Button.
  7. Click the "OK" Button on the Taskbar Properties Dialog to close it.

Test your new menu item by clicking the Windows 95 "Start" Button on the Taskbar, Then select "Programs", then select "Accessories", then select "System Tools" and finally select "MS-DOS Memory Information" (or whatever you named the shortcut if you didn't accept the Windows supplied default). Your Memory Information should display a screen at at time in a DOS Window, prompting you to "Press any key" to display the next screen. There will be no pause after the last screen of data and the DOS Window will probably close before you can read the last screen of data. We will fix this problem using the "Advanced" Button below.

ADVANCED Button Tutorial

If you want to move items in the Windows 95 Start Menu from one submenu to another or to finetune a menu item's properties, you can do it using the "Advanced" Button in the "Customize Start Menu" Section. In the following example we will change the "Properties" of the "MS-DOS Memory Information" menu item we created in the "Add" tutorial above and then we will move the menu item shortcut from the "System Tools" submenu to the "Main" submenu.

  1. Right-click a "solid" area on the Windows 95 "Task Bar" to display its context-sensitive menu, then choose "Properties".
  2. In the Taskbar Properties Dialog, click the "Start Menu Programs" Tab. Under the "Customize Start Menu" Section, click the "Advanced" Button.
  3. A Windows Explorer file manager Window of the Menu system is displayed. In the "All Folders" Window, click the "+" Box to the left of the "Programs" Folder. Next, click the "+" Box to the left of the "Accessories" Folder, then click the "System Tools" Folder.
  4. In the "Contents" Window to the right in the Explorer Screen find the "MS-DOS Memory Information" Shortcut (or whatever you named the shortcut if you didn't accept the Windows supplied default in the "Add" tutorial above) and right-click it.
  5. Chose "Properties" from the resulting context-sensitive menu. In the resulting "MS-DOS Memory Information Properties" Dialog, click the "Program" Tab. At the Bottom of the dialog, uncheck the "Close on exit" Checkbox. Click the "OK" Button to close the Properties Dialog.
  6. Now, again in the Explorer "Contents" Window, left-click and Drag the "MS-DOS Memory Information" Shortcut Icon to the "Main" Folder in the "All Folders" Window on the left side of the Explorer Screen, and release the left mouse Button to move the Shortcut from the "System Tools" Folder to the "Main" Folder.
  7. Click the "OK" Button on the Taskbar Properties Dialog to close it.

Test your new menu item by clicking the Windows 95 "Start" Button on the Taskbar, Then select "Programs", then select "Main", and finally select "MS-DOS Memory Information" (or whatever you named the shortcut if you didn't accept the Windows supplied default in the "Add" tutorial above). Your Memory Information should display a screen at at time in a DOS Window, prompting you to "Press any key" to display the next screen. The MS-DOS Window will remain open after the last screen of data is displayed. Click the "X" Button at the upper right-hand corner of the DOS Window to close it.

REMOVE Button Tutorial

I used the MEM.EXE program in the "Add" tutorial above as an example because it is found on most Windows 95 systems and it illustrates the use of parameters in shortcuts. Since most of you will not use this program much (I do not use it myself much) and you probably don't want it cluttering up your Start Menu, we will finish this Step-by-Step tutorial by removing the "MS-DOS Memory Information" Shortcut from the Menu system.

  1. Right-click a "solid" area on the Windows 95 "Task Bar" to display its context-sensitive menu, then choose "Properties".
  2. In the Taskbar Properties Dialog, click the "Start Menu Programs" Tab. Under the "Customize Start Menu" Section, click the "Remove" Button.
  3. In the resulting "Remove Shortcuts/Folders" Dialog, click the "+" Box to the left of the "Main" Folder. (You must be careful here not to remove a whole folder and all its shortcuts and subfolders by accident. If you do remove something by accident, you can probably get it back by going to the "Recycle Bin" and restoring it) Under the now expanded Main Folder, click the "MS-DOS Memory Information" (or whatever you named the shortcut if you didn't accept the Windows supplied default in the "Add" tutorial above) and click the "Remove" Button.
  4. Click the "Close" Button in Remove Shortcuts/Folders Dialog, then click the "OK" Button on the Taskbar Properties Dialog to close it also.

Test your new menu item by clicking the Windows 95 "Start" Button on the Taskbar, Then select "Programs", then select "Main". The "MS-DOS Memory Information" (or whatever you named the shortcut if you didn't accept the Windows supplied default in the "Add" tutorial above) should be gone.

Updated 11.29.1997

At this point, Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 was set up with the company intranet main page as its Start Page, and a MSIE Shortcut was put on Christine's Desktop. Most programs were deleted from the "default" User Profile Start Menu and Desktop (This is the Desktop that loads if an unknown user logs on).

P2 had a LAROKE owned copy of Microsoft Office for Windows 95 installed. I left this intact as P2's new user planned to take some courses in Microsoft Office. I added the MS Office "Toolbar" to Christine's "Start" Folder so she would have easy access to the Microsoft Office applications when she started her courses.

Next, I established the persistent network drive mappings to Old Blue, the server, for the company's Friendly Finder project database and the Metz Phones database for Christine's Desktop.

MISREP: With much consternation, I noticed that P2's Windows 95 environment was becoming increasingly unstable . . . Double-clicking on a Desktop Icon would not open it. Double-clicking twice was required . . . When a Window in Windows 95 is resized by left-clicking and dragging an edge or corner, the Window normally changes its size dynamically as the cursor is dragged . . . As the Metz Phones Window was resized this way, the screen did not refresh correctly . . . I ended up with a series of slightly different sized Metz windows stacked up on top of each other. Besides everything else, Windows 95 on P2 was very sluggish, even after removing so much software.

~!@#$%^damn! I knew what was required, but I didn't want to face up to it - A Windows 95 removal from P2, a thorough hard drive cleanup, and a clean Windows 95 reinstallation. Well heck, nothing for it but to do it. We didn't even get finished with Task 1 this session. The only good thing about this situation is that I've already done all the work as I write this . . . The pain and suffering has already passed except the relived horrors as I relate this sad tale. Next time we'll clean up P2 and configure him for his new user the second time. It's just a "cosmic coincidence" that this article is appearing the day before Pearl Harbor Day.


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, December 6, 1997

copyright © 1997 LAROKE Microcomputer Consultants all rights reserved