The Bug Report
THE BUG REPORT
A monthly publication of
GS-BUG Inc. (c) copyright 1996.
Reproduction of any material herein by any means is expressly prohibited unless written permission is granted. Exception: Articles may be reprinted by other users groups in unaltered form if credit is given to the author and the original publication.
Editor - Kay Burton
FOR ALL YOU OLD TIMERS:
PREPARING YOUR COMPUTER FOR A NEW OPERATING SYSTEM
TIME TO CONSIDER A NOTEBOOK (LAPTOP) COMPUTER?
By Dr. John Hanson
1. Why Learn DOS?
2. Name brand quality going down
3. Comdex Report
4. $99 Digital Camera
5. Ultra Tiny Computer
6. Pocket Flash Memory
7. PC Magazine at $10/year
8. Adobe still most Generous:
9. Many Generous Vendors at APCUG
10. $200 Laser Printer
11. Narrow Bezel LCD Monitors
12. Reviving a Dying Club
13. Computer Security
14. Tablet PC
15. iBill Payment Service
16. Forced to use a CDrom Disk?
1. Why Learn DOS? DOS is marvelous, powerful and simple. Microsoft bought it from someone else and sold it for a fortune to IBM. Disk Imaging programs like Drive Image and Ghost use it to make a complete image of a partition or entire hard drive. When you get in trouble DOS can rescue you, so it is useful to at least learn a few commands such as DIR, CLR, CHKDSK, and ScanDisk. Bob Hudak, the club’s librarian, is our resident expert on DOS as well as are Carl Warner and Rich Bulow.
2. Name brand quality is going down: A recent issue of PC Magazine tells about how the quality of major suppliers are going down. If HP computer quality was never very good, imagine what going down in quality means to it’s customers. I just saw an ad for an HP computer slightly more powerful than the Dr. Hanson Special, and for about the same price, but in small print it said it was refurbished, so be careful and avoid the biggies, because you will pay more, get less, and discover the non-standard parts when you need repairs.
3. Comdex Report: Seven club members attended, beginning with the APCUG part which started Saturday noon and ended Wednesday with the National Christina breakfast and presentation. President Dr. Gary Sexton was there with his crutch and he did better than expected with all the walking. Other attendees were Virginia Pfiffner, Bill Champion, Shelley Miller, Kay Burton, Jack Burton and myself, John Hanson.
Comdex is getting smaller every year with many sections of both the South and North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Cemter curtained off. Very unusual! Many of the biggies were not there or had special showings at their hotel. In spite of being smaller there were lots of attendees from all over the world and so many people crowded into the small area that it was difficult to get around at times. There was hardly anything new except the tablet PC and narrow bezel LCD screen which will be discussed later.
4. $99 Digital Camera: It looks impressive from my first look. I have no idea about the quality of the optics but it looked fine on the 1.6 inch LCD. It also has an optical viewfinder and a place for an SD or SM memory card besides the 7 mb of internal memory. It sounds like the perfect camera that Bob Hudak wants for Joyce Oliver to take pictures of new members. It runs on two AA cells and has a USB connection and cable. It even has flash and 4X digital zoom. Optical zoom would have increased the cost. Jack Noble would not like the two megapixels but I think it would be fine for what we want to accomplish. The buttons and controls look well organized but the shutter button does not have a half way position for locking the focussing and exposure. It is a shame I didn’t have an SD or SM card in my pocket or I could have brought the pictures I took in the store home and see how they looked on the computer screen. The brand name is Concord and it is available at Wall Mart now.
5. Ultra Tiny Computer: It is flat and about a millimeter square and was folded in a thin cardboard tri-fold that had a number of pills. It is intended for keeping track of when patients in clinical trials take their pills but could have many other uses. The paper folder contains a flat battery and a speaker like the ones in greeting cards. It beeps when you are supposed to take your pill and as you pop the pill out it breaks a contact and records the time and date. Later all that information can be transferred to a larger computer by just laying the paper on a special pad. Amazing! It was at the Swedish pavilion.
6. Pocket Flash Memory: Carl Warner was one of the first to get one of these about six months ago and now they were everywhere at Comdex but still very expensive. They are about the size of a lipstick cylinder but flat. I saw many people buying them but I think a better value is the six in one card reader that slips in your shirt pocket because now you can use whatever flash memory is least expensive and the size to meet your needs. I described them in a recent issue and now they were everywhere and only about $20. At the show the cost was about a dollar a megabyte but here in Los Angeles you can get flash memory for about 30 cents a megabyte. You are not likely to forget the 6 in 1 and put it in the washing machine as you are with the very small ones. For some reason they don’t retain their contents when dried out.
7. PC Magazine at $10/year: They must be hurting as the parent company ZDnet just declared bankruptcy. For several years I told you I had given up my subscription as their quality had gone down while PC World had gone up. But now they are getting better so I will give them a try again and signed up for four years which is required for the $10 rate even tho I am risking that they might fold.
8. Adobe still most Generous: Despite cutbacks and losing one of their star salesmen, Louise Miller, her boss gave a fantastic presentation and dinner for all the APCUG members and gave everyone a copy of Elements 2.0 besides many other valuable gifts like Photoshop 7. Elements is almost as powerful as Photoshop and lists for under $100 so is an excellent buy for any member interested in improving their pictures.
9. Many Generous Vendors at APCUG: Other wonderful vendors that sponsored excellent meals and gave interesting presentations about their latest products were: Microsoft, Intel, Jasc, Handspring, Creo and National Cristina. There were numerous other vendors showing their wares at the Vendor Fair and many gave many valuable products for the drawings.
Microsoft showed off a number of products but the one that appealed the most to me was the Smart Display. It’s an LCD screen you can carry around and wirelessly connect to your computer. I was able to call up my web site from the dinner table and check e-mail, etc. but it is almost as expensive as a whole natebook computer. Microsoft gave us all a copy of their latest Picture. It software and many other goodie prizes including a pocket Nomad MP3 player with a tiny 2 gb hard drive capable of 8,000 songs. Intel showed off their newest chip running at 3 gc but capable of multi threading for programs like Photoshop which could use it. Unfortunately you will need a new Bios and XP software and maybe something else to take advantage of it. My advice is to wait as most programs can’t take advantage of its benefits. Jasc, the maker of the very powerful, inexpensive and easy to use Paint Shop Pro 7 gave us all a copy of After Shot, which is an even easier foto editing program. Handspring gave away some of their powerful Treo PDA’s.
10. $200 Laser Printer: For years I have avoided Samsung products but their quality has improved dramatically, especially with monitors and now with LCD monitors. They are so good that they make them under a number of names for other vendors in the same way that Canon makes the lasers for HP. This new laser printer is 1200 dpi resolution at rated 17 pages per minute. It is very small and has a regular paper tray underneath. It won’t be available until about March but if you need a laser right away you can get the 1450 at a computer show for about the same price.
11. Narrow Bezel LCD Monitors: Have you ever noticed how much space is wasted on the sides of regular LCD monitors? Stock brokers, who like to have several monitors on their desks, must have complained about the 2 to 3 inch bezels so now Samsung has monitors with only about 3/4 inch bezel on the sides. Unfortunately they are more expensive as it is difficult to terminate all the wires in such a tight space. Coming soon will be plastic LCD monitors instead of glass. After production builds up it should reduce the price of LCD monitors significantly.
12. Reviving a Dying Club: The Capitol users group in Washington had 6,000 members and shrunk to about a thousand when Henry Burtonson became its president. He gave us a terrific presentation on how he turned the club around to make it profitable again in about three years.
13. Computer Security: After listening to Charlie Burtonson, another fantastic speaker on the dangers of the Internet, you might be afraid to connect to the Internet. Even messages supposedly coming from your friends could be infected with viruses or Trojan horses. And almost never open attachments unless you are sure. Tell your friends to put whatever they might attach right in with your e-mail so you can see it right away. He thinks that the best protection is to have both a software and hardware firewall in addition to a anti virus program that is updated weekly. I suggest having a switch if you have DSL or Cable so that you can disconnect when you are not accessing the Internet. Always on can be very dangerous.
14. Tablet PC: This is like a notebook computer but less powerful, gets hot and has no keyboard. Why write on the screen whena pad of paper is much easier and faster. Even tho many vendors were showing them at Comdex. For the same price or less you can get a good notebook with a floppy drive and CD rom built in and of course a keyboard. For some purposes I can see a need for about 250,000 of these if I could get someone to write a substantial software program. It was surprising to see so many people sitting on the floor in the halls of Comdex typing on their ultra modern slim notebooks. Some day some kind official of Comdex will feel sorry for those forced to sit on the floor and provide some chairs. At the very back of the South Hall someone dide a number of those Styrofoam bead beanbags you sit on, which are quite comfortable.
15. iBill Payment Service: If you have been hesitating about selling your products on the Internet because of the high costs and complications of Pay Pal or Verasign you should take a look at iBill. There is no monthly fee and the transactions costs are very reasonable. It looks so attractive I think I will open an account to make it easier for my customers to order Tooties, especially in other countries.
16. Forced to use a CD rom Disk? Some programs, especially games, require you to use your CDrom disk in the drive. It’s a real nuisance but probably used to try to prevent use in multiple computers. Disney was one of the worst along with Broderbund. I hated looking for the disk when the kids wanted to play a game. You can try to put it on your hard disk and install from there but it still won’t work. Now a new program has come to our rescue and it’s only $20. It is called “Game Drive” and their site is www.Farstone.com. You can use it for up to 23 virtual CD rom drives. Less if you used up other drive letters besides A, B and C. It even includes a well done 48 page book. Another benefit is that your games run much faster from the hard drive. I will test it soon, write a review and send a copy to Farstone in Irvine, California.
Editor’s Note: John Hanson is the inventor
of Tooties, a superb self-teaching system used by millions
in schools, homes, and by eye doctors around the world to improve
vision. He also invented a new form of psychology called
QET (Quick Effective herapy) which transforms poor students
into good students, almost over-night, usually in 5 to
15 days. He has also had outstanding success
in helping brain damaged people, even years after their accident.
Why go to therapy for years and spend lots of money when
you can improve quite fast with QET? He uses computers to document
his cases for his books so that others may benefit and improve
their vision and other skills. Visit his web site
By Frank Chao
Allow me to begin the 52nd article in the “Internet Talk” series
by wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season. Liz and I hope
to see all of you in person at the annual Christmas party. This is the
ninth newsletter that is being edited by Kay Burton and we greatly appreciate
her successful efforts.
“YAHOO! MAIL PLUS”
While continuing their totally free version which is still called “Yahoo! Mail”, Yahoo is now offering an enhanced, fee-based e-mail service that is called “Yahoo! Mail Plus”. See
http://mailplus.mail.yahoo.com/ for details.
The new fee-based service allows you to have more storage space, a larger maximum message size, more file attachments, POP access (via software such as Microsoft Outlook), POP forwarding, and allows you to block more addresses.
To compare the totally free version with the new fee-based options, see
“BROADBAND READY” AS AN IMPAIRMENT
During a visit to the CompUSA in Redondo, I notice that all of the computers that they sell now have a 10/100Base-T network adapter AND an internal dial-up modem. Apparently, the manufacturers of computers want to make sure that their products are easy to connect to both broadband and dial-up Internet connections.
If you buy a computer and the descriptive literature that comes with it says that it is broadband-ready, cable-ready, or DSL-ready, it means one of two things: either the computer has a PCI or PC Card (a.k.a. PCMCIA) network adapter installed in it OR the computer has an network adapter that is integrated into it’s system board. If you have a cable modem or a DSL modem, you would connect your home network to this bundled network adapter, as part of your fast Internet setup.
However, if you make a dial-up connection to the Internet and you do not wish to network the computers in your home together, then you do not need the network adapter. If you remove or disable the bundled network adapter, your computer will run 20 to 40 percent faster.
If your computer has a PCI or PC Card (a.k.a. PCMCIA) network adapter in it, and you do not need it, turn off your computer and remove it. Then boot up your computer and go to the Network icon and/or your Device Manager and delete the network adapter. After you reboot your computer again, you will find that you have a faster computer.
If your computer has a network adapter that is integrated into it’s system board (also known as a “motherboard”) and you do not need it for anything, you will have to run the BIOS configuration screens in order to disable it. Check your computer’s owners manual or the computer manufacturer’s Website for details on how to do this.
Also, one simple test of the speed of a computer is to configure Internet Explorer to load a “blank” page, then close Internet Explorer. Finally, see how many seconds that Internet Explorer takes to start. You can run this test before and after removing or disabling a network adapter.
LEARN THY COMPUTER
Along the same line of thought, you should remove/disable all software and hardware that does not serve a known, useful function, in order to have the fastest possible computer. Computer users tend to put software and hardware into their computers and they tend forget about these items. Any PCI or PC Card peripherals that you no longer need should be removed from your computer: Remove them physically. Then remove all software applications and drivers that are associated with them. If you need help, the Greater South Bay PC Users Group has a great Daytime Hardware Special Interest Group where you can bring your computer in order to get help from geniuses such as Carl Warner and Rich Bulow. Or, if you feel like spending some big bucks, you can hire a CompUSA technician to go to your house to help you with your computer. According to their Website, they charge about $325 for two hours. See
http://www.compusa.com/promos/vip/default.asp for details.
SOMETHING WON’T RUN !
In many instances, a computer can become so bloated with software running in the background that some application programs will not run at all. In a recent case, the teenage son of a friend of mine stated that some high tech adventure game would not start in his Windows 98 Second Edition laptop computer. In fact, he could not even install this computer game. Whenever he tried to start the installation, an error message popped up and stated that the installation was being terminated because his computer did not have sufficient “resources”. As a temporary measure, I taught him to press Control + Alt + Delete to bring up a Windows “Task List” and to use the “Task List” to close about five programs that he had running in the background inside his computer. After he closed these five programs, his new game was able to install and, once installed, it then ran fine without any further problems.
However, he had to run Control + Alt + Delete to generate a Windows “Task List” five times every time that he booted up his computer, in order to stop the five programs that were running in the background in his computer, since the Windows Task List only allows you to stop one program before it closes. As a slightly more efficient measure, I sent him a copy of “EndItAll2”which made it easier for him to shut down the five programs that I had taught him to shut down using Control + Alt + Delete. You can download a free copy of EndItAll2 for yourself at
Be sure to read the documentation in it’s “Help” function before using it on your computer. If you are trying to determine if you should use “EndItAll2” to shutdown a program that is running in your computer, you might be able to find advice at
I wish to thank our librarian Bob Hudak for telling me about “EndItAll2” about two years ago. It is my favorite utility program. I get a lot of good ideas by letting him bend my ear. He is not exactly shy about giving me advice about computers !
Unfortunately, “EndItAll2” must be activated each time you boot up your computer. It is not a permanent solution to getting the software fat out of your computer. The rigorous, long-term solution is to uninstall and permanently delete the software that you do not need. This long-term solution involves the most work and sometimes it is easier to start from “scratch” by formatting your hard drive, reloading the Windows operating system and then re-installing all of your software applications. This final solution is a great holiday project. Let me know what happens if you attempt it.
HARDWARE INFORMATION SIG
The informative presentation files of Ed Leckliter’s Hardware Information SIG are available at the GSBUG Website at
in Powerpoint and PDF formats. These presentation files can be used either as a supplement to live attendance at the Hardware Information SIG or as an online way to participate in this SIG if you are unable to attend. I have learned a lot from these files. I plan to attend these SIGs in person after I retire from my day job someday !
WAYS TO CONTACT ME:
If you have any questions or problems, I can be contacted by the following methods:
1. Send me e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Send “snail” U.S. Postal Service mail to
Frank Chao PO Box 6930
Torrance, CA 90504-0030.
Or sell your computer and take up fishing instead !!
FOR ALL YOU OLD TIMERS:
By John Sullivan, GSBUG
Ever open up your computer’s case and miss that warm, orange vacuum tube filament glow that you used to see in radios and tv sets? Well it seems a manufacturer named “AOpen” has just released a computer motherboard with a vacuum tube on it!
Apparently they feel that computer sound chips don’t have the same rich audio tonality of vacuum tubes, so now their AX4B-533 Tube motherboard comes complete with a vacuum tube!
(Go to: http://club.aopen.com.tw/activity/tube/en/default.htm to read more about it.) However, if the tube ever burns out, don’t think you’re going to pop in one of your old 6J6 or 6SN7’s, PC World magazine reports that replacements forthe Sovtek brand 6922 Dual Triode tube will run between $10 to $15.
Complied by Steve Bass, Pasadena IBM Users Group
There are unrelated things I pick up in e-mail that are terrific
but not long enough for an article. Here are two of them.
Saving Paper? Ha!
I just bought a program (which I think is excellent) called “Cool Edit Pro” from Syntrillium (www.syntrillium.com) which is audio editing and processing program.
The registration card has a box to check that has this amusing statement: “Yes! Please send me a hard-copy manual. (A complete manual is included on your CD. In the interest of paper conservation, Syntrillium ships hard-copy manuals only on demand.)”
So I can print it out (conserving their paper) or have them send me something that should have been in the box in the first place (conserving my paper, 225 pages for the manual plus 42 pages for the addendum). Since I paid $399 for the program, I think I’ll conserve my paper instead of theirs. —Stan Slonkosky
Listen Up and Take Heed!
I always tell people to unplug their PC when working on the insides. It’s something I never do. My unsolicited advice? Do it. All the time.
Here’s why: I added a sound card to my wife’s PC the other day. Easy enough, right? Then, while the system was up and running, I replaced the cover. I’ve done it that way since I started with PCs in 1983. This time it bit me on the butt. The case cover touched an add-in card and the systemboard fried. Better it should have happened to my PC, you know what I’m saying? -Steve Bass
Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World and runs the Pasadena IBM Users Group. He’s also a founding member of APCUG. Check his Home Office columns at http://snurl.com/homeoffice and sign up for the Steve Bass online newsletter at http://snurl.com/signup §
TIME TO CONSIDER A NOTEBOOK (LAPTOP) COMPUTER?
One of the questions I often have been asked on my weekly radio shows, and emails from readers of this column is, “What would be better (for me); a new laptop or a desktop computer?”
A simple review of the Sunday sale books from the major office supply and electronics stores clearly shows that there is an abundant supply of notebook computers available. Standing in the security lines at the major airports also shows the popularity of notebook computers.
So, which one is better? Desktop or notebook? As I have consistently replied, “What are you going to use it for?” If a computer is intended for home or office use, likely in one location for a period of time, a desktop computer is more practical. Usability features, such as a full size keyboard, large screen monitor, and readily accessible drives, coupled with significantly lower prices for comparable machines, make the desktop the clear choice in this scenario. Another factor is longevity. The average useful life of a desktop computer, according to both personal experience and published reports, is typically four to six years. Desktop computers are also usually easy and relatively inexpensive to upgrade or repair. The average desktop computer becomes functionally obsolete long before it physically fails. Notebook computers, commonly called “laptops” by many, have some very strong advantages, compared to desktop computers, as well as some very strong disadvantages. The obvious advantage of a notebook computer is portability. At Golden Triangle PC Club meetings, when I would have to present, I would often have to drag my desktop from home to the meeting place; it was heavy, bulky, and easy to break. Lugging around the computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse was a headache. I was not the only one hauling a monster around. For a while, I had a “lunchbox” computer that I used for my presentations. It contained a standard sized PC motherboard, hard drive, floppy, and other internal parts, along with an integral 7" monitor. The keyboard snapped over the front of the computer, closing it. While mine was a home built, noname generic, it was the early lunchbox computers that gave Houston’s Compaq its early competitive edge. While still large and heavy, it was portable. Today’s notebook computers are a far cry from my long-gone lunchbox. They are a fraction of the size and weight of the old lunchbox machines, but contrary to other high-tech electronic items, have not dropped substantially in price. Feature for feature, it is not rare for a notebook to be twice the price of a comparably equipped desktop computer. The relatively small size, and light weight is what makes today’s notebook computer popular. They are convenient portable, and can often run for a few hours on their internal battery, but those are about their only major advantages. For those who need portability, such as business persons who travel and need computing power, or people like me who frequently do presentations, a notebook computer is a near necessity. For those who want the power of a modern PC, in an even smaller and lighter package, the next generation of “Pocket PCs” is speculated to do to the contemporary notebook the same thing that the notebook did to the lunchbox; render them functionally obsolete. Pocket PCs will be covered in a future column.
The disadvantages of a notebook computer are many, yet still they are a necessity to many users. Other than their relatively high cost, notebook computers are also typically fragile, difficult to repair, hard to upgrade (other than swap hard drives or add memory), and according to widely published tests, have a much shorter operational lifetime than do desktop computers. Notebooks are also subject to easy loss or theft. In a recent news article, citing a report from Safeware, an insurance company that specifically insures computers for loss or damage, notebook computers have a far higher rate of loss. In 2001, for example, Safeware states that an estimated 600,000 notebook computers were lost or stolen, up 53% from the year 2000. A large part of this increase is due to the rapid increase in sales of notebook computers. Notebook computers are also one of the most obvious items to steal (and stolen) at airport security checkpoints, due to their small size, high value, and obvious nature. By comparison, while there is an estimated seven times as many desktop computers in use than notebooks, only 15,000 desktops were reported stolen in 2001, according to Safeware.
While there are “ruggedized” notebook computers, such as Toshiba’s Toughbook series marketed to law enforcement, utility, and construction companies, the majority of notebooks are very easy to break, and expensive to repair. The notebook reviews published in the major computer magazines often include a “drop test” where an open notebook computer was gently pushed off a tabletop on to a carpeted floor, simulating a common falling accident. Many notebooks suffered major physical damage, with some models of major brands shattering to utter destruction. In addition to extraordinary care in protecting from theft, notebook computers must also be transported in quality protective cases. I have seen people ruin a $2000 notebook in a $29 carry case, a false economy. Screens are especially sensitive to physical shock, can easily crack, and cost several hundreds of dollars to replace.
Lacking a large physical volume to circulate cooling air while turned on, notebook computers are more vulnerable to heat damage than desktops. Often containing only tiny cooling fans, and using the notebook itself as a heat sink, overheating is the principle cause of internal notebook failure. The more powerful the processor, the more prone the notebook is to overheating, a well-documented problem. I have heard several anecdotal stories of fairly new notebooks failing when left on overnight, due to over heating. I recently replaced my oldest daughter’s notebook due to that exact cause. Published reports indicate that the average life expectancy of a notebook computer is only about 18 months, before it is lost, stolen, accidentally broken, overheated, or worn out. Notebooks, on average, have only about a fourth of the longevity of a desktop.
Desktop or notebook is a common decision to be made. Weigh the advantages and risks before purchasing either.
By Ira Wilsker - email email@example.com
PREPARING YOUR COMPUTER FOR A NEW OPERATING
An easy and safe way to add and manage a new OS with System Commander 7 (?)
I have been debating for some time now how best to install the new Windows XP Professional operating system on my computer. Reading various articles and technical newsletters can be a virtual adventure and impress upon you the four most-important facts before jumping into the arena:
1. Read all instructions very carefully and follow them
2. Back up your system because extensive changes will be made to your hard disk
3. Make a bootable diskette for your current OS. To create a new bootable floppy disk, click on Start, Settings, Control Panel, and then the Add/Remove Program’s icon. Now click on the “startup Disk” tab at the top, and select Create Disk. You may be asked to insert the Windows OS CD. When you have a startup disk, it allows you to start your computer, run diagnostic programs, and fix many problems.
4. Clean up your machine’s hard drive by deleting unnecessary memory hogs and run Scan Disk followed by defragmentation. Although the backup and boot diskette may never be necessary, they provide a safety net should you experience serious bugs or problems that overwrite critical areas on your hard disk.
I was not quite sure whether to add an additional hard drive on my machine and facilitating a clean install or simply to upgrade from my Windows 98 SE. One of our club members (Bill Wolf) suggested the use of a helpful automatic preparation software package for adding operating systems. It’s called System Commander and widely recognized for quality and reliability. You can find more information and other related operating system management products on the company’s Web site at http://www.v-com.com The product can be directly purchased from VCOM for $69.95.
OK, I got their software and installed it on my computer. I should have said “I was trying to install it”. Seconds into that process a window popped up and informed me: “System Commander has detected a disk manager program such as EZ-BIOS or Ontrack installed on your system. These programs will not operate properly if System Commander is installed. The installation will be cancelled”. So I checked to see if I had any of them but did not.
Obviously, something else was holding me up. But what? The extensive (200+pages) user manual for version 7 might give me the answer. Right? Not exactly! In chapter 9 (Troubleshooting) or anywhere else nothing refers to my first problem.
Contacting Technical Support was my next step. On page 195 of the manual you are encouraged to check the index to see if you can save yourself a phone call. Also mentioned is a troubleshooting assistance program called “SCIN” which allows you to press F1 or Alt-H in most places to get context sensitive help. Unfortunately, the program had not been installed as I mentioned above, and I couldn’t take advantage of that lifeline. OK, let’s go to the Website <www.v-com.com/support> and seek help.
I entered details about my problem, sent it as an E-mail and was informed that a support technician was going to respond within 3 days, and often much sooner. The answer came the following day!
Downloading and installing v7.03 should solve that problem. This was an error that was corrected in v7.03.”
Good. So I went back to the company Website and tried to locate version 7.03. Could not find it but instead discovered the System Commander 7 Maintenance Release page which indicates what you will need to update System Commander 7:
1. System Commander 7 installed on your computer
2. System Commander 7 Serial number
3. 2 blank formatted 1.44MB diskettes
4. The Update file: sc703_us.exe
Download size: approximately 4.2 MB
“Holy Moses” I said, wouldn’t it be much easier to just let you download an update file? In my case, this wouldn’t have worked anyway because I was unable to install this software in the first place.
But wait, this is getting more complicated. Next you find instructions on how to obtain the System Commander 7 update: Fill out and submit the online Download Request Form. You will need your serial number to complete the form. (For DOS users only, click on the DOS Version Download Request Form). After you have successfully completed the form, you will be able to download the update file sc703_us.exe. Note: While not critical, for Windows 9x/Me users, please rename the file C:\SC\SC7.EXE to SC7OLD.EXE before running the sc703.us.exe update program. If you fail to do so, the older SC7.EXE utility program will not be updated.
This last bulleted item really raised my eyebrows. If it is not critical, why go through this whole process? Well, since I am a fairly tolerant and understanding individual I filled out the online form to see where all this would lead me. My 56K modem had a good day and it took only 13 minutes for the download. And in order to follow all procedures, I sent another E-mail to the Support team to find out how to interpret the “Critical” designation referred to in the note.
The following answer arrived on the next day:
The reason it is not “Critical” is that you will probably not have to start over with the oldest file. Even if you do have to, the latest update will update the original file utility program when it is applied.”
The good person who wrote that message completely ignored my initial question of how to rename that important original file that still resided on the CD and not on my hard drive.
Obviously, another message had to be dispatched in which I stated that the techi person completely bypassed this problem and that I could not see how this response could help me. I then suggested that we cut this run-around game and they should send me a new CD that included the update and will allow me to install System Commander. This was Friday evening.
Here is the answer that came Monday morning:
Here is the latest full copy. (See attached file: System Commander7.exe)”. Hurrah, no more problem! Think again. Just as it happened originally with version 7.02, the installer quit a few seconds into the installation procedure and a similar message appeared on my monitor screen:
“System Commander has detected the EZ-BIOS disk manager on your system. This program will not operate properly if System Commander is installed. The installation will be cancelled”. Am I lucky or what?
So, again I went back to searching my computer by entering “EZ-BIOS disk manager” into the search box. 172 answers popped up but unfortunately none included EZ-BIOS. I had copied the installation message with Printkey 2000 and sent it together with the entire list of file names to the technical support team and repeated my request for help. Here is what I received the following day, which was Tuesday:
You don’t say what version of SC7 you have. This is a false error message It should have been corrected by the v7.03 update. If you do not have v7.03 installed, download it from our website. If you have installed it, let me know and we’ll continue working on this issue”.
I am beginning to feel as if I am writing the script for a cyber soap opera. BTW, what is a “false error message”? In my answer to the last customer support message I mentioned that I have been very patient for one week now, but would love to receive a solution to this software problem?
Let’s see what tomorrow’s mail might bring. Here comes the answer:
It means that we are detecting something in the BIOS that appears to be a drive overlay (such as EZDrive or EZBios), but as we discuss this, we find that you have never had a drive overlay installed. Therefore we are displaying an error message that is “false.” We are aware of this issue. We don’t know at this point what is triggering this error message, in some cases it seems to be related to Western Digital hard drives, but that is not true in your case. The issue is in Engineering and they will have a solution and a new update soon. I’m sorry it is turning into such an inconvenience for you. The only way I can narrow down the possibilities is to have you try the latest update, v7.03, and gather as much information as possible”.
OK, now I know at least where the problem is located, namely in the engineering department for this software. But doesn’t the last sentence sound a bit ridiculous? They sent me that update and it does NOT work. I dispatched another E-mail for an explanation on the last part and when this update will be available for customers like me. Here is the answer:
I should have been more clear QA is narrowing the cause(s) of this problem and Engineering is writing an update that will correct it/them. It was necessary to see if v7.03 will install or not. Several drive overlay issues were fixed in v7.03 and yours may have been one of them. We are being told about a month for the update”.
Doesn’t this sound as if I have been a guinea pig for this vendor? Well, I still want to finish this article and review the “working edition”, and if everything goes well, the conclusion of this dramatic development will appear in next month’ edition of our news magazine. Would have loved to install Windows XP by now but this has to wait for another month, I guess.
By Guenter Schoett, Fallbrook CC email firstname.lastname@example.org
Guenther Schoett is the editor of the Fallbrook Commputer club as well as, I believe, the Advertising Director. If you use his article please send him an email to let him know. Thanks