The Bug Report
The only Bug that's good for your computer!
A Publication of the Greater South Bay PC Users Group
Volume 17 Number 12
President: Vice President: Secretary: Treasurer:
U A Garred Sexton, MD Herman Krouse Thomas Tucknott Jimmie Corones, CPA
Members at Large:
Virginia Pfiffner Cecil Easley Dr. John Hanson
On Track – Chris Doyle of OnTrack will do a demo of Data Advisor product ( a free HD Diagnostic tool) and the Ontrack/Mijenix products: System Suite 2000, ZipMagic 2000, and Easy Uninstall 2000.
If you would like to become Editor of the GS-BUG Newsletter, contact President Garry Sexton at: (310) 373-3989 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Learning Experience
by Liz Orban, GSBUG Inc.
As many of you remember, I won the AMD 450 K6-III chip at the club raffle in November. I didn’t do much about it until I was at the ACP swap meet in Tustin on November 28th. There I saw some people from Mars Computers in Alhambra selling bare bones systems. They actually had three systems that would accommodate my chip, so I paid them $135 for the best one and walked away with half of the work done. Of course, I had asked them about a warranty. They gladly produced their business card and showed me the one year warranty written on the bottom of the bill. A warranty is unusual at the ACP swap meet, where the majority of the products that are sold are used, old technology, or surplus. However, I drive around enough for work that a trip to Alhambra wouldn’t be that much of an undertaking, if it was necessary to return the box. When we got home, Frank started piling up parts. We decided to strip the Pentium 100 of its upgraded components, downgrade it to original parts, and give it to a relative who had never owned a computer. I dropped the AMD chip I had won into the Socket 7 slot on the bare bones motherboard. Frank was anxious to help and had 32 MB of RAM, my All-in-Wonder video card (8MB), a CD-ROM, and a sound card in the machine and had it up and running in no time. It didn’t seem like much of a learning experience at this point; I hadn’t done anything. But it wasn’t going to be that easy! We entered the CMOS setup and set the machine to boot from the CD-ROM. We put the full edition of Windows 98 in the CD drive; it loaded for a short while and locked up. Frank was sure the problem was the “swap meet” motherboard and I was sure it was because we didn’t read the directions. Then I remembered that our librarian, Bob Hudak, told me the most difficult part of building this machine was finding the proper fan. THE FAN! We didn’t have a fan on the CPU! Well, that stopped the fun for the day. We shut the machine off right away. I started reading the directions. It concerned me that there were places on the motherboard to connect three fans: the CPU fan, the power fan, and the chassis fan. I couldn’t find any wire from the power supply that would connect to the motherboard, and I didn’t remember hearing the power supply fan (which turned out to be running quietly). The next day, Sunday, we decided to visit the club’s recommended dealer, PC Ocean, for parts. They had a fan and a CD-ROM (needed for the P100). They could only quote RAM prices on the day before their shipment arrived, since the price had been so volatile lately. We bought the fan for $5 and the CD-ROM for $40 and took their phone number to call about the RAM in a couple days. Then we went to NexCom - they had RAM. We bought the RAM at NexCom and headed home to complete the project. We installed the fan and RAM. The AMD didn’t like the RAM. We tried reseating it; it was difficult. It didn’t seem to fit as well as the RAM we had stripped out of Frank’s machine. We put the new RAM in Frank’s machine and put all his in the AMD - it worked. I don’t know why. Back to loading the Windows 98 full edition and back to locking up part way through. After several restarts and Frank’s insistence that I bought a bad motherboard, I removed the sound card, CD-ROM and new hard drive and hooked up a hard drive already loaded with Win95 and 98. We started Win 95 since it has fewer drivers; the machine still locked up part way through the bootup. We restarted several times, getting a little further each time. The message on lockup said it couldn’t load the USB root driver. The next lockup said it couldn’t load an unidentified driver “VxD ---“. I remembered reading about enabling the USB port in the CMOS setup so we disabled it. While I was at it, I disabled the four second delay to turn off the machine using the button on the front of the box. I also saw that the temperature of the CPU and system were being monitored in the CMOS screen. The CPU was 105 degrees and the warning signal was set at 148 degrees. This relieved my concerns about overheating. We restarted the computer and it still locked up. Frank said he was sure he could complete the bootup if we turned off the cache, but it would be slow and might take a few hours. We disabled the internal and external cache in the CMOS setup. No further problems. After bringing up Win 95, then Win 98, enabling the USB port in the MOS setup, and attaching the CD-ROM drive with no problem, we tried to turn the cache back on. The system worked ok with the external cache but enabling the internal cache caused a lockup again. I called Bob Hudak to report these results and he was skeptical that the internal cache on the chip was causing the problem. He suggested we borrow the club’s machine and try their AMD 450 K6-III chip. He also said he did things the opposite of what we did; he checked the AMD web page for compliant motherboards and fans in the beginning. Better late than never, I went to www.amd.com. I learned that my Epoc motherboard was recommended, except that my BIOS was dated 1998 rather than 1999. AMD stated that the CPU voltage setting was 2.4, however, and Mars Computers had set it at 2.2 volts. I neglected to read the this vital information printed on the top of the CPU so, before making any change, we removed the fan and checked that the CPU was supposed to use 2.4v. Making this change on the motherboard switch fixed everything. We have one fast machine! No more blaming Mars Computers or AMD when the real problem was the usual “operator error”. Now we’re thinking about investing another $25 to buy a high-tech heat sink/fan device to make sure the CPU doesn’t overheat after we close up the box and run it for a while. We have to protect our $180 investment.
by Frank Chao and Liz Orban
Hello. This is the seventeenth article in the Internet Talk series and it is appropriate to mention that in this festive season, free and low-cost Internet access is one of the most wonderful gifts that is available! Free "Internet Service Providers" ("ISPs") are being introduced at such a frenetic rate that I cannot try out all of the ones that become available each month. Therefore, I will extend an invitation to all of you out there to help try them out and tell me about them. If you try one out, please relate your experience in as much detail as possible to me and I will then attempt to pass the knowledge on to one and all.
Worldspy: A Great New Free Internet Service
John Sullivan and Bob Hudak recommended that I try out "Worldspy" which is located at http://www.worldspy.com I and several friends tried it out and we concluded that Worldspy is great! For starts, Worldspy is the only free ISP that does not put an advertising bar on your computer monitor. Instead, they send you advertisements via e-mail and snail (USPS) mail. If you use Worldspy, you will get a part of your monitor back for your own use. The second "pro" for them is they have a real live 24 x 7 help desk with computer geeks answering their phones. These gurus generally answer their phones within a minute or 2 of each call. This is absolutely unbelievable for a freebie Internet service. I heartily recommend that you add "Worldspy" to your collection of free ISPs. As stated in previous articles, I recommend that you use at least 2 of the free Internet services to make sure that you can get on line when one or another has a problem. Let's all use them so their advertising supporters get rewarded for giving the concept of universal Internet access such a great boost.
Word of Warning: Preparing Your Computer for Freebie ISPs
Before you install any free ISP's software, please heed the following advice: The software for the various freebie ISPs is not smart enough to prepare your computer for Internet access. Here is what you need to do: You need to install 2 things into your Windows 95 or 98 computer: One thing is called "TCP/IP". The other thing is called "Dial Up Networking". To find out if these items are installed on your computer, right click on the "Network Neighborhood" icon and then click on "Properties". If either or both items are missing, you will need to install them. Some step-by-step instructions for installing them are located at http://www.lafn.org/webconnect/win95cfg.txt However do not go beyond Step 58, since steps 59 through 146 only pertain to the Los Angeles Free-Net. If 58 steps is too much for your computer-challenged mind to handle, you can get help from Herman Krouse at the "Internet SIG". If you need a paper copy of the 58 steps, contact me by means of one of the methods that is listed at the end of this article. Eventually, I expect all of the various free ISPs to have installation software that is smart enough to perform all of the 58 steps for you. When that happens, I will stop warning people about having to prepare their computers before installing software for accessing the freebie Internet services.
Tritium: Not Quite Ready Yet
Tritium Networks at http://www.tritium.net is now claiming that their free dial-up Internet service is ready for the Los Angeles area. After setting up an account at their Web site, I downloaded their software and attempted to connect to the Internet. After dialing up, their software gave me an error message and hung up my modem. I checked with other GSBUG members and they encountered the same problem. Apparently their system is not ready for use yet. I will continue to report on their progress in these articles.
Web Sites With Links to Free ISPs
If you live in the Los Angeles, California, USA area, you can access all the freebie ISPs that have service in this area from my personal Web site which is located at http://fchao.tripod.com If you live elsewhere in the world, you can locate free ISPs by going to http://nzlist.org/user/freeisp/index.htm This Web site is recommended by my friend Cap Kierulff, the past president of the Los Angeles Computer Society. More Web Sites for You It was recently announced on the radio that you should check out the State’s unclaimed property website for money owed you. These are often funds that have been escheated to the State because you did not claim them. Go to www.sco.ca.gov and click on the Unclaimed Property icon, then go to Electronic Search. You should search by all possible spellings of your name. This would also be a good way to find funds left by a deceased relative that you were unable to locate in the past. If you or any of your acquaintances have had the misfortune to have your identity stolen, there is now a website with help. Go to www.consumer.gov/idtheft/ It will tell you what to do if you are a victim, how to get help, and the best things to do to prevent the problem in the first place. There is a new mail forwarding site at www.mailstart.com This site does not require you to fill in any forms or sign up ahead of time. If you are out of town and can’t reach your e-mail, you can go to this page on any computer connected to the Internet and simply type in your online name and password. Pros and Cons of Yahoo Mail In previous months, I told you that Yahoo mail which is located at http://mail.yahoo.com is probably the best "Web-based" e-mail system on the planet. This month, they instituted a "bulk mail" folder. This is where they plan to put any "spam" that arrives at your e-mail account. As most of you know, "spam" is unsolicited advertising that arrives in your e-mail inbox. It can be a nuisance. Most of us don't want to receive e-mail messages of this nature. Yahoo mail has created "bulk mail" folders for all of their users. They plan to put all "spam" messages into this folder to make it easy for their users to delete message of this nature. However, their e-mail system is not very good at determining which e-mail messages are "spam" and which are not. Several legitimate e-mail correspondents of mine ended up with their e-mail in my "bulk mail" folder inadvertently. Most of the "spam" that I received at my "Yahoo mail" "inbox" has not been placed in my "bulk mail" folder. Sounds like the programmers at Yahoo have some improvements to make before this new feature actually works right. My second "con" regarding "Yahoo mail" is that if you receive an e-mail message with a file attachment, and then forward this message to someone, their system drops off the file attachment. This is very inconvenient for me. The workaround is as follows: If you receive a file attachment in Yahoo mail and then wish to forward it on to another e-mail address, here is what you have to do: Save the file attachment to your hard disk. Click on "Compose" to start a new e-mail message. Then attach the file attachment, that is now on your hard disk, to the new e-mail message. Now, let me say it again, the reliability and sophistication of "Yahoo mail" more than make up for the above-mentioned glitches so log in at http://mail.yahoo.com and try it out. You will like it. Just keep the above caveats in mind. Web Sites Related to Hot Items that We Saw at Comdex One of the award-winning items was a universal docking station, so you don’t have to throw away your old laptop docking station when you upgrade to a new laptop. This gadget looks more like a box than a docking station and it attaches to your laptop computer by using the PCMCIA card. Check it out at www.mobilityelectronics.com or www.easidock.com Another great product being given away free at Comdex was StarOffice, which works on Windows 95, 98 and NT, Linux, Sun Solaris, and OS/2. I have installed it on our computers and was able to open and modify Microsoft Word and Excel files with ease. In upcoming months I will report back to you about my successes and failure with this free office software suite. My immediate snap judgment is that it is great. If you want to try it, please either get a copy from Bob Hudak, our club librarian, or download it yourself from Sun Microsystems' Web site at: http://www.sun.com/staroffice/ Ways to contact us If you have any questions or problems, I can be contacted by one of the following methods: 1. Leave a voice message for us at 310-768-8951. 2. Send us e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org 3. Send us "snail" US Postal Service mail at Frank Chao (or Liz Orban), PO Box 6930, Torrance, CA 90504-6930. Or sell your computer and take up bowling instead ! __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Thousands of Stores. Millions of Products. All in one place. Yahoo! Shopping: http://shopping.yahoo.com
By Dr. John Hanson
Should you get an LCD Monitor?
Be careful if you do. First, they are much more expensive and worse they require a special display adapter card in your computer which means you can't plug it into just any computer as you can with a standard monitor. Then you need to decide between analog and digital and according to one magazine article digital is not really very good so far. At the moment the best values in monitors are 15 and 17 inch ones. Fry's advertises a 17inch for only about $150 but always be careful when you buy from Fry's. I suggest you stay away from their computers, but for basic things like printers, modems, hard drives, TV's and VCRs you can get some good deals. Buying a hard drive from them is somewhat of a hassle and they really pressure you into buying an extra warranty, etc. It's a pressure selling outfit with salesmen who don't seem to know much. A good clue to buyer dissatisfaction is the length of their line for returns and all the hassle you have to go thru. Notice how many packages have been resealed in shrink wrap after they have been returned. Fortunate l they do say you get the same guarantee but I look for unopened packages. When you buy from Frys make a copy of the receipt as the original is designed to fade. Have you noticed that the price stickers on their merchandize is so faint it is hard to read. This could be on purpose as part of their sharp marketing practices.
What do you look for in a Modem?
Conventional advice from the people in the hardware Sig is that you should get a DOS modem if you can because these have their own processors. Win Modems, on the other hand use your computer's processor. Sears marketing people discovered a long time ago to avoid saying very much about a product's features so people will buy without knowing what they are really getting. So in modems it is very difficult to read on the package and find out if you are getting a DOS modem. If the letters HSP appear on the package it is a Win Modem but because modern processors are so fast it might be OK to try it. Fry's has some HSP modems for only $20 with either PCI or ISA cards so it could be worth taking a chance as no rebates are involved. On the other hand they do have one package that says for Windows or DOS but that one sells for $80. Recently they had one like that with a $50 rebate so your final cost would be only $30 if the rebate ever comes. I am very skeptical about rebates because if you do get them, two or more months have passed by. Bob Hudak keeps very careful records on his rebates and makes copies of everything so he can remind the vendor if the rebate doesn't come thru.
Should you keep your life uncomplicated?
Microsoft makes things complicated enough with all their continuous updates and bug fixes. I made a terrible mistake recently when I wanted to boot up to different OS's. I already had Windows 95 on one machine and then added another partition with DOS 6.22 which has caused all sorts of problems. I should have removed Windows 95, installed DOS and then reinstalled Windows 95. Then Windows makes the appropriate changes in DOS so they all work together. Now, some of my DOS files are version 6.0, some 6.2 and some 6.22 so I get a lot of error messages such as "wrong DOS verson". In addition, somehow when I was partitioning my hard drive I ended up with FAT 32 on some of my partitions. So when I boot up with the MS‑DOS in Windows I can see all my files with a directory inquiry. But when I boot up with DOS 6.22 most of the files have disappeared. So keep your life simple and stay with FAT 16 even tho it is less efficient on larger hard drives.
How can you be more efficient with Hard Drive space?
Break up your hard drive into small partitions. 512 mb seems to be the most efficient and still gives you plenty of room for most work. If you have a large hard drive such as 6 gb you could let C: be about 2 gigs and the others smaller. In theory this is a good idea but then you might forget where things are with so many partitions. So maybe you should just have 2 gig partitions and not worry about the inefficiency.
Should you back up your data?
Of course and often but very few of us do, even after we have had a serious crash and lost everything. With hard drives so inexpensive these days I suggest you add a second hard drive. It needn't be very large. One or two gigs is very reasonable in price these days and all most people really need. Usually it is your main drive that crashes so having your data on the second hard drive is a real life saver. One reason I've always hated Microsoft's backup is that when a new version comes out you can't get back your data that was compressed unless you saved the old program. These days with lots of hard drive space available, backup without compressing using good old Xcopy where you can tell it to save only the files that have changed.
Does Microsoft Windows CD drive you crazy?
Every now and then when you want to add a printer or something else like fax you get the message, "Please insert your original CD disk" and you can't find where you put it and the serial number. Carl Warner has an excellent solution for this problem. He makes a file called Win98.src and loads the entire CD there. The .src stands for source so you can remember this is the CD for that program. In addition, using a program such as Edit he adds a text file with the serial number so it doesn't get lost. Then he installs the Win 98 program from that file and the computer remembers where it came from, so whenever you need to access the source it is very easy. The same applies to Win 95.
What is a network Hub, Switch & Router?
When you network more than two computers with Win 98 or 95 which is quite easy you need to add something. The Hub is the simplest but only one computer can access another at any one time. It is like a telephone party line. A cable goes from the ethernet card in each computer to the hub and the hub does the work of transferring the signals. By the way one of the computers could really be another device such as printer with an ethernet card. But suppose in a home or small office someone else wants to access another computer or device, like a printer, at the same time. That is when you need a switch and one of the best to consider is Cisco. So far I don't know how much more expensive a switch is. I have a four port hub from D‑Link which cost me about $50 with two ethernet cards. In my case I don't need a switch yet as I am the only one using my four computers but maybe I might if I need to add a router. The beauty of a switch is that there can be multiple private conversations going on at the same time and that there are no limits as to the number of switches that can be interconnected. So you could start with a switch with only a few ports and expand whenever you wish without wasting your earlier investment. Suppose you wanted the people on your various computers to be able to access the Internet at the same time. This is when you need a router and the Cisco 675 looks appropriate at only $400. Usually there is an ethernet port on the router that connects the hub or switch to the router and gives those computers connected to the hub/switch access to the Internet.
Should you go DSL or Cable?
Several FBI agents have told us to be careful of cable as that makes it easy for others to look into your computer and even mess things up. DSL in the Los Angeles area costs about $50 per month and requires a "truck roll" which means a technician needs to come out and install the router. Be careful as sometimes they want to put in their own router which may not be what you want. The reason one would go to DSL or Cable is that you get a much faster connection to the Internet than a standard modem. Unfortunately you must be within three miles of a telephone central exchange for DSL to work. There is a better solution on the horizon but I can't remember the name. It uses the regular telephone line and starts out at 400K and can be any distance from a central exchange. No truck roll is required as you can install it yourself. In theory the speed could increase from 400K to 1.5 mb or more. These days you should be looking into getting a firewall to protect your security and don't give out your social security number.