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Diary archives 2001

December 21, 2001

What can I say? It's Christmas-time! Okay, well, here's some news...

Submachine gun fails to destroy fruitcake -- Volunteers in Nevada are trying to find the best way to destroy unwanted Christmas fruitcake.

It's no laughing matter as convention gets under way in India -- The 4th All Indian Laughter Convention is under way in Bangalore.

December 20, 2001

Look for a new virus with three names to arrive shortly. Its three nicknames given to it by the antivirus companies are Reeezak, Maldal, and Zacker. It's an Outlook email virus with the subject "Happy New Year" and an attachment "christmas.exe". It's currently on a whirlwind tour of Europe and Symantec rates its potential for distribution to be high.

IDG used my information yesterday to include me in an article today. It's in German; translate it to English here or wait for an English version of the article to be posted at their site.

December 19, 2001

I was delighted to receive this email about my patch from IDG Germany. Now it all becomes clear; I want a logic analyzer for Christmas!

December 18, 2001

I just received my MSI K7T266Pro2RU motherboard with KT266A chipset. Performance is disappointing; I can tune an "old" KT266 up to the same performance easily. It scores 150 points less on Sandra 2001te memory benchmark than the reviewers claim.

My new 0.19 version of the PCI Latency patch is mostly a success, except for a failure to cure some SBLive sound cards of their "crackling sound" problem. My hit counter on my software page is at 36678 right this minute, so it must be popular. But, to make sure I've covered all issues, I've ordered an SBLive 5.1 sound card for testing. I'll get to the bottom of this...

I learned how to modify Award BIOS settings using Award's MODBIN6 utility. It isn't doing everything I want to do, however. I suppose I will need to dig into the real assembly code of the Award BIOS if I want to change anything else... No problem... Not sure when I'll find time to do it, though.

December 14, 2001

Holy creeping crud. A security hole the size of Baltimore was found in Internet Explorer 5.5 and 6.0 versions. The hole allowed a malicious .EXE file to be downloaded as if it was just another piece of Web content. Here's the note from the Inquirer, and the Microsoft response.

December 13, 2001

Okay, I've avoided updating my diary for a few days, so I should give you a really juicy tidbit, right? Well, there is one tiny hole in Symantec's claim that only Norton Antivirus 2002 and 7.6 Corporate are compatible with Windows XP. Check out this document, which says that NAV 2001 7.0 (surely you remember 7.0, that old smelly antique that you bought last week) will work fine on XP if you download and apply this update.

December 7, 2001

I posted my first news story at All right, so the news story isn't earth-shattering and neither is the idea that I'd join the news staff of ViaHardware, but I gotta find *something* to tell you about.

The Washington Post just added Dilbert cartoons to its comics page recently. For the entire first week, the new page was broken; it displayed Dilbert comics from exactly five years ago. 

December 5, 2001

Perhaps the world economy is slowing down a bit... Is this evidence?

December 4, 2001

Today seems to be virus day.

There's a new virus/worm called "Goner". It uses old exploits, but its core file looks like it was written by a high-schooler who just learned how to program in Visual BASIC. Here's a sample from the NAI report on it.

Plus, I received a report of a Nimda-infected Web page that McAfee NetShield could not disinfect. I consider that to be a little disturbing. I've asked the network administrator at that site to begin quarantining those new infections. His web server isn't infected, by the way. The infected files are appearing in a Microsoft Proxy Server cache folder.

December 3, 2001

FYI, Judy was ill when I took her to her baby shower. Now Cassie has a fever.

I followed directions from the Internet and converted a Promise Ultra100 IDE controller to a FastTrak100 RAID controller for testing. It's working well, with Sandra scores over 43000 with a pair of my Maxtor 40GB 60+Series drives. (These drives score 25000 when tested individually.) I tested an Ultra66 converted to a FastTrak66 but experienced data corruption.

Video games have gotten just a little ridiculous lately. Check out this description of a hot new game from Japan.

December 1, 2001

We successfully surprised Judy with a baby shower.

The retail version of Norton Antivirus 2002 will not install on servers. Gee, versions 4, 5, 6, 2000, and 2001 did. So, Mr. Norton, how do you plan on protecting my Outlook Express inbox on my Windows 2000 server now? Your corporate version only protects MS Exchange or Lotus Notes Client, and your retail version only protects Outlook Express! (I've had the same complaint against McAfee's antivirus software for a couple of years already.)

November 29, 2001

The baby is back from the hospital, but she isn't feeling very well.

November 28, 2001

Just getting over a nasty cold. I stayed home from work for two days already this week. Thanksgiving was peaceful. My wife's "customer", the cardio-baby she watches during the day, had to be rushed to the hospital on Monday with a high fever.

You'll like this. A posting in the forums at Ace's Hardware has shaken up a few people. Excel can't be counted upon to add correctly, it seems! I followed the directions and reproduced the problem easily. 

If you want to try this on your own computer, you can download this Excel spreadsheet, or try typing the numbers yourself.

I've tested my new Athlon XP 1800+ CPU. It's cooler when idle, at least when STPGNT CPU idling is enabled on the motherboard. It's 3 degrees Celsius hotter than my 1200MHz Athlon when it is busy. And, it is perfectly stable with a generic heatsink and fan.

My new MSI GeForce3 card is a pretty hot performer. More details later. I can mention that it was US$20 cheaper, and seems to be faster, than any other card of its class.

Cool. Lego strikes again. I repeat, cool.

November 19, 2001

I am giving some thought to writing an RSS/RDF news parser. After being at the mercy of for news, I pulled my head up out of the sand and looked around. There are thousands of free news feeds full of technical information, all in RSS or RDF file format, and all I have to do is convert RSS files to HTML. Well, shucks, *I* can do that! I ought to be able to whip up a converter in one evening. I can use my DNS-to-IP lookup as a template. (What as a template? Look here. I created a reusable Windows object that anyone could install into their IIS web server and control via ASP script. So I can make a new object, based on the old one, that an ASP script could use to convert RSS/RDF news pages to web pages.)

I posted version 0.18 of my PCI latency patch. The changes are few, but they're based on feedback from the forums. Look for improved behavior on mislabeled MVP3 chips (labeled 598 but ID is 0597) and slightly better sound quality in a few configurations.

Going for ultrasound shortly to find the sex of the baby. Place your bets... :)
2:00PM Update: It's a boy! Now, what to name him?

November 16, 2001

Nothing fun to report. No new toys this week to play with. I did get a chance to play with Fujitsu's next notebook, but I'm under non-disclosure on that.

My news feed on my home page is permanently broken. Their company has been bought out and the buyer wants money. Apparently the click-through money, which I never saw a penny of, isn't enough for this new company. Come to think of it, the old company was struggling, so it probably wasn't enough for them either. :)

A lot is coming up. I will be installing a redundant Internet connection at the school, as soon as they resolve a cabling issue. I will be doing network maintenance at the village next week. The national Thanksgiving holiday is approaching, and I will be traveling during some of the time.

Memory prices fell even more recently, although some news stories point to an attempt by suppliers to choke off the flow of RAM chips.

Time to ROTFL. I did a test of DivX encoding using the legal 4.02 encoder and a program called DVD2AVI. I compared their performance on a 750MHz Duron and a 1.7GHz Pentium 4, and the results were almost identical. But the Intel processor is 5x the price of the Duron. Hahaha! Well, maybe there is hope for the P4, because today I found out that a new version of the DivX encoder is available and it's 78% faster on a Pentium 4.

I've been quietly laughing at the Pentium 4. Its performance is NOT the fastest ever, and even a high end Pentium 3 (Tualatin series) is faster than a low-end Pentium 4 at routine tasks. Sadly, it's difficult to buy a P3T in the US.

The Intel P4 has more bus bandwidth than an Athlon or Duron, 400MHz versus 266 and 200. But the Athlon XP has more capacity for handling typical floating-point instructions, especially random ones. Intel has fast floating-point math, but your program has to be recompiled to use Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) first! With SSE, all your program's math is crammed into a small package that can be fed bulk copies of numbers to crunch. With SSE, if your math can't be rearranged to do identical processing of bulk quantities of numbers, you're screwed. I think a lot of CAD/CAM and research applications will really suck on a P4.

November 13, 2001

I worked at the office till 9:45PM yesterday, took a day off today to rest. Couldn't rest because of local noise. Grrr.

I made a discovery a couple of weeks ago, and was reminded of it tonight. I own, not one, but two unlocked Athlon CPUs. These chips are rated for 1.2GHz speed, but because they're unlocked, I can change the core speed of the CPU to anything I want. I took one up to 1.46GHz for a brief test. I used a bigger heatsink and fan during the test, of course.

I've been buying some heavier CPU heatsinks to try. I like the ThermalTake Volcano 6CU+, with its aluminum-bound-to-copper design. I'm not nearly as excited about the CoolMax CBG-38 all-copper fan, which does not cool as well as the Volcano model..

The CBG-38 comes with a mammoth fan mounted on its copper heatsink. This fan is only 60mm in size, but draws 0.47A at 12V. To test the efficiency of the heatsink design, I replaced the heavy fan with the heaviest of my standard 60mm fans. I then compared it to a generic aluminum heatsink with the same fan. The expensive copper heatsink caused the CPU to be consistently 2 degrees Celsius higher than the cheap aluminum heatsink.

So, the CBG-38 goes up for sale. Any takers? It's a usable heatsink for those folks who want to dabble in overclocking. It's loud, but that's normal for overclocking. I just like my Volcano better.

On Windows XP, owners of VIA-based motherboards are running into compatibility issues with AGP and IDE drivers. VIA supplied drivers to Microsoft for distribution with XP, but these drivers are not working perfectly. So, for both problems, people discovered that they could reconfigure XP to use generic Microsoft drivers instead. By using Microsoft's AGP driver, users are avoiding a crash in NV4_DISP.DLL, an "infinite loop". The Microsoft IDE driver solves an issue where new UDMA-compatible drives are forced to run in  slow old DMA modes.

I'm getting good feedback on the newest PCI latency patch. Wait till they see what's next...

November 12, 2001

I completed an update to my VIA PCI latency patch and posted it on the software page. I may have to remove it tonight, and replace it with a version that sets register 76 differently.

I spent the whole weekend with my family so there's nothing else good to report.

November 6, 2001

I may have found some insight into why my Pentium 4 is slower than my Athlons. Here is a claim that the decode unit of the CPU is only running at half-speed.

If you had problems finding a variety of good KT266A motherboards at last weekend's computer show, there's hope. Asus and ABit finally released their boards yesterday.

November 5, 2001

News flash: Burger King will be replacing the lettuce on its hamburgers with AOL CDs. BK sources say the CDs are cheaper, crisper, and "people won't be able to tell the difference". :) Well, that's next week's story. This week's story has BK putting AOL's ubiquitous CDs just about everywhere else. Jeez.

I bought a refurbished 19" monitor at the computer show this weekend because my existing 17" one was flickering. A day later, I traced the flickering to the VGA connector being a little loose. Oh well, I'll have to keep the 19" monitor, I suppose. ;)

There's been one benefit from my wife's pregnancy already. For the first time in my life, I know my blood type. Of course, we were hoping this information would prevent my wife from needing a shot of RhoGAM, but instead it confirmed that she DID need it. Sorry, honey.

Norton Antivirus shipped version 7.6 to corporate customers. The 7.6 version has the support for Windows XP that was broken in 7.5. I have yet to confirm whether they are charging corporate customers for updating to this new version.

SMC has discontinued their 1211TX network card. It's been replaced by the 1244, which is visually indistinguishable from the 1211. So why did they bother? In comparison, 3COM has been selling the 3C905 NIC for years. Today's 3C905 is slightly different from the old one, with wake-on-LAN support and a main logic chip that's less likely to fry when plugged into fast PCI buses.

Well, maybe there is a reason for SMC to change cards. The SMC 1211TX card uses Realtek's RTL8139 logic chip, but Realtek is now touting their RTL8100 chip to manufacturers.

November 3, 2001

Oh, all right, I'll start filling in my diary again. Sorry, it got lost in the shuffle. I just finished a huge piece of program code for my big programming contract, and it wore me out.

A new web site offered me the job of testing new motherboards for overclocking ability. I accepted the offer a week ago but I haven't been contacted since.

I've also begun writing patches for VIA chipsets again. I'm working on a new patch that should be a great improvement over my old ones. I've also solved the problem of handling Windows 2000's power management, i.e. "Suspend" and "Hibernate".

I canceled all my nighttime networking jobs until after my wife delivers our baby in February. I'll be using some of the time to do all the things I've mentioned. I'm also trying to eliminate some of the stress in my life, since I've been a nervous wreck lately.

I am experimenting with new computer hardware. I've received some hand-me-down motherboards from Keep in mind that their idea of "hand-me-down" is the brand-new stuff that they just finished reviewing. I've bought all the necessary material that I needed in order to test and tune these new boards, and I'm already finding some good results from tuning them.

Beware Microsoft's patch for Windows 2000 "RDP denial-of-service" released recently. It is rumored to cause its own problems, and apparently Microsoft has removed it from Windows Update as a result.

Norton Antivirus 2001's real-time file scanning is incompatible with Windows XP. They fixed the problem in NAV 2002, but so far they are refusing to give the fix to NAV 2001 customers, including corporate customers with maintenance agreements or subscriptions. XP reports the problem as an incompatibility in Symantec's SYMEVENT driver, which Symantec routinely updates anyway, so why aren't they making the update available this time? It's time for someone to copy the SYMEVENT.SYS from NAV 2002 onto a NAV 2001 installation on XP to see if it will work.

Good news: I've renewed my "" domain name for another year.

August 16, 2001

Microsoft decided to roll all of the IIS patches into one big ball. They added five new IIS bugs to the pile at the same time. A long but better-than-usual explanation is here.

August 4, 2001

Okay, my server logs are showing 27 attempts to infect it with Code Red worm in one day. No sweat.

Here's a scary twist on the Sircam virus. Norton Antivirus 2001 can't find the virus in email messages (.EML files) during "on access" scanning of my server computer! I receive lots of email, and it's all stored in .EML files in a folder on my server. I receive one or two Sircam-infected items a day, but naturally I don't open them and I've never been infected by them. Norton Antivirus didn't discover these infections until it performed a scheduled full system scan last night. (Yes, .EML is on my list of file types for "on access" scanning!)

McAfee VirusScan antivirus version 4.51 is available for corporate customers. It has a bunch of new features, including the ability to get a new list of file extensions to scan. This is a long-overdue feature, and by the way, you need to make sure that both ".LNK" and .PIF" are added to your old McAfee's list of extensions to be scanned. According to the Sircam information at, version 4.51 is the first version to correctly contain both .LNK and .PIF in its default settings. Um, oops.

I installed a not-for-resale copy of Windows 2000 Server, Small Business Edition.  When I click on items in their post-installation "To Do" list, they give me pages of detailed instructions instead of a wizard. Lazy SOB's! :) (Since the detailed instructions relate to things like firewall setup, and are only meant to be done by a trained installer, who's the lazy one here? :P)

I'm typing this on a computer that's running Windows XP Server Beta 2. This version of XP is wonderful. My IDE drives are running at full speed (Sandra rates this drive a whopping 25200), performance is better than NT 4.0 in a half-dozen subtle ways, and the no-frills GUI is just exactly what I prefer. But it still has Accessibility options that cannot be removed, so when I hold down the Shift key to prevent a CDROM from auto-running, an Accessibility tool appears!

Now here's some legislation I approve of. Two Congressmen are proposing a bill that would extend "archival backup" laws to cover music that is downloaded legally from places like Windows Media Player 7.0 contains software from RCA that can limit the number of times you can play a downloaded (paid) song, and the same software is supposed to prevent you from copying it to another PC. In the days before the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it was legal to make archival backups of licensed material in New York State. Frankly, it wasn't illegal at the federal level either, depending on how you interpret US Code Title 17, Section 506. The DMCA law seeks to halt ALL copying of material for ANY reason, and I support any effort to bring copyright laws back into balance.

I received several inquiries about the motherboards I'd offered to sell last month. I sold a 450MHz CPU and motherboard to a coworker, then delayed selling the rest. I have to keep a lot of hardware around in order to load up several operating systems. Oh, and I'm not selling any of the boards that Cameron gave me, because at least one of them is a real collector's item.

August 3, 2001

So what happens if your favorite antivirus software receives an email message infected with Sircam virus? Does it recheck for other viruses after removing the Sircam infection? Or could it let a second virus in the message go undetected? Hmm...

Also on the subject of email... Time Warner finally removed one mildly-dangerous spoofing ability from their mail server. Their "outbound" mail relay server, the one that forwards my mail to the world, is now validating the sender's Internet domain. The only problem is, I was using their mail server to relay my mail for all my legitimate addresses, like webmaster@.... Oh well. I've got a legal, but hidden, mail server at CCS that I can still use... At least, until Time Warner blocks ALL outbound mail...

<FRUSTRATE> FYI, Time Warner already blocks my server from receiving inbound mail. They instituted this restriction a year ago. Because of this, it costs me $99 a year to have a service forward my mail to me on a private connection. Can someone explain to me what harm is done by permitting email to reach my home computer? They don't stop my mail server from creating and sending gobs of spam to the world, so are they worried that I'll relay spam? And why don't they stop people INSIDE the Time Warner network from using each other's computers as spam relays; why is it only the "outside the network" users that are blocked? </FRUSTRATE>

July 29, 2001

The Web is a-buzz with news of the Code Red worm. Oy vey. Time to patch all my NT and Windows 2000 servers again...

July 26, 2001

I'm back from vacation. I was allowed to relax slightly, I was permitted to take one nap, and I bloody well took it!

During vacation, I caught up with Cameron of He brought some motherboards to show off, and gave me them at the end of the session. I've begun playing with these boards; they look like a fun way to waste a few hours, trying to make them run...

July 19, 2001

The logs tracking this web site are gradually growing again. My patches have been mentioned in the Iwill KK266 FAQ and in sites in Czechoslovakia. Plus my diary is the target of many, MANY, searches for technical information. Some of those searches are on the order of "SLOW SMC 1211 NETWORK NT", but many are looking for cracks for their software. Not here, folks...

I received an emailed request for more information on the PCChips M817LMR motherboard this week. I do have more information on that motherboard. I've used the board in Windows ME, 2000, and XP already. I've been using my MSDN licenses of the various operating systems in order to test software. I sent about six paragraphs of information about the M817LMR board to that person, and if I can EVER get a free moment, I will open up a new category here for hardware information.

I'm hunting for the best possible web development tool. FrontPage doesn't give me enough control over its "navigation bars" on the top and sides of each web page. I've tried NetObjects Fusion and it is as incomplete as FrontPage, but in different ways. I've heard suggestions of using MacroMedia DreamWeaver or Adobe GoLive. What do you think?

My neighbor has announced that he's finished with his cable modem and is switching to DSL. I dunno. I thought it was pretty cool to download Mandrake Linux 8.0, 1.3GB of material, in 20 minutes last night.

I will be on vacation through next Tuesday. I will be in California, testing my new national cell phone.

July 15, 2001

The new Shuttle AV32 motherboard arrived. To summarize, it is fast and smooth. I tried the AV32 board in Windows 2000, XP, and finally NT 4.0. It was fast, stable, and trouble-free in all three operating systems. But, the Shuttle web site doesn't offer any support materials for the board. There are no BIOS updates, drivers, or manuals on their site.

I included a Symbios Logic 8100S (NCR/Symbios 810 chipset) in my AV32 test system. Along the way, I became faced with an old NT 4.0 problem. If you install a Symbios 810-based SCSI controller into a computer that's running NT 4.0, and then apply a service pack, then your computer will BSOD. The answer is to save a copy of the original SYMC???.SYS file from the WINNT \ SYSTEM32 \ DRIVERS folder before applying the service pack, and overwrite the new file with the old saved copy before rebooting.

I did some web development over the weekend for a customer. But, I spent half of Saturday afternoon trying to recall which program I'd previously used to create graphics for my web site. Here's an experimental banner graphic for my site, which I did as a warm-up for my customer's work. Like it? Should it be the new banner for my site? It's got all the essential ingredients: troubleshooting, security, how-to, and silliness.


I believe I may sell off one of my motherboard-and-CPU combos. Since the Shuttle AV32 motherboard arrived, I have one motherboard too many. I will either sell off my 866MHz PIII CPU and Qlity CPV4-T (VIA Pro133A) motherboard, or my 450MHz PII CPU and my Delta M810DC (Intel 810) motherboard.

July 10, 2001

A Shuttle AV32 DDR PIII motherboard arrives today. This should be a fun toy.

There has been some cool news today in the industry. In the Linux world, the developers of KDE have used WINE and Mozilla to allow KDE's file manager to run ActiveX controls such as ShockWave Flash plugins. Up to now, ActiveX controls were strictly a Windows concept.

A German site contains a document explaining the internal workings of Windows Product Activation. (Don't worry, the document is in English.) The document doesn't tell hackers how to make new 25-digit serial numbers, but it comes close. If you wanted to know how Microsoft is planning to detect hardware and determine if you're pirating Windows XP, this document has the answer.

I've received Windows XP Release Candidate 1. My impression of it is that it's quite good, provided that you remove the dysfunctional new user interface. AGP video performance is off by 10%, IDE performance is strangled in the now-familiar Windows 2000 way (can you say EnableUDMA66?), and it has the annoying habit of launching the Disk Defragmenter in the middle of the morning.

I've learned that EliteGroup (ECS) is really just selling PCChips motherboards with different heat sinks and part numbers. I wonder what the real deal is, though. Is one ordering boards from the other? If so, which is which? Or, are both ordering boards from an unnamed OEM? Or, as was common a few years ago, did one company just rip off the designs of the other?

June 30, 2001

My replacement Yamaha CRW2100E CDRW drive arrived. When I ran EZ CD Creator and tried to burn a CDR, it rejected the CDR immediately, so I did a little research. Even reviewers were unable to use the bundled copy of Adaptec EZ CD Creator with this drive! Some folks recommended Nero Burning ROM. I tried Nero and it's working just fine, but I have to slow the drive to 8X in order to burn a Kingston Hypermedia CDR cleanly. That's okay, because I have plenty of 12x and 16x CDRs for when I'm in a hurry.

I can't copy a CD directly from my DVD-ROM drive to the new CDRW drive, at least not at full speed. My "8x DVD / 40x CD" DVD-ROM drive reads CDs at 16x on the inside (the "beginning") of the disc, and 40x on the outside (the "end"). I used the CDRW drive's "test mode" to safely confirm that I could not successfully copy any of the discs that were lying around on my desk. Gee, it used to work in the old days, when I had a 20x CDROM drive and a 4x CDR drive. :)

I think that it's time to reorganize my web site. (Faithful visitors are probably rolling on the floor, laughing loudly, right this minute.) The headlines on the front page are semi-permanently broken, and I'd like to include some Windows programming topics on the site, so I'm leaning toward redoing the site. What would you like to see on this site? Use this email address to tell me.

June 27, 2001

Well, I have to congratulate PCChips and possibly Acer Labs. One day after I mentioned the horrible IDE performance on my PCChips M817LMR motherboard (ALi Magik-1 chipset, Athlon 1.2GHz), I found that PCChips had released a BIOS update on their web site. The new BIOS fixes the IDE problem completely. But wait, there's more... On a whim, I retested the speed of the memory. Sisoft Sandra now rates my DDR memory at 720MB/second, which is 100 MB/second better than its previous score and 20 more than Sisoft's "reference" score for a Magik1 with PC2100 DDR SDRAM.

And, for the record, I've checked the PCChips web site for updates pretty frequently, so I know this BIOS has not been available on their web site for very long.

Oh, and that 720MB/second value is exactly twice the performance of Compaq's latest Deskpro EN computer.

June 26, 2001

I contacted the vendor to return the Yamaha burner because  I discovered three problems with it in the first 48 hours of use. The following day, I received an email reply from the vendor saying, to wit, "Gee, don't you want to contact Yamaha support?" No, ma'am, Yamaha support just tells me to use more expensive CDRs, and I've proven them wrong before. I didn't bother mentioning this to the vendor. I merely repeated my request to return the drive. The vendor's reply arrived at 10:00PM tonight (?), approving the return of the drive. (Oh, by the way, I found another one for $20 less.)

I removed the Yamaha 16x burner from service tonight (it's 10:50PM now) and installed one of my Acer 10x burners instead. It still won't write to Kingston Hypermedia 8x CDR discs (at 8x!), and it sometimes requires me to open the tray for a few seconds in order for it to recognize a CDR that it's just finished writing. But, I've had fewer quirks with the Acer drive than with this refurbished Yamaha one. I hope all the Yamaha CRW2100EZ drives aren't like this one.

Speaking of crap, Adaptec's (Roxio's) latest update to EZ CD Creator 4.0 is out. I've installed it on three systems now, and it's caused me grief on two of them. When installed on top of Acer's special-edition EZCD for the 10x burner, the software's speed menu only lists 4x, 6x, and 10x. I'm intermittently seeing impossible reports in its "CD Information" window, such as reporting an infinite number of 16-million-sector audio tracks on a data-only CD. I had tried it first on the new Yamaha burner and I was willing to assume the drive was at fault, but I've already begun to see flaky reports from my older Yamaha drive as well.

Here's one weird CDR note to add to the pile... When I installed the 16x burner, CDRWin 3.8c would not recognize the drive in Windows ME. The same version of CDRWin will recognize the drive in Windows 2000.

I swapped the ATI Radeon LE into my 950MHz Athlon PC. I loaded the official Windows 2000 driver from the ATI web site. I have two problems: 3DMark2001 freezes at the same place every time, and the driver won't let me configure it for my old 17" non-Plug-and-Play monitor. ATI has an answer for the monitor problem, however. They say the problem was fixed in this version of the driver!

Last week I forgot to mention that HP has produced a $49 printer to compete with the Lexmark Z12. The new HP 632C is $49 at my nearby Wal-Mart. It looks and feels like a scale-model replica of their latest 900-series printers, but the 632's plastic body is much thinner (and correspondingly lighter).

Something is fundamentally wrong with the IDE performance of the ALi 1535+ chip on my newest motherboard. With a brand new hard disk, Windows ME and 2000 can only write to the disk at 8 MB per second. It can, however, read the hard disk at "full speed".

With the VIA and Acer onboard IDE chips, "full speed" is never achieved. I've demonstrated this by using Adaptec SCSIBench and the manufacturer's IDE drivers. (If you use Microsoft's IDE drivers, SCSIBench cannot locate the hard disk.) I can reach 58MB/second in "same sector I/O" using a Promise or Intel ATA66 controller, but the same drive yields only 38MB/second on the VIA controller. If Acer (ALi) would supply a driver, I'd gladly test their chip in SCSIBench. In the meantime, I'm unable to exceed 31MB/second during the read test in my TST32 program with the ALi chip.

June 22, 2001

I received the Yamaha 16x burner (CRW2100EZ) tonight. I put it through its paces on my 1.2GHz PC running Windows ME. After realizing that I had to remove the ALi IDE cache program, I proceeded to burn CDs using the supplied Adaptec software. I inserted a Kingston Hypermedia 8x CD-R and set the burn speed to 16x, figuring I would test at successively lower speeds until it worked. It worked at "16x", and so did a PNY 12x CD-R! I put the "16x" in quotes for a reason, however. By watching the time counter on the Adaptec software, I was able to determine that the drive was writing at 11/14 (!) of the rated speed, or roughly 12x.

June 20, 2001

After I mentioned about that county government being MS-audited, it turns out they're not alone. InfoWorld's Gripe Line column reported the phenomenon in the latest issue. I found this person's self-described "rant" during a totally unrelated Web search and it sounds quite apropos. :)

I was able to buy a Yamaha 16x10x40x CDRW drive for $129. For that money, I just hope it works...

June 15, 2001

I learned some useless trivia about cellular phones today. I received a new "tri-mode" cel phone today, but the manual said it was a "dual-band CDMA" phone. I panicked. I already knew that the three modes of a "tri-mode" phone were analog AMPS, 900 MHz digital CDMA, and digital PCS. What I didn't know was that PCS is just CDMA at 1900 MHz. (Even more useless trivia: Outside the USA, new phone services use GSM at 1900MHz.)

Useless Microsoft trivia: Most "normal" (i.e. non-OEM) Microsoft licenses allow you to use a previous version of the product. Buy a license for SQL Server 2000, and use it as the license for an SQL Server 7.0 installation, for example. Compaq told us we could use our Windows ME licenses to install Windows 98 on our latest PCs, but I think they forgot how restrictive Microsoft's OEM licenses are...

Microsoft is pressuring my biggest customer to buy into a yearly license plan. For a fixed price per PC per year, Microsoft will grant the right to use any version of Office and Windows on that PC, along with a stack of other (worthless) Microsoft software. But if you don't go along with this new plan of Microsoft's, will they assume you are common criminals and audit you to death? Well, I was informed today that an entire nearby county government just received their audit notice from Microsoft... The top computer guy there believes their licenses are complete and up-to-date... (Oh, and if you buy into Microsoft's yearly plan, you MUST license every Pentium-class PC in your organization, or else!)

Useless Web trivia... The "Helv" font is alive and well, and you can use it in a style sheet. If you use it, Internet Explorer will substitute MS Sans Serif, the same font it uses for menus and dialog boxes. Check out the news categories on my home page for an example of its use. I think they look much better since I switched to Helv from Arial.

I have learned a few things about my new Radeon LE and Geforce2 MX video cards. These items are not news to some people, but they're news to me!

I am disappointed in the benchmark numbers I've generated from my new 1.2GHz Athlon PC. Sure, those numbers are faster than any other PC in my house, but they're not spectacular. Industry pundits blame the ALi Magik1 chipset for speed problems with RAM and AGP, and so far it looks like they're right. I think I can add IDE to the list of performance complaints as well. I've had good performance from the Promise "Ultra" series of IDE controllers and the Intel 810 onboard IDE chip. I have not had good performance from either the VIA 686 or ALi M1535D+ onboard IDE controllers.

Don't load the Intel 810 v6.1 IDE driver on HP Pavilion PCs. I found that it causes data corruption and blue-screens on Windows 98, especially if antivirus software is installed. Use the Microsoft driver instead, it isn't so bad. In fact, on Windows ME, an ALi diagnostic utility tells me that the Microsoft driver successfully enabled Ultra-DMA-100 (mode 5) on my board! Oh, and by the way, I've used the Intel 810 IDE driver on my non-HP systems without problems in Windows ME and 2000.

I was fiddling with Windows XP beta 2 on my newest Athlon, but I got tired of it quite quickly. Beta versions of the OS tend to be slower than released versions, and this seems to be no exception. Plus, even though most XP drivers are compatible with Windows 2000, the ATI video drivers had trouble. The ATI Radeon driver supplied with XP couldn't show 3D textures correctly in 3DMark 2001, and the current Windows 2000 Radeon driver (March 2001) would cause XP to hang if I clicked on half the icons in the new Start Menu.

FYI, this super-cheap DDR Athlon motherboard with ALi Magik1 chipset is the M817LMR from PCChips. Instead of complaining about its inferior performance, I should be cheering that I got a DDR motherboard with 1.3GHz Athlon support, Ultra100 IDE, 4X AGP, 10/100 LAN, and a 56K modem, all for $79!

But, even the latest BIOS update for this board won't correctly set DDR RAM settings unless I leave its setting on "Get settings from SPD" and a Duron (200MHz FSB) is installed. It works correctly if an Athlon with 266MHz FSB is installed, but then the board is unstable at any setting faster than the default "Normal" setting. And that's in spite of the fact that I paid big bucks for super-fast Micron DDR RAM. (If I have a Duron chip mounted on the M817LMR board, and adjust the RAM settings at all, the RAM speed drops to half-speed. Sisoft Sandra reports speeds of 370MB/s and below. Yuck.)

June 12, 2001

Busy. Tired. Grrr. Blah blah blah Intel makes 20-nanometer-sized transistors blah blah blah Verbatim makes 24x CDRs blah blah blah Get a Gateway 2000 server for $500 blah blah blah Steve Gibson turns black-hat?

Hackers have been trying to invade my server. They actually seem to be trying to test every IP address everywhere. They succeeded in copying CMD.EXE to ROOT.EXE on my server and on two of my customers' servers, but they were unable to overwrite any of our home pages with their "@#$% the USA" message.

After three weeks of hardware SNAFUs (see below), I have a 1.2 gigahertz Athlon PC up and running. I've loaded Windows XP onto it. My new ATI Radeon-LE video card with 32MB of DDR SDRAM is in it, but the ATI driver for XP is wacky and the 3D2000 benchmark results are disappointing. The ThermalTake Chrome Orb is noisy. The 512MB of DDR SDRAM on the motherboard is not being used at full speed because the ALi Magik1 chipset is a little on the slow side. But it works!

PM Update: Had stability problems with XP on the new Athlon. Switching to ME.

Windows ME needs a hotfix in order for System Restore to be able to restore snapshots of the OS that are created after September 8th of 2001.

June 2, 2001

I canceled my trip to the Rochester hamfest. The thunderstorms predicted for today were sufficient reason.

Interesting fun fact: Bill Gates used 4.7 million gallons of water at his estate last year. The "man-made salmon stream" must use some of that, I suppose.

I've solved most of my hardware headaches.

May 28, 2001

I solved the problem of the Qlity motherboard misbehaving in games. One of the RAM modules was causing it. I could see screen corruption outside of games as well when this particular module was installed. I tested each module in the Qlity motherboard and this was the only one that caused the problems. Oddly enough, the vendor just sent me an email asking for feedback on the quality of these modules...

May 24, 2001

Having a surreal time.

I'm having trouble with vendors. 1) UBid sent me a box of crushed CPU fans, but the description on the web site didn't say "crushed"! I filed a request for a refund on 5/3 and still haven't heard a reply other than "we're working on it". I filed a dispute against them with my credit card company. 2) I ordered an Athlon chip and some other stuff from the web site last weekend. They billed my credit card on Monday. As of Tuesday night their web site said the stuff hadn't shipped yet. On Wednesday their web site disappeared. No one is answering their office phone number today. I called the credit card company and filed another dispute.

My Qlity motherboard locks up in OpenGL and Direct3D games, but only when the SDRAM is set to run at its full 133MHz rated speed. I reduced the speed to 100MHz and it's working for now. Ah well.

Microsoft changed their documentation about Service Pack 2. Before SP2, there was an article Q264078 discussing a clash between their ISAPNP driver and LPT2/3 (both use port 279). Microsoft's SP2 documentation originally claimed that this bug was fixed. They removed that claim from their SP2 documentation before it shipped, AND removed Q264078 from their site. But the actual problem didn't go away, I have this problem on my web server! I can't use LPT2 because the ISAPNP driver already reserved port 279. Maybe later, if I feel daring, I will remove and reinstall the ISAPNP driver. Perhaps if I force the LPT2 port to be present at the time the ISAPNP driver is reinstalled...

Oh, and I posted 0.16b5 of my PCI patch, and 0.14 of my VIA memory interleave enabler.

May 14, 2001

Windows 2000 SP2 is available for download. The official link was posted all over the Internet all weekend, even though Microsoft hadn't updated their pages. I've seen one complaint already. Someone noted that non-administrative users are having trouble accessing some items after SP2 is installed.

VIA just put out a 4.1.31 version of their 4-in-1 patch kit, with their SBLive patch supposedly integrated into it. I will dissect it later and find out more.

Carmageddon TDR2000 is just plain gross. Anyone want to buy my new copy off me?

I posted 0.16b4 of my VIA PCI patch last night. Will it finally stabilize PCI for Abit KT7A owners? We'll see.

May 10, 2001

VIA released its first official patch for people having problems with their 686B-based computers and SoundBlaster Live cards. Let me clarify this, the patch is for the 686B, not for the people. :)

VIA's patch is nearly identical to one portion of my latest (beta) 686B PCI patch. I fixed some other things in my patch as well, and issued it as "0.16 beta build #3". Of course, because of the bad behavior of past downloaders, it's hidden so that only my approved beta testers should find it.

I finally posted my bug-fixed memory interleave patch yesterday as well. I finished it back on May 5, but did not find the time to post it to the Web site.

In the meantime, time is marching on. We may see Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 soon, and Windows XP beta 2 is working well for many people. My daytime work is showing spectacular results, and Cassie's into softball.

May 7, 2001

I was unable to get any real work done last night. I worked on compatibility issues with my new GeForce2 MX video card. I must change the AGP drive strength register B1 to value 69 in order to be stable, which is not mentioned in anyone's advice on the Internet. (Some suggest B1=DA). I tested it in a computer containing a very bad BIOS, so I actually modified my memory interleave patch to also set the B1 register. Never fear, I will not be including that in the public version of the patch, although it serves as a reminder that I must make a generic patch program soon to outdo WPCRSET.

May 1, 2001

I received and installed a batch of 256MB memory modules of the "Via only" 32-megabit-times-4 RAM that's being dumped on the market. One was bad. I examined it and its gold contacts were filthy. I then noticed that it had two date-code stickers, one atop the other. I checked the rest of the batch. The rest were clean but relabeled, with chip dates of 0032 but a top label claiming April 2001. The defective module had chip dates of 0002 with an April 2001 label. I don't think my retailer cheated me. I think the manufacturer cheated my retailer!

I also received a Qlity CPV4-T motherboard, featuring the Via Apollo Pro133A chipset. I took it through testing on Windows 95B, ME, and NT 4.0. It seems utterly stable with my 866MHz Pentium III CPU. The CPV4-T has no overclocking options whatsoever, and it always runs memory at the slowest possible speed. Enough said. Well, a little more can be said...

I was given access to a Compaq 866MHz PIII system with RAMBUS memory. I compared it to the Qlity motherboard, using Sisoft Sandra as a benchmark. The Qlity board was slightly faster on all tests except for RAM, where the Compaq was only 20% faster. One of the Compaq system's Ultra160 SCSI drives was slower than my Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60-series drives as well.

A moderator on the forums has marked my account as "Joke Teller" because I told a bad joke in their "off topic" forum. Will this prevent people from taking my work seriously?

I have been testing Via's new 3.01.2 IDE driver on my various ATA66 motherboards. The ultimate test of the driver has been whether I could burn a CD when the driver was loaded. I was successful with both the VSD and miniport versions of their driver on Windows ME, but I failed on both NT 4.0 and 2000. 

I picked up some sort of springtime bug, and I have been miserable since last Thursday.

April 17, 2001

Intel has released their own Pentium IV motherboards, and they are priced the same as all the other boards currently on the market. (About $200US) What does this mean? Is Intel really going to be reasonably priced from now on? More likely, this is just a sign of how inflated the prices are on the other motherboards! "Oh, you want THIS year's product? Okay, but you've gotta pay TRIPLE the price!" In the meantime, I found that Via Pro133A motherboards were being bid at $21 at

Feedback is good so far on "my" PCI latency patch. Via's solution is trickling out in the form of BIOS updates for Epox-brand motherboards. But, as users are reporting, is the fix really as simple as setting register 75 to a 96CLK timeout?

April 16, 2001

I'm back from a too-short vacation. My 1040s are filed. Acer never replied to my emailed complaints about the 1832A CDRW drive (see April 10 notes).

I sent a beta of a driver to last Friday at 11:30PM. My driver is a workaround for a bug with SoundBlaster Live cards and IDE drives on new Via-based PCs. The feedback began rolling in immediately; the first was labeled as 4:00AM Saturday.

To clarify one thing: My latest driver is the result of research by the au-ja! web site in Germany. I merely created a driver to implement the results of their research. I have asked to give proper credit to au-ja.

Feedback on the new driver looks good. I received 18 positive responses, 2 responses of "it helps, but doesn't solve everything", and 1 of "it freezes my machine when I boot".

April 10, 2001

My Acer CDRW drives arrived yesterday. Here are the answers from a messy day of testing.

I spent the weekend cloning a customers huge server onto one of my workstations. A 240-user NT mail server began to have hard disk problems in its RAID array, and I don't happen to keep Compaq Proliant 3000s around the house, so I swapped in a big workstation temporarily.

Update: I may have to correct myself about one item. The ViaTech driver may not have been the cause of my errors yesterday. I tried again to connect the CDRW to the same IDE cable as the DVD drive, and the computer hung up during boot. I have worked around the problem for now by configuring as follows: Hard disk = primary master, DVD = primary slave, CDRW = secondary slave.

April 7, 2001

It's been a busy week. I posted v0.12 of my driver, with support for more chipsets. I agreed to let promote and host the file, but I will keep a copy here as well.

I made one deadline at work but missed another. I have yet another deadline next Friday. I am almost out of Tums.

I was surprised at how my driver spread. When I released v0.10 of my driver, my name graced the pages of,, and a few sites in the US. The new v0.12 driver has been listed on far more. A nice lady in China informed me that she found my driver on, but I can't read Chinese so I don't know which one it is!

Ironically enough, I wish I hadn't needed to make this driver. I hope for a day when I can walk into a computer show, buy the cheaper of two near-identical boards, and have it work well. If the motherboard manufacturers would stabilize their boards and use every performance option that the chipset offered, it would be a step in the right direction.

I found a recent-model computer on which Windows XP beta 2 won't install. Naturally, Microsoft's ultra-restrictive beta agreement won't let me tell you what it is. The beta agreement is worded so that I might not even be able to tell them, without getting their advance permission. They'll have to guess. Oh well.

April 3, 2001

I was responding to a question about UDMA on ViaTech boards, and I figured I should dump it here. ViaTech's UDMA seems messy right now, from my recent experience.

The latest (4.29v) 4-in-1 installs v3.01.01, badly. It fails on 95, installing a VSD driver when it should install a miniport instead. It won't even offer to install UDMA on ME. There is a full copy of 3.01.01 out there; I got it from a 3rd party site. It works right, but is buggy on Win2k, and the new set-DMA utility is always off by one DMA mode (3 vs 4).

Windows XP build 2428 had a beta VIAIDE.SYS which was a totally different design. It is a helper driver like INTELIDE.SYS, whereas 3.01.01 is a replacement VIADSK.SYS. I got 3.8MB/s using that XP build, and when I patched that VIAIDE.SYS into Win2K, it was equally bad and dumped tons of debugging output (Visible using NuMega's $600US SoftICE -- doesn't EVERYONE have a copy? I have a subscription.)

All this is somewhat moot. I benchmarked using Adaptec SCSIBench from EZ-SCSI v5. My hottest drives are new Maxtor 60+ ATA100 models, with the ability to read from cache at nearly 100MB/s. On the ATA66 controllers from Intel (810e) and Promise (Ultra66), I get a consistent 58MB/s. But on either of my Via boards, I never exceed 40. I do not know whether it's the driver or just a bad Via design. I am sticking with a Promise Ultra100 card in my big Athlon box until Via solves this.

March 30, 2001

Are you one of those people who just automatically answer "Yes" to permit Microsoft ActiveX controls to install on your PC? Even better, did you check the checkbox that said, "Always trust content from Microsoft"? Bwahahahaha! Silly fool!

In the first 24 hours after posted the news about my driver, my software page had 2,659 hits and people downloaded my driver 711 times. Out of 711, I've had feedback from two users, I got two requests for a KT133 version, and received two comments about it. So far, so good! (A KT133 version is in the works. Be patient and check for the announcement when it's ready.)

March 29, 2001

I re-sent my email to, offering my Via Pro133 patch. I heard back promptly, and within minutes, my site became the top news item at Now my hit count is climbing on my software page, which is wonderful, but I'm crossing my fingers that I don't exceed my ISP's bandwidth guidelines!

March 25, 2001

I revamped my download page. It now offers one more of my quick-n-dirty apps and counts downloads. I'd received a polite request for a copy of my DNS-to-LMHOSTS program so I posted that as well.

I was up late last night at the school, tuning their RAID arrays and gigabit NICs for performance. The following items were consistent answers I found from testing.

By the end of last night, I was able to read 5MB bursts of data between servers at 33MB/second. That's right, 33 megabytes per second. This number was achieved by using my TST32 program to write and read a 5MB file. I deliberately chose the 5MB size because a 5MB file is so small that the server will handle it entirely in RAM. The same server has a older-model RAID controller and I can only write to the RAID array at 5MB/second.

This server was "down" for part of last night. It was working fine in-house, but I had installed ZoneAlarm and it was interfering with Internet activity. Mea culpa (i.e. ZoneAlarm wasn't at fault). Here's a tip for both Norton Internet Security 2000 and ZoneAlarm users: test every protocol before you walk away from the computer!

March 24, 2001

My life has been surreal.

I could have sworn this deadline at work was over before now, but it just seems to go on and on and...

At home, family life has returned to normal. The miscarriage is past us, and now it's just a waiting game 'til we can try again to have a child.

My network customers are in strange shape. One is at the edge of Chapter-11, another one borrowed my 10/100 networking hardware and then went off to some seminars, and yet another is running out of money because of paying for fuel for their fleet. It's a good thing I have a day job.

I posted my Pro133-memory-interleave-enabler to my site and sent word to I haven't gotten a reply from them in the last week. Too bad, the enabler works great for me.

March 15, 2001

Judy miscarried over the weekend. !@#$.

A 50-pack of Nashua 80-minute CDRs is $9.99 at Walmart. I bought a pack last night. I burned one, but CDRWin reported running out of cache near the end (not the CDR's fault). This was a music CD so I tested the result by listening to it. It played perfectly up to the point where CDRWin had barfed.

I have been upset at McAfee for a while now. Their product for protecting mail inside Microsoft Exchange Server is broken, it won't notify the sender or receiver when an infected attachment is found, and McAfee refuses to fix it. So I was naturally upset when a recent document from them said, to wit: "You should have a multi-tier strategy. Use our McAfee-for-Gateways product to protect your Internet email." BUT, MCAFEE, I SHOULDN'T NEED THAT PRODUCT TO BEGIN WITH!

March 7, 2001

I've had my share of snow from the latest storm. My snow blower has proven its worth in the last 48 hours.

Over the weekend, I used a soldering iron to settle my troubles with powering my Athlon PC. I opened the biggest power supply, removed its too-loud fan, and soldered in a quieter one. I also mounted a quiet auxiliary fan in the front of the case. The PC's temperature sensors report that the CPU heat sink is at 110 degrees and the rest of the PC is at 80, which is acceptable.

I also mounted my fastest CD burner in the Athlon PC alongside a Raite 8X DVD-ROM drive. After a bunch of frustration, the following became clear. 1) The Yamaha CRW8424E CD burner must always be the master of the IDE bus, never a slave. 2) CDRWin cannot determine the capabilities of CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drives that are attached to Promise Ultra controllers.

I haven't been attacked by the Naked Wife virus yet. Darn.

March 2, 2001

It's been another full and educational week. The rabbit died, so to speak! The baby is due in November.

I wrote my own driver to enable memory interleaving on the ViaTech Apollo Pro133 and Pro133A motherboards. I plan on spiffing it up and sending it over to the site where I had initially found all the information about the interleave problem. Of course, I wrote two drivers, a VxD for Win9x and a kernel driver for Windows NT/2000. (I'd said earlier that I wouldn't make the driver, but curiosity got the better of me...) As of today, the VxD is working fine on Windows 95, and is improving the performance nicely. I'm not done testing my Windows 2000 driver yet, although I confirmed that it will load on a non-ViaTech board in Win2K without damaging anything.

I was shown an ad for 256MB DIMMs for $46 each. (Drool!) There's a catch. They only work in newer ViaTech boards, because these DIMMs have 32x4 chips on-board. These DIMMs don't work in Intel BX or LX or ZX boards because those boards don't support 32x4 chips.

I have a small problem with the new Athlon PC. I can't seem to find a power supply to match it. The computer case came with a cheap power supply with little airflow; the Athlon was heating up the entire case as a result. I had a leftover power supply with spectacularly high airflow, but its fan is loud enough that I can't concentrate in my quiet bedroom when it's on. I obtained a brand-name power supply with fair airflow yesterday, but it only puts out 145 watts (250 is strongly recommended for Athlons). What to do? I own some fans as well, and perhaps this weekend I'll fiddle with them.

February 24, 2001

It's been a full and educational week. I now have a 950MHz Athlon PC to add to my collection. I found out how to fix the poor memory performance on my super-tower's motherboard. I've found out more hairy details about rolling out McAfee VirusScan in the enterprise. Not bad for a week's vacation!

The Athlon PC was a whim of mine. I bid on an Athlon CPU and won, so I made a cheap PC out of it. I found a Biostar M7MKE board on sale, ordered two 128MB DIMMs for $45 each, and picked up a cheap case at the computer show. The power supply's fan in the cheap case wasn't enough to cool the PC (Athlons throw off a LOT of heat), so I upgraded the power supply to a model with better airflow (but loud). I slapped my Voodoo3 card in it and started benchmarking right away; the results look very good.

The poor memory performance in my ViaTech Apollo Pro133-based motherboard is caused by the fact that the BIOS doesn't support memory interleaving. I enabled memory interleaving temporarily by using the WPCREDIT app from H.Oda. SiSoft Sandra says the memory bandwidth goes from 125MB/s to 272MB/s when interleaving is enabled. H.Oda had made a WPRESET program that would allow me to enable memory interleaving (among other things), but WPRESET is buggy and H.Oda has stopped supporting it. I have the tools here to make my own kernel driver to enable interleaving, but no time of course... And little interest, since the Athlon is so much faster...

More ViaTech: I tested a friend's system containing a Tyan Pro133A-based motherboard. It did not have the slow memory problem that my board has. Of course, Windows 95 was totally unstable on it until I installed the ViaTech 4-IN-1 driver kit. 

Still more ViaTech: ViaTech has issued a new busmastering IDE driver kit, and this time Windows 2000 is supported! It was not on the ViaTech site as of today, but you can get it here. I tried it on my Athlon and PII PCs. On Windows 2000, Adaptec SCSIBench numbers seem identical in performance to those of Microsoft's (SP1) driver. On Windows 9X, the driver reserves 4MB of RAM for a disk cache by default. On all OSes, it installs an "IDE Tool" utility that is buggy.

Here's a very important message for McAfee VirusScan 4.5 users. In order to get the full benefit of 4.5 with service pack and SuperDAT updates, you must install them cleanly in that order (4.5, then SP, then SuperDAT). You cannot insert the service pack inside the 4.5 installation using the McAfee Installation Designer, or else the About... box will incorrectly say the service pack is absent. You cannot install the latest SuperDAT followed by SP1, or else the SP1 installer will incorrectly claim that you are running the latest files already, and ScanDisk will still hang the PC. You cannot install SP1 and a SuperDAT from a batch file on Windows 9X, because the batch file will not wait for SP1 to complete before starting the SuperDAT.

February 19, 2001

I'm "on vacation" until next week. If I don't pick up the phone, it's because I'm asleep, thank you. I need to sleep, and remove all stress from my life, if I want to get rid of this case of CRS that I have.

I've sorted out most of the details about how to deploy McAfee VirusScan correctly in a corporation. It's harder than it looks, and McAfee's documentation is worthless and should be ignored. I will post an article here perhaps.

The cheapest PC in my house is turning out to be my best PC. Its Intel 810 motherboard delivers better performance, according to Sisoft Sandra, than my super-tower PC that I spent so much money on. This Intel 810 board supports shutting down Windows 2000 via the power button, and "suspend-to-RAM", as well -- cool! I've moved my best hard disk and DVD-ROM drive into the 810 PC, and I'm using it to edit this page. It's not the best at 3D gaming, of course...

I may have to scrap my plans for selling off my 5400RPM IDE hard disks. I bought my new Maxtor Plus60 drives. I'm selling my SCSI disks first, and donating an IDE drive to the school, and building a new Athlon PC, and I don't seem to have any spare disks after that. Also, all the insurance bills for the year just arrived, so I'm poor for a month or so.

I will no longer be giving away MSDN binders to friends. Microsoft changed my MSDN subscription last month. New binders are cheap styrene, and the inserts are brittle plastic. Worse, Microsoft has reorganized the CDs so that they never replace old CDs with new ones, so I won't have spare CD sleeves. I'm hanging on to my last few good MSDN binders for dear life.

February 14, 2001

I've installed both of the major fixes for McAfee GroupShield 4.5 antivirus for Exchange Server. It now uses a MAPI scanner to check message bodies for viruses, and Microsoft's VSAPI to check the attachments. The MAPI scanner knows the sender's and receiver's address, but the VSAPI scanner doesn't. So the sender of an infected message is notified if we receive a KaK.Worm infection in the body of his message, but not if we receive the Anna Kournikova virus in an attachment. I hope McAfee has a way to switch to using a MAPI scanner full-time, because this is getting silly.

I've reinstalled Windows 2000 Server on this site. I had installed RRAS with NAT, then installed ADS, then removed and reinstalled ADS. Somewhere along the way, RRAS became unable to let me configure it. I'm afraid that RRAS's security settings are not being transferred from workgroup to ADS domain and back when I install and remove RRAS. (If you don't know what these acronyms mean, just wait. Microsoft will make sure you do!)

For some reason, whenever I sit down to update this site, all the most recent little tips and tricks flee my brain so I can't add them to this site. I seem to have a general case of CRS too. Oh well.

February 8, 2001

The RAITE DVD-ROM drives arrived. One had handwriting on it which said "OK!", and oddly enough, the drive wasn't quite okay. It would not read CDRs or CDRWs, but played a DVD well. I surmise that a customer returned the drive for this reason, and a technician at the retailer tested the drive on a single DVD, and put the drive back into the wholesaler's "new" stock (FRAUD ALERT!). So, here's another retailer to avoid. I'm already avoiding PC Peripherals since I found out about their warranty policy.

I have some Maxtor DiamondMax 60+ drives coming soon. Maxtor finally posted the specifications on them as well. The 60+ can read from its media at up to 8MB/second more than the previous 45+ series could. Neato.

The Maxtor DiamondMax 45+ drives show faster benchmark results on a Promise Ultra66 controller than on a Promise Ultra100. Why?

McAfee GroupShield 4.5 has two major bugs. McAfee blames Microsoft's new (ES5.5SP3) Virus Scanning API (VSAPI) for both bugs. But why didn't McAfee discover these problems before v4.5 shipped, and avoid using VSAPI altogether? I put the details at the bottom of my "virii" page.

Over the weekend, I began evaluating Windows 2000 Server on this very computer. If I like it, I'll buy the real thing (no, really!). If not, then I have licenses of NT 4.0 Server and Windows 2000 Professional waiting in the wings. (Plus lots of Linux distributions...)

This reminds me of an old beef that many of us have with Microsoft. When Microsoft ships a non-server version of an OS, they cripple its server abilities. Microsoft's license allows up to ten people to connect to a non-server PC. Microsoft enforces the license in funny and annoying ways, however.

February 2, 2001

NEWS FLASH: Paragraph 2.5 of Juno's latest service agreement requires you to leave your computer on and use their screen saver. Apparently this is so they can rent CPU time on it?! Holy flit!

I received my hard disk(s). Only one arrived, and it had no serial number on its face! I called Maxtor, and they said it was a special deal with PC Peripherals, and Maxtor would not support it. My paper from my vendor promises a 3-year Maxtor warranty. I contacted my vendor promptly to return this item! The RAITE-brand DVD-ROM drives are coming from the same vendor; how will they screw me this time? PM Update: I found out that, if I return the drive after the first year, PC Peripherals wants me to pay half of the replacement cost of the drive! That's a far cry from a three-year 100% warranty!

January 31, 2001

I splurged again. I picked up a pair of RAITE brand 8X DVD-ROM drives for cheap. I have no clue whether RAITE makes good DVD-ROM drives, but the Internet has gone ga-ga over RAITE's DVD players before.

I had an opportunity to fiddle with antivirus software last night. McAfee seems able to lock up Windows 2000 on a 300MHz PC for a couple of seconds at a time. Norton AntiVirus 2001 has no such problem. NAV 2001 is my current favorite for home use, in spite of the fact that they're charging annually for virus updates.

McAfee put out a service pack for their V4.5 corporate edition. If you are running this version on Windows 9X, you need this service pack! Two important bugs were fixed: * Leave the PC at its logon screen for 24 hours, and AVSYNMGR will crash upon logon. * Running ScanDisk, Defrag, or any direct-disk-access program, will lock the computer. 

I want to know when McAfee posted that service pack! It has files dated last August, but we've been looking for it since November or earlier! I know that, when I last searched the McAfee knowledgebase, its only mention of AVSYNMGR was related to a typo in AUTOEXEC.BAT.

McAfee 4.5 is easier to roll out in a corporation than NAV, so it's still my suggested corporate solution. Install McAfee NetShield on an Internet-connected NT server, install an anonymous FTP server service on it, tell NetShield to save a copy of all downloaded virus updates into the FTP folder, then tell all workstations to get their updates via FTP from the NT server.

More fun with McAfee. Install v5.13, ask it to look for updates, and you will be taken to a Web page where you can download the full (i.e. not upgrade) edition of v5.15. The same page offers a download of the same SuperDAT file as the corporate boys receive.

January 29, 2001

I ordered more Maxtor Plus45 hard disks. The price was right. Apparently the availability of the Plus60 series has finally caused vendors to dump their "older" models.

I had bought a Matrox G400 video card back in September, and I tried it then with blah results. It's been gathering dust in my spare-parts bin since then. Last week I came across an old review of the card. The reviewer said it stunk in NT (where I live) but worked great in Windows 9X. His claims aroused my curiosity. I retested the card, this time in Windows ME. MadOnion's 3DMark2000 reports that my G400 is slightly faster than my Voodoo3 card, and I noticed that the quality of the 3D lighting effects is better. I tested Quake II's TIMEDEMO and was impressed with the result. (97 frames per second!) My G400 is now "permanently" mounted in my big workstation, and my Voodoo3 is now in the spare-parts bin!

I spent the weekend at the school, configuring all the computers in the library. They are all locked down so that diskettes won't boot, the CD's won't read, Internet Explorer won't download, and so on. I'd spent all last weekend doing the same thing, but within two days I received a list of changes that the staff wished. It's a good thing I'm paid by the hour...

January 26, 2001

I found out more about NVidia's buyout of 3dfx. NVidia bought all the intellectual property (patents) and the brand names, but left 3dfx with all the liabilities (loan payments). We can kiss support for Voodoo cards goodbye, since this was clearly a hostile takeover.

January 25, 2001

Holy cow! It's only been a few days since I downloaded version 6.21 of the Matrox G400 video driver, but Matrox has just released new drivers for all OSes! Hey, also on the subject of video, the 3dfx (Voodoo) web site is down. I suppose this means NVidia has begun gobbling them up.

January 23, 2001

Right after I downloaded the latest generic drivers for my Silicon Motion LynxE video in my notebook from the manufacturer's site, I read their FAQ. The site's FAQ says there are no generic drivers, so I should go to my OEM. Huh? So what are these drivers I've downloaded? By the way, I was downloading the drivers for a very important reason. My daughter's games won't play on a notebook PC because the LynxE driver crashes when QuickTime talks to it.

I tested Adelphia's new T1 service last night. Ick. Ping times started at 70ms instead of 16. Data rates were slightly over half that of the Intermedia T1 that I was using for comparison. And, whole IP ranges were unreachable (e.g. I dug around a little bit, using my usual IP tools, and my initial guess is that they have a router in Atlanta that is overloaded. In their defense, I will note that Time Warner was worse than this last year, at least until they beefed up their network.

I learned something new about NT & Win2K yesterday. Press F5 during the early stages of setup, and a screen will pop up with a menu of choices for the HAL driver for the system. (The HAL driver sits between the OS and the hardware. It handles buses like PCI, plus APM & ACPI & multiprocessor control.) I believe this F5 will become important as Win2K matures. One example involves ACPI. Win2K will automatically detect and support ACPI during setup, but what if the system board's ACPI support is broken? What if some PCI cards don't correctly support ACPI? Disabling ACPI in the BIOS would cause an ACPI-enabled Win2K to cease to boot, and the only way to remove ACPI is by reinstalling Win2K. I believe it's going to be smarter to disable ACPI during setup on suspected systems, rather than risk problems later. (Yes, this should have been broken up into three paragraphs. Tough.)

January 22, 2001

Egads. Ten days without an update. Oops.

A month ago, I received my first Maxtor Plus45 hard disks and they were slow when measured with Adaptec SCSIBench and others. I eventually learned that these drives feature Acoustic Management Technology, which slows down the seeks in an attempt to quiet the drive. I disabled AMT by using a free utility from Maxtor, and the drives perked up immediately. The drives now receive a SiSoft Sandra benchmark rating of over 21,000, which is a gain of 1,000 from the previous testing.

The BIOS in Compaq's Deskpro EN-series PCs will not let me completely disable the floppy drive. This is unfortunate because I needed to disable the drives in some public PCs that will be abused by kids. As a workaround, I have temporarily removed the data connector from each drive.

It is very easy to reset the expiration date of Norton Antivirus 2001's virus-data-update subscription on 95/NT. I won't tell you how. But, now you know what ex-hackers do when they're bored on a Saturday night. They hack stuff but never publish their findings...

Speaking of bored hackers, you can turn your GeForce card into the more-expensive Quadro model by changing two resistors.

January 12, 2001

Last summer, I worked on configuring a Windows 95 PC so it would be "locked down". The goal was to prevent students from altering the PC, setting the desktop wallpaper to a picture of a naked lady and so forth. I am revisiting that project, and there are a couple of new requirements. I need to prevent time-wasting students from playing homemade CDs of MP3 files. I also need to permit Internet Explorer's right-click-and-"Save Picture as...", while disallowing all other downloads. I found most of the answers last summer, e.g. using the BootKeys option in MSDOS.SYS to prevent the kids from pressing F8 to access DOS. I am updating my knowledge to include IE 5.5. I put an article together; it's here.

Two tales of video-card woe. 1) A coworker updated her PC to Windows 2000, only to discover that her MPACT video card (with DVD decoder) no longer worked. I searched the Web, and found out that MPACT was bought out by a company that has no interest in supplying drivers for it. 2) I drove with her to Circuit City to pick up a Voodoo3 video card. The shelves were empty, and an employee was doubtful about their ability to get more 3DFX cards of any kind. The employee guessed that NVidia's buyout of 3DFX was to blame.

For the record, I prefer 3DFX-based cards to those from NVidia. Their support and compatibility are superior. Buy up those Voodoo cards while you can...

The Proxomitron (N4b3 version) is working well. It hasn't crashed once. And, I only have to disable it when accessing my web-based mail because it is blocking the pop-up window in which I would normally compose a new message.

I installed Windows 95 and McAfee VirusScan 4.03L on a Compaq Deskpro PC tonight. The PC goes to sleep after N minutes as it should. But it wakes up when it's time to update the McAfee virus definitions! Cool! (I set the definitions to update hourly from a local server. If I set it to update at a particular time, I couldn't guarantee it would be left on at the time.)

Microsoft announced they are retiring the MCSE+Internet program very soon. @#$%. One more test and I would've gotten it.

Did you send a get-well card to Ronald Reagan? (Insert "hip guy" joke here.)

January 10, 2001

ViaTech is updating their drivers. Version 4.28 is the "latest", but it came out only a couple of days after v4.27. The folks at report that 4.27 suffered from problems with installation. In other ViaTech news:  * They are part-owners of S3 Inc now. * Microsoft reports more trouble in Windows 2000 with ViaTech chipsets and AGP video cards. This time the complaint is that the screen turns black when resuming from a power-management state.

I am trying out The Proxomitron on my work PC. It's a web-browser filter akin to WebWasher, but with no licensing headaches. The version I'm trying is "Naoko-4 beta 3". I have a special need for a filter on my Web browser. Part of my duties at the school involves reading the servers' logs. One log lists all the Web sites that each user visited. I have to scan the log for new porn or hacker or Java-game sites, and block access to them. When I find a real porn site, usually it blasts my screen with a dozen new browser windows, and when I close one then another pops up. I have high hopes for The Proxomitron as a way to defeat that behavior.

SatireWire has released the list of winners in their first-ever spam-into-poetry contest.

There are new Matrox video drivers out for the G200, G400, and G450. I'd love to know what they fixed.

January 6, 2000 2001

Okay, I'm back. It's been a strange time. A perfect example: Instead of being turned off by Doom, my daughter asked to play it, and we had a father-daughter session playing network-Doom on side-by-side PCs! She understands that I don't condone Doom-class games for kids in general...

I have read everything about PowerQuest's new Partition Magic 6.0, and I can't find any reason to buy it. The only problem with my copy of v5.0 is that I get "Error #109" when examining my Windows 2000 PC. I probably just need is their v5.01 bug fix, but I can't download the patch from PowerQuest without enabling (permanent) cookies in my web browser.

I hear that, if you copy the Partition Magic 6.0 boot disk's files to another disk running MS-DOS, it won't run. It says it can't read the file "PQPB.RTC.RTC". The file PQPB.RTC is normally a hidden one but, even if it's present, the message still occurs.

I've been trying to get rid of a few bags of RJ-45 (10BaseT Ethernet) connectors that are only usable for stranded cable. I stupidly figured I would never see stranded cable any longer. Well, I've needed them twice today, so I'm keeping my last bag!

I've officially begun studying for the Windows 2000 MCSE. I've converted the main workstation at home to a Windows 2000 Server. (This web server is still running NT 4.0 -- it's paid for, and I haven't found time to decide whether 2000 Pro or 2000 Server is the way to go...)

TST32 has been updated slightly. It will, if asked, test the quality of the data that it is writing to the disk. I needed this particular feature in order to troubleshoot a problem with a customer's network.

I've collected lots of notes on Internet Connection Sharing and NAT in Windows 2000. It's time to post them, but there are two problems. I haven't found the time, and the Windows 2000 license requires approval from Microsoft before pictures of Win2K are published.

I recently mentioned that Windows ME can have a problem corrupting hard disk data when shutting down. Microsoft has extended their note on the subject. It now covers Windows 98 as well. Oddly enough, I've seen the same symptoms on Windows 95 recently too!

Maybe Microsoft will explain how a Windows 2000 PC can lose its "Find" menu. (That's right, where you'd normally search "For Files or Folders...", it's blank.)

The list of problems with our "almost-new" minivan grew over the last week. The list is up to fifteen items. On the latest trip, they replaced: the alternator and battery, and also some seals that were leaking oil (two quarts in two weeks!).

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