Dec 1999                                                                                                     

Web Master Wanderings
By Curt Potsic, Space Coast PC Users Group

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SCPCUG Web Master Curt Potsic


Here it is, the last Web Master Wanderings for 1999 and this century. Everyone seems to be making a big fuss about the year 2000. The SCPCUG has of course added to this with our Y2K Special Interest Group and our web site Y2K Links page. Personally I can't bring myself to get too excited about it. Seems I mellow as I get older. Guess after you have experienced life past 50 years you more often tend to say "been there, done that". Our Journal Editor Steve Gaul had suggested this last column of 1999 and the century should be something special. I thought about this and the first thing that came to mind was write about the "history of the Internet". Then the smart side of me kicked in and said, "Wait a minute. That's probably been done before and most likely much better than you could do it." So why reinvent the wheel? Harness the power of the Internet! A check with several search engines did indeed show there were many articles on Internet history. All I had to do was read through a bunch of them and offer several of the best articles as links in this column. I had bookmarked the search engine results and was about to embark on finding the best Internet history articles when things suddenly took an unexpected turn. As a result this column will be special but not in the way Steve Gaul had suggested.

I suppose I could say "It was a dark and stormy night", the night that my computing luck ran out. I had always prided myself on keeping my computer ship shape by running ScanDisk and defragging every week. For four years and one month I had survived the PC computing world without a major crash. Maybe the odds were against me. I had heard tales of woe from others and was proud of the fact that I must have been doing something right. Then it happened, around 1 a.m. on a Thursday night. I had gotten off the Internet earlier and was running ScanDisk on my drives. The C drive was about 75% complete when I get that non-informative message that "something" caused an error in "something else" and "this program will be terminated". I was back to my Desktop so decided to shutdown. The computer hung on shutdown but I did not think much of it as this had happened before. Usually you just hit Reset, reboot and run ScanDisk to see if you have any lost clusters that need correcting. Not this time! I rebooted and Win95 was just about completely loaded when reality hit. The desktop icons were appearing at the end of the boot process but some of them had white boxes where the names should be. Immediately I got "Explorer has caused an error" and "this program will be terminated". Any subsequent reboot landed me automatically in Safe Mode.

The next day I started on what turned out to be a very frustrating week of troubleshooting. With the help of my friend Herb Goodman and especially my son Chris I made it through the "tunnel of darkness" to once again join the "up and running" computing world.

The troubleshooting started by running the Win95 ERU (Emergency Recovery Utility) disk. I had backed up my critical configuration information and system files, including the Windows Registry, several days before. Ron Ingraham as well as others I know had been saved by this program. (To learn more about the ERU read Ron's article "One of Windows 95's Hidden Gems" on page 6 of the March 1998 PC Journal.) I had never used the ERU for recovery but figured this would surely set things straight. How wrong I was! Next we tried a Win95 reinstall. This resulted in dialog boxes saying "error in copying CAB files" and "you have interrupted setup" when we had not touched anything. After several reinstalls we finally completed, only to end up booting to Safe Mode. By now things were really looking bad. We decided to do a clean install so the C drive was reformatted. I did not really think carefully about the data I would be losing in the reformat. Most data files were on my second physical hard drive that had partitions "D" through "K". I knew that I had backed up my Netscape files recently when I installed Netscape 4.61. That thinking subsequently turned out to be flawed as my Netscape files, namely bookmarks and messages, were from the end of July. Somehow I completely missed saving the Netscape Address Book. That has turned out to be the major recovery rebuilding problem. But I digress. Back to my story. The clean reinstall of Win95 resulted in the same boot to Safe Mode. It was suggested that Win98 installs much smoother than Win95. I had resisted updating for a long time but now with my C drive files gone and the programs on my second hard drive unrunable (because their associated windows files on the C drive were gone), why not? Win98 installed smoother but still came up with errors in setting up system files. The result was the same, booting into Safe Mode. How about something in the BIOS? Chris changed a couple of settings in the BIOS to "plug and play" and wow! Win98 was magically working.

Next came Hurricane Irene and we lost power for 8 hours. Guess that's the stormy part. Since Win98 was working, I cautiously installed a few programs and tried to get on the Internet. How Dial-Up Networking is setup had changed from Win95 to Win98 and ultimately I had to rely on Palmnet's Tech Support to get connected to the Internet. Even after they gave me the correct settings it did not work until I uninstalled and then reinstalled Dial-Up Networking. Things were looking up. I got on the Internet and had 45 messages waiting for me. My joy soon ended. It was now Tuesday night and while replying to an e-mail from my friend Jock in Australia, disaster struck again. I got the "blue screen of death". Subsequently, my computer would again only boot into Safe Mode.

The next day we went through more reformatting of the C drive, more reinstalling of Win98, and changed out the EDO memory for known good memory. Nothing worked. We tied going step by step in Safe Mode but each time it came up with a different file as the source of the problem. Finally we pulled my two physical hard drives. Chris installed them on his computer and they worked fine. Somewhere in the confusion of all this we accidentally reformatted the E partition on my second hard drive. There went my voice recognition history files as well as a few other data files! Things were just not getting any better.

It was now Thursday. This saga had started a week ago. We were beginning to suspect the motherboard. All the add-in cards (video, sound, video capture, modem) were pulled. We replaced the video card with my old known good video card. So now the only thing that would be running is the motherboard and a known good video card. We reinstalled the two hard drives. The computer booted and worked... for 5 minutes. It was back to telling us Explorer caused an error and booting into Safe Mode. What now?

It seemed like a long shot but the only thing left was to change the processor. The processor had not been suspect because it seemed to work fine with DOS commands and for the most part during trying to install Win95 and Win98. If you read my September Web Master Wanderings column you know that I had upgraded my processor in July using the PNY Technologies ( QuickChip 233MHz 3D processor. When we pulled the QuickChip it was extremely hot to the touch. We installed my old Pentium 100 MHz processor and there was "light at the end of the tunnel". Win98 was working! Subsequent testing indicated the fan on the QuickChip processor had quit working. I am now waiting to see how well PNY Technologies lives up to its lifetime replacement warranty. It took 3 phone calls and 4 days of waiting before I finally received a return phone call providing me with a Return Authorization Number. Will let you know how that turns out. I still have not seen my $30 rebate. PNY Technologies is investigating that also.

Now begins the massive rebuilding job of reinstalling and updating all those programs I have accumulated over the past four years. The bright side is it provides a house cleaning opportunity. I can skip all those programs I downloaded, installed, and then never really used. The downside is many of the programs I did use had updates which I never got around to downloading and installing. As you probably know, keeping all your programs up-to-date can be a full time job if you let it. My philosophy has been to skip the upgrades if the program does what I want it to. Now since I am starting clean I might as well get the latest version.

So as 1999 draws to a close what does the future hold? At the rate things move on the Internet, my answer has to be "many new and exciting things". As many of you know, I'm a great fan of "voice recognition" and "text to speech" software. One recent announcement that intrigued me was by a company called "One Voice Technologies". They are promising to combine voice recognition with artificial intelligence and text to speech. A consumer version is supposed to be available the first quarter of 2000. If this works as advertised it could be just like "Star Trek". You talk to your computer, it understands and interprets what you have said, it voice confirms your request, and then it performs the requested operation. Wow! You can read more about this at their web site

Finally, in keeping with the spirit of looking forward to the year 2000, I offer you a program with "2000" in it's name. (Have you noticed how many software companies have incorporated "2000" into the name of their products?) It's called "1stPage2000" and billed as "The world's ultimate free HTML/Script Editor". This 5.2 MB download is available at If you have not gotten around to building your home page or web site yet, check out this free program. I chose the custom install and selected all 12 items which added 1017 files occupying over 13 MB to my hard drive. 1stPage2000 has working profiles for Easy, Expert, Hardcore, and Normal. Thus it is useable by everyone. It is a complete HTML editor with much valuable reference material. It contains 15 DHTML scripts, 17 Perl scripts, 6 HTML scripts, 2 CGI scripts, 450 javascripts/VBscripts and a complete Web Builder Reference. It is amazing how much Evrsoft has packed into this program.

Note: Web Master Wanderings articles contain links to external web sites. Web addresses are constantly changing. There is no guarantee that the information links provided in this article will remain unbroken or up-to-date beyond the date that this article is originally published.