Midnight Writer: June 1996
by Mike Lloret
Well, it turns out that I lied last issue. I'd said that I'd talk about the Win95 programs I'd bought. I can't do that, because I haven't yet really had the chance to try them out; it's been a busy month at my paying job, and between that and a little partying, I'm running behind in my love/hate relationship with The Beast.
At the moment, in my computer room both The Beast and Beauty — Masayo's machine — are opened up, while she tries to see if she can get my recalcitrant MO drive to work on her machine. She brought a spare SCSI controller board home from the office to check it out, and she's now muttering imprecations as she pages through manuals and takes notes. I certainly hope that she can do more with it than I could.
One thing that I have accomplished since last month is getting System Commander installed. I wish I'd bought this long ago. As a matter of fact, I'm going to buy another copy so that I can have an English manual; my live-in engineer tells me that it's a highly detailed, excellent manual, and since she spent years writing technical manuals, she's in a position to know. I'm so pleased with the function of the software, I want to read the manual. Now that's a switch, right?
What System Commander does, basically, is similar to the multiple configuration function in newer versions of DOS. When you boot up your computer, you can choose from a menu among various starting configurations. The thing is, with System Commander you can choose from among operating systems, not just configurations of DOS and Windows.
Once you have it installed, it can be set up to let you choose among over a hundred different operating systems, if you're so ambitious as to have installed (or found, for that matter) that many. You can have up to 32 FAT compatible OSes in one DOS partition, up to 56 primary partitions on up to 14 drives, up to 16 non-DOS OSes in logical partitions, and up to 4 OSes which must boot through a non-standard MBR. You can boot from a diskette in A: or B: even if diskette booting is turned off in your BIOS, too.
There's lots of stuff that's handy: the menu selections you set up are offered before any operating system runs, and hidden system files and configuration files such as AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS, BOOT.INI are managed automatically. A time-out period can be set for automatic selection of a default OS configuration. You can also view partition information and change bootable status, and boot sector virus detection and correction is built in, with comprehensive boot validity checks and recovery.
It's MS/PC-DOS compatible for all released and beta versions 3.0 and later, DR- DOS/Novell DOS compatible for all released and beta versions 5.0 and later, and fully compatible with Win95, NT, OS/2 Warp, NetWare, Unix variants, Pick, NextStep, CTOS, QNX, and most other OSes. At least, that's what the English technotes say, and I — who don't even recognize four of the OSes in the list — am hardly in a position to argue.
I have it set up so that I can choose among Win95, Win 3.11/DOS 6.2, a bootable floppy in A:, and two game configurations that are touchy about memory allocation. Masayo (who has just informed me that the MO drive does indeed seem to need repair, by the way), has something like ten, and reminds me that it's handy for making test configurations. Highly recommended.
V Communications, Inc.
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