The Midnight Writer -- June 1997
No major changes to report this month in my on-going love/hate relationship with The Beast.
On the plus side, Privateer 2 does run on the 66 MHz Beast even though it's supposed to require a minimum Pentium 75 MHz machine. I can't seem to get it to run in a DOS window under Win95, but with System Commander it's easy to start up in DOS. It hangs up once in a great while, usually when there are dozens of things moving on the screen at once, when a video clip is going to run,or when it wants the CD switched, but on the whole it works fine. Maybe I'll write up a review in a future column. Thanks to the TPCers, especially Jim Tittlser, who helped me to get my config.sys and autoexec.bat files tuned properly so that my Creative Labs AWE32 soundcard and the Mitsumi CD-ROM drive it controls function correctly under DOS. A frustrating problem was caused by having the CD-ROM driver line before the soundcard's configuration manager's (Thanks, Jim!).
Another big plus is that I have installed Norton Commander for Win95. I had still been using the DOS version of Norton Commander much more often than I used Windows Explorer... I am singularly underwhelmed by the way in which one must copy or move files under the latter, not to mention how inconvenient it is to compare drive/directory contents with it. The new version of Norton Commander works like the old one, only better, and is highly customizable. You can even make it look and work like Windows Explorer (but who would want to?). I'm immensely happy with it.
On the minus side, the Iomega Zip drive still won't coexist with my printer in host mode. As I said last time, though, this isn't a major problem. It seems as if I'm going to have to learn to accept changing cables from one to the other, or buy a switch. I wish all of my computer problems were no more dire.
A little of both is the current state of Win95's swan song. For several months, shutting down would give me a black screen with a "Window's Protection Fault" message which required me to press any key to shut down the machine... OK but I got this when trying to restart as well, so I had to restart with the reset button. Somewhere in the midst of revising config.sys and autoexec.bat files and similar fiddling, I seem to have killed that particular gremlin. Now, however, it restarts properly maybe 30% of the time, gives me a black screen with just a cursor about 30% of the time, and gives me the "It's now safe to turn off your computer" screen the rest of the time. I'm manfully resisting the urge to reinstall Win95 for the nth time, out of some strange feeling that to do so would be to acknowledge defeat at the hands of the evil legions in Redmond.
Another temporary casualty of the files revisions was the scanner. It gave me quite a turn when I tried to scan in the picture of Sigi Rindler that appears elsewhere in this issue. I got a (for a change) polite and diffident message to the effect that I didn't seem to have a scanner connected to my system, and did I want to go ahead and run the scanning software anyway (?!). Unsuccessful in my attempts to "add new hardware" or install the drivers manually, I finally realized that I must have removed the ScanJet driver line from the files when I was pruning them. Rerunning the installation program got the modifications done successfuly, and enabled Paul and me to run the photo which we agreed must be included. I don't want to spoil it for you...go ahead and take a look.
I spent another couple of anxious hours last week when my printer suddenly stopped functioning. I don't really use the printer that much except for the AJ, but since I print the camera-ready masters to take to the printer, and since I don't really want to go back to my old 300 dpi printer with its attendant limitations, a printer failure is spine-tingling. I messed around with drivers and reinstallations for a couple of hours, checked for jams, tried different printer cables, tightened connectors, etc., to no avail. Things looked grim until I asked my favorite computer consultant (cables and connections a specialty...), and she suggested checking the power connection. Well, of course I'd done that already, I said, feeling somewhat patronized.
And I had. But I'm not quite as (OK, OK...not nearly as) meticulous as she is. I had "checked" the power by observing that one end was plugged firmly into the transformer and noting that the printer motor made a sound when the case was closed after checking for jams. I hadn't actually pulled out and reseated the plug where it connects to the printer. Doing so fixed the problem. It seems that there was a connection sufficient to run the servomotor but not to drive the printer itself. Next time, I'll be more conscientious. Hmmm. That line has a familiar ring...
I'm still ambivalent about whether/when to upgrade/replace The Beast. In a week or so, I'm going to help a complete newbie friend of mine buy a new computer system, and that should be a good chance to check out what's available in Akihabara and how much of a dent it will put in my finances. I really wish that I'd been able to go along on Sigi's last Akihabara tour. Maybe next time. I'm certainly open for suggestions about the best tactics and timing.
And I still think Kasparov just had a bad day or two.
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