The Midnight Writer -- September 1997
Well, let's see now...what's happened in the last month's worth of the ongoing saga of the Midnight Writer vs. The Brute. First of all, the system has a voice again. It only took a couple of hours and a couple of reinstallations to get the Ensoniq board's setup routine to be recognized by the ever-recalcitrant Win95. So far, so good...and I actually had about a week of using my computer with no problems at all. An friend unkindly suggested that this may have been an exceptionally long hallucination induced by a flashback of some kind, but I can produce witnesses. (G)
I should, of course, have realized that this could not last. The first time I had to use my (Hewlett Packard, and SCSI) scanner, The Brute refused to recognize its existence. Checking, I found that the Adaptec 2940 SCSI controller wasn't installed properly, apparently having slipped away from Win95's ken during one of the several reinstallations I had to do. How my two SCSI hard drives managed to keep working normally during this period is a mystery which I would have pusued had I not been facing yet another deadline, so this will probably remain one of those Exotic Oriental Mysteries. It had been awhile since I had to install the SCSI board, but I eventually remembered that in my case it's done by running the setup program for the scanner, which deals with the SCSI controller at the same time. It has something to do, apparently, with not running the scanner from its proprietary board if one already has a SCSI controller. In any case, it worked. Sort of.
Now I have the interesting situation that both the Adaptec board and the Ensoniq soundcard insist on using IRQ 10, and it's impossible to change either in Win95's Device Manager. Only a big problem if I try to run a sound-using program from one of the SCSI HDDs: I get intermittent hang-ups or error messages complaining about resource conflicts. Advice from the inestimable Jim Tittsler, and careful perusal of Adaptec's manuals, indicates that I have to make some changes in the BIOS (The Brute's, not the SCSI BIOS, which is disabled), to prevent the PCI bus from making some IRQs available. This seems to relate to ISA or EISA devices, but both the SCSI controller and the sound board are PCI (the Ensoniq board is - mournful, cynical chuckle - "plug 'n play"). In any case, I'm damned if I can find the place to do this in the BIOS setup area. I'll have to study/diggle a bit more after this issue of the AJ is done with.
Another, rather minor, problem is that for a while I was experiencing a return of my hangs-up-on-shutdown problem with Win95. It had gone away after one of the Win95 reinstallations (I reiterate: what kind of OS is it that has to be reinstalled every time something goes wrong?), but suddenly returned. This time, I found the problem pretty quickly. I had installed WinProbe for Win95, and activated the CrashShield function. It works excellently, allowing you to terminate programs which would otherwise crash your system --rather like what Win95 does for me maybe 10% of the time when I do a CTRL+ALT=DEL, but WinProbe does it every time. Unfortunately, it also seems to freeze the system right after the screen goes dim in the Win95 shutdown sequence, but before the condescending orange-on-black "It's safe to shut your system down now". Easily fixed: I just have to remember to turn off CrashShield before shutting down. It could be worse: inability to stop is certainly better than inability to start.
As I write this, The Brute's huge tower sits uncovered at my elbow, innards exposed to cooling breezes and the occasional burst of invective. All that remains to be done with it is connecting and installing the tape drive I should be using for backups. I've temporarily misplaced the setup disks, and my experience has been that Win95 performs poorly at loading drivers from hard drives. In a week or two, I'll get that final bit of work done, and then go ahead with my often-postponed time to ruthlessly expunge almost everything from the system and do a really new reinstallation of Win95. I don't relish the prospect, particularly because I know I'll then have to reinstall virtually all the applications I use, not to mention probably having to manually reinstall have of The Brute's component parts (again), but I think it's possible that all the work will result in a somewhat more stable system. We'll see. I'll let you know before I start, so that any of you who want to place bets can be prepared.
Lastly, let me remind you that TPC elections are coming up: there's a ballot in this issue for those who can't make the October meeting. They'll have to be mailed to reach me before the October meeting. I suggest that you contact President Pat Hughes or VP Ken Cotton after the September meeting for an update on who will be running in the election; I don't know as of this writing.
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