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The Dux Computer Newsletter
Tech Tips - Volume 1 - 2001
Last updated: 10/2/01

1.  The Windows Resource Kit On Line.  Yes, right on that Windows CD is one of the most useful resources for understanding the intricacies of Windows and solving problems.  Simply insert your Windows CD, wait for it to autostart (or access it directly with the Windows Explorer), and expand the directory tree to D:\tools\reskit\help and double-click rk98book.chm (Windows 98 and 98 SE).  Look in d:\admin\reskit\helpfile on the Windows 95 CD.  I copied it to my hard disk drive for faster performance and easier access.  Windows Me doesn't have it, sigh!

2.  Backing up a hard disk drive.  I often back-up hard disk drives in a customers' computer to be sure no data is lost when working on problem or to take the hard disk down to "bare metal" for a clean install of Windows.  If the drive is easily removed from the customer's computer, the fastest way I know of for doing it is to connect it to another computer and use the Windows Explorer or MS Back-up (if there is lots of data on the drive) to do a disk-to-disk copy/backup of the data.  In the past, when computers only had one IDE interface, one would jumper the customer's drive as a Slave and the other drive as a Master and connect both drives to the same cable.  The easy way, for computers with two IDE interfaces, is to disconnect the CD-ROM, etc. and connect the customer's hard disk to the secondary IDE interface.  Not only is it easier (no jumper changes or zip/cable ties to cut and redo), the data transfers are much faster because the drives do not share an IDE channel as they would if they were both connected to the same cable.  One usually does not have to change the jumper on the drive being backed-up or do anything to the CMOS Setup, if it is set to auto detect drives.  Also, there is no need to physically install the hard disk being backed-up.  Just set it down with the printed circuit board up so it won't get shorted-out (very old drives may not like flying up-side-down).  This method is also useful for moving data from an old hard disk drive to new one with a partition image-copying program, such as Partition Magic, Ghost, and those available from download sites like download.com.

3.  What is the uplink port on an Ethernet Hub or Switch?   There is no big mystery about the difference between an uplink and a regular port.  Each Ethernet interface has two transmit pins (+ and -) and two receive pins (click here for a diagram)).  The transmit pins at one end of a cable have to be connected to the receive pins at the other and vice versa.  An uplink port does not crossover the transmit and receive pins and a regular port does.  If two hubs/switches (What is the difference between a hub and switch?) are connected together with a straight-thru cable then one end must crossover (regular port) and one end must not (uplink port).  If a crossover cable is used to connect them, then the ports at both ends must be the same kind of port.  If a straight-thru cable is used to connect them, then the ports must be different.  A PC can be connected to an uplink port with a crossover cable and to a regular port with a straight-thru cable.  Also, be aware that many hubs/switches share the uplink port with one of the regular ports, usually port 1.  Both ports will not work if they are both connected at the same time.  Finally, many hubs and switches have a switch associated with the uplink port that can switch the port between uplink and regular port configurations.

4.  If you need to test or troubleshoot a MODEM (and a serial port and cable), download ModemDoctor and see our recently updated MODEM FAQs.

Allan McComb's ICSConfig is the easy way to configure Windows 98 SE/Me Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) for games, etc.

Want to connect that old DOS computer to a Windows Network?  The MS-DOS client for Microsoft Networks can be downloaded from ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/bussys/clients/msclient.  Download dsk3-1.exe and dsk3-2.exe, double-click to expand, and run setup.  It is also available on the Window NT Server CD at D:\CLIENTS\MSCLIENT where D: is your CD-ROM drive letter.  Yes, there are people still using and networking DOS-only machines.

When a telephone doesn't work the most obvious cause that comes to mind is that a phone line is down (or the bill wasn't paid).  I sometimes wonder why technicians don't always think of the same reason when a computer fails to connect to another computer on a network, and why they don't always start at the hardware level when troubleshooting network problems.  Broken, disconnected, improperly terminated (coax), or miswired cables are responsible for over 70% of all LAN problems.  With most Ethernet networks there are few quick steps one can take to gain a reasonable assurance that the hardware is working at the lowest level:

1) Check the cable to see if it is fully plugged-in at both ends.

2) Most network adapters, hubs, and switches have LEDs.  If there is a Link (or LNK) LED, it should be on solid.  No Link LED, no network; however, the converse is not always true.  If there is an Activity (or Act) LED, it should be blinking.  If the Link LEDs are off, the cause is usually a bad cable, bad adapter, or bad port on the hub or switch.  If the cable is connected to a hub or switch, try another port on the hub or switch.  Try another cable if that doesn't work.  If the computer is connected to another computer with a custom crossover cable, it is the likely suspect.  Inspect the ends of the cable with plugs up and clips facing away.  If the ends are identical, you have found the problem.  It isn't a crossover cable.

3) A diagnostic program can usually be found on one of the floppies that come with most network adapters.  Run this program to verify that the adapter is good.  The loopback test will fail without a loopback plug connected to the adapter, but the other tests will indicate whether or not the rest of the card is functioning.

To learn more about installing and troubleshooting networks, please see our How to articles and networking FAQs.  If you need help with a networking (or computer) problem, please visit our Forums.  You will find answers in the 6,725 messages there.

5.  You got promoted and along with your new job you got a brand new PC. You have copied all of your data from the old PC to the new one (see Vol. 1, No. 2), but a copy of your data is still on the old computer.  Short of scrubbing the drive (writing zeros to it) and reinstalling Windows and all of the software, how does one erase the data so that there is no reasonable possibility that is can be retrieved?  Answer: download BCWipe.  This program can be used to selectively "shred" files so that they cannot be recovered by any means (this was not an advertisement).

There are two widely used color code standards for twisted-pair network cables: EIA/TIA 586A and 586B.  You would be surprised how much E-mail I get asking if the diagrams in How to Make Your Own CAT 5 Twisted-Pair Network Cables are correct.  That is because some web sites have them backwards and some cable manufactures are labeling their cables wrong.  Are your cables labeled correctly?  Go here for a definitive answer.  By the way, and despite what may be in print elsewhere, a properly made patch cable that complies with one of the two standards will work with premise wiring using the other standard.

6.  If you are using Microsoft FrontPage 2002 (may work with older versions) for your web site and you want to insert a graphic that is already in the web into a page, simply grab it with your mouse from the Folder List on the left (or even from the Windows Explorer), drag it to the page you are working on to the right, and drop it where you want it.  I often work-up a bunch a graphics with Corel PhotoPaint, save them to the folder in the web on my local drive where the article is located, and then simply drag them to the appropriate pages.  Remember, however, that if you use the same image (exact same file) in more than one page, altering in one will alter it in the others.

If the LED on a newly installed floppy drive stays on all the time, the flat cable was plugged-in backwards.  Unlike hard disk and CD-ROM drives, where pin one of the flat cable connector and the red stripe on the cable are always towards the power connector, the location of pin one on floppy disk drives varies by manufacturer.  It is usually easier to determine where pin one is located by looking at the printed circuit board on the bottom of the drive before installing the drive.

Most floppy disk cables have a twist at one end of the cable.  That end connects to floppy A:, the other end connects to the motherboard or controller, and the one in between, if present, connects to floppy drive B:.  Some cables have pairs of connectors to accommodate either a 3 or a 5 inch drive in each position: A: and B:.

Some motherboard CMOS Setups have a "floppy mode 3" as one of the choices for the type of floppy drive.  It is for a special 3 " 1.2 MByte floppy used in Japan.

7.  The Windows 9x/Me Hardware Info Utility provides a wealth of information about your computer and Windows.  To run it click Start, Run, and enter hwinfo /ui.  To help narrow-down problems, click View in the main menu and select Devices with Problems.

The old refrigerator trick.  If you have a failing hard disk drive (sometimes you can read some data off from it, but most of the time you can't, or it won't boot all the way up) and you have some valuable files on it that you want to recover, pull the drive and stick it in the refrigerator next to the freezer compartment for about an hour.  After it has gotten good and cold you have to move fast before it warms-up much.  Have the computer ready to go with a new drive connected to the primary IDE interface and a cable connected to the secondary interface to attach the defective drive.  Remove the defective drive from the refrigerator, inspect it for condensation (you don't want to short-out the printed circuit board, etc.), connect it to the cables, and lay it down on it's back so the printed circuit board won't be shorted-out (you won't have enough time to physically install the drive).   Boot the computer a get those files copied to the new drive as fast as possible.  If you have a hard disk drive that isn't spinning up try this trick.  If you hear a drive making a clinking noise, get your data off from it real quick.  Seagate drives, in particular, may issue this warning just before failing (or after failing!).

Problem: You have lost the Windows product key needed to install Windows. When Windows is installed, the Setup program requires that you type in a 25-character Product Key that is on the back of the CD (jewel) case or on a certificate on the cover of the Getting Started/User Manual.  During the Windows installation the Product Key is stored in the Windows Registry.  You can find it on your computer by clicking Start, Run, and entering regedit.  Click the plus signs to expand the branches in the Registry until you reach: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion.
Scroll the right pane until you find ProductKey.  Unfortunately, Windows 2000 does not have this feature.

8.  If you are thinking about getting high-speed, broadband Internet access (cable MODEM or DSL) you should perhaps also give some thought to eventually sharing the connection between two or more computers connected to together with a local area network.   To keep all of your sharing options open, inquire about a MODEM that can be shared with a broadband router before signing-up for the service.  Do not opt for an internal broadband MODEM.  Most broadband service providers supply external MODEMS with two types of interfaces: USB and 10BASET Ethernet.  Insist upon one with an Ethernet interface.  I do not know of a broadband router with a USB router to MODEM interface.  Also, the service provider may supply a network adapter and an Ethernet cable at no charge if you ask for it.  If you already have an Ethernet adapter in your computer, ask for a second one.  Use your adapter to interface the second computer, etc.

Another consideration is the protocols used by the service provider.  Some services superimpose another protocol on top of the TCP/IP protocol used for the Internet.   Many of these services use PPPoE or Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet.  Others, especially in Europe, use ATMoE or Asynchronous Transfer Mode over Ethernet.   Many, but not all routers, support PPPoE.  Fewer support ATMoE.  If you have a choice, a service that does not use either PPPoE or ATMoE will probably be faster, if all other factors are equal, and less trouble to install.  On the other hand, a provider may institute one of these protocols at any time.

Finally, some service providers explicitly do not permit sharing an Internet connection.   One can usually check on this policy at the service provider's web site.  Whether or not you choose to comply with such a policy is, of course, a matter between you and your service provider.

For more information see Ways to Share a Broadband Internet Connection.

9.  What is the maximum length of a printer cable?  There are two kinds widely used parallel port printer cables for PCs.  The old "standard" IBM Printer cable and the newer IEEE 1284 bi-directional cable commonly sold today.  The old IBM printer cable was a rather loose standard having its roots with cables originally designed for Centronics printers.  It was uni-directional from the PC to the printer and had a 25-pin male DB25 connector at one end and a 36-conductor male Centronics connector at the other end.  The "standard-issue" cable was six feet.  The maximum cable length was commonly stated as 15 feet.  I have operated printers with old 20-foot IBM PC cables and some, not many, PC/printer combinations will work with a quality 25-foot cable.  There are devices that can extend this length significantly.

Commonly available IEEE 1284 cables have a 1284 Type A, 25-pin male DB25 connector at one end and either the older 1284 Type B, 36-conducor male Centronics connector or the newer 1284 Type C, 36-conductor Mini-Centronics connector at the other end and are available in 6, 10, 15, 20, and 30 foot lengths. The specification also calls for various cable configurations with different connector genders.  The maximum specified length of a IEEE 1284 cable  cable is 10 Meters (approx. 30 feet) for data transfers at rates up to 2 MHz (of course, this maximum requires that the ports at both ends of the cable meet the IEEE 1284 spec as well as the cable).  IEEE 1284 cables should work with older IBM printer ports (SPP = Standard Printer Port) and uni-directional printers.  Answer: 30 feet.

10.  If you know a Microsoft Knowledge Base article number and you are located in the United States, you can view an article anytime, by entering the number in your Microsoft Internet Explorer or MSN Explorer Address box like this:

mskb <article #> (for example: mskb 123456).

I see this problem repeatedly in our Forums.  Does the order of the colors of the wires in a straight-thru twisted-pair network cable matter as long as both ends of the cable are wired the same?  Yes and no.  You can use either standard color code, or invent you own, if desired.  I use the 568A color code and it is the "preferred standard."  The colors do not matter, but the choice of wires does.  Simply making both ends the same is not sufficient.  The Ethernet interface uses four of the eight pins in an RJ-45 plug.  Each end of an Ethernet cable connects to a transmitter and a receiver.  A transmitter uses two pins and a receiver uses two pins. The two pins (TX+ and TX-) on the transmitter have to be connected to the corresponding pins (R+ and R-) of the receiver at the other end by wires in the SAME twisted pair and vice versa.  A transmitter is not connected to a receiver by one wire from one pair and a second wire from a DIFFERENT pair.  As the pins that are used, 1, 2, 3, and 6, are not sequential, one cannot simply match ends in a convenient manner and properly connect a transmitter to a receiver with wires from the SAME twisted pair.  If this description seems a bit complicated or fuzzy, pictures can be found at http://duxcw.com/digest/Howto/network/cable/cable5.htm.

11. Do you find the requirement to log into Windows or your network every time you boot-up Windows 9x/Me annoying?  Here's how to automate it. If you are logging into a Windows network with a Domain Controller (Windows NT/2000 server, Windows 2000 Pro, Linux, etc.) see How to Automate the Windows 9X/Me Logon to a Windows NT/2000 Network Domain.   Otherwise, you can use the Windows logon to logon to just Windows, if you do not have a network, or to both Windows and a peer-to-peer Microsoft network without a domain controller or login requirements.  Boot-up Windows and Logon.  Do not cancel the logon.  Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, Network, Configuration, select Windows Logon, OK.  Do not restart Windows when prompted.  In the Control Panel, Double-click Passwords, Change Passwords tab, Change Windows Password, uncheck the Microsoft Networking check box  (if you are also logging into a domain; that is handled elsewhere per the above link),  OK, enter your current password in the Old Password box, leave the New Password and Confirm New Password boxes blank, OK, OK.   In the User Profiles tab, select All users of this PC use the same preferences, Close.  This will do it in most cases.  Restart Windows and test.  If Windows prompts for a logon again, you may have to rename the password files.  If you rename the password files all of the passwords Windows has stored for Internet Service Provider, web site, etc. logins may be forgotten.  To rename the password files, click Start, Search or Find, For Files or Folders, enter *.pwl in the Search for files or folders named box, Look in: local hard drives, and change the .pwl extension for each file to .old (I use .dux, so I know I did it).  Restart Windows.  If you still get a logon prompt, it could be because you have TweakUI installed.  You can find TweakUI in the Control Panel and fix it there.  Also see How do automate the NT (and Windows 2000) Server login in the event of a power outage.

Copyright, Disclaimer, and Trademark Information Copyright © 1996-2006 Larry F. Byard.  All rights reserved. This material or parts thereof may not be copied, published, put on the Internet, rewritten, or redistributed without explicit, written permission from the author.