Ephemerides

A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

A Sturm's Eye View

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 11 December 2000

Thomas is disconsolate; his Philips 17b monitor died and he has to make do with the 15" monitor that came with the Acorn. Computer equipment doesn't like being moved about and the 17b already suffered being dropped early in its life. The fall damaged the yoke, but not so badly that it didn't work well enough for playing games. Thomas has taken the monitor to several LAN parties and was warned that this was unwise; better to take the 15". Some things have to be learned the hard way. Fortunately, Philips' service is second to none. I'll have the yoke replaced this time and he'll have an almost new monitor. When you buy a quality monitor, it's worth spending on any necessary repairs. The Philips is less than halfway through its useful life.

I gave up waiting for Banksia to provide the free Voice/Fax software according to the packaging provided with their Wave Modems. Banksia, an Australian company, make fine modems; their cost is comparable with 3Com -- but their support has declined to the point where I can no longer recommend them. When I spoke to them on the phone, they wanted me to reinstall the modem! I had to repeat, very firmly, several times, the Smith Micro voice/fax software referred to on the box and in the documentation was not on either of the CDs provided. Eventually, they agreed to ship me a CD with the software. It never arrived!

So, I went shopping for software to make the modem useful. I have a 3Com/USR 56k Voice Faxmodem for Internet access. Unlike the 3Com, the Banksia has a built in microphone and speaker so logically its job is listening for the unique fax ring on my fax number. Pending the successful installation of voice/fax software, we use our telco's message bank. Checking for messages entails picking up the handset and hearing a different dial tone. I must admit to forgetting to do this on a regular basis and occasionally don't get back to callers for a day or two. 

My search turned up two candidates and I initially tried the shareware option, CallCenter. Frankly, I couldn't get the software to work and eventually gave up after a couple of hours. The second candidate was RingCentral's PhoneWorks 2000. Unlike many much bigger companies, their website is well designed and I garnered enough information about their product and potential support to decide to risk $US99.95. The Banksia is not listed as supported, but if I can't get it to work, I will swap the 3Com with the Banksia. The software is downloading as I write this and I will report on its worth in due course. The only fly in the ointment so far is that their server doesn't support resuming and it's a more than three hour download! They do have an option to purchase the software on CD for an additional $US10, but as I have yet to receive my CD from PowerQuest for Partition Magic, I declined that option.

One of the main reasons for choosing PhoneWorks is that it integrates with MS Outlook. Having my faxes and voice messages appear alongside email in my Inbox is very appealing.

That sound you hear may be Media Player introducing a virus into your computer according to Brian Livingstone in his InfoWorld column.

Next time you call someone a dick head, you may well be correct. Story here.

Thought for the day:

It is the province of knowledge to speak And it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.

Oliver Wendell Holmes


Tuesday 12 December 2000

RingCentral's PhoneWorks 2000 proved very interesting. It installed like a charm except for refusing my attempt at inputting a number string starting with zero as my password. It detected the Banksia modem and declared it Voice Mail, Speakerphone and Fax capable. Sadly, it subsequently refused to let me use it for Voice or as a Speakerphone. The reason for this is that Banksia's *.inf file doesn't tell Win2k that it's a voice modem! So, I installed the 3Com/USR Voice Faxmodem and attempted to change the default modem. Following this, PhoneWorks resolutely crashed every time I tried to use it, so I reinstalled it. Once with both modems connected to the machine when the same thing happened and again with only the 3Com/USR Voice Faxmodem. 

This latter attempt has the system working as advertised with one tiny problem. Unlike the Banksia, the 3Com/USR doesn't have an internal speaker or microphone. My headset and microphone is designed to plug into a soundcard rather than the telephone socket on the back of the modem. The handset on my telephone has the same general connector type, but a size smaller; the telephone ditto but larger. Using the headphone, the volume is not quite loud enough. At least I can send and receive faxes, use the modem as a phone dialler (in conjunction with the telephone handset) and answering machine. The software automatically sensed the unique ring for the fax number.

I recommend PhoneWorks 2000; it's much better than CallCenter. Just check that your modem is supported, or purchase one that is in RingCentral's recommended list. The integration with Outlook puts it ahead of most other packages. Hopefully, RingCentral will discover that there are modems manufactured elsewhere than the USA.

I will investigate finding a microphone/headset for the 3Com Modem for hands-free phoning. And curse Banksia for their pathetic technical support! Let's hope my query to PhoneWorks doesn't fall on deaf ears. I note that Banksia is now owned by Netcomm. This does not bode well. The second modem I ever owned was a Netcomm. When it failed, I returned it for repair. Netcomm claimed it had never arrived at their factory. A friend's Netcomm modem failed a week later, but he taped the cheque to the modem. Mysteriously, his modem failed to arrive at the factory, too. But they did manage to cash the cheque!

There's a House of Steel update or two.

Thought for the day:

When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.

Cynthia Heimel


Wednesday 13 December 2000

Steve Gibson's LeakTest for firewalls is ready and obtainable here.

Today I'm somewhat less impressed by PhoneWorks 2000. I picked up the phone and the line was off hook! Attempts to close the application failed, so I killed the process. Resetting the modem restored the phone line. A quick look through the FAQs reveals that the software registration may have been at fault. Instead of making an Internet connection, it attempts to dial direct to a non-existent telephone number! Lunatics!

Attempting to relaunch PhoneWorks failed. I had to close all my running apps, log off and log back on to launch PhoneWorks. Running Win2k Pro, I usually have a dozen or more windows open and the machine runs like this pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Maybe I'll transfer PhoneWorks to the server. That means installing a soundcard. I have a soundcard, but no spare speakers, or much room for them come to that. Then I will need to install Outlook on the server. I can use VNC to keep a window open on my mail.

For those unfamiliar with VNC, it's a free remote control app akin to Symantec's PC Anywhere. Thomas uses it to do things at the server. I don't usually need it as I just flick a switch on the monitor (the Sony G400 has two inputs) and grab the server's mouse that sits on the same mousepad as the workstation's. Grabbing the server's keyboard is more of a hassle, but I rarely need to. It sits vertically on its end on a shelf to my left. The problem is my desk is strewn with paper, pens and other various useful objects. A KVM switch would be nice, but an expense that can wait until The House of Steel has been finished. Then it shouldn't be needed as there will be lots of room in my new office and the server will have its own monitor. I will just wheel my chair a few feet to the side. Luxury!

Meanwhile, I need to use a headset with my 3Com/USR 56K Voice Faxmodem. Plugging the headset into the soundcard means disconnecting the speakers and increasing the volume to full so I can hear stuff. If I forget to reset the volume when I reconnect the speakers, I am very nearly deafened. In any event, switching them around is a PITA. My headset has two plugs, one for mic and one for headphone, but the modem has only one socket. So, I went to 3Com's website for support. Was redirected to USR's site. Downloaded the documentation, but that makes no mention of what I need to know. Attempting to access the USR Knowledgebase, I am redirected back to the 3Com Knowledgebase, which is where I started!

I decide to email support and that presents me with a form. None of the model numbers in the listbox bear the slightest resemblance to the model number on my modem. They require me to provide the com port, IRQ, memory port and OS before accepting my submission! There is no option for Win2k, so I lied about my OS! The whole process takes over an hour!

Clippy offers to assist you to write a suicide note

CHRISTMAS CAROLS FOR THE PSYCHIATRICALLY CHALLENGED

SCHIZOPHRENIA: Do You Hear What I Hear?

MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER: We Three Queens Disoriented Are

GRANDIOSE: Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

MANIC: Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and Fire Hydrants and...

PARANOID: Santa Claus is Coming to Get Me

PERSONALITY DISORDER: You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why

SOCIOPATH: Thoughts of Roasting You on an Open Fire...

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER: Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock...

Thought for the day:

Insanity in individuals is something rare -- but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.

Friedrich Nietzsche


Thursday 14 December 2000

The modem saga continues. PhoneWorks tech support had me change the modem driver for the 3Com to the one supplied with Win2k which is different to the one supplied by 3Com. So far, this appears to be working. They do not appear interested in helping me to get their software working with the Banksia. My query to 3Com produced the response that my modem is "international" and to contact 3Com Australia. I emailed them and await their response. Here are some pictures of the two modems:

3Com/USR 56K Voice Faxmodem            Banksia Wave SP56

The 3Com came without any manual or disks. It was part of a bulk purchase by a colleague when we were running our own Internet server. John also supplies them to clients running MS Small Business Server. The Banksia comes with a half-decent manual, but mine came without the telephony software. You can see the two jacks on the side where I could plug in the mic/headset if I could use it for telephony. Drivers for most Banksia modems come with Win9.x and Win2k, but not for the Wave series.

Thomas has finished downloading FreeBSD. It's playtime :-)

Thought for the day:

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

Douglas Adams


Friday 15 December 2000

The front page of today's Hobart Mercury had a picture of the garden where Margie and I used to live back in 1980. On the opposite side of the road was a semi-trailer embedded in two houses and an unrecognisable BMW motor car. Two of the car's occupants, a mother and child, are dead. The occupants of the houses escaped serious injury. Miraculously, so did the occupant of the truck. It's a mystery why the driver of the truck used that road to enter the city; it's very steep and winding. The worst bend is the one where he lost control! I spent much of the afternoon drinking with the owner of the furniture in the truck's trailer. Martin was expecting to be reunited with it in Brisbane on Monday. Martin is a stand-up comedian, a not very well paid profession and regrets not having insured his worldly goods.

My Christmas shopping is done. I purchased Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener for Margie. We both thoroughly enjoyed 28 Barbary Lane so I'm hoping that she will enjoy it. Buying gifts for her terrifies me; she so often loathes what I purchase for her. Thomas will be getting a Logitech Wingman force feedback joystick. I know he'll love it. Christmas Day is a lot more fun these days. Years ago, I remember spending most of the day getting Police Quest and Space Quest to run for him. The King's Quest part of the bundle wouldn't run at all. The Police Quest install clobbered MS Word and that was the day I decided Thomas needed his own PC. These days Thomas solves 99% of his own PC problems.

Logitech Wingman force feedback joystick

For me, I purchased a hammer drill, power saw, bench grinder and power screwdriver. Or rather I purchased them for The House of Steel. Full marks to Paul Wright and staff at Tasmanian Power Tool Centre for service without servility!

What I want more than anything else is a decent colour inkjet printer. For my Australian readers, check this site out. I'll be shopping there when The House of Steel is finished. I really like the idea of the continuous feed ink system. What a pity it doesn't work with Epson's latest printers. The new pigment ink Stylus Photo 2000 P sounds like the bee's knees.

The BBC has an interesting site for those interested in the English language.

Hi,

I stumbled upon your e-mail about the CanoScan + Win2K problem on http://www.ttgnet.com/rbt/daynotes/2000/20000605.html. I've just ordered the CanoScan 2710 and am running Win2K at home.

I'd greatly appreciate any tips/feedback you could provide me regarding getting this combination to work well.

Thanks and Regards, Ananda

You will need ASPI32.EXE (just run it to install) *and* the latest version of the CanoScan software from Canon's site. Feel free to ask for further help if you need it. It's a really nice scanner.

Thought for the day:

The two most beautiful words in the English language are: "Cheque enclosed".

Dorothy Parker


Saturday 16 December 2000

I recently installed an AIWA TD 8000 IDE Travan tape drive on my computer. Everything was fine and dandy with each new tape, but when I tried to overwrite an older backup, Win2k's backup software claimed there was no media in the drive. There's an option to choose the backup that's on the tape, or new media. Neither worked. The Media tools in the Tools menu is greyed out.

My quick fix was to install a 60 day evaluation copy of Veritas Backup Exec 8.0. An Internet search revealed a lot of unhappy Win2k campers using ver. 8 Backup Exec so I am reluctant to purchase it before the bugs are let out if that's my only option. I'm only backing up one local partition of data files!

Found on the Internet:

One of the main ones is feature is ACPI (Advanced Component and Power Interface). The reason why it is so dangerous is that there are hardly, if any, completely ACPI compliant motherboards out there.

When WIN2K installs it assumes that it is being installed on a completely ACPI compliant system. It will try to check but this check is not failproof.

A dead giveaway is when you look at the hardware configuration and you notice that the RAID Controller is on IRQ9, the NIC (or NICs) are on IRQ9, the SCSI Adapter is on IRQ9. the USB is on IRQ9 etc

You can get weird things happening like the customer installs an ISDN card into his server and his NIC stops working.

The way to get around this:

At the beginning of the installation you will see a message at the bottom of the screen "Press F6 for further SCSI adapters" When you see this message then press F5 and you will be given a list of computer types. Choose Standard PC and this will install WIN2K without ACPI.

Or you can edit the TXTSETUP.SIF and change the value of "ACPIEnable =" from 2 to 0. How you then get it saved back to the CD-ROM is your business <gd&r>

; [ACPIOptions] 
; This section lists options that affect the installation of ACPI on x86 

; ACPIEnable 
; 0 - ACPI will be disabled at install time regardless of the BIOS 
; 1 - ACPI will be enabled at install time if an ACPI BIOS is present 
; 2 - ACPI will be enabled based on the GoodACPIBios list, the NWACL 
; and ACPIBiosDate 

; ACPIBiosDate = mm,dd,yyyy 
; Supplies the date that a BIOS must have to be considered good if it is 
; not in the GoodACPIBios list. If a BIOS has a date greater than this and 
; is not in the NWACL list, then it will be used unless ACPIEnable = 0 
; [ACPIOptions] ACPIEnable = 2 ACPIBiosDate = 01,01,1999

-oOo-

The afternoon and evening were spent with friends and the consumption of various fine wines and food. And the topic of computers arose not once :-)

Thought for the day:

The only certain means of success is to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.

Og Mandino


Sunday 17 December 2000

Today was HOT! Around 30C hot and humid. Finished rebuilding the irrigation system that was disrupted by the new house site and commenced irrigating the vegetable garden and fruit trees. The water from the dam is not under huge pressure, so we use rotary frame sprinklers and unfiltered water. There is enough pressure to run 2 sprinklers at a time and the unused outlets are blocked by plastic screw on caps. Watering in the heat of the day is a no-no, so I started at 5 pm and finished at 9 pm. Tomorrow morning will be a 5 am start and the full round of irrigation will finish by about 8 am. When I was market gardening this was the routine every day at this time of year.

Thought for the day:

Half full or half empty? To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be. To me it means it's time to order another round.

The Pompous Git


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2000

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Jonathan Sturm 2000