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FRANK'S FALLACIES, FACTS, AND FICTION

(April 1995)

Hello. As many of you know by now, I have been cranking out an
article each month since December 1994 for the LANET news. This
helps me to "vent" the pent up frustrations of working on the
mysteries of Netware, Windows, and MS-DOS. Feedback from readers
is always appreciated and will be incorporated into the articles
that I write.

I can be reached via:
1. e-mail at: fchao@cerfnet.com
or
2. messaging via LANET BBS (via the default/general forum)

I will protect all responses via a cloak of anonymity, unless
I have your specific permission to use your name.

FICTION ??

Microsoft has working hard to counter the rumors that Windows 95 will actually be delayed until 1996. A whole bevy of gossip columnists have stated that there is no way that current problems in the most current "build" can be rectified by August of this year. Even a few leaks and hints have come out of Microsoft regarding delaying the release until the end of this year. I am real leery of Microsoft's claim that it will run on 8 megs of RAM. As reported in an earlier article, their claim that Microsoft Office 4.2--consisting of Word 6, Excel 5, and Powerpoint 4--would run on a 386 with 4 meg of RAM, turned out to be a total piece of fiction for me and various clients of mine last year. However, the emergence of Chicago is "real", "close" and "imminent" enough to the point that every person, that I have talked to, that is contemplating Netware training is also seriously considering the "Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer" curriculum instead.

I ordered and received my "Novell Netware 4.1 Special Edition SDK". "SDK" stands for "Software Developer's Kit". This CD-ROM contains a complete 2-user copy of Netware 4.1 and arrived with a stack of red manuals. All of this cost me $49.99 plus tax. It is a great deal. This offer was originally set to expire at the end of March but it is rumored that Novell has decided to extend it through June of this year. If you are interested, call 800-733-9673, Option 2, Option 2. Let me know if the rumor is for real. However, don't get me wrong: I do not think that I will get my hands on a real, live Netware 4.X network for another 3 to 5 years. I am just trying to "keep up with the Jones's". Various of my Netware-aware friends are buying this kit so I did not want to be the only kid on the block that did not have a copy.

FALLACIES ??

Last month, I did a lot of moaning about how VLM's:
1. Trash internal and external cache in 386's and 486's to the
point that these functions have to be turned off in the BIOS
setups,
2. Hog memory and cause the loss of "Shell to DOS" functions in
DOS applications,
3. As implemented in Personal Netware, fail to re-establish lost
connections, unlike the Netware Lite,
and
4. Make it harder for Windows 3.1 to behave but adding
significantly more RAM usage overhead to the client
workstation.

In response to my lambasting of VLM's last month, one Netware administrator told me that VLM's are working great for him. While he agrees with me that they do not do much for the typical end-user, this administrator is the cc:mail coordinator for a huge nationwide corporation. He says that the ability to load and unload vlm's in order reconfiguring workstations without rebooting is a major timesaver for him. This person is not exactly a typical point-and-click end-user--He has 2 servers running Netware on his network at his house and administers both 3.12 and 4.01 servers at work. It is encouraging to hear that someone out there is finding a use for VLM's--as a sub-utility for the administration of cc:mail, I suspect that over the next few years:

1) Novell will iron out some of the problems with them by
changing the source code in response to complaints like mine,
and
2) As users upgrade to 16 meg PC's and beyond, the problems that
they we are seeing with VLM's will go away because more RAM will
be available for VLM's to hog--opps, I mean "use".

In the meantime, I have noticed that many of the CNE's that have taken the Netware 4 and Netware 4 update classes are touting the virtues of VLM's. So be prepared for a "brainwashing" experience if you take either of these classes. However, most of the endusers and administrators that I have talked to in the past month, feel that the disadvantages of VLM's continue to outweigh the advantages, unless your network consists exclusively of Pentiums running 16 megs or more of RAM.

FACTS ??

The people that use Logitech's mice and trackballs love them. They come with more bells whistles and associated control software than Microsoft or Mouse Systems mice. Many CAD (Computer Aided Design) VARs (Value-Added Reseller's) and manufacturers "push" Logitech devices because it gives their CAD packages more functionality. However, as usual, there is no free lunch. Those who run Logitech devices must endure their quirks and problems: they use much more RAM than other brands of mice and they generally insist on using COM1:. When using a Logitech device, one must compensate and adjust the configuration of the PC or MAC computer for the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the Logitech "environment". Compounded with the challenges of Netware software, Logitech drivers provide a double whammy for the those of use who support client computers. Every time I install a Logitech mouse and driver for an computer client, I end up losing something, in addition to a night of sleep: for example, in one case the motherboard-based COM1: ports quit working whenever the Logitech driver was loaded and I had to install an I/O controller card with 2 COM ports on it. If transparency and frugality in the way of RAM usage is what you need, use Microsoft mice instead. However, most CAD packages like Autocad and MicroCad have a lot of neat middle and right mouse button features that do not work with Microsoft mice. In another recent case, a customer of mine found that with his AST Premium 486/33, both his "el cheapo" internal modem and his new Logitech mouse insisted on using COM1 and would not work when operated on any other COM port. We ended up with a not-so-optimal arrangement whereupon she uses a DB-25 switchbox to switch between an external modem and a Logitech mouse. As many of you can surmise from this scenario, I was running into the usual maxed out situation with network cards and other ISA boards using up all available IRQ interrupts. Whoever designs the next generation of desktop computers needs to put in another 20 IRQ interrupt lines into the architecture. I am sure that we will gladly ravenously use them all up also.

For versions 2.0 and 3.0 of Delrina's "Winfax", when automatic fax reception is enabled, and something is wrong with the associated modem, a nice, polite message stating that it "cannot communicate with the modem" pops up for a few seconds--nothing else much happens. However, when automatic reception is turned on for "Winfax Lite", all hell breaks loose: Windows 3.1 goes into an "Application Error", followed by a "Progman Error", followed by a lockup which requires a soft re-boot of the PC. That should teach those who obtain "Winfax Lite" bundled in as a freebie with various modems. In fact, some of the other communications software packages that are bundled with modems are equally atrocious. I am tired of looking at these gift horses in the teeth--getting buggy communications software is a baptism by fire that makes those who gingerly venture into the fascinating world of modems think that it is all either "hocus pocus" magic or "impossible". It is as if the modem manufacturers are trying to shoot themselves in their proverbial feet. There are plenty of good fax and "data" communications software offerings--some of them are even available for initial evaluation as shareware--that these vendors could bundle with their modems. Instead they chose some of the worse items of software on the planet.

My modem-using friends and clients tend to be of too types: those who want to spend as little as possible and those who ar e willing to pay a premium for more functionality. Those in the former category tend to suffer from the for-mentioned buggy software than is bundled with the cheaper modems, while those in the latter category generate other "challenges" for me to work on. One client loved all the fancy features of his high-end Zyxel 1496+ internal modems until the day that he replaced his SVGA card to an ATI Mach64 video controller. We found out that the Zyxel 1496+ modem maps into some of the video regions of upper memory (between 640 and 1k) and this makes the poor Mach 64 video controller think that the monitor is a screw-up monochrome VGA monitor.

At the moment, the Zyxel 1496+ modem is still my modem of choice for testing fax and "data" communications software. It has a whole suite of diagnostic commands that puts many test instruments to shame. It unfortunately grabs a chunk of the video area of upper RAM in order to do all these great things for you.

I just obtained a Cardinal fax/data modem that can runs at 28.8 kilobits per second (kbps) per the V.34 standard. It is definitely fast. However, I would be even happier if I could find any bulletin boards or on-line services that will communicate with my new modem via any of the flavors of 28.8 kbps--V.FC, V.FAST, or V.34. If any you out there know of any, speak up so that I can really "burn rubber" out in cyberspace.

In response to my statements regarding the lack of network awareness for Paradox for DOS, in the previous article, I received the following message from Wolf Kadavanich.

---------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 1995 07:20:29 -0800 (PST)
From: Wolf Kadavanich

Frank:

Just for the record. Paradox for DOS 3.5 and 4.0 are network aware. Trust me, I install these things for a living. There is no network version. Every one comes ready to run on a network. All you have to do is run NUPDATE. The difference in that regard between 4.0 and 4.5 is that you no longer NEED a software license. IOW, 4.5 no longer requires you to buy license numbers, which is what you get when you buy the LANPACK. That does not mean that you aren't still morally and legally obligated to buy enough copies for all concurrent users. It does not make the program network aware in any way. Incidentally, Paradox for Windows 4.5 and higher do not require a serial number either. They are just as network aware as the 3.5 DOS version, though. If you don't run IDAPI Configuration and set them up correctly, they still don't run on the network. That has nothing to do with the software being network unaware, but with incorrect setup. I have to troubleshoot these all the time, so I know it is easy to get the setup wrong.
--------------------------------------------------------------
I greatly appreciate this message from Wolf Kadavanich. It is jammed with good information. First, let's start with some level-setting, background-type thoughts:

Buy a single-user copy of

Wordperfect--any flavor,
Microsoft Access,
Microsoft Foxpro--any flavor,
or
Excel--any flavor,

Now install it into any DOS client workstation, taking all defaults.

Create a file/table.
Save it to any mapped drive that you have permission to do so on.

At this point, you have saved a file onto your server via the DOS redirection capabilities of your network "DOS" requester.

Now install any flavor of Paradox--DOS or Windows--
and try to save a table to your mapped drive and you will get a message that the file cannot be saved or something to that general effect.

The difference between Paradox and the other applications is that the creators of Paradox have incorporated some "features", also known as "gotchas" to detect the presence of a mapped network drive, and to prevent users from saving to them, in their default installation configurations. All a software developer has to do to make an application moderately network-aware is to write a straight DOS or MAC application and let the Netware DOS requester do the proper re-direction as needed.

However, like Wolf, I too have many customers who love Paradox. It is the only database system with capability in both low and high end capability--The DOS versions run on everything from 8088's to Pentium's, so I sat down one Saturday afternoon at a Netware 3.12 network and proceeded to figure out how to make Paradox 3.5 and 4.0 for DOS and Paradox for Windows 1.0 work in a LAN environment. In addition to doing the things that Wolf suggested, like run "nupdate", I learned a few tricks of my own and with the usual plug, play, pray, and scream routine, I was able to get all three versions of Paradox to save to and open files on mapped network drives. It is certainly not transparent to the end-user, however, so I am not really complaining, since it's quirks help keep me, and Wolf, out of the unemployment line. Incidentally, my Netware 3.12 instructor says that Lotus 123's various flavors have some of the same network-blocking" features" as Paradox.

Four male LANET members have commented to me about how when they spend time with their computers, their wives or "significant others" get jealous. I have not been able to contact any female members of this organization to determine of the same happens for the female members of our organization, but I decided to pass this little gem on to those of you who are nurturing or seeking "relationships". That is evidently one of the effects of computer use in home environments. One computer consultant stated to me that he is about to buy a computer for his home so that he can spent more time with his wife but she has hinted that when he is home, she expects him to talk to her instead of some damned computer. So he is in a "Catch-22" situation--having a computer at home lets him shift some his arduous "keyboard pounding" hours from his workplace to his home but having a computer at his house could aggravate the heck out his wife. He is currently embarking on a long process to tactfully educate her about this dilemma to see if there is some sort of compromise or "middle ground" that will keep the arrival of a home computer from allowing a couple of some divorce lawyers from making a fortune off of them. In the mean time, keep me posted on the "computer widow" and "widowers" issue that is the "negative" side of having computers in the home.

For many people, the advantages of having computers where they live far outweigh any disadvantages. In fact, some folks are taking things one step farther: Some of the readers of this rag have contacted me to ask me why some of my clients are starting to install networks in their homes.

Here is my initial attempt at an answer:

Let us ignore the Macintosh environment for now and focus solely on IBM-compatible PC's.

Networks are sprouting up in homes for the some of the same reasons that they are used in the the business/work environment. In the home environment, networks are sprouting up in order to provide for the sharing of resources and files. For the price of a network card (between 40 and 60 dollars) and a copy of Novell Lite or Personal Netware (between 55 and 85 dollars), some RG-58 coaxial cabling and a few evenings and weekends, every IBM-compatible PC in the household can share the same quad speed CD-ROM drive and laser printer. Many of these "heads of households" were originally planning to run parallel cables and switch the laser printers with switchboxes anyway. But if I can talk to them before they do their spending spree on such a limited "network", I can usually talk them into spending less on thinnet RG-58 coax and a bit more on network cards and software. Then, invariably, I get the following questions:

Can't I run Windows for Workgroups instead of that Netware stuff? The answer to that one is: sure if you do not plan on sharing DOS applications. Windows for Workgroups is an extension of the Windows 3.1 operating "operating" environment. As long as there are a lot of good DOS applications that run better in plain vanilla DOS, I recommend running a network operating system that comes from a networking company like Novell. Artisoft's Lantastic is also good. It is bit more expensive and does not give as good of an upgrade path into the true server-based environment.

Can't I run modular cables instead of that RG-58 coaxial stuff? The answer to that one is sure but to run the modular stuff, you have to buy a 10Base-T hub which also known as a concentrator and even the cheapest hub will run you a few hundred dollars. Also, you have to use Level 4 or 5 modular cables, not the untwisted cabling that is used for telephone signals. For a few more years, but not for long, modular 10Base-T cabling will continue to be more expensive than RG-58 coax.

Why would I need a "real" network in my home when I can run keyboard cables and monitor cables to various places so that people can share the same IBM-compatible PC?

Three of my clients have asked me this question over the past 3 weeks. First of all, long keyboard and monitor cables are darned expensive. Second of all, that configuration leaves the whole household with one CPU processor--a single 386 or 486 in the whole place. How the heck is your "significant other" going to play "DOOM", while you are doing "Quicken", while the kid is accessing the "Encarta" encyclopedia to work on her Ph.D.? Only Unix-based computer systems can provide multi-tasking into terminals-- not the lowly Intel-based processors. Not even the almighty Macintoshes.

What are the drawbacks/pitfalls of a "home area network" which is what Robert Metcalf, the inventor of ethernet, calls this phenomenon? The most obvious one to me is, if things are not set up right, you, your kid, or your "significant other" could access or delete file that belong to each other. This is a risk in any situation that lets various computer share file storage resources. The default setup of any of these peer-to-peer networks is that all users can get to all other user's files. As a result, someone in the household has to become savvy enough to administer the whole shebang. But in your case, that is why you are reading this diatribe so I will surmise that their will be at least one member in your household that can keep make things work.

Unlike the business environment, where file/hard drive sharing is a main reason for the existence of networks, in the home network environment, such sharing is secondary to the sharing of CD-ROM's and printers. At the initial installation of a "home area network", I recommend limiting the sharing of files to specific applications and directories of your various hard drives. That way, if your kid's K: drive on her 386 is actually mapped to a subdirectory C:\SHARED on your Pentium, and your kid types in

DELETE *.*

at the

K:\>

prompt,

you will loose the contents of the C:\SHARED subdirectory,
instead the entire contents of your C: drive.

The sharing of hard drive directories should be turned on, as needed, unlike the default settings that most of the peer-to-peer operating settings--which tend to provide an environment where everyone sees all.

As previously mentioned, the 2 most valid reasons for a home network are printer and CD-ROM sharing. Of these two reasons, the "killer" reason is CD-ROM sharing. Lacking a laser printer at each PC in a household, one can still use the sneakernet solution for printing files by transferring them via the hand-carried floppy disk. But moving CD-ROM drives around is almost unworkable. The darn things, even the external ones, were meant to belong to a single PC. Everyone that I know that has tried to swap CD-ROM drives between PC's has ended up dropping one or breaking the connectors on the cables that were constantly connected and reconnected. As result, CD-ROM sharing is evidently the number one reason and printer sharing is the second reason for the sprouting of home networks.

The third reason would be that you want to get ground floor experience in a technology that is becoming increasing important in the business world and if you are reading this, this may be the primary reason for you to install a network in your home. If you have succeeded in doing any of this, drop me a line tell me what has happened at your "castle" and I can describe your experiences in a future article.

Several of you LANET folk have contacted me to tell me that I missed a great meeting in March. I regret doing so. I ran into a demanding end-user that does not understand the concept of the 8-hour workday. I am a documented LANET member again: After sending in my membership renewal check in February, I was promptly put back on the mailing list and am receiving copies of this rag in the mail again.

Many thanks to those who have contacted me to respond to my rantings and ravings. This article has now evolved into a "forum"--It is more of a collective effort than in previous months.

(The previous diatribe is provided by the author for your edification and is solely the private opinion of the author. Neither LANET, SCNUI, NUI, Novell, the author's unsuspecting employers and clients, nor anyone else for that matter, can vouch for the veracity of what was stated.)


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