By Al Giovetti


Computer Upgrade Blues
(or Windows Pain)
by Al Giovetti

Sometimes it is better to listen to your own advice.

A few months ago I decided to upgrade my computer for the latest little wrinkle that the technology gurus at Intel came up with, the MMX chip. Not a small part of the impetus to go in this direction was the conversation with ex-tax client, now Intel Evangelist, and good friend who moved out to California to be nearer to the epicenter of the computer revolution. And of course I was sold on moving into a new technology, one that I felt was fully tested and ready for prime time.

The downfall of my system really was part Intel and part Microsoft, for at about the same time that I upgraded my computer I also installed the new Microsoft Office 97. The first problems that I saw was that my email account started working erratically. Some of my mail would not send correctly requiring me to us the internet mail facilities of Netscape to get some of the word out. And when 90% of your communications is on the Internet you have problems when you cannot get your electronic mail.

Another factor that possibly contributed to the mess was the switch from Compuserve and America Online to the Microsoft Network for my electronic mail provider. But it is not unusual for me to get into Dutch while installing the latest and greatest. I get paid to indulge my technology habit, I am a computer journalist. Hindsight is always 20-20, and I should have known that "the third upgrade (or was that time) is the charm."

My Internet and email accounts started exhibiting long sign on times. I was being dropped more quickly and more often from the Microsoft Network. These problems could be explained by increased traffic on my electronic provider of choice. But I now believe these minor problems heralded the system failure to come.

The real problems came about one month ago when my electronic mail ceased to function. I could no longer log onto the Microsoft Network. Then the kicker came when all of my software tried to log on to check for and get the monthly updates. Since the software could not get on the Internet a lot of error boxes had to be closed before I could continue using my computer.

The biggest culprit was Norton Anti-Virus (NAV) which was part of my windows startup and every time I rebooted the computer, NAV tried unsuccessfully to connect to the internet. Initially this was just an annoyance, requiring me to close the error notice boxes that Windows 95 started shoving in my direction. Eventually, the annoyance started to lock-up my computer on the boot.

The cure for a program which is in start which locks your computer is to reboot the computer in Safe Mode and remove the program from the startup folder in windows. Safe mode is enabled with the F8 function key after you see the phrase "Booting Windows 95." You must time your keypress so that it is not too soon or too late and you get a menu of about nine choices. Picking the "boot in safe mode without network connectivity" will get you into Windows without loading the startup programs.

Once in "Safe Mode" you need to find the folder Startup. Finding it can be as easy as looking through the folders in the C: drive by clicking on the "my computer" icon and then the "C: drive" icon. Once there I removed the offending "Norton Utilities" icon to the desktop. Now my computer would reboot.

I called the toll number for Windows 95 support, and I was told to reload Windows 95. According to the Microsoft Windows 95 technician, I could not reinstall Windows 95 without formatting the hard drive or installing it to a second directory unless I had the Upgrade disk. The technician recommended that if I wanted to install over the original installation, I needed to buy an Upgrade disk for Windows 95.

After obtaining and reinstalling the Windows 95 Upgrade disk, I was still having problems connecting to the internet, so I called the Windows 95 support line and recanted the litany of my Windows 95 problem. I then found out that the Windows 95 support did not extend to connectivity problems, but the technician felt sorry for me and consented to try to help with the problem.

After trying several things and spending several hours, we started to review the system configuration, when the technician determined that my computer was an MMX model. The Microsoft technician then informed me that an MMX motherboard required Windows 95 version OSR2. We went to the system configuration icon in the control panel of the start up menu to find I did not have OSR2, which has a B at the end of the Windows 95 version shown.

I did not have Windows 95 version OSR2. The technician informed me that version OSR2 is only sold with MMX motherboards, and that I had to go back to where I got the motherboard and purchase OSR2. So back I truck to the motherboard vendor.

Of course the vendor said that I can only buy OSR2 with the MMX motherboard. I explained that I already bought the motherboard and that no one told me about OSR2, but that I want it now. The dealer agreed to sell me OSR2 as long as I told no one that I purchased the OSR2 without a motherboard. I guess I just broke that promise.

Now I went back home and called the Microsoft Windows 95 toll support line. After listening to all nine choices I selected the option to talk to a human being and one came on the line who called himself the "walrus" and explained that is why he could help me because he was not one of the "eggmen." I resisted the temptation to hang up the phone.

The walrus informed me that this version of Windows 95 OSR2 was one that came with new computers, which could only be installed if: (1) you format the hard drive, (2) you put the files in a new directory, and not delete the old directory, so you have two complete versions of Windows 95, or (3) wait on hold until he asked someone else. When I expressed horror at the suggestion of formatting, the walrus explained that he formatted his hard drive on a regular basis. When the walrus returned, he informed me that we could install it to the same directory.

The resulting installation involved a little known command "dosstart" which will boot the computer CD ROM and Mouse files without putting them in separate autoexec.dos and config.dos files. "Dosstart" is an extremely useful file that allows you to run programs, which use the CD ROM and Mouse in DOS. The walrus explained that only walruses know about "dosstart" while eggmen do not.

My confidence renewed we launched into a total restructuring of all the ini files and any other files that would impede the loading of a Windows 95 disk which is only distributed with new computers into the original Windows 95 directory. I now had a bran new version of Windows 95 installed on my system free from the encumbrances of all the upgrades and programs that I had loaded over the years.

I tried to get my electronic mail by booting the Microsoft Network, Compuserve, Genie, America Online, Erols, Charm.Net, and Prodigy, but I still could not get on the internet or get my electronic mail. With no small amount of trepidation, I called the toll free Microsoft Network support line.

The representative was nice enough and she did help me to reinstall the "new" Microsoft Network off of the black upgrade CD-ROM as opposed to the original white-square-icon version, which is the "old" Microsoft Network. She also directed me to a diagnostic page of the Microsoft Network, which would upgrade my machine and fix all problems and bid goodbye after about two hours on the phone.

I should have known the problems never exhibit themselves while the service representative is on the phone. The problems always wait to manifest themselves after the service representative hangs up. When I signed on to get my electronic mail, the program could not file my archival mail file and would not give me admittance to the elusive electronically-charged missives.

It brings me great sadness to admit that my problems with the electronic mail of the Microsoft Network are still not over. I have lost all motivation on the matter and am now continuing to peruse my alternatives. I could forget the Microsoft Network, Microsoft Explorer, and Microsoft Office 97, switch back to Corel Office 7, Netscape, and the old Internet mail of Erols. I doubt that I would have the same litany of troubles that I have had with Microsoft.

Even so I would not have my mail from the last month, and perhaps it is a small price to pay for freedom from over one month of half-day phone calls that I still have not recovered from. I have run out of time and space for this article. It is now time to consider the topic of the next issue's column, specifically upgrading your computer to the Intel Pentium 2 MMX chip introduced on May 7, 1997. So until next time "Cu cu cachoo" and good bye from the eggman. To be continued next time..... I will let you know how this one comes out. Current score Microsoft 10; Al Giovetti 0.

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