PuterGeek.Com News
Issue # 13

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Hello everybody! First a couple of exciting pieces of news. We've had aprox 1500 hits to the site since Friday morning! (which took us over the magic 10,000 hit mark) This is mainly due to the site being mentioned in Mr. Kesseler's email newsletter "The Cool Tricks and Trinkets Newsletter" issue #57!


This is what he had to say about PuterGeek.Com...

"~ PuterGeek - Free service to help you with computer problems. VERY COOL http://www.putergeek.com/ Peter Crockett <webmaster@putergeek.com>"

Needless to say, I'm very pleased about this. It's taken me the whole weekend just to answer all the email I received! Also to all the people that have just subscribed... Thanks for joining, and if you'd like I can send you the previous newsletters as attachments (warning over 200K in size) if you'd like. Just let me know...

Some changes to the site include an resolution to the Gateway 'puter problem, and our brand NEW POLLS!!! SO please stop by and take the Poll, it'll change often and you can view the results as well (brought to us by the programming skills of Andy! awent@putergeek.com) If any of you have any suggestions for future Polls please send the questions (and possible answers) to webmaster@putergeek.com.

Let me remind you of all the ways to contact me for help. Email to helpme@putergeek.com is answered ASAP but if I'm on the road it might be 1-2wks at the worst before you get an answer. Live chat (IRC) either from my web page or via your favorite IRC client. Normally there's very little traffic so it's a very nice way to have a live conversation without the expense of a phone call. and finally, you can always call me (330.837.2789) anytime you have a question/problem that's either to complex or confusing for email/chat. Remember, if you can see me in the PeterCam then it's safe to call me, and that I'll be quick to answer emails or chat requests.

For all you gamers out there, DirectX 7.0 is now out. It's a "must download" go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/release.asp?ReleaseID=12098

Now for all the good stuff...

FROM the "LangaList" www.langa.com

"Real Answers for Virtual Memory Questions

In my most-recent online column for Windows Magazine ("Fred's System Setup Secrets" http://www.winmag.com/columns/fred/1999/0831.htm ) readers such as yourself posted a boatload of great responses and sparked some excellent question-and-answer dialogs. But some of the follow-on topics were extremely complex and practically begged for a more in-depth discussion on their own: Windows' Virtual Memory was at the top of the list. That's what this week's column is about.

In that previous column, I said that if you use "My Computer/Properties/ Performance/Virtual Memory [you can] set virtual memory the way you want. In systems with abundant disk space, I place the swap file out of the way on the second partition, and set a minimum size equal to the amount of RAM, with no maximum size set."

Now here's the background explanation I couldn't fit into the original column: Virtual memory is a "swap file" on your hard drive that acts as an extension of your RAM. When Windows runs short of RAM, it uses the virtual memory space to free up RAM by temporarily moving--- swapping--- chunks of data temporarily to your hard drive until they're needed again.

On its own, Windows creates what's called a dynamic swap file: the file grows and shrinks as needed. (In fact, if your hard drive has ever suddenly come to life with a long burst of activity that has no apparent cause, it's probably Windows automatically adjusting the size of your swap file.) Trouble is, growing and shrinking the swap file takes time and CPU cycles, and prevents your hard drive from doing anything else until the resizing is complete. And as a swap file grows, piecemeal, it can end up scattered in several locations across your hard drive. Combined, the extra housekeeping needed to monitor and manage the size of the file and the time lost in dealing with swap file fragments can make Windows seem sluggish.

One way to help overcome this is to manually set a generous minimum swap file size. This can speed up your system in about four different ways (detailed in the full column, available via the link below).

That's all fine, but several readers wrote to say they either couldn't change their virtual memory settings (the option was grayed-out) or that the settings would not "stick" and would revert to the default settings on reboot. Relatedly but separately, there's also quite a bit of debate among techies about just what is the best size for swap files. the old rule of thumb (2.5x the amount of RAM in your system) worked fine when systems typically came with 8 or 16MB of RAM, but gets silly in today's systems with 64, 128 or 256MB of RAM.

So, this week's WinMag column and discussion tells you more about the advantages of taking manual control of your virtual memory; what to do if you can't reset your virtual memory size or if your system won't hold its settings; and tells you my guidelines for how much virtual memory I think you should set aside for systems of *any* size. I also include some "from the horse's mouth" links from Microsoft on swap file issues, and point you to two great blasts from WinMag's past on 10 ways to make Windows 98 run better, and 10 ways to make NT run better. (Both involve swap files.)

Read the full column, and then share with us *your* swap file secrets. What tips can you share? What optimization tricks do you know? And just what is the perfect size for a swap file, anyway? Join in, starting late Monday (Sept 13 EDT; GMT-4) via the link on the front page at the WinMag site: http://www.winmag.com "

Easy Way To Save BIOS Settings, #2

Reader Carol Anne Ogdin, who has shared good information with us in past issues, suggests the following:

Another arrow in your quiver of system integrity tricks: I have a copy of the freeware CMOSSAVE.com, CMOSREST.com and CMOSCHK.com on every computer. Every so often, I copy CMOS to a diskette and preserve all settings (that way you don't have to write them down).... [C]heck 'em out at

http://hotfiles.zdnet.com/cgi-bin/texis/swlib/hohttp://tfiles/search.html (NOTE: THIS IS MUST HAVE STUFF!!--Peter)

With new viruses corrupting CMOS (which is why you can't reboot after they've done their deed...they've corrupted all the configuration info the BIOS relies on), this utility set is vital to good system health.--Carol Anne ( http://www.deepwoods.com )

Carol Anne also was a consultant involved in the design of the original IBM PC, and she offers the following background information:

The BIOS is in Read-Only Memory (ROM). That's because it has to hold all that "heart of the system and boot-up" software even when the computer is totally disconnected from power. That left a problem: Where do you store the information like date and time...and, later, the information about disk configuration, etc.? It required a small RAM. But, RAM would require some kind of battery backup...and they didn't want the user to have to change the battery every couple of weeks (like the Palm Pilot).

So, they selected a RAM made with Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor technology. The biggest advantage of CMOS is that because of the clever circuit design it consumes nearly zero power...except when it's actually changing. That meant that a small "button" battery could keep the CMOS RAM alive for years. The third major component of memory is Dynamic RAM...the conventional "main memory" we have 64 MB or so of (the earliest PCs had 64 K!); because of it's cheap design, it needs to be constantly read and re-written, several hundred thousands times a second, which is why it's a comparative energy hog...most of which it gives off as heat.

Going further: One of the problems with BIOS, especially as it grew to encompass more things (VGA, power management, etc.) in an era of changing specs (e.g., power management), was software obsolescence and bugs. So, high-end manufacturers began using "Flash" memory, a read- mostly technology, to store the BIOS. Flash is a technology that erodes slightly when you write it, but reading bears no such penalty. In early Flash memory, it wasn't a good idea to write more than 10,000 times over the life of the chip. But, that was perfect for an upgradable BIOS: Load it from a diskette--say, once a year--and read from it all day long, every day.

Finally, in the need for speed, designers began to discover that the ROM and Flash approaches were slowing the system down. So, as conventional Dynamic RAM got dirt-cheap, designers added a clever trick to BIOS: At system boot-up, copy the contents of ROM or Flash to faster Dynamic RAM main memory, and gain the advantages of higher speed during computer operation....

Thanks, Carol Anne! (Check out her site at http://www.deepwoods.com )

By the way, I've had a backup battery die in as little as one year in one PC; in another, it's gone fully 7 years without a problem. It's hard to predict when the battery will die, but if you've had your system for a while and find that it no longer keeps track of the time or its system settings between power-offs, try the $1.79 fix and simply replace the watch-type battery on the motherboard. (Any Radio Shack sells replacements.) It may be all you need to avoid sending the system back to the manufacturer, or hiring a technician!


Sigh. The good news is that there are patches and workarounds. The bad news is that many new Windows bugs came to light in the last week. (If you're running Win98, check Windows Update as several of these and other patches mentioned in the last few issues have just now become available.)

Malformed Telnet Argument Bug: Affects all Win9x systems; can let a hacker possibly crash your system. Win 95 patch:

contents/WUCritical/Telnet/Defa ult.asp Windows 98/98SE Patch: Check Windows Update, or download

/contents/WUCritical/Telnet/Defa ult.asp More info: http://www.microsoft.com/security/bulletins/MS99-033faq.asp

IE5 ImportExportFavorites Bug: Affects IE5: It could "allow a malicious web site operator to take inappropriate action on the computer of a person who visited the site. Customers can immediately protect themselves against this vulnerability by disabling Active Scripting in IE 5, as discussed in the FAQ. Microsoft also is developing a patch that will restore safe operation to the affected feature." More info: http://www.microsoft.com/security/bulletins/MS99-037faq.asp

Set Cookie Header Caching Bug: Affects Microsoft Site Server (3.0 and Commerce Edition) and Commercial Internet System 2.0 and 2.5. "The vulnerability could allow a web site visitor to inadvertently access another customer's data, if their Internet gateway caches web pages via a proxy server and the web site authenticates based on a GUID." Patch is at

ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/bussys/sitesrv/sitesrv-public/fixes/usa/siteserver3/ Hotfixes-PostSP2/ProxyCache/ More info: http://www.microsoft.com/security/bulletins/MS99-035faq.asp

"NT 4.0 Does Not Delete Unattended Installation File" Bug: Affects NT4 workstation/server/enterprise/terminal: "When an unattended installation of Windows NT 4.0 completes, a copy of the file that contains installation parameters remains on the hard drive. Depending on the method that was to perform the installation and the specific installation parameters that were selected, the file could contain sensitive information, potentially including the local Administrator password." Workaround: http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q241/0/48.asp More info: http://www.microsoft.com/security/bulletins/MS99-036faq.asp

CMOS Save/Restore App

Large sites have a tendency to move their files around; that happened last week when a file mentioned in this newsletter wasn't available on a Ziff-Davis site when many of you went looking. The error page you got instead did offer a search function, and if you used that function, you could locate the file. But, alas, many people gave up and didn't try searching on their own.

Reader James E Biesterfeld reminded me that the original files were written by Roedy Green of Canadian Mind Products. (Thanks, James!)

I'd lost track of Roedy over the years: some 10 or 12 years ago, he used to be a very prominent "BIXen;" a member of the old "BIX" or "Byte Information Exchange." I used to look for Roedy's posts---they were always informative, authoritative, and (as often as not, it seemed) accompanied by some small, tightly-coded, clever program Roedy crafted to overcome a specific problem or deficiency in PCs.

To the dismay of many BIXen, Roedy became seriously ill and signed off from BIX, dropping out of sight for a while. But thanks for Mr. Biesterfeld, I was able to track down Roedy and his company: http://mindprod.com/products.html

Check it out: Roedy offers a pile of mini-apps, each highly targeted to a specific purpose: Most are free for the download. And among the many apps, you'll find Roedys' CMOS Save, Restore and Check programs.


Here's another piece of clever code, this time from Shane Brooks. "98Lite" started as a project to disentangle IE from Windows itself. It's now grown into a full-featured app that can really pare Windows down to its minimum (far beyond what Microsoft says is normally possible)-- and result in a faster, more-stable system!

If you're interested in just what's essential in Windows, and would like to see what can be done without the bells and whistles, check out http://www.98lite.net !

What About Windows' Cache?

Responding to the current (and ongoing) discussion on virtual memory (the "swapfile") on the WinMag site, reader Victor Werbin wrote:

Virtual memory settings are only half of the puzzle. The Cache is the other (and in my mind, more important) setting to play with. As far as I'm concerned it is ridiculous that windows sucks up most of your memory to store files that it thinks you are going to use and then when you actually need memory it starts swapping stuff to disk to free up memory that would have been there waiting for you if it hadn't stolen it in the first place.

Limiting the cache did far more to increase my performance than setting a permanent swapfile did. I don't know where you change this setting in Win98, but in 95 it is done in the sys.ini file. I can't remember my rational for using the settings that I used, but here is what my entry in sys.ini looks like:

[vcache] MinFileCache=512 MaxFileCache=6144

I notice that at the 98lite site on this page http://www.98lithttp://e.net/perform.html under the second chart they show that a normal tweaking for them includes a vcache min and max of 4096. Maybe you have discussed this issue before, if not I think you might investigate and come up with some recommendations. Keep up the good work. I've gotten some great info from you. Thanks, Victor

Indeed, there may be something to this; Microsoft acknowledges that the Windows cache gets bogged down after long periods of file activity. (See http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q238/5/48.ASP; thanks to WinMag guru Dave Methvin for pointing this out.) So, in theory, changing the cache size should limit the amount of "paging" (swapping out chunks, or "pages" of memory).

But on the other hand, Microsoft also says this:

Changing the cache size is not a good method of limiting paging. Paging through the cache would quickly overwhelm it and make it useless for other file I/O. Although swap file I/O operations do not go through the cache, memory-mapped files and executable files do. The cache, however, is designed to make sure it cannot be overwhelmed by such I/O operations.

Changing the cache size (even if you could) probably would not have much effect on paging. The cache grows and shrinks as needed. If the system begins to page a lot, the cache shrinks automatically. However, people often think they are seeing a lot of paging, but they are really seeing other disk activity, such as Windows 98 building its icon cache or the cache lazy writing.

So, which is right--- Microsoft's "wouldn't have much effect" or the anecdotal evidence of some users that manually setting the cache sizes does help? I'm trying some of the new settings myself using an automated freeware tool, and I hope some of you will do so, too. Either way, join in the very active discussion area at http://www.winmag.com/columns/fred/1999/0913.htm and share your results; I'll be posting mine on Monday!

NOTE: here are the settings I use on all of 'puters. [vcache] MinFileCache=1024 MaxFileCache=8096 (no more than 1/4 system ram) ChunkSize=512

Update on the "Java Update"

Several issues ago, I told you about a potentially major security hole in Microsoft's Java implementation. (See http://www.langa.com/newsletters/Sept-2-99.htm#bug1 ) Microsoft initially issued a full-blown (6MB) replacement for the entire Java subsystem, and followed up with a much smaller Windows Update patch that simply altered your existing Java setup.

Reader George Combos did some digging and found the following:

The 161 KB JVM patch on the WU site is version 3167. The 6 MB JVM update (full package) at http://www.microsoft.com/java/vm/dl_vm32.htm is version 3186.

When a Win98/98 SE user goes to WU (windowsupdate.microsoft.com) after upgrading with JVM 3186 full package, the ActiveX engine that searches the user's computer for installed updates shows only the JVM patch 3167 [161 KB] as uninstalled (critical upgrade).

Therefore I believe Win98/98 SE users need to install both, the JVM 3186 full set first, and only after that go to WU to get the small JVM 3167 patch. The 3167 patch is not available (yet) as a separate download from the MS JVM page, and Win95/IE5 users cannot install it. :(

Also, if a Win98/98 SE user goes to WU without having JVM 3186 (full) installed, it also shows this one as a critical upgrade.

Keep up the excellent work! Sincerely, George Gombos

Interesting, George! I'm not sure you'd need both---if you've added the full version, then adding the small patch probably wouldn't add any functionality. It might, however, stop the Update site from telling you you needed a "critical update."

Anyway, with the version numbers, now readers can see which version, if any, they've upgraded to. (Use the techniques described in http://www.langa.com/newsletters/Sept-2- 99.htm#bug1 to get your Java VM version number.)


Reader "Irene" tried the 5-step do-it-yourself Y2K test article I wrote about a while ago. (See http://www.winmag.com/library/1999/0101/fea0061.htm ) Her results may be interesting to anyone who hasn't tested their system yet:

Hey Fred:

Despite your warnings and encouragements, I procrastinated and delayed the task of peeking inside this mystery machine of mine to determine whether or not it was Y2K-Ok. Fear was a major deterrent -- fear of screwing up the computer and fear that I would find out that I was Y2K-NotOk.

Add to the mix the fact that just the thought of doing anything without the benefit of Windows caused me to age well beyond my years. I had thought BIOS were paragraphs in the back of a book that told you about the author.

That said - guess what? I did it. I finally decided to give it a go. I had read your pleadings for many months, so I went to the referenced WinMag page and followed the directions. I was terrified. My heart was pounding as the thought of my computer imploding was forefront in my mind. I expect that the majority of your readers are more techno-savvy than I am and would scoff heartily at me. However, for those few who are in the same position, please continue to remind them and to let them know that if I can venture, albeit briefly, into the windowless world and return safely, then perhaps they could do it also. Keep up the great work. Thanks, Irene

Glad it worked for you, Irene. The 5-step test is fast, free, and actually more accurate than some of the commercial Y2K-compliance tests I've seen. Plus, it doesn't try to sell you anything (the way many Y2K test suites do, using fear to make you want to update your hardware or software).

Y2K testing can be easy, free, and take only a few minutes! With only 14 weeks to the Y2K deadline, if you haven't yet tested your system, you really ought to now. Check it out at http://www.winmag.com/library/1999/0101/fea0061.htm .

CACHEMAN is a nifty freeware applet I wrote about a long time ago in the LangaList; it simplifies adjusting your cache settings two ways: First, it puts a nicely graphical front end on the process (which sure beats editing the system.ini file in Notepad!); and more significantly, it automatically suggests the settings you should use, based on how you use your PC.

Cacheman is a run-once application: It's active only when you're actually choosing parameters; it then makes its adjustments to your system and never has to run again (unless you want to try different parameters). In normal use, except for the brief time when you're actively setting the parameters, Cacheman uses zero RAM and zero CPU cycles. Nice!

The original Cacheman was designed for Win95; I stopped using it when I switched to Win98 because Win98's memory management is somewhat different from (and better than) Win95's. But a new version of Cacheman released about eight weeks ago correctly works with either Win95 or Win98.

I've been using the new version for a while, and like it a lot. You can read more about it at http://www.outertech.com/ or jump straight to the download site at http://www.outertech.com/en/down/dl_cacheman.html .

Security Problem On Shared Internet Connections

If you or your business is NOT using a Windows 9x or NT box to share an internet connection, you can safely skip this item---you're not affected.

But if you're using any version of Windows 9x or NT to share an internet connection (including if you use Win98SE's built- in "ICS/Internet Connection Sharing" service) then an obscure bug may open your systems to "denial of service" attacks or worse. In fact, hackers can use this bug to find out far more about your systems or network then they should be able to.

The bug involves something called a "Spoofed Route Pointer," and it's complicated. You can get all the gory details at http://www.microsoft.com/security/bulletins/ms99-038faq.asp

So far, Microsoft has only developed a patch for Windows NT 4.0 Workstation, Server and Enterprise Edition. It's at ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/bussys/winnt/winnt-
public/fixes/usa/nt40/Hotfixes-Po stSP5/Spoof-fix

Patches for Windows 95, 98, 98SE and the NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition will be "released shortly." Sigh.

If you're sharing an internet connection among several machines---as I am--- keep your eyes peeled for the patch! (Or: keep reading the LangaList---I'll let you know when the patch becomes available.)

SIDENOTE: I've got to say it! (I know you all use Win9x) IF you use Linux this isn't a problem! Linux can do IP mask flawlessly (one internet connection for ALL your 'puter's on a LAN. PLus it's a firewall)--Peter

Win98SE Shutdown Fix Fix

No, that's not a typo. Win98SE was supposed to cure shutdown problems that plagued some original Win98 installations.

Microsoft then released a "Shutdown fix" that solved some--- but not all--- of those problems. Now, Microsoft has released fixes and wokarounds to help in those cases that the fix left um, unfixed.

The general information is in this Microsoft page: http://www.microsoft.com/windows98/downloads/
contents/WURecommended/S_WUFeat ured/Win98SE/Default.asp

For additional information on this and many other Win98- related topics, see Scot Finnie's excellent "Win98 Insider" at http://www.winmag.com/win98/newsletter/1999/0922.htm

Dear Windows-Help.NET Subscriber,

Computer security experts are warning that as the January 1 2000 date approaches, we will see an increase in the number of Y2K (Year 2000) related viruses and hoaxes.

There are Y2K viruses who use the 1 January 2000 date as a trigger for their malicious payloads, programs that gain entry to your system posing as Year 200 solutions (Trojan Horses), and Y2K related hoaxes.

Last week we were notified by Microsoft of a Trojan Horse, send in an e-mail purporting to be a free Microsoft Year 2000 countdown clock.

Here is the text resembling the e-mail:

From: support@microsoft.com Subject: Microsoft Announcement Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 23:37:05 +0200

To All Microsoft Users,

We are excited to announce the Microsoft Year 2000 Counter.

Start the countdown NOW.

Let us all get in the 21 Century.

Let us lead the way to the future and we will get YOU there FASTER and SAFER.

Thank you,

Microsoft Corporation

Attached is a file with such names as Y2KCOUNT.EXE, Count2K.exe, or other names.

If launched, the virus program replaces the Wsock32.dll file on the user's local system, with a Trojan version that gives the user the unknown ability to send fake messages. The Wsock32.dll file is essential for Net connection. The Trojan also steals user identifications and passwords.

NOTE: Please email if you get this type of email!!--Peter

Western Digital recalls 400,000 hard drives

Western Digital, announced this week that it will recall approximately 400,000 of its WD Caviar 5400 RPM EIDE hard drives, because of a faulty internal chip. The chip, which affects the disk drive motor, causes problems to erupt in about six to twelve months of full-time use. The affected drives were manufactured between August 27, 1999 and September 24, 1999 and range in capacity from 6.4GB to 20.5GB. None of Western Digital's WD Expert, WD Enterprise, and WD Performer hard drives are affected.

Western Digital released a utility that will identify the affected WD Caviar hard drives. Check out the Western Digital Web site for instructions and download of this Drive Testing Utility.

FROM Lockergnome www.lockergnome.com

WhatCpuIs v1.01b1 [496k] W9x/NT FREE

http://www.gene6.com/files/whatcpuis.zip http://www.gene6.com/prod5.html

"WhatCpuIs is a simple utility that displays the type of microprocessor you have in your PC. Forget about opening the case to find out! This version supports the latest processors (such as the AMD ATHLON, Pentium III, etc.)." The author's English may be a little sketchy, but his program isn't. You'll quickly uncover your processor's Type, Family, Model, and Stepping information (as well as a few other things).

Don't start with me today. Actually, you can start, but not until I give you the 'go ahead.' How many items are in your Startup folder? Not sure? Click the Start Button, select 'Run,' type "STARTUP" (without the quotes), and hit ENTER. Wow, ya gotta lotta pretty stuff in there! They'll launch in alphabetical order, and you should be able to rename all of the shortcuts in there. If you want to specify their exact launching order, rename them with numbers. '1_program' would go first, '2_program' would go second, etc.. Okay, you can start any day now.

Beep v1.2 [21k] DOS FREE

http://www.ozemail.com.au/~mynx/quentisl/programs/beep12.zip http://www.ozemail.com.au/~mynx/quentisl/programs/beep.html

I used to hate having to reboot my computer late at night (for fear that I might wake up my roommate with the loud BEEP). Nowadays, I don't have a roommate (just a wife, who sleeps soundly upstairs when I'm working downstairs). I'll beep all I want; in fact, sometimes I go out of my way just to beep. You can have a beepin' good time, too, with this beepin' product. It allows you to 'beep' your internal computer speaker at will (which is perfect for batch files). What the beep?

Till next time... Peter Webmaster@PuterGeek

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Last Revised: 10/23/2000