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June 30, 2007
Telnet list
I added three new BBSs to the Telnet list: Asylum, xaragmata and X-bit.

Future entries
This Blog page is getting kinda long and for those with slow connections it might take a while to load. Accordingly, future entries will be in other pages, with a new page added when the current page gets too long. The link at the top of this page will go to a list of all blog pages, starting with the first. The main index page will be updated to link to the most recent blog page, but all existing pages will keep the same address so that bookmarks and search engine hits will work in the future.

[don't you just hate it when a search engine leads to a blog page and you get the CURRENT blog page instead of the page you were looking for?]

Nothing to snezee at!

June 24, 2007
XP continued   (nothing to sneeze at!)
If you read my last blog entry you were probably left wondering what I meant about the two partitions on the 250 GB hard drive and what I did with the other 120GB Western Digital drive. This is a somewhat convoluted story but I'll make it brief.

A while back I bought a 250 GB hard drive and quickly realized two things: #1 my IDE port couldn't handle it #2 98SE couldn't partition it. I had come up against two aspects of the infamous 137GB barrier. Reading the manual that came with the hard drive I concluded that I needed to get an add on IDE card and then partition it using MAXBLAST.

So I installed the Raid controller which also had nonraid UDMA133 functionality and partitioned the HD with MAXBLAST, on the theory that 98SE would see two partitions less than 137GB. It seemed to work at first but over the next few months I began to notice that files on the second "f:" partition were getting corrupted. There was no discernible pattern to this except that it grew worse as more files were added and it could not be fixed with FDISK. I had everything from cross links to bizzare file names to files with a reported size of multiple Terra Bytes!

In the meantime I found that everthing on the first "e:" partition was fine. A problem with the hard drive itself should affect both partitions, not just one. So I decided that the problem must have something to do with the way 98SE was handling this hard drive that was more than 137 GB. According to the harddrive manual and the MAXBLAST instructions what I did should have have worked, but for some reason it didn't. It's as though it had problems with files beyond 137 GB even though it had been paritioned using Maxblast. Evntually I concluded that I'd have to give up on the F: partition until I upgraded to XP.

When I realized I didn't need the second 120GB WD for the second computer I decided I would salvage what I could from the F: drive, moving the good files to other drives. I then changed the 250GB from master to slave and put the 120GB on the same channel. This would cause the new drive to be seen by 98SE as E: and cause e: and f: to become f: and g:, I could then copy from the new f: to the new e:. This worked out just as I planned and 98SE was happily seeing all the e: files just where they should be.

Now I could repartition the 250GB as a single NTFS partition with MAXBLAST and when I installed XP I would have single 250GB partition into which I could copy a lot of files and thus free up space on D: and E: (with a new XP installation on c:, it would be virtually empty). 98SE, because it doesn't recognize NTFS drives, shouldn't see the f: drive at all and should leave it alone. It did. XP, in the meantime, is happily using the 250 GB HD without problems.

When I fist installed XP the 250GB was still divided up and the second 120GB WD hadn't been installed yet. Although 98SE happily sees c: d: and e: and ingnores what should be f:, XP assigns drive letters differently. The newly partitioned 250 is assigned e: and what whould be the e: drive (master on the same channel on which the 250GB is slave) is assigned h:. The DVD ROM is f: the DVD writer is g: and the flash card reader is i:. Since the applications from 98SE will have to be freshly installed in XP, this strange lettering system shouldn't cause any issues. I am curious, though, as to what will happen when I take out the 250GB and replace it with a larger drive. Will it be the new e: or will it be assigned i: or even j:? Of course, the new drive will probably require an SATA adaptor so all bets are off!

I'm still learning the nuances of XP. Just this morning, for example, I finally got rid of that stupid frog!

:)

Nothing to sneeze at!
Blue ray disks





Mobile rack tray with 98SE

IDE rack tray showing windows 98SE dirve installed inside

June 23, 2007
CD/DVD FAQ
It had been a while since I updated my CDR FAQ and a lot of things have changed. DVDR has eclipsed CDR in popularity and economy per gigabyte of storage, for example. Also, LightscribeTM has beome a hot topic and a new format called Blu-rayTM shows potential for becoming the defacto standard and ultimately replacing both CDR and DVDR. So I wrote a new series of pages highlighting recent developments.

Windows XP
For a while I had thought about installing Windows XP and recent developments convinced me it was time to look into actually doing it. I did not upgrade to windows XP when it first came out because I didn't like the idea of having to call Microsoft every time I upgraded my motherboard and I didn't think it was any of their business either! I knew, however, that someday some hardware or software I wanted to use would force me to take the plunge.

Originally I was going to upgrade my second computer to XP because a video card I wanted to use in it required 2000/XP and I thought I would "try it" on my main computer. I had heard when XP first came out that it could be used on two different computers. That, as it turns out, was only the "academic" version. The home version can be officially installed on only one computer.

The second computer was purchased for $75 from my former employer and in its former life it was running 2000 (before they wiped the hard drives). Also, the video card had drivers for 2000/NT4 and made no mention of drivers for XP. This card has quad buffering and a direct stereo output (for stereocopic shutter glasses) which is why I purchased it in the first place. The system requirements say only that it requires a "Pentium" processor and makes no mention of speed so the 550Mhz Pentium III certinaly seemed to fit the bill. It's 256 megs of RAM should certainly be fine for 2000 but might be a bit low for XP. Also, since it said it required Nt4/2000 it should work with XP but there was no guarantee. It seemed wise then to install 2000 on the second computer.

I purchased two 120GB Western Digital hard drives as part of this process. Originally I was going to do a clean install of the new OS on one of them and run it on the second computer, but the 2000 disk was an upgrade and the second computer had over 25GB free space on the C: drive so this wasn't really necessary. (I didn't do much other than watching webcams and sterescopic material with it, so I didn't need a lot of space). This would allow me to use both 120GB WDs on the main comptuer.

The vesion of XP I purchased was a full install rather than an upgrade and I've always been told that you should always do a clean install of XP anyway. Since I had a lot of stuff installed on this computer and it would take some time to port it all over to XP, and I wasn't sure I would like XP, it would be necessary to go back and forth between XP and 98SE. But how would I do that?

I thought of 3 possible ways: #1 OS dual boot, possibly on the same hard drive #2 install XP on a seperate drive and use the CMOS configuration to choose the boot drive as needed #3 Switch between the two hard drives using a rack. All of these approaches have their pros and cons.

OS dual boot might sound like a simple solution and many people have done it over the years. Since I could easily clean up the C: drive to get over 70GB of free space, there was plenty of space. But I have never tried this before and I've heard some chilling horror stories from people who have. Also, it seems that XP and 98SE would wind up sharing files , complicating the process of evenutally removing one of them, and a crash could wind up destroying both! I never seriously considered this option.

I had confirmed in the past that my CMOS could indeed boot from any hard drive in the system, including those connected to the RAID controller, I could use the CMOS setup screen to switch back and forth. As I recall, the alternative boot drive would switch places with the C: drive so that E: for example, would become C: and C: would become E:. I had actually made up my mind at one point that I would do this but I saw some issues with this approach as well. First, it would require installing both drives in the system at the same time, which would mean finding a place to mount the extra drive and would also cause additional strain on my aging power supply which is of unknown wattage. (though this case was described as a "server" case so the PS installed in it is probably 350W+) I also didn't like the idea of going into the CMOS every time I switched OS and it might be a problem remebering which OS was currently active. Besides, it was still possible for a crash to wipe out both drives, leaving me without a working OS.

20+ years ago I noticed how few of the wires are actually used on an IDE connection and I came up with an idea of simplified connector that would allow fast swapping of hard drives without opening up the computer. Several years later I found out that such a product already existed. Ever since then I have been an advocate of the idea of hard drive racks even though I didn't own one. When I considered how to switch back and forth bewteen 98SE and XP, it didn't take very long to conclude that using a rack was the best way to do it. The one thing I wasn't sure about was how well the SMART would work on these drives so I feared it might be necessary to copy the C: drive onto one of the 120GB WDs so that I'd have two identical hard drives to work with.

Having made my decision, I shelled out $22 for the rack and $15 for the extra tray (this model was chosen because it has two cooling fans, one in the tray, despite the fact that cheaper models are available), and installed my hardware. After rearranging a few things, I managed to get the DVD writer, the DVD ROM and the hard drive rack installed in my three 5.25" open bays.

I then installed my C: drive in the tray that came with the rack, pushed the tray in, turned on the computer and realized that the tray wasn't pushed in properly. I turned the computer off, practiced taking the tray in and out and decided to proper procedure was to push the tray in with the handle up, push the handle down and then, with the handle still pushed down , put the key in the lock and lock the tray. This left the tray firmly locked in place and prevented the handle from being pulled back up.

I turned the computer back on and Voila! 98SE booted just fine. I left it running for a few minutes before shutting down and putting the side panel back on the computer. I then proceded to install one of the 120GB WDs in the extra tray. I switched trays and turned the computer back on, booting from the MAXBLAST4 CD. The drive was instantly recognized so I proceded to initialize it with MAXBLAST4 and rebooted the computer. I then began installing XP.

XP found drivers for pretty much everything, lincluding, it appeared, the video card. When I got it installed I realized that my 250 GB HD and DVD writer weren't showing up under "My computer" and in the control panel there was a question mark by the RAID controller. I put the CD for the card in the DVD drive and XP quickly found the driver and installed it. The question mark was gone and the 250 GB HD (both partitions, more on that later) and the DVD Writer were now visible under MY computer, no reboot required!

When I went to change the video mode to my preferred mode of 1280x1024 with 32bit color I found that it wasn't listed under "all modes". The highest it would let me pick was 75Hz. Thinking the problem might be with the monitor, I tried changing the driver. No dice! Then, looking "up" the list, I found that I could set it for 1280x1024 at 85hz if I changed the color mode to 16 bit. Since the monitor obviously doesn't care what the color setting is set to, I tried different video drivers. No luck. To this day I am stuck using 16 bit color. This doesn't look as bad as you might think, but it bothers me that XP won't let me use my chosen video mode which works fine using the same hardware in 98!

Switching back and forth using the rack method worked out pretty well. SMART did the trick so I was able to do this with two differnt hard drives (1 maxtor, 1 Western Digital) without changing anything in the CMOS. I marked the trays so I could tell which was XP and which was 98 and so I can easily tell which one is currently in the rack when the computer is turned off.

As I port more programs over to XP I find myself working in XP more and more and not switching to 98SE very often. I fear, however, that the next time I upgrade my motherboard I'll have to spend 2 hours on the phone with microsoft, cursing the kunucklehead on the other end about the idiotic programmers who tried to solve an imaginary problem and created several real ones.

Lightscribe CDRs

Windows XP













IDE mobile rack




Front of IDE rack

XP installed in rack
CDR burned back in 1998,
 click to see larger



Sorry, no larger image for this one!



backside of another DVD case



The W is covered up by the envelope

June 11, 2007
Adventures in DVD writing
A few years ago I replaced my CD writer with a unit that did both DVDR and CDR. Then, after about a year, it decided it didn't want to read or write CDs anymore. Because I hadn't written many CDRs recently and DVDRs were a lot cheaper than they used to be, I didn't worry about it. DVDrs, after all, are actually cheaper per gigabyte than CDRs and even if you are only writing a few hundred megabytes the extra cost of a DVDR vs a CDR isn't all that significant.

Recently, however, there has been a need for me to write some CDRs for someone. I've also wanted a unit that could write DVDR faster than 8X and had DL capability. Aside from that, both the writing software and the DVD authoring software were prone to crashing. The DVD software was especially problematic and even when it worked it was really slow and had very limited capabilities. What I needed was a nongeneric drive with some decent software. When I went shopping for a new drive however, things got a bit more complicated!

I was shocked to find that none of the units selling at Target and Bestbuy worked with Windows 98SE, requiring 2000/XP. Most also had hardware requirements that went beyond my 1Ghz Athlon. The situation online was no better and Tigerdirect didn't even list the minimum system requiremnts! Finally I headed out on the freeway and drove to Frys. Since this was a larger store and they often had a lot of older merchandise in stock, I thought I'd have better luck there.

System requirements,
 click to see larger

Sure enough, though most units wouldn't work with my system I found several that would. I finally settled on a Memorex unit that had 16X, DL , DVD authoring software and required only 98SE and an 800Mhz processor. The fact that it was on sale for $39.95 and had a $20 rebate was an added bonus. So I bought it, installed it on my computer, wrote a DVDR and a CDR and, since it was late, called it a night.

The next morning I started experiencing a bunch of crashes and bad writes. The crashes were very similar to the ones I had with the old drive. I removed the old software (should have done that to begin with!) then removed and reinstalled Nero 6 (the software that came with it). No dice. Thinking that DMA handling has something to do with it, I tried disabling DMA. Sure enough, the crashes and bad writes went way, but writing and verifying a DVD with only 2.6GB of date took over an hour! Not only that, the computer was slowed down to the point that it took 15 minutes to check my email while a DVD was writing. Having established that DMA was the issue I tried updating the driver for the drive and my IDE port. No luck!

Then sudenly a better solution occured to me. A while back I had installed a UDMA 133 Raid controller (which also had nonraid functionality) so I could use a 250GB hard drive. It could handle a total of 4 drives and only one was installed so I decided to try hooking up the DVD drive to it. Since the new drive was only a DMA 33 device I decided to connect it using the supplied cable and set it up as a master on the second channel. Since this port would not be using the DMA driver that was used by the motherboard's built in IDE port, this was certainly worth a try. IT WORKED!

The crashes were gone and I found myself writing full DVDs at 16X in few minutes. Verification showed no bad writes and I could even run other programs while burning CD/DVD, something unthinkable with the old drive.

So why did this novel solution work so well? I'm still not sure if the problem was with the DMA driver for the builtin port or just the way that 98SE handles DMA. The fact that the add on card runs its own utility prior to POST leads me to believe that it does its own DMA handling independant of the OS. Further evidence for this theory is the fact that in the control panel panel under system the DMA box is missing for this drive when it is connected to that port. It isn't uncheckable, it's not there at all!

As for the DVD authoring sotware, it is a vast improvement! Unlike the old software, it never crashes, is somewhat faster and is far more versatile. It is so well behaved that other programs can be run with it running in the background writing the compilation to the hard drive for burning to a DVD later. It can handle almost any file as source material, has many more options for making custom menus and even has the ability to combine several source files into a single entry on the menu! The one fly in the ointment is that this program (Nero Vision Express) includes a "Codec" that is a 30 day trial. Registration cost only $24.95 and this program is so good I might have bought it seperately! If I ever actually get that $20 mail in rebate, the registered program and drive will wind up costing a total of $45!

Another question that comes up is "why did all these drives have such strict system requirements?" Are they trying to sell more copies of windows XP? The most logical answer is that most of them come bundled with Nero 7 and Nero 7 requires 2000/XP. But what about the hardware requirements? The fact that I was able to sucessfully write DVDs at 16X with a 1Ghz Athlon while running other programs with this drive casts doubt on the idea that the other drives really need a multi Ghz processor. I suspect that the hardware requirements were exxagerated by the manufacturers to provide an extra "safety" margin in order to avoid getting so many technical support calls.

After all that, I decided I might give XP a try, though in a way that lets me switch back and forth between 98SE and XP. But that's a topic for another time!






My new writer, click to view larger






Back of box, 
click to see larger
Colonial Coral

the plaque

May 28, 2007
3D fossil Gallery
Today I cleaned up the 3D fossil gallery, including the 3D trilobite collection and the Grade F amber gallery. This consisted mostly of replacing the old affiliate links but I added some more topical links while I was at it.

Memorial day
I then went to some Memorial day festivities at the local cemetary where my father and sister are buried. It was a nice ceremony featuring "casket flags" donated by families of veterans. A plaque was displayed showing the names of the veterans, including my father.

My sister and father's grave
Sponge gourd, one of many surprises in the microscopic gallery

locust wing

Bottlebrush spores

Halloween Ladybug - also known as Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle

May 27, 2007
Microscopic Gallery

I cleaned up the dead links in the microscopic gallery, including the animal gallery. I also added some new links and clarified some of the pages. This was quite a job because of the number of pages involved but it needed to be done and I'm rather proud of the result!

I also got rid of some "junk" pages left over from the old affiliate program. There are a few odds and end here and there that still need to be dealt with, but over all my site is much tidier than it was!

Closing thoughts...
On a completely different note...
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to find something to be depressed about? It seems you don't even have to look! Whether it's the situation in the middle east, global warming, the education crisis etc. etc. etc., it just seems to shout at you every time you turn on the TV, listen to the radio or open up a newspaper.

But... and this is a point that gets lost on a lot of people, you can also find things to be optimistic about! Sure, you might have to look harder for it, you might need to turn the TV to a different channel, listen to a different station or read a different section of the newspaper. Maybe you need to go down to the library or cruise the web to read about the not so distant past so you can realize just how many things have improved.

Perhaps you should go down to the park, look at the new blooms, watch the bees buzzing around them and listen to the laughter of children playing in the distance. Maybe you should look up at the sky on a clear day and notice what a lovely shade of blue it still is.

I'm not saying we should all go around with stupid grins on our faces as though we have been taking happy pills (nor am I advocating that we do so!), but the news isn't *all* bad, and it never was!

MSG crystals


bdelloid rotifer
amber ant



Tom's Videos

May 24, 2007
Telnet list correction
I've been informed that Farpoint BBS was not down, just moved. I now have the correct link. Thanks Larry! Now that makes 11 of the BBSs that were still alive, even if only ten of the links were. :)

Amber Gallery
I cleaned up some dead links in the amber gallery, and added some new links. The Microscopic gallery will be next.

New Server
BTW, in case there is any confusion, or anyone cares :) 3dham.com is on the same server it has been on for a while, but the other domains, such as catflix.com and tomdoit.com, as well as several I haven't yet done anything with yet, have been moved to Bluehost. Now when I put up a new domain it is an "add on" domain that acts just like a regular domain. No more messy redirects!

I can also get numerous email addresses at each domain with no extra charges for email forwarding or redirects. The only charge for each additional domain is the registration charge! With 300GB of storage I plan to add some more videos to catflix.com and will also be putting up some more of My Dad's videos. With 3000GB of transfer per month I don't need to worry about running out if someone decides to actually download those videos, although it should be pointed out that I never came even close to the 30GB alloted on the old server!

Up in amber,  Amber Ant!!!

Tom's Truck



May 19, 2007
CATFLIX.COM
When I first started catflix.com it was on a free webserver and there was a 1MB file limit. Later pages were added on less restrictive servers, causing it to be spread accross several domains. The orginal server then vanished, so the original pages got moved and catflix.com became a redirect. Now that I have 300GB and the ability to host numerous domains on one account, there is no need for all that nonsense.

So I went ahead and cleaned up catflix.com, fixing dead links and consolidating the navigation so that it all points to catflix.com, this was a rather involved process but now that it is done the result is much neater. It will take a while for all the search engines to catch up and point to the right pages but I added some redirects from some of the old pages to the new site to help smoothe things over.

Stereo gallery
I also cleaned up the original stereoscopic gallery which was pointing to some space I had with an ISP I was signed up with back in my dialup days. I did that because of the limited space of my original doamin server. Of course, there is no need for that now. I should have changed this a long time ago but the ISP left the pages up even though I had cancelled my account years ago. They only recently removed them, causing these links to go dead.

Now it all points to the main server. Eventually I hope to put up a much more extensive gallery of better made stereo photos but I plan to leave this one up for historical reference.

catflix.com

anaglyphs and pairs
The Thomas L Elson memorial site


Microscopic gallery






$6.95/mo? What a deal!!!!
300GB for $6.95/mo!



May 18, 2007

What it is all about
I'm not going to bore you with a description of what a blog is, I'm sure most of you know what it is and if you don't you soon will. This blog will be about my websites, my hobbies and whatever else comes to mind.

L.O.R.D. Telnettable BBS list
It has been a while since I have played L.O.R.D. and even longer since I've updated the main FAQ. Despite this, both the FAQ and the telnettable BBS list continue to be popular even though the list hadn't been updated for a while either.

Since there is clearly continued interest and it is a fairly simple matter to update the list, I decided to update it and give it a bit of an overhaul. This would involve checking BBSs on the list, checking other links on the page and improving the over all look and "feel" of the page.

When I started going through the BBSs I fully expected that only 2 or 3 of them would still be up and running. I was quite pleased to find that, while a lot of them were dead, ten of them were still alive and kicking!

The form that I had been using for telnet submissions has been dead for a while, so I changed the process to submit directly to an actual email address. This isn't in the form of an actual email link, instead I just gave the email address with some spaces added that must be removed for the email to actually get delivered. If this address gets too much spam I'll just change the address. Since I own the domain and don't use universal fowards, this should do the trick.

When I get New BBSs to add to the list I will start at the top and replace the "dead" links with the new BBS. If all the "dead" links have been replaced then I'll replace all but one of the "your bbs here" links. If I still need more room then I'll expand the table. I hope to be getting submissions for new lists and plan to check the existing entries on a regular basis.

telnet list

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