March 1, 1998
By Scott Lewis
This month's biggest news is the arrival of the latest edition to the Lewis clan, Ethan Joseph. Born on Feb. 25, 1998 at 10:35 AM. 8 lbs., 15 oz. Just your typical ball of flesh. Pictures will be on this site when I get some, and can con someone into letting me use their scanner.
On Jan. 29, I underwent the second of two sinus surgeries. I spent the first two weeks of Feb. recovering from this surgery. My doctor helped work me into her schedule so I would be recovered in time for the arrival of the baby. Surgery was a resounding success, and is the last of any surgery I will need. That is, unless the symptoms reappear. Next Nov. my doctor and I will discuss our strategy for getting me through Mountain Cedar season. So you won't have to here about this topic until then.
If you are a regular to Scott's Site, you have noticed that I have dropped the Web Design column. Two reasons. 1 - There is so much information about web page design already available on the Internet I thought my small contribution was just that... small. (No cracks about how small a contribution this entire site is.) 2 - My time for this site is diminishing, and something had to get cut.
One of the reasons I have this site it to work on my writing skills. Because my time is limited, and I am writing five columns a month, my writing skills have not progressed in a manner I would prefer. If I can't get more time to write, unlikely with a new addition to the family, then I will have to cut back on the number of columns. The Feature Article will become the catch all for any topics I want to write about. Whether it be about technology, cars, web page/site design, gaming, or anything else that currently fits as a feature article. Scott's Column will always be a kind of diary of event around here. Scott's Column is loosely based on the style of column Jerry Pournelle does for BYTE magazine. I love Jerry's column, and wish I could come even remotely close to what he does. Highly recommended.
Remote LAN Access
They have implemented remote access to our LAN. To be sure that our LAN environment is secure, they have implemented a neat password system. Dialing into our LAN requires a LAN ID, a 4 to 8 character password, and a 6 digit number from a credit card device called SecurID.
The SecurID card generates a series of 6 digit numbers. The numbers are not random, but based on an algorithm that uses my LAN ID to help generate a repeatable set of numbers. This same algorithm is running on the server. When I dial in, I enter my LAN ID into the dialer, and for the password I enter the 4 to 8 characters password I supplied plus the six digits from the SecurID. The server checks this against the numbers is has, and if they match I get a standard three line logon to log on my LAN. When the connection is made I login onto my LAN domain as usual with my LAN ID and standard password.
All-in-all it is pretty secure. I highly recommend the SecurID cards as a method of making hacking into a system almost impossible. I say almost because I wouldn't want to be called a liar, and there just might be some extremely remote chance that it could be cracked. I doubt it, but good luck to all you hackers.
Once dialed into the LAN, my laptop work exactly as if I were at the office, except slower of course. This is going to come in very handy while I am off for paternity leave. During my recent sinus surgery recovery, I spent a few phone calls with Jeremy, my partner, talking him though some code for our project. Now I can just dial in and fix the problem myself. However, I will still have him move the stuff into production. It would take quite a while to copy files from one LAN drive to another if the data must flow through my laptop attached by a 28.8 modem.
We have recently changed over to Exchange/Outlook for all e-mail. My company is transitioning everyone to it as the only e-mail solution. We were using at least four different e-mail packages before. So far I like it. I always liked the rich text editor in Exchange (The client e-mail application that ships with Windows 95), and Outlook's editor is similar, if not the same. Outlook is the client that attaches to an Exchange server. All mail messages are on the server by default. Since I use a laptop, and frequently want to read e-mail away form the office, I have enabled the Synchronize feature. This lets me keep a copy of my mail on the laptop's hard drive.
Mail in Outlook can eat a lot of space, but not as much as Outlook Express. Outlook stores all your mail in a single file, so you are not affected by the cluster size of your hard drive. Outlook Express stores your mail in many files and is very inefficient on large drives.
Clusters & FAT16
Let me explain cluster sizes briefly. FAT16 is the file system used by good old DOS and Windows 95. This system uses progressively larger clusters for progressively larger hard drives. DOS/Win 95 can only format a hard drive up to 2GB (actually 1K less than 2GB). If you have a fairly new computer it may have had its drive partitioned into multiple logical drives to give you all the space you paid for.
I won't go into too much detail, but it boils down to this: if you have a drive, or partition, over 1GB you will have a cluster size of 32K. What does this mean. Every file uses disk space based on the cluster size. A 1 byte file will take up 32K of actual disk space. A file 1 byte larger than 32K will require 64K of actual disk space. This is very inefficient for small files.
FAT32, part of Windows 95 OSR2 (Operation System Release 2), can have drive partitions up to 8GB, and only uses a cluster size of 4K. However, OSR2 is only available with new machines, and I have seen many vendors that don't use it when they deliver a machine. FAT32 is very incompatible with FAT16, and you could lose backward compatibility with DOS programs. Certainly a DOS bootable diskette will not be able to recognize a FAT32 drive. So you must make a full change to FAT32, including any boot diskettes you need. Some games are still very DOS, and might require a boot disk. It could be anywhere from very difficult to impossible to run games like these on a system using FAT32. So vendors shy away unless you ask for it.
I am running FAT32 on my 4.0 GB drive at home. I got OSR2 as part of my MSDN subscription, and made a very careful boot disk that has drivers for my CD-ROM drive, drivers for my mouse, and all the settings for my sound card. This way I can run stubborn DOS games, like Madden 97.
I don't play Madden, I was very disappointed with the game. However, it was the most difficult game to get running under Win 95. It has to run in DOS Mode, and I had to perform every trick in the book to get it to work. That work became the basis for the boot disk I mention above. I have not had to resort to using the boot diskette for anything other than reformatting the hard drive, so I feel comfortable recommending FAT32 to anyone that can handle a thorough backup before starting.
I recently reformatted my hard drive to start over. I usually start over about every year or so, this is the ultimate way to clean up a hard drive full of old junk that I don't use. I have been using FAT32 since I got my hard drive last February, and have only reformatted it this past month. FAT32 works, and will be included in Windows 98 (99?). Microsoft is planning to include a utility that will allow you to convert your FAT16 drive to FAT32. You can do this when you install Win 98, or you can do it at some point in the future. But it will be a one time conversion. There will be no utility to convert back to FAT16.
A little on Window 98
If you are going to upgrade to Win 98, I would suggest that you leave the FAT16 in place. Win 98 may cause you headaches. It would be better to leave out the headache of converting your drive until you are happy that Win 98 is running properly. I don't know what Microsoft is planning for drives that have already been broken into multiple partitions. My guess is that it will leave partitions alone. I personally prefer few partitions. I have two hard drives, and don't need more than that. If I only had one drive, I would partition it into one very large partition, and one small partition to act as a backup drive. Everyone has there on ideas on this, so I will not go into details here. Partition Magic will probably be a better way to convert to FAT32 if they offer a way to do it. Partition Magic has always been excellent at resizing partitions on the fly, and safely. If they can also convert you from FAT16 to FAT32 I would not hesitate to get this program when you upgrade to Windows 98.
I have received my Beta 3 of Windows 98. I will try to give it a look in a few weeks. I use my home computer too much to afford to play around with operating systems. Instead I use a guinea pig machine at work to test new OS's. I will try to play with Win 98 Beta 3 when I get back from paternity leave.
Speaking of paternity leave... Thanks to Bill Clinton. I personally don't care for the man, but he did get the Family Medical Leave Act passed, which allows me the ability to take time off to care for my wife and new born baby.
More On Work
We received the latest release of our development tool, Oracle Express Objects. Actually we received it before the holidays, but now is the first chance we have to look at it. It is the 32-bit release. Yet, we have been doing client/server development for Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 with a 16 bit product. Only 2-1/2 years after Windows 95 and we have a version written for it.
I will be spending some of my paternity leave playing with the new product, and converting our existing project files over. I'll let you know next month how it goes.
Scott's Site of the Month Runner Up
I am planning on writing a Feature Article in a month or two on writing. That article will have a link or two to some really good information I recently read on becoming a better writer. Which leads me to this month's Site of the Month. I spent some time cleaning up my Favorites. While doing this I came across The Bare Bones Guide to HTML, by Kevin Werbach. I already have a link to Kevin's Home Page Hall of Fame on my Links-To-Links page, and now added the Bare Bones Guide to my Web Design links page.
While verifying the links to Kevin's pages, I decided to check out the rest of his site. I was extremely impressed with the style and quality of his writing. However, I did notice a lack of consistency in his pages. Kevin uses different colored backgrounds without any apparent reason. Also, the formatting of text occasionally varies from one page to another. I really wanted to give Kevin a Scott Site Award, but found that I couldn't. I have told people in past Web Design columns (check the Archive) that consistency is extremely important. For small sites, it is crucial. You want people to always know they are looking at your site during their visit. I have spent an enormous amount of time getting all my pages to follow the same look and feel. However, this is the only complaint I have for Kevin's site. His site is refreshingly honest, and tells you about himself and his interests very clearly. Kevin's site is the second, ever, to receive the Scott's Site Runner Up Award. On another note, Kevin's site is also the second personal site to ever receive an award from this site. Congratulations, Kevin.
Kevin's style of person web site has inspired me to put more information on my own site. Truly a testament to a good site is its ability to inspire its readers. I plan on adding more information about myself (and maybe my family), as well as put more time in polishing the writing on my more static pages. Thanks for the inspiration, Kevin.
Site of the Month
This month I have decided to abandon a rule I had for the Scott's Site Award. In the past, I only gave the award to sites I had not seen prior to the month of the Award. I based this loosely on Motor Trend's Car of the Year award. MT gives their award out to a car that is all new, or has gone through a radical change. Well, I have seen them bend this rule to make cars eligible even if the change was not so radical. Also, the way the automobile manufactures use MT's award in their advertising, makes you think that MT picked the best car of all cars available, not just the dozen or so that qualified for the contest. My new rule is this... Any site that I visit, which includes sites I am asked to visit, are eligible for the award. The only sites not eligible are sites that already received the award. So get your requests in. I give a preference to sites that do not accept advertising, and give further preference to personal web sites (personal means that it is just a single person that owns, and runs, the entire site, like mine).
So who wins this month? This months Scott's Site Award goes to The Dynamic Duo - Cross-Browser Dynamic HTML. This site is laid out very neatly, it has no advertising, and it has some great information on writing DHTML code for both Netscape 4.0 and Internet Explorer 4.0. Dan Steinman has done a great job in supplying useful examples of Dynamic HTML that you can easily incorporated into your own pages. I have used some of Dan's tips, and as soon as I get the chance to make sure it still looks reasonable under IE 3.x & Netscape 3.x, I will be adding it to this site. Thanks for the simple to follow examples, Dan. Congratulations on winning the Scott's Site Award for March 1998.
Books of the Month
I just managed to get to the book store late this month, so I can tell you what I bought. Return of The Straight Dope, by Cecil Adams; and Brain Droppings, by George Carlin. I love George's comparison to Football and Baseball, and was glad it was in the book. I used to have a collection of George Carlin albums (yes the vinyl kind). A friend borrowed them from me about 6 months or so before I went into the Air Force. When I got home from Basic Training, I went to his house to get them back, and low and behold... he moved while I was in Basic Training. So I no longer have any of my George Carlin collection. I miss it.
I cannot yet recommend Brain Droppings. The language is rather vulgar, but if you are a fan of George Carlin this probably doesn't bother you. I will tell you more next month.
The book of the month is Return of The Straight Dope. I know, it was the book of the month last month, but that was because of its Scott's Site Award. It kind of went hand in hand. This month I have read enough of the book to recommend it to any trivia buff. A great coffee table book. Get It. I look forward to his next book due out March 9th.
That about does it for this month. Tune in next month for all the news about the baby, a little on Windows 98, and some stuff on going to the 32-bit world with Express Objects.
I also received FrontPage 98 in the latest shipment as part of my MSDN subscription. As soon as this edition gets uploaded I will upgrade FrontPage 97 to 98. I will start to give you a bit of a rundown on FrontPage 98 next month. Look for a full article on it if I find it has enough useful stuff in it. (Useful for me is its ability to do cool stuff when the pages will end up on a server that does not support Microsoft's Internet Information Server features.)