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Scott's Column
No Servers, Uploading Files, and a Friend's Cable Modem

November 1, 1999
By Scott Lewis

Site Not Moving

This site is not moving. My account was up, but my in-laws have decided to keep it going for another year. I have upgraded to a cable modem. I will maintain this site here for a while longer. I may redesign this site then move it to my home page space for my new account. Time will tell.

No Servers

We ordered three new servers for our project. One server would be shared with another area and would be our (and their) development server. We would have another server for testing and validating data. And finally we would have a production server. The test server would be a mirror of production, unless we had new data loaded that needed validating prior to moving to production.

Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. About three months after we ordered the servers our company made a big "call to arms" to save money. A large part of this was driven by the Y2K preparations we have. Our server order got bounced around so much, and delayed and delayed, that it fell into this new cal to arms situation. So they canceled the order.

Now we have to survive using our 5 year old production server, and two cobbled together servers for development and testing. Our production server has 4 processors, but each is running at only 112MHz. Pretty slow by today’s standards.

It should be interesting to see how executives like to wait for their data because someone decided that the highest ranking officials in a company should be running off of 5 year old equipment. I wonder how many of them have workstations that are 5 years old.

Upgrade to Web Agent 3.0

We used our test server to test the upgrade from Oracle Express Server 6.2.0.0 to 6.2.0.2. This included upgrading Web Agent, the tool we use to display our data on our Intranet, from 2.0 to 3.0.

The upgrade went smoothly, and we were up and running the same day. But Web Agent gave us a problem. The graphs on the web pages did not respond. Clicking on any of the items to change time periods, or drill down on data, just resulted in an hourglass. Nothing happened.

It took a while for me to track it down, but I found that it was tied to a piece of code that turns off the toolbar in Web Agent. When the code to turn off the toolbar was executed, it also caused the graph to become unresponsive. Turning the toolbar on restores the graph to working condition.

It has been a critical element of our screen design to maintain as clean and simple a look as possible for executives that will access our application. We don’t want to overwhelm them, and analysts that need the functionality can easily be troubled to click a simple button to turn on the toolbar with its own built in features for "data mining".

We have requested a patch from Oracle. I will let you know how things go.

Friends cable modem problems

A friend of mine couldn’t get his cable modem working. To make a long story short... the PCI Ethernet card needed to be in a Bus Mastering slot. His machine only had one bBus Mastering slot, and it was used for the hard drive controller.

So he ended up finally getting a new machine. I built it for him. It is a 500MHz Celeron, 128MB RAM, 20 GB 7200 RPM hard drive, Riva TNT2 video card with 32MB, Sound Blaster Live Xgamer sound card, speakers with subwoofer, etc. It cost right around $1,530 with all shipping costs.

Posting Acceptor

I was playing around with Posting Acceptor from Microsoft. It works with their Internet Information Server (IIS) web server software. It allows you to let people uploads files to your server through the HTTP protocol.

Let me explain in more detail. I wanted the ability to copy files to my house from work. I could run FTP server software, but my work uses a firewall and blocks FTP transfers. So I needed a way to upload files through the web browser. I have seen this done on many "free" web sites. They provide a form for you to upload files to your free site. This works with my firewall. So I knew it could be done.

I came across this article. It describes how to setup Posting Acceptor with IIS to allow file uploads through a browser. Cool, just what I needed.

Then the trouble began. I am running Windows 98 with Personal Web Server (PWS) at home, not Win NT and IIS. PWS is supposed to support just about everything IIS does, so I decided to see if I could get it to work.

When I tried to install the Posting Acceptor from my Visual Studio discs there was no such option. This is because the installation detected Win 98 and never gave the option. I tried to trick it and installed it on a Win NT workstation and captured the install with WinInstall. Then I ran WinInstall’s version of the installation on a Win 98 machine. The instalation worked, but when the Win 98 machine rebooted it gave an error saying it could not complete the setup of some service. Service sounds like an NT term. So I assume that the Posting Acceptor would not work.

I didn’t give up. Since this article used Posting Acceptor 2.0. I did some digging on Microsoft’s site and found a copy of Posting Acceptor 1.0. I downloaded that and installed it on my Win 98 box. I tried to use their examples to upload files but got errors about privileges. The documentation said to set the permissions for the directory to read/write. There is no "write" option in PWS. At least not version 4.0. I installed an older version of PWS that came with my FrontPage 97 disc. I remember first seeing an FTP option in it, but noticed that the newer version of PWS turned off the FTP option.

Success. I was able to upload files through a web form. However, I was still unable to use the ActiveX version to drag and drop files, because it relies on ASP to be working on the server. The older version of PWS isn’t ASP aware.

Since I wanted to have ASP capabilities I can’t have both. Besides uploads were painfully slow. Testing on two machines sitting next to each other on a 100Mbps LAN, I only got transfer speeds of about 1 - 2 Mbps. Whereas download speeds were super fast. I don’t know why it was this slow, but have to assume to would be even slower over the Internet to my house.

So for the purposes of transferring files to my house from work, I am currently using two methods. 1) Floppy. 2) StoragePoints’ WebDrive.

By using a floppy in conjunction with the briefcase tool of Win 98/NT I am able to keep a handful of files on my home machine in sync with my machine at work. It took a bit to set this up. Create a briefcase. Copy files to it from a directory. Copy the briefcase to the floppy. On the other machine make sure the same directory exists, and make a sync copy of the files from the briefcase stored on the floppy. When you want to sync the files, click on the briefcase on the floppy and select Briefcase, Sync All from the menu bar of Explorer.

I use StoragePoint for files that won’t fit on a floppy. They give you about 20 MB of space free. And it works through the browser so I don’t have to deal with a firewall. It is reasonably fast, and secure. Worth checking out, recommended.

This month’s column went out late because my cable modem went out. Paragon/Road Runner spent over a week (as this was written) trying to fix it. I personally think someone dropped the ball. I will tell you more next month when it is (hopefully) working again.

Until then...

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