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Scott's Column
PC Resurrection, IP Address Change, Web Hosting & Virtual PC

June 1, 2008
By Scott Lewis

Introductory paragraph goes here.

Current Topics:

PC Resurrection Part II

Last month I select components to revive my desktop PC that was ruined when struck by lightning over a year ago. I selected the following components:

Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 Conroe 2.66GHz LGA 775 65W               179.99
GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX                       89.99
Kingston HyperX 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066       66.99
GIGABYTE GV-NX85T512HP GeForce 8500GT 512MB x16 SLI Supported    67.99
                                                                ------
                                                          Total 404.96

For a hair over $400 we could have a computer that will run Vista and all its eye candy. Keep in mind that this $400 is an upgrade. I would expect to reuse my case, hard drive, DVD burner, speakers and monitor. I also mentioned getting a Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 TV tuner card that would allow this computer to be a Media Center. With Media Center capability I would record TV shows that could be synced with my Zune 80.

This month I want to cover additional configurations. If you recall from last month, my opinion of a good gaming PC is one that will run Crysis at a decent frame rate (30+ fps). The $400 configuration above will not run Crysis.

A quick note: The prices from last month's article (and quoted above) were current on 4/3/2008. The prices below were current on 5/26/2008. Keep this in mind as sometimes the dollars may seem a little off if you are actively searching for components yourself. By the time you read this almost everything listed here will be a little cheaper.

The absolute least we could spend to upgrade my old computer to play Crysis will require a minimum of a nVidia GeForce 8800GT video card. If we substitute the GeForce 8500GT ($67.99) with this:

XFX PVT88PYSF4 GeForce 8800GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 SLI            169.99

We get a new total of $506.96. This would be in the middle of Extreme Tech's Bang for the Buck PC, which uses the GeForce 8800GT but with a faster processor than I chose, and their $800 PC which uses a slower 9600GT and even slower CPU then the one I selected. Extreme Tech was able to get 37fps out of their $800 PC (at 1280x1024 with Low detail). The low detail is not acceptable to me. But the frame rates from their Bang for the Buck PC give hope that my configuration might be playable with some of the eye candy in Crysis.

Ideally we should go with a faster CPU and a motherboard that supports SLI (using two video cards as one for double the performance... in theory). I stepped up one notch in the CPU in the Core 2 Duo line (E6850) because is came down a lot in price:


Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 Conroe 3.0GHz LGA 775 65W                 184.99
ASUS P5N-E SLI LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 650i SLI ATX                119.99
Kingston HyperX 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066        66.99
XFX PVT88PYSF4 GeForce 8800GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 SLI            169.99
                                                                 ------
                                                           Total 541.96

So we have a slight boost in CPU speed and the ability to add a second video card later with SLI. Now we are a good deal over $500. For this configuration I wanted to go with SLI so I could upgrade later for a modest investment. Ultimately we should look at a faster video card or buy two 8800GT video cards to play Crysis properly. If we want a faster video card now that might play Crysis we could step up to the 8800 GTS. Here is one of the cheapest 8800GTS cards I could find:

MSI NX8800GTS 512M OC GeForce 8800GTS (G92) 512MB SLI            224.99

This would drive our total up to $596.96. We are pushing 6 bills, but might have a better chance at playing Crysis. And we can still add a second 8800GTS card later.

That's it for this month. I need to warm up my wife to the idea of letting me build up my desktop PC. I may have to make some compromises to get a decent widescreen monitor. I am currently running a very old 17" Sony Trinitron monitor that I bought when I built my first PC back in 1999. Next month I will look at the state of things and come up with a decent configuration that will include a monitor and not break my bank account.

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IP Address Change

My home IP address changed a few weeks ago. I apologies for the inconvenience to anyone that is clicking on an old link. Since I am hosting my web site at my house with a dynamic IP Address (one that can change at whim from my cable provider) I don't have a domain name like www.scott-lewis.net. I am considering changing that, especially in light of the recent address change. This is the first time in over two years my IP address changed.

How it started was a little confusing. My browser at work did not bring up my favorites. This is a page on my web site that I have as one of 4 pages that load automatically with Firefox when I start it. Actually, it did show up until I tried to refresh the page. Since the page was cached and it does not change frequently I am not exactly sure how long it was down.

I noticed it the day after Mother's Day. Initially I just thought that I was having an internet connection issue at home. When checking the page from work I could not access my site at all. When I was at home I tried connecting to the page from my laptop. Nothing. I was on the Internet, how could this be. I initially assumed some setting in my router was amiss. I tried logging onto the administration page of the Linksys router. It would not let me in. Did I forget the password. I tried a lot of passwords. None of them worked. In frustration I reset the router using the recessed button on the back. This restores all the factory settings. I went in and set a password. Then I reset the SID to the one from before (so everyone's laptop connects correctly) and then reset the port forwarding to my home server to act as a web server. I noticed that the IP address of the router was not the same as, so I changed it in the startup page of Firefox. All seemed just fine.

Next, I needed to update my Road Runner hosted web pages (which point to my pages on my home server) to update the IP address there. I could not login. I tried and tried and eventually had to e-mail Road Runner to ask them to reset the password. It took three days to get a response from Road Runner and then they told me I would have to call someone to have my password reset. Oops! I followed the link they provided to where I can administer the pages online. I entered what I thought my old password was (the one I had tried a few times in Expression Web) and it worked. I went to Expression Web and tried to open the site there. It worked. I don't know why my password did not work originally, but I was up and running and could edit the pages on Road Runner to point to my new address.

Back at work I launched Firefox and low and behold I could not access my favorites page or anything else on my web site. Hmm. Was my connection at home down. At home I tried again and I could get to my web site. I connected remotely to my workstation at work and tried loading up the site. Maybe I copied the IP address wrong. Everything looked like it should work, but it did not.

I went through all the Linksys setup screens and could not find anything out of the ordinary. I decided to check the clients connected to the router and I could not see my home server. That's strange. I checked that I could access the machine. How could I see the computer on the network and the router not have it listed in its client list.

I wondered if any of this had anything to do with the fact that I have my home server using a static IP address. This is so that I can be sure my home server always has the same address (internally to my own home network) so that I can forward all port 80 (http or web) traffic to the server. I can ping my server and it has the correct IP address. I tried reading the manual for the Linksys router and it only said that setting up a static IP address was handled at the client.

I tried rebooting the server and it still did not show up as a client to the router. I am assuming here that the router does not see the server, but the other computers do because it still has its IP address. I did a quick search online and found reference to the fact that when setting up a static IP address it must be outside the range of addresses the router will pass out as dynamic addresses.

So, the Linksys router (after resetting) was giving out addresses starting with 192.168.1.100 and it was set to give out up to 50 addresses. Ah-ha! My server is trying to use 192.168.1.125. This is right in the middle of the range the router wants to use for dynamic addresses. I didn't want to change the server, so I set the router to give out only 20 addresses. I reboot the server and everything worked. I am using my new IP address and everything is as it was.

Except that nobody knows my new address...

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Web Hosting Part I

This leads me to web hosting. I have very simple needs. I don't get a lot of traffic (darn!), and my pages are all static. However, I have a lot of images on this site with the massive number of pictures of cars from my Classic Car Watch and Car Corner columns. I don't want to be without them. These are my two favorite columns... yes, even over this one you are reading right now.

At present my web site requires 775 MB. It is the disk space issue that drove me to host the site at home. The last time I was using a domain name and having it hosted the disc space limit was 100 MB and I had to pay extra per month when I went over. That required me to remove the full size images from my sight and only leave the thumbnails... with no link to the original pictures.

Today I have a small "home page" on my ISP's site (http://home.satx.rr.com/theburb/). This is just a shell site that has pages that auto-forward to the core pages on my site at home. The idea being that when my IP address changes I just change the address in those few pages on Road Runner's servers (see the section above).

The problem is that as Google and other search sites map out links to pages they end up mapping out my actual IP address... where the actual content is. Now all those Google links are broken. My traffic will go down quite a bit until search engines refresh their links.

You can test this by clicking this link, which will take you to Google searching for the word Camaro on my old IP address. You will get around 100 links, but they are all broken. If you don't like the link above you can enter this text into Google:

camaro site:70.125.157.216

This tells Google to search for the word Camaro at the site 70.125.157.216, which is my old IP address.

If I want to use a domain name (I use to have www.scott-lewis.com, but some real estate agent took it) I would have to do one of two things. Find a web hosting service, or find a service to connect a domain name to a dynamic address.

I remember researching the latter once before. It sounds like a neat idea. Get the domain name and then find a service that automatically updates the IP address that the domain name points to. I envision installing some kind of client tool that would "phone home" to the service so it knows when the IP address changes. This would allow me to do whatever I want on my site. I could build a real site instead of a static HTML site. I could add database access and other features. Granted, for a site with nothing but articles those features largely go wasted, but the option is there.

Next month I will continue the web hosting topic. I have three very real possibilities lined up. I have already implemented one of them, but that just makes next month's article more exciting as it will lead to a solution, not just theory.

Stay tuned.

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Virtual PC

I have talk about virtualization software before. This is software that lets you run a self contained operating system in its own little environment. There are a number of products. VMWare Workstation & Player, Microsoft Virtual PC, Sun's Virtual Box and Parallels Desktop. Parallels is heavily into the Mac, but VMWare has a competing product called Fusion and there is a version of Virtual Box that runs on the Mac. When I say they run or are geared toward the Mac I mean it is expected that you have a Mac. None of the virtualization applications officially support running the Mac OS in a virtual machine on non-Apple hardware.

All this is academic. I have played with one version or another of all four of those programs. Don't shoot me for not knowing about others, if they exist. However, when running Windows in a virtual machine on a Windows computer I like Microsoft's Virtual PC. It is easy to setup, easy to copy files to make backups, and it just works.

In the past I have written about testing running Windows from Linux, or vise-versa. This time it is different. I am not playing around. All the previous stuff was playing because I never seriously considered using virtualization software to leave Windows XP.

My current foray into the virtual world of PC platforms has strickly been with Windows XP... on Windows XP. I have a VB6 application at work. This application writes input files for a product called Fusion Pro which we use for Postscript composition.

Fusion Pro has gone through a number of revisions. Follow closely. When we started using the product it was called DL Formatter, then it was called DL-100, now it is called Fusion Pro. Each version has its own plug-ins for template design applications, and that same plug-in is what my VB6 application uses to edit template at run time.

Right now we have DL-100 in production on our servers. I need to be able to compile other programs to work with DL-100 so I have it installed on my workstation. However, we have one application that is relying on DL Formatter on the workstation. So I have a virtual machine with Visual Basic 6 and DL Formatter installed so I can compile that program for the production machine.

Next we are in the final phase of testing Fusion Pro and we need a copy of the VB6 program that can connect to the test server. So I have another virtual machine that has VB6 and Fusion Pro on it so I can compile the code for the people doing testing.

Finally, the people doing testing occasionally have to troubleshoot problem orders in production, so I set them up with Virtual PC so they can run the version I compiled on my machine with DL-100.

After all the playing I am actually using virtual machine software. And this is one of the best reasons to use it... for compatibility with older applications... or in this case even incompatible versions of plug-ins to current applications.

Very Cool!

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Conclusion

That's it for this month. There is a lot more in store for next month. Come back and see what happens next.

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