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TinotopiaLog → 1994 Vintage Jerry Pournelle (27 Feb 2005)
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Sunday 27 February 2005

1994 Vintage Jerry Pournelle

I was poking around Byte’s website for some reason, and I stumbled across this perfect example of vintage Jerry Pournelle’s writing about computers. When I face a computer that’s screwed up in some way that defies all logic, I often refer to it as a ‘Jerry Pournelle situation’, after the kind of thing he used to write about every month:

Last night, I found I couldn’t print. Chasing that particular problem down took most of the day and was instructive.

The first thing to check is cables. I looked at the printer cable. Just to be sure, I got out an Inmac Blue. Inmac cables are pricey, but they’re extremely reliable.

It wasn’t the cable. Keyboard next: a faulty keyboard can overload the A20 handler and cause odd addressing errors. Changing keyboards did no good, so the next thing was to define the problem. I found that Windows for Workgroups would print to my Hewlett-Packard LaserJet III using Q&A Write. That uses a font cartridge. However, when I tried printing with Word for Windows (which uses TrueType fonts), I’d get a line of garbage across the top of the first page and dozens of pages of blank paper thereafter. This is not what a novelist on deadline needs.

Next question: Could it be Word? Make a test message in Windows Write and try printing that. Same result.

First things first. I solved the deadline problem by using LapLink to send the entire Word for Windows directory, program and files, over to the PS/2 Model 77. I then let OS/2 “migrate” Word for Windows. That created a Word icon letting me run Word without opening the Windows Program Manager. Pri nting required that I string a cable from the OS/2 machine to the LaserJet III, open the file in Word for Windows, and tell it to print. Nothing to it, and in truth, OS/2 prints so much faster than Windows, I actually saved time doing it that way.

That got my story draft printed and showed clearly that the problem wasn’t with my files, my copy of Word, or the printer. What was left? Corrupted printer drivers in the Cheetah’s copy of Windows? A corrupted copy of Windows? I used Palindrome to restore the entire Windows directory from DAT (digital audiotape), which took about 20 minutes. For good measure, I erased the HP driver and reinstalled it from the original floppy disks. No joy: I still got a line of garbage followed by many pages of blank paper.

The next step was to use the Windows for Workgroups network to send the Word directory over to the Gateway 2000 4DX2-66 and connect the printer cable to that machine. It printed fine, meaning that my problem was specific to the Cheetah. Sigh.

He had recently switched to a new monitor, and installed the After Dark screensaver into the bargain.

When I started to install After Dark, I got a Protection Violation error, and when I reset and tried once more, it happened again. This caused me to wonder if my computer was doing something flaky, so I went into the BIOS Setup program and turned off shadow RAM and caching. When I booted up and tried the After Dark installation again, I got the same error. Brian assured me that most of the people at Nanao use After Dark with Windows for Workgroups, so clearly the problem was something about my own installation.

One nonstandard feature is a shareware program called Plug-In for Program Manager. I’ve written about this before: it enhances the Windows Program Manager without replacing it. It does such a good job that although I rather like Symantec’s Norton Desktop for Windows, I find with Plug-In I don’t use Norton. Time to remove that—which did the trick. After Dark installed just fine. Since removing Plug-In solved one problem, maybe it took care of another? I knew darned well I’d been able to print with Plug-In installed—in well over a year, this was the first glitch I could trace to it—but it would do no harm to try printing.

Word printed just fine. I installed Plug-In again. Tried printing. Worked just fine. So did After Dark; it was only the installation program that fought with Plug-In.

I could print again, but, of course, I had the cache and shadow RAM turned off. I turned them back on, tested again—and couldn’t print.

Jeff Sloman finally solved the problem for me. Turn on BIOS cache and shadow RAM, get into Windows for Workgroups, open the Printer icon in the control panel, and deselect the box that says “Fast print direct to port.” Ignore the dialog box about ports, and Bob’s your uncle.

Bob’s your uncle.

Posted by tino at 22:32 27.02.05
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