Software that I use

Here is a list of software that I use on my PCs.

These software programs work for me so I recommend them.

Many are free, some are commercial products and some are free with paid versions that offer more features.

Use your favorite search engine to find out more about the programs and to download them.

Antivirus – full time

The full time antivirus I use is either Avast! Free or a free Microsoft product – Security Essentials (for Windows XP, Vista and 7) or Defender (for Windows 8).  The full time antivirus inspects files and Internet pages for malware in real time as they are accessed.  It automatically updates itself often for new virus threats.  Note only one full time antivirus should be installed.  Alternative full time antivirus programs include Kaspersky, AVG, McAfee, Norton and others.

Antivirus – on-demand

The on-demand virus scanner I use Malwarebytes.  If I ever suspect that I may have a malware problem – the PC suddenly runs slow or behaves oddly – then I stop what I’m doing and run Malwarebytes.  After starting Malwarebytes, update the virus definitions then run a quick or full scan.  I also run Malwarebytes once a month or so for maintenance.  An alternative on-demand virus scanner is SuperAntiSpyware.

Alternate Browsers

The Microsoft browser Internet Explorer (IE) is part of Windows but is considered the least secure browser.  I use Firefox or Chrome instead of IE.  Other alternatives include Safari and Opera.  Please use an alternate browser for better Internet security.

Email

I use the online services Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook and Yahoo for email.  I do not recommend storing your email in local programs such as Outlook, Windows Mail, Eudora, etc. unless you have a specific reason.  Online mail services have the big advantages of 1) being accessible from any Internet device and 2) being automatically backed up.

Office programs – word processing and spreadsheets

I use Microsoft Office (Word and Excel) or Google Docs.  Alternatives include OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Microsoft SkyDrive and even the built in Windows WordPad for simple document creation.  Cloud services (Google Docs, Skydrive and Office 365) are handy because the documents are available from any Internet connected device and are backed up automatically.

Backup

I use 2 data backup systems – a local USB drive and an Internet cloud backup service.  For my local backup I use the Windows Backup program and a 2 TB external USB hard drive.  For my cloud backup service I use Carbonite (about $60/year).  Both systems take time and care to set up.  Windows Backup must be configured for what, when and where files are backed up.  Carbonite must also be configured – not all file types (ie video) are backed up by default.  After backup is working, it is essential to test the backups by retrieving data and confirming that it is working.  There are many alternative local backup programs and backup services.  Backup could be as simple as copying files to a USB drive.   Please backup any stuff that you would hate to lose.

Cloud storage services

I use Google Drive, Dropbox and SkyDrive for storing documents in the cloud.  Cool feature: Google Drive and Dropbox both also provide an automatic upload/backup of my Android mobile phone pictures with the Android apps Google+ and Dropbox installed and configured.   Google Drive and SkyDrive provide office capabilities (word processing, spreadsheet) programs as well.  Alternative cloud services include iCloud, UbuntuOne, Box, Sugarsync and others.

PC files cleanup

I use CCleaner to delete temporary files on my PC.  Temp files include browser cache files, system temp files, system dump files and more.  This program will also delete browser and program history for privacy.  Although one can delete files and history from within browsers and Windows Disk Cleanup, this is way easier.  CCleaner also has advanced PC maintenance tools in one convenient place.

Media player

I use VLC media player for video and audio files.  Alternatives include Windows Media Player and iTunes.

Collect, store and share data between devices

Evernote is a terrific program to store notes, clippings and information between all your Internet devices plus it is all backed up.

Password manager

I use LastPass to store my passwords.  I just have to remember my LastPass password and LastPass will automatically log me on to web sites.  Remember that unique, complex passwords are important for security.

Following is a list of software that I find useful for specialized and advanced projects

  • Managing updates on my PCs – Secunia PSI

  • Video and audio calls – Skype

  • Make backups of DVDs – DVD Shrink

  • Edit audio – Audacity

  • Burn data and image files – ImgBurn

  • Mount iso images – DAEMON Tools

  • Data compression – 7-zip

  • Data and disk encryption – TrueCrypt

  • ftp client – FileZilla

  • Disk recovery – SpinRite

  • NTFS file system checking – Windows Disk Tools Error Checking

  • File access problems – Unlocker

  • Alternative PDF reader – Foxit

  • Software uninstaller – Revo

  • VPN – ProXPN

  • Screen capture – ScreenHunter

  • File undelete – Recouva

  • Disk use visualization – Spacemonger

  • File split and join – hjsplit

  • Viewing PC specifications – Speccy, System Information for Windows

  • Viewing Windows, Office product keys – Magic Jellybean

  • Disk imaging and cloning – Acronis True Image
  • Remote desktop assistance – TeamViewer
  • Microsoft on-demand virus scanners – Windows Defender Offline and Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool
  • Free blog site – wordpress.com
  • File synchronizing between computers – BitTorrent Sync
  • File synchronizing between devices – Microsoft SyncToy
  • Photo editing – Windows Paint, Polyview
  • Storing and sharing photos on the Internet – Flickr (Yahoo), Picasa (Google)
  • Social Media – Facebook, Google+
  • Video sharing – YouTube

I realise that there are many more good programs and software out there.  What are your favorites?

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PC Maintenance – take care of your PC

Like any machine, a PC will benefit from maintenance.   A few routine maintenance tasks will help your PC run better and safer.

The average PC user will benefit from quarterly and yearly maintenance.

For quarterly maintenance I recommend

  • delete unnecessary computer files (ie Internet browser cache) with CCleaner
  • check that Windows Update is working
  • check that the antivirus software is updating and scanning
  • run a secondary on-demand virus scanner (ie MalwareBytes)
  • check your backups

For yearly maintenance I recommend

  • cleaning the inside of the PC

In this post I’ll explain why I recommend these actions, how to do them and at the end some advanced suggestions.  If all this sounds advanced, check with your local kid, nerd or me (for a fair fee).

Deleting unnecessary computer files

Our computers store a lot of information on the disk as we use them – our pictures, email, and documents are data that we like to save.  But the PC stores a lot of information we really don’t need like Internet junk and log files.  The worst offender is the Internet browser cache.  An excess number of files can slow down a PC.

The Internet browser cache is where the PC saves Internet web sites that you visit.    Originally the cache was useful to speed up your Internet in the days of slow Internet connections.  Now the cache is a bunch of files on your PC that you do not need and will slow down your PC and compromise your security.  The cache can grow to thousands of files!

There are multiple ways to clear the Internet cache (see below) but I recommend installing and running the free, highly regarded program Piriform CCleaner.  CCleaner not only deletes the Internet cache but also deletes a lot of other files that you really don’t need all in one simple task.

CCleaner

CCleaner is a good tool to delete unnecessary files on your PC.

Without CCleaner you can also manually delete the Internet cache from the browser menu – following are IE and Firefox techniques

Internet Explorer:

Internet Explorer - delete history - 1

Internet Explorer – delete history – 1

Internet Explorer - delete history - 2

Internet Explorer – delete history – 2

Firefox:

Firefox-delete-history-1

Firefox-delete-history-1

Firefox-delete-history-2

Firefox-delete-history-2

Keeping your software up-to-date

Keeping your PC software up-to-date is very important for security.  Important software to keep updated includes Microsoft Windows itself, your antivirus software, Adobe Flash, and if you have them, Acrobat Reader, Java and Microsoft Office.  Actually ALL software needs to be kept up to date for optimum security but these are the common ones.

Microsoft Windows has the Windows Update feature that checks daily for updates and downloads and installs them as needed when the feature is enabled.   The feature is enabled by default (good) but you will want to periodically check that it is enabled and doing its thing.  Microsoft likes to save up its updates for a monthly download and install on the second Tuesday of each month, street name “Patch Tuesday,” but will push critical updates at any time.

Windows Update

Updates often require a reboot which explains why you occasionally find your PC rebooted with an information bubble saying “Your computer was recently updated!”

Your computer was recently updated!

Your computer was recently updated!

Antivirus updates

Your antivirus will automatically update itself with new virus definitions at least daily and periodically run virus scans.  This is normal.  The new virus definitions help keep your PC protected from new malware in the constant cat and mouse battle between the bad guys and the antivirus manufacturers trying to protect us.  Antivirus programs will work “real time” by inspecting files that we open, web sites that we visit, email that we receive and more.  Antivirus programs will also run a scan of files on the PC on a schedule (ie weekly) to look for problems.  People that leave their PC on 24×7 won’t notice a file scan run in the middle of the night but it can be a big performance hit for people that only turn on their PC when they want to use it because after booting, the antivirus program will realize that it has not run lately and kick off a file scan which will slow down the PC for a period of time.

To check that your antivirus is updating and running scans, open it and check history (Microsoft Security Essentials shown here)

Updating OK

Microsoft Security Essentials - Update tab

Microsoft Security Essentials – Update tab

Last scan OK

Microsoft Security Essentials last scan

Microsoft Security Essentials last scan

Other software such as Flash, Acrobat, iTunes and Java need to be kept up to date also.  These softwares will alert you that a new version is available and offer a way to update.  This is all good.  Even better is software silently updating as needed (Firefox, Chrome for example).

Secondary on-demand virus scanner

Although you have one antivirus program running real time, I recommend that you have a second on-demand antivirus program available for a second opinion.  My favorite is MalwareBytes, a free and highly regarded antivirus.  Download and install this antivirus and use as necessary.  There are two times when I suggest that you use MalwareBytes to run a scan – if you suspect that your PC may be infected by a virus or as a routine maintenance scan.  An on-demand scanner means that it only scans for malware when you run it, it isn’t running all the time.  This is OK for your secondary antivirus.  When you run it, always updated it with new virus definitions before scanning and do a full scan if you have the time which can take 1 or more hours!

Backups.  This is most important.  Please backup your data.  Think of the pictures, documents, data that you would hate to lose.  Make copies.  Back up.  Some strategies to backup

  • get an external (ie USB) disk and use Windows Backup or other backup program to copy files to the external disk (good quick recovery, complicated setup, single location of failure)
  • manually copy important files to a USB disk or thumb drive
  • copy important files to a free cloud storage service (ie Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, Dropbox, …)
  • subscribe to an Internet backup service (ie Carbonite, Amazon)

Having your data on a laptop, desktop, external USB drive are all subject to theft and disaster loss.  Having your data on a cloud service is subject to the cloud business failure (think megaupload) and loss of account access.  So for really important data put it in multiple locations (PC, USB, burn to disk, cloud, mom’s house, your attorney’s office, etc).  Protect your data in proportion to how much you’d hate to lose it. Test recovering data.  Encrypt sensitive data.

Clean PC

Cleaning a PC may seem like avoidable house work but heat is bad for a computer and dust is a major way to defeat the computer cooling system.  Computers have fans, heat sinks and openings to create air flow for cooling.  All can be slowed and defeated by dust, dust bunnies and worse.  Overheated computer components can fail.  You can take the side off of your PC and check it for dust and debris and if present blow it out with a can of compressed air.  I actually use a leaf blower on the patio!  Laptops are also highly susceptible and can be cleaned with with compressed air blowing into the cooling intake and exhaust ports.  By the way, don’t block these ports unintentionally by setting your laptop on a soft surface like a bed or sofa.

Advanced tips

You can place icons on your desktop for easy access to these tasks and to remind you to do them.  Group and place them on the right desktop for emphasis.

desktop icons

desktop icons

Keeping software up-to-date can be a challenge as each vendor has their own ways to check and update their software.  Another pitfall is a bogus recommendation to “update your flash.”  One unified solution for monitoring all software is secunia.com

Speccy and Speedfan can help monitor temperatures.

Checking Windows Error Log may reveal Windows problems.

General performance issues can be diagnosed with the Windows utility Task Manager.

Disk fragmentation is not a problem for the average user.  Vista and later automatically run disk defragmentation.

Registry errors are rarely an issue.  Don’t fall for that advertisement.

For the average home user, I recommend maintenance tasks as quarterly and yearly, your mileage may vary.  If you use your PC a lot or run a business on it or visit dodgy web sites then you will need more frequent maintenance and precautions.  If your PC is acting up you may need immediate remedy.

Happy computing.

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End of support for Windows XP

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Microsoft has announced the end of support for Windows XP as of April 8, 2014.

This means that after that date Microsoft will no longer produce security updates or offer support for Windows XP.

People that use Windows XP are going to be in a tough spot.  They must replace or upgrade their PC or their PC will become increasingly vulnerable to exploits from the Internet as bad guy hackers find new security holes in Windows XP and exploit them with viruses and other malware.

Another problem already happening is the lack of Internet Explorer browser support for Windows XP by Microsoft.  The last version of IE that Microsoft supports for XP is version 8.  This is considered an old version and the Internet community is moving on.  Users are already seeing messages like the following even though they are running the latest version of IE available for Windows XP.

Yikes! It looks like you're using an old internet browser!

Yikes! It looks like you’re using an old internet browser!

Losing Windows XP support is going to affect a lot of people.  Recent statistics show that about 23% of the computers visiting the Internet world wide are running Windows XP and the number is slowly decreasing (from StatCounter.com).  Click graph to enlarge.

Top 7 Operating Systems from Apr 2012 to Mar 2013 world wide

Top 7 Operating Systems from Apr 2012 to Mar 2013 world wide

This leaves Windows XP users with few options

  • buy a new computer
  • upgrade the operating system on the Windows XP computer
  • deal with it

Buying a new computer is one option.  One could buy a new PC with Windows 8 or a used PC with Windows Vista, 7 or 8.  Or one could buy a Mac.

Upgrading one’s current computer to Windows 8 (or 7) may be a possibility.  If the computer is old enough to have Windows XP installed (vintage October 2001 – January 2007) the hardware may not be powerful enough to support Windows 8.

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2 (more info)
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

Older PCs may not meet the processor or graphics card requirements.  RAM can be increased to 1 or 2 GB if necessary but older memory modules are expensive.

Microsoft offers “Upgrade Assistant,” a program that you can download and run on your current PC that will advise you if your hardware can support Windows 8.

Then there is the cost of the upgrade.  You better sit down for this.  The price of a Windows 8 upgrade is $119.99 retail USD.  The street price for this upgrade is about $90.

If the PC owner is not comfortable doing the upgrade, they will have to pay someone to do it or find a willing friend.

Some corporations, businesses and a few individuals may have software that will only run on Windows XP and are faced with another roadblock to upgrading – rewriting or replacing the software that will break.  The cost of upgrading may be a deterrent.

Another “upgrade” possibility is to delete Windows and run Linux.  Linux is a fine operating system, will run on your existing hardware and is free, but there is a learning curve.

One could also choose to not upgrade and deal with the consequences.  The computer will become more susceptible to Internet viruses as time goes on due to a lack of security updates.  It becomes even more important to keep the antivirus program functional and up to date.  The user will have to be more careful on the Internet and when the computer is no longer trustworthy, stop using it for financial and private matters because passwords and data may be vulnerable to theft.  The lack of browser support could be managed by switching to a browser that is supported and updated like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc.

In the last week I have seen Windows XP in use in homes, stores, businesses and in TV newsrooms.  The end of support for Windows XP is going to cause pain for many people.

In defense of Microsoft, there comes a time to let go of old technology and move on to better, safer technology.

Windows XP in a newsroom.  Note the familiar XP wallpaper on the PC on the left.

Windows XP in a newsroom. Note the familiar XP wallpaper on the PC on the left.

Who knows, maybe Microsoft will change their tune at the public outcry or be encouraged by the government to support Windows XP for national security reasons.

Stay tuned.

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4 free antivirus tools from Microsoft

There are many tools available for preventing, detecting and removing viruses and malware on PC computers.  Microsoft offers 4 such tools, all free, that I use and recommend

  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Microsoft Safety Scanner
  • Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool
  • Windows Defender Offline

Here are my notes on these tools and at the end of this post are some screen shots of the tools in use.

4 free Microsoft antivirus tools

Microsoft Security Essentials.  This is an antivirus program similar to the many others available such as Norton, McAfee, Avast, Kaspersky, AVG, etc, that [try to] prevent your computer from catching a virus from the Internet.  Like other antivirus programs it scans the files on your PC as you access them.  It also offers an on-demand scan of your disks and removable media (ie USB) for viruses and malware.  The user interface is simple.  Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) lacks features that other products have, such as anti-spam, suspicious web site blocking, social media scanning.  MSE  sometimes gets less than excellent ratings for virus detection but no antivirus product is 100% effective.  MSE checks your PC for a genuine license.  Available in 32 and 64 bit versions.

Microsoft Safety Scanner.   This is an on-demand malware scanner.  This scan would be useful if the suspect PC is not running an antivirus program or as a second opinion if the suspect PC is running an antivirus other than Microsoft Security Essentials.  The download file is named msert.exe and is about 70-80 MB.  Available in 32 and 64 bit versions.  Expires in 10 days, forcing you to use a reasonably up to date version.  Compatible with other malware products.

Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.  This is an on-demand scanner.  This scanner is downloaded and run every month (second Tuesday) if you have Windows Updates configured to download and install updates automatically.  The file name will be something like Windows-KB890830-V4.19.exe or Windows-KB890830-x64-V4.19.exe.  The download is about 20 MB.  Available in 32 and 64 bit versions.  Compatible with other malware products.  The program will create a log %WINDIR%\debug\mrt.log

Windows Defender Offline.  This is an on-demand scanner that boots from a CD, DVD or USB that you create.  The strength of this scanner is that it boots to its own clean minimal version of Windows and then scans for viruses.  This is better than booting a virus infected copy of Windows which gives the viruses time to hide their presence and block antivirus programs.  Rootkits are more effectively detected this way.  To create this scanner, first download the program mssstool32.exe or mssstool64.exe (32 and 64 bit versions) (about 1 MB) then run the program and follow the on screen instructions to create a bootable CD, DVD or USB that runs the scanner.  The blank CD, DVD or USB must have 250 MB free space.  The program can download the latest malware definitions when update is run if the PC is connected to the Internet.  Unfortunately Microsoft broke this scanner in late 2012 for older CPUs that don’t have NX bit capability – the scanner will hang on boot or crash with a 5D error.

Notes

Oh no, I have a computer virus!  The term virus is commonly used to refer to all malicious or undesirable computer programs that are usually installed without your knowledge or consent.  As commonly used, computer virus also refers to spyware, trojans, keystroke loggers, rootkits, worms, backdoors, adware, ransomware, rogue security software, potentially unwanted programs, trackers, unwanted browser add-ons and browser helper objects and so on.  I prefer to use the term malware to refer to all bad programs.  Mal (bad) + ware (software).

I often recommend Microsoft Security Essentials to people as their antivirus.  Windows Defender Offline is a good tool for cleaning an infected computer.

There are many other antivirus and malware programs available, free and paid.  Lately Norton and Avast have been getting good reviews.  Avast and AVG have free versions that I have used successfully.

Other antivirus companies offer boot and scan rescue disks like Kaspersky, BitDefender, F-Secure, Avira, AVG and others.  You can download and burn an .iso to create a bootable rescue disk.

There are also many on-demand scanners both programs and web sites.  I highly recommend MalwareBytes.  SuperAntiSpyware is good and can be run in portable mode.    There are also web sites from which you can launch a virus scan on your PC such as Trend Micro, BitDefender and AVG.

When running virus scans, be sure to update your virus definitions before scanning.

Screen Captures

Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials main screen

Microsoft Security Essentials main screen

Microsoft Security Essentials scanning

Microsoft Security Essentials scanning

Microsoft Security Essentials scan results

Microsoft Security Essentials scan results

Microsoft Safety Scanner

Microsoft Safety Scanner license agreement

Microsoft Safety Scanner license agreement

Microsoft Safety Scanner welcome

Microsoft Safety Scanner welcome

Microsoft Safety Scanner choose a type of scan

Microsoft Safety Scanner choose a type of scan

Microsoft Safety Scanner scanning

Microsoft Safety Scanner scanning

Microsoft Safety Scanner scan results

Microsoft Safety Scanner scan results

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool welcome

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scan type

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scan type

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scanning your computer

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scanning your computer

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scan results

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool scan results

Windows Defender Offline

Windows Defender Offline booting 1

Windows Defender Offline booting 1

Windows Defender Offline starting windows

Windows Defender Offline starting windows

Windows Defender Offline starting WDO

Windows Defender Offline starting WDO

Windows Defender Offline definitions update

Windows Defender Offline definitions update

Windows Defender scanning

Windows Defender scanning

Windows Defender scan completed, no threats

Windows Defender scan completed, no threats

.

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New PC! 486 with Windows for Workgroups

AMD 486 PC tower with 14" monitor, keyboard and MS mouse

AMD 486 PC tower with 14″ monitor, keyboard and MS mouse

I restored this 1994 PC for fun.  It was a powerful computer in its day, with a 486 class 66 MHz cpu, 16 MB of RAM, 170 MB hard disk, sound card, CD-ROM and the latest Microsoft Operating Systems DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11.

It is interesting to see how computers have changed in 20 years.  Notice the specifications for this PC are in Megabytes and Megahertz, not the usual Gigabytes and Gigahertz that we are used to seeing today.  Some of the features are quite outdated like coaxial Ethernet, serial ports, and configuring expansion cards with jumpers.

Read on for the specifications, a video of the PC booting and running, pictures of the restoration process and PDF scans of the original documentation.

Watch the PC boot and run Windows -

Specifications

  • AMD Am486DX2 66 MHz CPU
  • 486SH VL-Bus System Board with 3 32-bit VESA local bus slots, 6 ISA bus slots and 1 8-bit ISA slot, 8 SIMM memory module slots, cache and green features (cpu-clock slow down and monitor shut down features)
  • Tower case
  • 230 watt power supply
  • 16 MB memory – 4 4 MB SIMM memory modules
  • hard disk – 170 MB Western Digital Caviar 1170
  • 5 1/4″ floppy drive – 1.2 MB high density TEAC FD-55GFR
  • 3 1/2″ floppy drive – 1.44 MB
  • sound card – SoundBlaster 16-bit with SCSI-2 interface
  • CD-ROM – Matshita CR-504 SCSI 4x
  • video card – Kelvin Orchid 64 VESA
  • VL-bus Super I/O card with support for 2 IDE cables, 1 floppy disk cable, 2 serial ports, LPT printer port
  • NIC, generic, 10 Mbps with RJ-45 and Thin-Wire Ethernet connectors
  • System board has a DIN keyboard connector
  • Mouse – Microsoft 2 button with a 9 pin serial connector
  • 14″ CRT monitor

Restoring the PC

The system was complete and booted when I dug it out of the garage but was filthy and the cpu heat sink had broken off.  I stripped it down, cleaned it up, took photographs scanned the expansion card manuals.  I made a bracket to hold the heat sink on with baling wire.  I added a 5 1/4″ floppy disk drive.

PC getting stripped down for restore.  Note broken heat sink lower right.

PC getting stripped down for restore. Note broken heat sink lower right.

heat sink secured with bailing wire

heat sink secured with bailing wire

Components and their PDF manuals

AMD Am486 DX2-66 CPU

AMD Am486 DX2-66 CPU

Wikipedia article on the AMD Am486 CPU.

System board

System Board

System Board

486SH_VL-Bus_System_Board_User’s_Manual_Revision_1.1

Orchid Kelvin 64 video card

Orchid Kelvin 64 video card

Orchid Kelvin 64 video card

Orchid_Kelvin_64_video_card_User’s_Manual

NIC

NIC

NIC

Ethernet_Adapter_User’s_Guide

Super I/O card

Super I/O card

Super I/O card

PTI-255W_VL-Bus_Super_IO_Card_User’s_Guide

SoundBlaster sound and SCSI card

SoundBlaster 16-bit Multimedia Audio Card with SCSI-2 Interface

SoundBlaster 16-bit Multimedia Audio Card with SCSI-2 Interface

SoundBlaster_16-bit_Multimedia_Audio_Card_SCSI-2_Interface_User’s_Guide

CMOS standard setup screen

CMOS standard setup screen

CMOS standard setup screen

Setup disks

  • DOS 6.22 (3 disks)
  • Windows for Workgroups (8 disks)
  • TCP/IP protocol add on disk for WfW (1 disk)
  • MS Mouse driver (1 disk)
Setup disks.

Setup disks.

config.sys

DEVICE=C:\EZSCSI50\ASPI2DOS.SYS /D /Z
DEVICE=C:\EZSCSI50\ASPICD.SYS /D:ASPICD0
DEVICE=C:\SB16\DRV\CTSB16.SYS /UNIT=0 /BLASTER=A:220 I:5 D:1 H:5
DEVICE=C:\SB16\DRV\CTMMSYS.SYS
FILES=40
DEVICE=C:\DOS\SETVER.EXE
DEVICE=C:\WINDOWS\HIMEM.SYS
DOS=HIGH
REM ** FILES=30
LASTDRIVE=Z
DEVICE=C:\WINDOWS\IFSHLP.SYS
STACKS=9,256

autoexec.bat

C:\DOS\MSCDEX.EXE /D:ASPICD0 /M:12
SET SOUND=C:\SB16
SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H5 P330 T6
SET MIDI=SYNTH:1 MAP:E
C:\SB16\DIAGNOSE /S
C:\SB16\MIXERSET /P /Q
C:\WINDOWS\net start
C:\DOS\SMARTDRV.EXE /X
@ECHO OFF
PROMPT $p$g
PATH C:\WINDOWS;C:\DOS
SET TEMP=C:\DOS

Notes on the project

I had forgotten how modular computers were back then.  The mother board only held the cpu, memory, cache and expansion slots – no integrated features like video, sound, NIC and I/O.  Today’s mother boards typically include video, sound, NIC and I/O features.  The CPU contains its cache on the die.

PCs had to be manually configured for interrupts and I/O memory, typically with jumpers or configuration programs.  Today we have Plug-and-Play to automatically set these parameters.

Some I/O ports and devices have disappeared – serial ports, printer ports and floppy disks.  USB, FireWire and SATA have taken their place.  IDE and floppy ports are disappearing.  The keyboard port has shrunk from full size DIN to mini DIN or has been replaced by USB.

The speeds of CPUs, memory, buses, disks and Ethernet have all improved a lot.  New devices like WiFi, solid state storage, writeable optical media have changed computing.  Laptops, mobile phones and tablets have changed computing even more.

Operating Systems and software are always growing and demanding more computer resources, one reason we need bigger and faster computers all the time.  I was amused at how well DOS 6 and Windows 3 ran on the slim resources of a 66 MHz processor with 16 MB RAM.

Both the system board and video card mention “green” features for power conservation, early energy and environment awareness.  Please recycle electronic waste.

Back in the day there were stores that built and repaired computers.  This one was originally built and sold by Zoommax Computers, Sacramento, California.

Zoommax logo PC

Zoommax logo PC

 

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