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[ The PC Guide | Site Guide | Version History and Old Site Updates ]

Old Site Updates - November 1997

November 29, 1997, 11:30 am EST:

  • Disk Edition Update: Work on conversion of the Disk Edition is proceeding well and I am on schedule to ship next week, though I am awaiting some updated material for the CD-ROM version. I have added the download page to the site for those going that route (note that it is password-protected and so not accessible to anyone right now).
  • Disk Edition Pricing Update: I added a note to the page describing Disk Edition pricing to make clear that the discounted prices for corporate licenses are also available to any individual interested in purchasing 5 or more copies of the Disk Edition for whatever reason. Sorry for the confusion.
  • CD-R Resource Link: I added a link to a page called Resources for CD-R. This is one of the best references regarding CD-R and related technologies that I have found on the Web.
  • CPU Resource Link: I added a link to CPU Central. This is an interesting web site that is dedicated specifically to CPU information.
  • General Links Link: I added a link to the OmniTree Technical References page. This page has a lot of links to various pages, including a comprehensive hardware section. (You do have to go down a few levels into the structure to get it, however.)
  • Corrections: I fixed a problem with the page that describes how CD-ROMs work; thanks to Paul for pointing it out. I corrected the page on the Pentium Pro. I had said that the Pentium Pro was the first chip to use x86 instruction translation, when in fact the Nexgen Nx586 did this first. Thanks to JP. I changed the page on the Cyrix 5x86 to reflect the fact that the 100 MHz version also ran at 50x2, not just 33x3.
  • Video Refresh Change: I added a note to the page discussing video card refresh discussing the drawbacks of running at too high a refresh rate.
  • Argh! Please, if you are going to send me email, send it with proper reply-to addresses. I can understand that some people find spam so annoying that they want to hide their email address when posting to Usenet, but for email, it's really irritating watching replies bounce. I promise that I will not spam you. :^)

November 26, 1997, 10:30 pm EST:

  • Overclocking Pros and Cons: One of today's articles on PC World's NewsRadio features myself and Scott Wainner, webmaster of the System Optimization Web Site, providing opposing opinions on overclocking.
  • Clarification: In yesterday's Tip Of The Day, I mentioned that you should not use XCOPY to try to clone a hard disk volume because of the risk of filename corruption. A couple of people wrote to me saying that using XCOPY was the problem, that I should instead use XCOPY32. In fact, most of the cloning procedures tell you to run XCOPY from a DOS box within Windows 95; this will automatically invoke XCOPY32. The problem occurs using either one. (XCOPY from straight DOS mode, not within Windows 95, is worse--it will wipe out your long filenames entirely).
  • Memory Prices Falling: Here's an interesting article on memory chip manufacturers and costs.
  • Gobble Gobble: Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends here in the U.S.

November 24, 1997, 11:00 pm EST:

  • Disk Edition Now Available for Ordering: I am excited to inform you that The PC Guide Disk Edition is now available for ordering, and should be ready for download/shipment within one week's time. The Disk Edition is the downloadable/CD version of the site in which many of you have expressed interest. I have answered most of the questions that everyone has asked about it, as well as many others that I anticipated, in a special section. Please read all the details about the Disk Edition here before contacting me with questions (and hopefully, orders).
  • PC Webopaedia Partnership: I am very pleased to announce that The PC Guide has formed a partnership with the PC Webopaedia web site, created and maintained by Sandy Bay Software. The Webopaedia is an excellent reference resource, containing definitions and links for literally thousands of computer terms (and definitely not just hardware). It complements this site very well, since I go into more detail but they cover much more breadth. Who wins from this partnership? You do! The Webopaedia is going to be indexing The PC Guide and adding links from most of its hardware terms to the appropriate pages on this site; this means easier access to detailed hardware information for Webopaedia users. On this site, I have added a search box to the bottom of every PC Guide page that lets you look up the definition of any Webopaedia term conveniently from anywhere on the site. So if you are reading a page and encounter a term you find unfamiliar, just use the search box at the bottom of the page! Please let me know if you find this feature useful.
  • New PC Assembly Procedure Completed: I have completed nine new pages, all subprocedures of the New PC Assembly Procedure, which is now finished. The completed procedure is now, I believe, the most thorough procedure for homebuilding a PC on the Internet. It does much more than cover the physical assembly (which everyone does): it starts with gathering the necessary components, and then describes not just how to build the computer, but how to set up the BIOS parameters, test the new PC thoroughly, and even how to partition the hard disk and install Windows 95. Feedback welcomed! I do know that it needs diagrams, by the way. Sorry, can't do everything at once. :^)
  • CD-R Media Care Update: The Disk Edition is available either by Internet download or on CD-ROM. I will be using CD-R technology for this and CD-Rs are more delicate than regular, pressed CD-ROMs. I have therefore added more information on the care of CD-ROMs and CD-Rs.
  • SDRAM Overhaul: I have completely redone my section on SDRAM, in response to questions from my readers. The revised section provides much more information on SDRAM, and addresses such issues as speed ratings (and their pitfalls), 2-clock vs. 4-clock SDRAM, the serial presence detect chip, and choosing what you need for your system. It's not yet everything I want it to be, but it's much improved. Take a look here if interested.
  • RAM Troubleshooting Page Update: I added several new possible causes for memory problems to this page that deals with memory failures.
  • Proofreaders--The Unsung Heroes: Thanks to Todd Mullins for taking the time to point out several icky typos and sentence fragments in various areas of the site. Thanks to Bill Nelson for pointing out some errors as well. There are many more out there but I can't fix them unless someone finds them and lets me know. :^)
  • Power Reference Link Added: I added a link to my links page to the Sutton Designs Power Site. This site contains an impressive collection of articles and information on PC power and power protection issues. Thanks to Tom Schulte for pointing it out. Note that this is a commercial site.
  • Link Page Link: I added a link to "Trish's Escape from Hardware Hell", a web site with a colorful name and lots of links to various hardware-related resources.
  • Micropolis Information: Micropolis, once one of the leading manufacturers of hard disk drives, is being shut down by its parent company. If you own one of these drives and have questions about it, you may want to read this FAQ on the Micropolis liquidation.

November 23, 1997, 9:00 pm EST:

  • I'm Not Gone: Sorry for pulling the virtual disappearing act on all of you... I've been working all weekend on the big update that I spoke of several days ago. It's unfortunately taking slightly longer than I anticipated, and I am also having some technical problems with my ISP. The update should be posted tomorrow night. I think you'll be pleased with it. Thanks for your patience.

November 19, 1997, 11:00 pm EST:

  • What's The Deal?: You've probably noticed that the updates are becoming less frequent; I sort of warned about this two weeks ago. The pace of progress on the site is in fact continuing at the same or even a faster pace. I've just decided to update the site slightly less often so I can spend more time on content. Look for a major update by the end of this coming weekend.
  • Logo Design Contest: I know this site is almost entirely text, but enough's enough, I need a graphical logo/banner for this site. Unfortunately, I have all the artistic ability of a small houseplant, so I've decided to see if I can tap the artistic abilities of the Web community by running a logo design contest. This weekend I will be posting up information about how this will work; I hope some of you out there will either participate or point me to someone who is willing to.

November 17, 1997, 9:45 pm EST:

  • COMDEX This Week: This is the week of the big COMDEX show in Las Vegas. The show is a major event in the computer world, and a lot of announcements will be made about new products and technologies over the next few days. If you are interested in keeping up on the latest, check out www.news.com. In the past I have reported highlights here but I'd rather keep to working on the site.
  • Thought Of The Day: "Hardware: The part of the computer that stops working when you spill beer on it." -- Dave Barry. ;^)
  • Downloadable PC Guide Update: The downloadable/CD version of The PC Guide I am currently calling "The PC Guide Disk Edition"; the name may change again (because I don't particularly like that one). I have been working away on the details and have most of them figured out in at least basic terms. I plan to complete the New PC Assembly Procedure before releasing the Disk Edition. All of this should happen within two weeks. I will most likely start accepting orders at that time. Look for details on the Disk Edition to be posted to the site as soon as this coming weekend. I will also email all those who emailed me earlier expressing interest in the downloadable version to tell them when details are posted.

November 15, 1997, 4:30 pm EST:

  • Back To Normal: Well, I am mostly dug out from under the pile of work I had last week. Sorry for kind of letting the site go, it's going to happen from time to time despite my delusions about being superhuman. :^) I hopefully will keep my email current now; I have added an auto-responder to my mailbox so if you mail me, you'll at least know the mail was received OK.
  • Not Ready For Prime Time: Most of the problems I have had in the last week were related to getting a CD-RW drive operational. I will be using this drive to produce the disk-based version of the site, which I will posting more about in a week or so. CD-R technology has been around for a while, but there are still a lot of issues in getting the system to work properly. I ended up going through two drive, two different interfaces and three different pieces of software. As a result of my experiences I made some small changes to my pages on CD-R and CD-RW technology.
  • CD-RW CD-ROM Compatibility List: I added a link to Ricoh's CD-RW compatibility list, which lists regular CD-ROM drives that will read CD-RW disks (most do not). I also put this link in my links area. Thanks to Hans Wedemeyer.
  • Three More Procedures: Despite the slowdown that I experienced this week, I was able to complete three more procedures: Video Card Physical Installation, Post-Assembly Inspection, and External Peripheral Connection. These are subparts of the New PC Assembly Procedure that I hope to complete within one week.
  • Installation Procedures Renamed: I renamed all of the Installation Procedures in the Procedure Guide to physical installation procedures, since they deal with the physical installation of devices only. The more generic name implied that these procedures contained all the steps for installing a new device, which of course they do not.
  • ECC Memory Module Clarification Added: In my pages on the system memory, I did not draw a distinction between parity memory modules, and ECC memory modules. These are not the same and there has been a great deal of confusion surrounding the capabilities of these different modules. My pages did not discuss the existence of the ECC modules. I have therefore totally revised the pages on memory error detection and correction, and memory packaging, to reflect the fact that there are these two different types of error-detecting modules, and what their differences are.
  • More on ECC: I made changes to reflect the fact that ECC SDRAM memory is now available (no doubt due to the new Intel 440LX chipset, which supports ECC and SDRAM). I also corrected a section where I said that ECC mode will only allow the detection of two-bit errors; it will in fact detect 2-, 3- or 4-bit errors.
  • UPS and Surge Suppressor Warning: You should not plug a surge suppressor into the output plugs of a UPS, as this can cause equipment failure and may even be a safety hazard. I have added a warning to the relevant pages. Thanks to Richard M.
  • Oops: I corrected a couple of typos, and also some "brainos", where I had the logical meaning of something inverted. First, standard CD-ROMs spin slower reading the outside edge of the disk, not the inside; I corrected the page on CD-ROM performance. Thanks to Drew Mcpherson for pointing that out. In the page on CRT characteristics, I said that you should check to make sure vertical lines appear vertical, and horizontal lines vertical. Heehee, that would certainly make for interesting viewing. Thanks to Bill Nelson. I also fixed a broken link to PowerQuests' PartitionMagic. Thanks to Jason Baumbach.
  • BIOS Passwords: I updated the page on BIOS passwords, to reflect a sensible use of dual passwords that I had not previously considered. Thanks again to Bill Nelson.
  • Learn Your History, Charles: Thanks to Mitch Williams for correcting some incorrect information regarding early computing devices (vacuum tubes in particular) that I had on my page on semiconductors and processor technology.
  • More on AGP: I made some small revisions to the page on the new Accelerated Graphics Port. This page will be updated much more in the future as AGP becomes more mainstream.
  • Award Beep Code: Based on a couple of reports from users, I added another beep code to the section covering Award BIOS beep codes.

November 13, 1997, 11:00 pm EST:

  • Sorry: I have to apologize to you all for the lack of updates and tips of the day over the last couple of days; I am also way behind on my email. The reason for this is that I am having technical problems with my PC, and am also under extreme time pressure due to a number of factors. I hope things will get back to normal this weekend. Thanks for your patience.

November 11, 1997, 11:50 pm EST:

  • Welcome KC Computers: Please join me in welcoming a new sponsor to The PC Guide, KC Computers. KC Computers is one of the oldest Internet-based computer products dealers and is consistently given top marks for customer satisfaction. Try their banner sometime, which is located on the Topic Index.

November 9, 1997, 11:00 pm EST:

  • Oops: I forgot to post a Tip Of The Day today. Sorry about that (although I guess it was kind of unrealistic of me to expect I would be able to post one every single day in the first place).
  • IDE Hard Disk Comparison: I did an informal comparison and benchmark of two high-end IDE hard disk drives: an IBM Deskstar 5 4.2 GB and a Western Digital Caviar 6.4 GB. I posted the results to a couple of newsgroups, including alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt. In a nutshell, the two drives were almost identical in performance and both are excellent choices.
  • New Pentium Bug: A new bug has been discovered that affects Pentium and Pentium with MMX processors (only). This problem is related to an unusual machine language op code that can cause the PC to lock up if you try to execute it. This operation must be executed on purpose by system and so this will not affect any existing problems, and I think the problem is basically overblown based on what I have read, but you can judge for yourself.

November 8, 1997, 4:00 pm EST:

  • Behind On Email: A combination of various things (not the least of which being the fact that I had half the guts of my PC scattered across my office floor last night) have conspired to make me fall behind on my email. I will respond to all the mail that has been sent to me soon.
  • Download Version Is A Go: The decision has been made: there will be a downloadable version of The PC Guide. Furthermore, there will also be a CD version of the site; part of the reason my machine was apart last night was to install a CD-R drive. I want to thank everyone for their response to the survey on this subject, which I have now taken down from the site. I will be posting more information as soon the details have been finalized. I have a lot of work to do to get this ready, but my plan is to have both the download version and the CD version ready by the end of the month, so keep them in mind for those holiday stocking stuffers. :^)
  • More Progress on Procedures: I have completed five more sub-steps of the New PC Assembly Procedure, which I hope to have done within about two weeks.
  • New Link to Hardware Site: I added a link in my resources area to Hardware.PairNET.com, a general hardware information site I recently discovered. Check the site out for benchmarks and reviews; you will also find lots of current industry news in convenient link format. One thing I like about this site is the very down-to-earth and objective approach taken by its webmasters.
  • Action Taken to Address Increasing Server Load: The site's popularity continues to increase, for which I am very grateful. One downside to this is that response time on the server is starting to decrease. I have also noticed that the site is being mass-indexed by an increasing number of people using web robots. I request in the copyright information section that people not do this. If only 100 people per day were to decide to do a full indexing of this site, this would result in a hit on the server of over 150,000 files containing over 1 GB of HTML! Since robot functionality is built into Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4, and since IE4 is currently in beta, the use of this feature is only going to increase when IE4 goes mainstream, and will eventually cause dramatic server problems (and very high bandwidth costs). For this reason, I have taken steps to disable automated indexing of the site. I apologize to anyone for whom this is an inconvenience, but not acting would mean inconveniencing many, many more people. If any of you who use the site regularly notice server response problems or significant degradation, please let me know.
  • Watch Out For Shorts: I added a section to the troubleshooting page on power supplies, warning about looking for short-circuits when the power supply appears to be dead. Incorrectly attaching a power connector can cause the power supply to short, and this will cause it to "play dead" until you resolve the problem. I experienced this myself yesterday and did not enjoy it very much at all. :^)
  • It's Not The Real Thing: I added a warning to my page on Intel Pentium chipsets about the so-called "TX Pro" chipset. We already have the "VX Pro" and "HX Pro" so, I guess this is what someone out there calls "progress". These "Pro" chipsets are named intentionally to confuse the buying public into thinking they are enhanced versions of the 430HX, 430VX and 430TX chipsets by Intel. In fact, they are not even made by Intel, but by a competitor, and are generally inferior to the Intel versions. By the way, do you want to buy a product whose manufacturer feels so little confidence in it that it must resort to tricking people into buying it?
  • 100X My Foot: I added a warning to the page on CD-ROM performance about the alleged "100X" CD-ROMs that I wrote about earlier in the week on this update page.
  • Footers Updated: I fixed a bug in the footer code that was causing the copyright information to display in a nested frame accidentally (suprised nobody emailed me about that one!) I also added the name of the site and URL to the bottom of each page.

November 6, 1997, 9:30 pm EST:

  • AMD's Yield Problems Continue: Wondering why the AMD K6-233 is still so expensive? Read this article.
  • Get Your HX Chipset Motherboards Now: Just a reminder: Intel's best (in my opinion) chipset for the Pentium platform, the Trition II 430HX, has been discontinued. Supply on motherboards that use this chipset is going to start to become short quite soon, so if you are in the market for one of these boards, now is the time to buy.
  • I Know; Lazy, Lazy, Lazy: The next content update to the site will probably be on Saturday, featuring several new procedures, news on the downloadable version of the site and more changes.

November 4, 1997, 10:00 pm EST:

  • Welcome Cyberian Outpost: Please join me in welcoming a new sponsor to The PC Guide, Cyberian Outpost. Cyberian Outpost sells a wide variety of both hardware and software products, for both the PC and Macintosh platforms. They were recently named best site for buying computer equipment by Money Magazine. They have a colorful and interesting web site. Please check them out, and help to support this site.
  • If It Sounds Too Good To Be True...: You know, it's gotten to the point with all the overrated new product hype that as soon as I hear about something that sounds too dramatic to be legitimate, I am immediately skeptical. Today's topic? The so-called 100X CD-ROM drive. Guess what? It's not a 100X CD-ROM drive at all--not even close. When you read the specifications up close you find out what is really going on: this is a plain 12X CD-ROM drive--not even close to the fastest available--that uses the hard disk to buffer the contents of the CD and therefore dramatically speed up the CD-ROM. Well, this is far from being anything new. You can do the same thing with any CD-ROM drive if you have 650 MB of free disk space, and there are many different CD-ROM caching programs around that work similarly. Don't be fooled by things like this.

November 3, 1997, 10:30 pm EST:

  • I'm Not Impressed: I have just, unfortunately, read that Intel may produce "stripped down" versions of its Pentium II processor with no level 2 cache. Wow, I'm impressed. Let's see. The only reason to buy the Pentium II is if you are after the absolute most performance (because on a performance per dollar basis, competing chips from AMD and Cyrix blow it away), so why would anyone want such a monstrosity? Easy: it will be cheap, and system vendors will simply play this down and pretend that it doesn't have a big impact on performance. And then people like me will just have more work to do countering the disinformation. Read the full article here.

November 2, 1997, 10:30 pm EST:

  • New Tip Of The Day Archive: In response to numerous requests, I have added an accessible archive of my daily tips to the site. You can access it by clicking on the "Tip Of The Day" link above. Thanks to those who provided feedback regarding this feature.
  • Old Site Updates Page Reorganized: I restructured the Old Site Updates page by month as the former page was becoming a little large. Each month's updates will now be on a separate linked page.
  • Ho Hum, Three More Procedures: I added three more procedures to the Procedure Guide: the Memory Module Installation Procedure, Motherboard Installation Procedure and I/O Port Connector Installation Procedure. I hope you will find these useful. The motherboard procedure in particular I hope you find helpful; I took special care to ensure that it covers the specifics of actually mounting a motherboard to a system case in the level of detail a first-time assembler needs. With these procedures, the New PC Assembly Procedure is now half-done. It should be totally complete within two weeks.
  • Mounting Hardware Information Added: I added a more detailed description of motherboard mounting hardware to the page on parts of the system case, to support the procedures I mentioned above.
  • Topic Index Fixed: The link from the Topic Index to the No-Frames Topic Index went instead back to the regular Topic Index; this is now fixed.

November 1, 1997, 9:30 am EST:

  • Welcome, New Readers: I want to welcome everyone visiting the site by way of the Intel Secrets web site, and of course heartily thank Robert Collins for naming The PC Guide his web site of the month for November.
  • Three New Procedures: As I continue to work down the list of subprocedures that make up the New PC Assembly Procedure, I have added three new pages: the Processor Installation Procedure, Heat Sink Installation Procedure and Cache Module Installation Procedure.
  • Time For a Processor Upgrade?: If you are ready to upgrade your current CPU to a new one but are unsure of what your options are, or how to do the upgrade, or in fact have any questions at all about it, look no further than Chris Hare's new Processor Upgrading FAQ. This is the best resource of its kind that I have found on the web.
  • Looking for Video Card Information?: Here's another really good hardware site that I have happened upon: Shayne's Video Accelerator Page. It is dedicated specifically to video cards and contains lots of information, both on the generalities of how video cards work, and also on specific hardware.
  • Linux And Cyrix: If you are using or considering using the Linux operating system with a Cyrix 6x86 or 6x86MX processor, you definitely want to check out this web site, which covers this combination in detail.
  • That's It, I'm Getting My Credit Card: In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, AMD has announced that it will cut the price of its K6 processors in response to the recent price cuts announced by Intel. The targeted price for the K6-166 is only $85! While exciting, I have to wonder to what extent the price cuts will really trickle down, however, given the supply problems AMD has been experiencing with the K6. The K6-233 in particular seems to be very hard to find of late. Speculation is that AMD's yield on its K6 production line may be as low as 20%, which is hurting the company and spooking potential OEM partners. See this article for details.
  • Doesn't Quite Get It: Me, to my son Matthew (age 16 months), dressed up last night as a little cow: "Matthew, what does a cow say?" Matthew: "Baaa". Oh well. :^)

Next: Old Site Updates - October 1997


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