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Doug's Mailbag: Computer Crashes and Burns, More

Doug asked readers last week for their computer crash sob stories. And they delivered:

My worst nightmare was with a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I. My wife was a first-year teacher, using it with WordStar to create her final exam to give the next day. At 11:30 p.m., WordStar locked up and wouldn't run. I was able to get into debug mode and, memory page by memory page, recover the text in memory and dump it to a printer. She then took it and typed it up on ditto sheets to make up the test. We finished up about 6:30 a.m., just in time for her to leave for school and give the exam.

That crash led to us getting a brand-new, dual-diskette IBM PC the next week.

Mustang BBS, nine nodes split between two Windows 95 computers. If they didn't get rebooted twice a day, they froze up like Hillary Clinton at a nudist convention. Monstrous memory leaks combined with DOS-based code and communications simply did not make for uber-stability. If, and only if, they got their twice daily reboots, they ran like Timex built 'em.

One Pentium 75-based system would have been able to handle the system just fine, if I could have loaded enough com ports to allow all the modems to run. But by the time that became feasible, in later builds of Windows, the BBS era was pretty much a footnote in communications history.

I upgraded to Windows ME immediately when it was released, and by far my worst system crash happened with that OS. It was taking a very long time to boot up one day so I rebooted it, and when it came up, it said that there was no OS installed. I looked at the file system and there were only two files there and they were gibberish. I lost everything.

In contrast, a reader recalls one particularly stable OS:

It's been out over 30 years. It's had virtually no new feature development in 10 years (and that is showing; the only GUI is KDE). But as a server OS, Digital Equipment's VMS is still the best body of code I've ever used. Almost no bugs or security flaws. It runs on both small boxes and multiroom monsters. I seen a three node cluster hit five nines uptime in a busy environment without a shutdown in over a year. It will keep running even after some dolt deleted most of the system disk, because it remembers the track and sector location of critical files and does not care if the file names went away (until you reboot). Cluster nodes can be far apart (as in separate cities). It has supported virtual servers for over 10 years.

Such a shame that they did not have Microsoft's marketing machine. Back in the days of NT 4, we used to say that VMS already was what Microsoft wanted NT 8 to be. It still is.

Doug's had a couple of minor problems with Windows 7 related to sleep mode and HP printer drivers. A few of you have had similar experiences:

We've had a string of incidents with HP printers and new Windows OSes. For example, we failed to install a HP Deskjet 1280 A3 printer on new machines with Windows 7. The driver page at HP for this printer is just an instruction informing us that Windows 7 will install this driver automagically. It didn't happen! Windows 7 would not recognise this printer.

When I rang HP support, the tech told me there appears to not be a driver for Windows 7. The Windows 7 upgrade advisor shows no problem with this printer. But we needed to purchase a new printer. I notice the curious and misleading term 'compatibile with Windows 7' at HP driver support for many other models.

One computer out the seven I have deployed here has that issue, as well (64-bit Windows 7). Sorry to hear that.

Just learned this yesterday: Windows 7 comes with IE 8 and does not allow for reverting to IE 7, or replacing IE 8 with 7. Our SAP system runs on IE 7, but not 8. When switching to Windows 7 becomes necessary, MS has therefore forced us to spend funds we do not have on an upgrade we functionally do not need.

And finally, Steve and Microsoft are having a little misunderstanding:

I received an e-mail from MS saying "It's time to upgrade from the Windows 7 Release Candidate." I replied that I had downloaded the RC by accident and that I never installed it. I am running XP. Further, I can't find the RC on my system. Do you have any idea of the RC file download name so that I can delete it? I don't want my system to be shut down every two hours!

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Posted by Doug Barney on 02/21/2010 at 1:17 PM


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