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Diary of System and Website Development
Part 7 (January 2000 - December 2001)

1st January 2000

Networking: I have decided to start the new Millennium by writing up a new topic - Networking. Over the last month or so I have been practising with setting up a simple Local Area Network (LAN) on our machines so I can set them up without problems for others. This will eventually make a full Technical Article in the Howto Series but in the meantime it will start here where people can watch progress. So far I have a network between the Dell and the Libretto and have installed a card into one of the Target machines and networked that to the Libretto.

The whole business is sufficiently complex that I am going start here with a contents list so here goes with the new project which I will call :-

A Guide to Painless Networks

  1. Introduction

    • Who is the guide for?
    • What is involved?

  2. Choosing a Network

    • Network Architectures
      • Client Server Architecture Network
      • Peer to Peer Networking
    • Popular Network Technologies
      • 10-Base-2 Ethernet
      • 10-Base-T Ethernet
      • Wireless Networks
    • Network Software
    • Conclusions

  3. Installing the Network

    • Hardware
      • Installing Network Interface Cards with examples of:
        • D-Link DE-220PT Ethernet ISA card
        • D-Link DE-660CT Ethernet PCMIA card
      • Checking the Network Cards
      • Accessing Device Information
      • Updating Network Adapter Device Drivers

    • Software
      • Windows 95/98 Network Software Installation
      • Windows 95/98 Network Software Configuration

  4. Using the Network

    • Make the Resources available
      • Sharing Drives, Folders and Files
      • Sharing Printers

    • Accessing Resources
      • Network Neighbourhood
      • Windows Explorer
      • File menus
      • Mapping Resources to a Drive
      • Printers

4th January 2000

The Guide to painless Networks completed and uploaded and thought given to the problems of a number of my friends who have complex Internet and Email systems using several service providers that I have helped to set up. Many of them are dependent on their email for the smooth running of their businesses and need to be able to recover from simple mistakes or major disasters quickly. Many providers have also been making changes to their systems, some at very short notice to respond to the upsurge in problems with spam. These changes have impacted on the configuration on individual machines in several cases. To understand these changes and how to rebuild or reconfigure the system they need to understand the main components which provide the building blocks for the email and Internet connections. I decided that I needed to write another Howto technical article called Recovering from Internet and Email Disasters.

19th January 2000

Recovering from Internet and Email Disasters article completed and uploaded.

5th April 2000

Our new Dell XPS 700r machine arrives and getting that set up takes priority over work on the web site.

May 2000

A number of new pages added to the web sites I look after and iHTML based form processing added to the site hosted on Fasthosts

3rd June 2000

Completed writing a number of new pages and added them to the Howto series of Technical Articles Added a new subsection to Howto series of Technical Articles with emphasis on Support to Small Firms

5th June 2000

Have been updating a number of pages to reflect the new computer and the latest versions of software including

25th July 2000

I have started planning a new section of the site directed towards supporting small firms who need a presence on the Web and/or simple networking. I am considering offering just enough consultancy to get them up and running so that they can become self sufficient and be able to carry on using the level of technical support on our site.

A number of new pages will be needed to augment those in the Howto Series providing the complete set below:


Major work has gone into the New page - Search Engines and Directories - what you need to do to get visitors to a business site. I have tried a lot of it out in registering the sites I look after and sections of my own sites.

I have done quite a lot of work in the last month on the overall layout of the site now that there are so many valid entry points and set up a navigation bar across the top of the main pages as shown below

Home OU Pages Howto Articles Uniquely NZ Small Firms Search

The links reflect the style of each of the sections of the site. There is also a link at the left to the site Search facility on the Home page.

I have also done a lot of internal work to remove some of the hang overs from using CompuServe - The Home page used to homepage.htm which is not a default for other service providers so I used to have homepage,htm and index.htm as identical copies. I have now changed every link to be to index.htm and will only keep homepage.htm in case people have bookmarked it - it will probably be changed eventually to an automatic redirect.

12th August 2001

It has been a long time since the diary has been brought up to date - much of what has been done has been steady progress towards standardising the format and navigation within the various sections of the site. This is not trivial as there are about 175 top level pages of significance and many more forming parts of presentations etc. If one includes the graphics the site is over 25 Mbytes and contains 1500 files plus another 500 files which form part of Powerpoint Presentations.

Navigation and Standardisation of Format: Over the last year about 115 pages have had the navigation bars added and the formats standardised. these include all pages accessible from the Home Page, the whole of Uniquely New Zealand and all pages in the Travel and Diary Series.

Site Search: A site search was initially added to the Home Page with links from the navigation bar. This was provided as a free service by Netmind, and it worked very well over the last year then started to give problems in access at the same time as Netmind started to charge for parts of the Netmind Service.

The Search was moved to a new page and I have added a promising new Service from Atomz which provides Simple and Advanced search facilities and extensively customisation of the result presentation. It also provides a weekly email with a log of all the search strings used.

Google also provides a Site Search facility based on their excellent Web Search Engine and I have provide searches of the main and backup sites on the Search page.

The original site search used the META Tags for index terms and description. The Atomz search uses the text and displays the search phrases in context in the text - use of META tags is only available in the payed for versions. Google uses its own rankings and derives descriptions without use of META Tags in exactly the same way as for its WWW search.

Java popup Windows: We are standardising on a Java based function to allow pictures to "popup" in a window when an icon is clicked. This function minimises open windows and brings new pictures to the foreground automatically. A study of visitors shows that under 5% of visitors do not have Java or have Java deliberately disabled - they will only see the small icon.

New Pages: A number of new pages have been added many of which are accessible from the Home Page.

HTML Editors - HotDog Pro: I have obtained a free copy of HotDog Pro 5.5 on a cover disk from .Net. It is an excellent HTML editor and I now use it extensively on the new Dell which has a 19inch screen. It is at its best on a fast machine with a 1024 display allowing use of various tools such as a multiline clipboard and HTML reference to be in view. It, like Arachnophilia, uses Internet Explorer to provide an internal display so you can immediately see what you have done. It has a better spell checker than Arachnophilia and more reference information. It also has nice features such a the display of helpful information as you hover over any tag or a thumbnail if you hover over an image. HotDog Pro also allows you to choose various versions up to HTML 4 and which non standard extensions (Netscape and IE) which you want it to support. It however lacks one important tool, namely a global replace over all open files which is in Arachnophilia. If you can get the free version and have a big screen it is well worth installing - the upgrade at $20 to version 6.2 is less obvious so try the free one first. I find I now make very little use of WebEdit which only covers HTML 2.

12th September 2001

Navigation and Standardisation of Format: The process of adding navigation bars and standardising formats with appropriate title and background colours is now complete.

The Howto Page has been greatly improved with a series of tables and an index at the top to 5 sections.

A number of pages have minor updates added and there is one almost completely new and important Howto Article:

Overall another 60 pages have been updated in the last month.

It is however an ongoing task to keep up with external events and I have yet to reflect the trend towards consolidation and withdrawl of free services in several pages. In summary:

13th September 2001

Virus Checkers - Norton 2001 versus McAfee 4.0.3: Whilst I was writing the new page Virus Checkers - Configuration and Testing I realised that I did not have as good an understanding of the Norton Virus checkers which are in use on some of the machines that I look after - it comes preinstalled on Dell machines. I had a copy if Norton Internet Security provided free by Barclays Bank - many of the Banks are providing free security packages to try to persuade people on-line banking is really safe. I therefore installed it on by development disk drive ( I have a plug in C: drive on the Dell XPS 120 with two trays) and tested it and the procedures in the new web page. The package would not let me load the Virus checker without the Internet Security Firewall which prevents network operation so I had to unload ZoneAlarm first

Once I had Norton Internet Security Family Edition installed I found that it was actually two quite discrete packages and it was quite happy for me to unload the Security section! You must register before it will install but it does allow a printed paper registration process. This is a cheap way to get the Norton Virus Checker 2001 or update if you are registered for Internet Banking with Barclays. It also came with a year of free Virus data whilst the preinstalled versions seem to be limited to 3 months before you have to pay a nominal sum of about £4.00 a year and maybe Barclays will continue to issue updates.

I immediately ran its clever update process LiveUpdate which updated the program as well as the data files. Once the big initial update is complete it will download further updates in the background whenever you are 4.0 and install them (it gives an option to ask permission before carry out an update so you can keep track). This is a major advantage over McAfee 4.0.3 that I am running as the equivalent background downloading updates (Securecast) is now only available in the Enterprise (business to you) edition. The default configuration of Norton also gives better protection than McAfee 4.0.3 to email accounts present when you load but you have to then add any new ones which is easy to forget. I ran a complete machine scan which took nearly three hours because it checks within every compressed file so the total files checked was over 80,000.

Norton 2001 found the same Word Macro virus in two files which I was unaware of (WM.Wazzi.EC in Norton and W97M/Generic.dam in McAfee). They were two years old and from the OU which sends out student electronic TMAs in double zipped files (archives within archives) which McAfee does not seem to be able to reach down to. I checked from one level down with McAfee which then also found them. I checked on the site and found that the detection had only been recently added to McAfee, long after we had finished using them and the comments said that it was not a real virus but fragments left from a poor disinfection of a real virus by some early packages. McAfee said they had been forced to add it to the list because other virus checkers could not tell that it was a benign fragment and gave alerts so they were forced to do the same!

This was a warning that McAfee is not so thorough in the levels of checks and I have uploaded a double zipped file ( eicarzip.zip ) with the EICAR test virus for people to check their own systems. Interestingly McAfee found the virus within the nested archives on download from the Internet but not when manually scanned. Norton 2001 has a slight advantage on the Internet as it is capable of automatic heuristic checks on email which is not the case with McAfee VirusScan 4.0.3 . On balance I think that Norton 2001 may just have the high ground although I have not tried the new McAfee VirusScan 5 which I believe has better updating but the same scan engine.

25th September 2001

Virus and Security updates: The latest technical Howto article covering Virus Checkers - Configuration and Testing has proved very timely. Much time has been taken in updating my machines and those I look after because of the latest Virus alert for W32.nimda which can infect a PC through a variety of means, ranging from simply viewing an infected web page via a Microsoft browser without current security updates, to viewing a malicious email attachment in a preview pane in Outlook or opening it. I have had to download the security fixes to all the machines, in one case over 10 Mbytes of Critical Updates were identified when I went to the Windows Update site with each machine. Some of these are included if one installs the Service Pack 2 Internet Explorer 5.5 and does a custom install which has the Java update checked. IE5.5 SP2 is available on many cover CDs and I had fortunately bought the October 2001 .NET to get upgrades for an iMac.

McAfee: New virus data files were also needed for McAfee and W32.nimba has unfortunately exploited and highlighted a major shortfall in McAfee v 3.0.4 which will not allow you to define files with extensions over 3 characters long as program files - the only way round seems to be to configure it to check all files. This is very important as the virus can be picked up from .html files with malicious JavaScript. It looks like time to upgrade to the latest McAfee version 4.51 or 5.21 which should solve this problem - the latest version still uses the same 4.1.40 scan engine but has different update procedures for updates and in selecting files to scan.

Opera 5.12: The cover disk also had the Opera 5.12 Browser which I had been intending to download (10Mbytes) and install as a further check on my web pages. It seems excellent and it is easy to see why it is becoming so popular. The latest version has free option provided one accepts a small area displaying adverts at the top. This is inconvenient if one has a 800x640 screen but quite acceptable at 1024x768. It deserves a lot more investigation and it is easy to see why it is catching up Netscape in popularity and could easily pose a credible challenge to IE if avoids the security flaws which plague Microsoft software. It is small, very fast and has an excellent user interface.

JavaScript Popups: Readers of my Howto Technical Articles and my support pages for Small Firms will know that I try to avoid Java and Javascript as much as possible on web pages as the various browsers tend to be incompatible in their interpretation and some older browsers do not support it at all. Some users deliberately turn Java and Javascript off for security or to reduce intrusive adverts. Furthermore it reduces the chances of Search Engines indexing the pages correctly, if at all.

I have however been using JavaScript popup windows for displaying pictures when a thumbnail is clicked on many of my travel pages for several years. I recently found that one part of the script was not supported properly in early versions of Internet Explorer on the iMac. I have now made a slight simplification so only the most basic and well supported JavaScript is used and it now seems to be compatible with every version 4 and 5 browser from Microsoft and Netscape on PCs and iMacs as well as Opera 5.12. I hope it is also compliant with earlier Browser versions but have no way to check at present. I am working my way through the pages on the site implementing the change. I have produced a new Howto Article:

On a commercial site you do not want to alienate even the few percent with early browsers or those that have turned off JavaScript so it is sensible to add some code which checks the Browser version and warn and apologise if all the facilities will not be available. The following text in red is an example produced by some JavaScript I have generated which checks if the Browser version is less than 7 which should show up for everyone! Click for more details of your Browser If you can turn off JavaScript your should see another message. I intend to add this sort of code to pages where Java is important.

28th September 2001

VisuaRoute 4.2 I have had a series of odd problems with my web site during the time Freezone has been making various updates to servers and this culminated in occasions when access to the site went instead to another domain. This caused me to resurrect a program I had tried a while back called Visualroute which gives a tabular and graphics description of the routing to any domain name or numeric address and this showed that the domain name serve was producing two addresses one of which was for the incorrect name. It also gave some fascinating detail on the routing and number of hops, timings etc for any domain. Using a Freezone dial-up I was only 4 hops away but this increased to 16 via Genie! You could also do an instant whois on any server on route and it plotted on a world map. A recommended tool which I got free from an old .NET cover CD (75A), the latest versions should be at http://www.visualroute.com.

29th September 2001

Disaster strikes - the hard drive on my old Dell Pentium 120 died with no warning, it was not even recognised so the machine tried to boot on the next drive. It was in a removable tray and the other drive (the original from Dell) worked fine. I tried a direct connection to the EIDA connector, rather than through the tray, with no improvement so it seems as if I have lost everything on that drive. A good test of backup and partitioning procedures! I was firstly fortunate in that the machine had two drives and the second drive was OK and contained most of the Data Files - My Documents, My Teaching, My Backups and Exchange (with all the email and address folders), they had also been copied over the network to the other machine and recently been copied to CD. The files duplicated also included "My Programs" which had every downloaded program or patch installed on any of my machines. See my Howto Article on Back up Philosophy to find out more.

The secondary drive in the machine was already partitioned into two 2 Gbyte drives so the simplest thing to do was to tidy up and move all the data to the higher drive number and delete everything from the lower drive to allow me to change it to a primary drive and and install a new system. This only took a few minutes but I also backed up to the CD writer on the other machine for luck which took a bit longer. I also made a new startup Floppy for luck. Then off with the lid, a change of links so the drive was the primary drive and in with the floppy to boot up to DOS and see if it all looked OK and then in with the Windows CD to rebuild the system. This was ssllooww process with an old 4x CD reader and is covered in my Article on HowtoInstall or Rebuild a Windows 95/98 System so I will not go into details. Almost all the software was either on CDs or in My Programs so it was remarkable little trouble but a lot of time waiting for each reboot.

What have I lost and learnt. I lost most of the recent web history and favourites and web pages saved in desktop folders. I have lost some of the dictionaries and that is about all that I have found so far. Toolbars needed to be reconfigured and Email accounts and DUNs set up. First Lesson is to periodically export favourites and cookies to be saved in My Backups - I had ones from 6 months ago when I did an intentional rebuild after changing to FAT32. Second lesson is to only use the desktop for very temporary stuff, I have lost several web pages which I will have to Search out again. However it could have been much worse and I now have a clean and slightly faster system and can get another drive at my leisure. In 24 hours I was back to the same basic configuration with the old machine providing all access to the outside world.

4th October 2001

Tiscali: Tiscali are a large Internet Service and broadband telecoms provider with a major Internet backbone. They, after a series of takeovers own Telinco and it's backbone. It is important for fast Internet connections to have provider on one of the backbones such as Tiscali/Telinco, Energis, BT etc. I still use Telinco as a one of my ISPs but it has been some time since one could sign up directly. Telinco/Tiscali still provide a large portion of the services marketed under many familiar names - Lineone, Freezone, Screaming Net, World On-line, The Mutual and many more. I have recently signed up directly as I hope they will provide a reliable backup service and a large spare web space (50 Mbytes) and I wanted to update my pages covering ISPs and Telinco. I have taken their Classic Service which provides the usual free basic service (except for telephone bills) but they also do packages which also provide unlimited completely free access for a monthly payment.

It proved quick and simple to get up signed up and running. Registration is via the web site and requires a full name, address and telephone number and you chose a username and password. Your address for email is of the form username@tiscali.co.uk and web space is http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/username - this is not as flexible as Telinco used to be with an anything@username.telinco.co.uk and http://username.telinco.co.uk/ option but you do get a lot of web space. Once you have signed up you get to screens where you are asked to download and run an Internet Connection file which installs your DUN and accounts in Outlook Express which also looks as if it customises and changes your settings. I downloaded but did not run the file and changed it to a .txt file as it contains useful information on accounts etc and also your password for all to read. They also send an email with a restricted set of information on configuration again including your password. I tried their Webmail and forwarded it to my usual account to amke sure everything was working.

I set up the Dial Up Network Connection in the usual way and likewise an account in Outlook Express and Service in Outlook 98 with no problem. I also tried out their web mail. It was all very easy and quick. The Tiscali Web Site at http://www.tiscali.co.uk has all the information you need but it took a little while to find it although it seems more logical when you have identified the links. Follow My account on the top navigation bar to Internet Services which has then got you to the help and FAQ files. You need to go to Personal Web Space to activate the web space by following the Activate link (you need to be using a Tiscali Dial-up connection for this stage). The web space is then enabled but they warn it will lapse if you take more than three months to upload an index file or continue to use it on a similar time scale. They have examples of configuring and uploading using WS_FTP, my prefered free package. The whole process of activation and uploading took about 15 minutes including making a new account in WS_FTP, modifying my home page to have absolute links and creating a DUN. I see no reason why it should not replace Telinco as a basic fast reliable service with direct Internet backbone access with less quirks than other contenders such as Freeserve b- if they have problems so do many others who depend on them.

As those familiar with my style of working will realise the above write up is heading for a separate Tiscali Guide and Tips page to update/replace the existing Telinco Guide and Tips page where I have had to grey out large sections which are out of date.

6th December 2001

Another somewhat retrospective write up of what I have ebeen doing over the last 6 weeks.

Embedding Video in Web pages - with useful JavaScript snippets: I have been working hard to put some movies of "Flame Pictures" from various stoves onto the Theale Fireplaces Web Site where you can see some of the results - the link will open in a new window so you can return easily. This work has led to the gathering of considerable experience in the use of rather poorly described and documented techniques. It has also led to the gathering and writing of a number of useful JavaScript snippets to characterise the users machine so media can be deployed safely and to effectively control the video.

Video is arguably one of the most difficult things to include on a web page for several reasons, firstly a lack of common standards, secondly the huge data rate requirement and thirdly the processing power. The techniques used and described are not well supported by all browsers so when final pages are put together careful checks are needed to protect the user and to deploy the appropriate techniques. I have in parallel been documenting most of what I have been doing for the Howto Series of Technical Articles. The entry page gives warnings as I have deliberatly avoided inhibiting too many of the facilities so that the strengths and weaknesses of the techniques can be explored fully in different browsers. They should however work safely with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5 or higher and not cause significant problems in lower versions although some of the techniques may not work and addition software may need to be loaded. Have a look at Embedding Video in Web pages - with useful JavaScript snippets to see the result.

Internet Explorer 6.0: I have been forced into some upgrades tp my software so I can check the latest media and Java pages out. The main change has been to Internet Explorer 6. which I loaded off a cover disk. It seem to have some useful addition facilities and included media Player 7. in the install. Media Player has been further upgraded to 7.1 off the same cover disk.

McAfee VirusScan versions 5.21 and 6.0.1 I have also had a lot of potential problems with viruses as I have been intercepting up to 4 per day of W32.BadTrans@MM and others so I have been upgrading my Virus Checkers. McAfee for no good reason provided me with an opportunity to download the upgrade from 4.0.3 to 5.21 free in October just before version 6 came on the marke, I guess a mistake as they were upgrading the procedures but I was not going to turn it down when the Upgrade window poped up! The download was a huge 13 MBytes but was worthwhile as it improves the control of the scans. The Scan Engine and Data files remain the same for 4.0.3 through 5.21.1000 to 6.01.2000 but the control and update proceedures are considerably improved between versions and 6.01.2000 can be set to check file extensions longer than 3 such as .html which has become important. The other major improvement is in updating where weekly "differential" update files are used so it is very quick.

VirusScan 6.01: I have also bought a copy of the Standard VirusScan 6.01 for my own Dell XPS P120 machine and the Professional version for another Dell I look after. Installation as an upgrade was not as foolproof as I would have liked even though I uninstalled the earlier version and rebooted. One problem is that the boot scan locked on my Dell and I had to change the Autoexec.bat from a boot floppy before it would boot up. I am now using Scan.exe rather than the simpler Bootscan.exe for the initial checks as in the earlier versions. Version 6 has the ability to automatically check and update the data files when one is online but the programme that does that Rulaunch.exe seems to occasionally crash giving an error message, fortunately without further problems. The last problem is that it has not updated the Serial Number so my policy of bying a new version when it comes out for my Internet Interface machine and moving the earlier version down to the second Dell and on to the Toshiba has given me multiple copies of different generations but with the same Serial Number. It is almost impossible to get through to McAfee technical support but I got accidently put through to a consumer support where I was assured that the Serial Number did not matter.

Drive Reincarnation: Whilst testing out Internet Explorer prior to installing on my main machine I put one of my old drives into the plug in drive tray and had intermittent problems and it seems that it is an intermitent problem in the tray. The drives work when connected directly to the EIDA bus cables. The file system on the drive I had thought defunct had been damaged but the drive itself was OK and it has now been returned to service. I put it back as the slave and copied the Window and Program files directories across with all files in the root directory and then swopped it back to be the primary drive position. The only problem I found was that one could not copy the swop file which is huge 70 Mbytes because it is use but that does not matter as it is replaced on the reboot.

JavaScript Ramblings: As most visitors will have realised before reaching these pages I am not a fan of anything which makes it more difficult for the visitor or search engines in any way - sites should be clear, easy to navigate and fast. JavaScript and Cookies enable one to do some things in a better way than is possible with HTML alone but there is a considerable price to pay. Facilities are supported in different ways by different browsers and in some useful cases they are so lacking in compatibility that the only way is to try to work out the type and version of browser in use. The more I have experimented with JavaScript the more I have concluded it should be avoided where possible. I am therefore very restrictive in my use of JavaScript, especially as some used turn it off. The main use I make is in the provision of Popup Windows for larger pictures when one clicks on an icon. It is virtually impossible to handle pictures well without Popup and hence JavaScript - many sites leave no way out other than the back button when displaying larger pictures!

Using Cookies in Web pages Cookies are hated by many users who do not understand their purpose and mistrust them but they do have a real use. HTML and JavaScript originally had no way of holding onto information and passing it between pages or using it in multiple pages. This was deliberate decision to ensure confidetiallity and security when changing from one web site to another. It was quickly realised that this was too restrictive and the Cookie (Magic Cookie) was added to JavaScript. It holds information whilst you are visiting a site and is only accessible to pages on that site. They can be restricted to the life of the Browser Session and stored in mememory or they can be given an expiry date and stored on disk so they can be accessed again when the site is visited.

Both forms are useful - they allow a message to be displayed the first time the site is visited or a page is used rather than frustrating the user by repeating it every time. In the the less persistent form they can be used to pass information to a popup Window such as the Title to be displayed and the Picture to be shown. There are some other mechanisms which will do that for simple images but they break down for Embedded functions such as video.

There are a number of JavaScript Functions in the public domain which allow several variables to be simply stored and accessed but none did exactly what I wanted and/or were sufficiently independent of JavaScript/Browser versions - most sought elegance at the expense of independence. I have written some functions which may be less elegant but should be effective over a wide range of browsers and JavaScript versions from 1.0 onwards and have written it up on a new Howto page Using Cookies in Web pages - which has some useful JavaScript functions to handle all the awkward bits when one comes to set and get cookies.

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Content revised: 2nd August, 2020