Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Old Computers New Computers

I never get my hands on any really awesome computers. That's probably a very good thing too since I am basically a simple man. I'm not sure I'd be capable of even running a power house computer. But so far, that's worked out fine for me. Only the simplest of computers fit my budget and the same holds true for the few folks who ask me to help them with theirs. But I find even the simplest of computers daunting at times. Yesterday was a case in point.
On Monday, I went to the big city (Bangor is big here in Maine) and bought the components of a basic home network to expand on my recent addition of DSL to our home. I bought a basic "Wireless -B" router with 4-port Ethernet switch, wireless PCI card, and wireless USB adapter, all three made by Linksys. Monday night I found that I couldn't get the router configured without tech support from Verizon. Nothing in the Verizon documentation that came with the DSL modem related to the technicalities of hooking up a router for home networking and I couldn't find anything at the Verizon website about it either. Tuesday morning I called the Verizon tech support line and was walked through the router setup. It's simple if you know the settings, impossible if you don't.
Then it was time for the wireless adapters. I installed the wireless PCI card first in my daughter's Windows 98 computer. What seemed like it should be a simple operation, install the card, install the drivers from the CD, turned out to be something close to impossible. First, if I had read the instructions, it was 1, install the software and then 2, install the card. So I had to undo what I had done and do it the Linksys way. But that failed too because after the card was installed the second time, Windows "found new hardware" and demanded that I give it the Windows 98 CD which is nowhere to be found. I don't think there ever was one for this PC. It came with a restore disk instead and the install wizard doesn't know what to do with that disk. But despite my failure, the wireless link does occasionally work. My task, though, is to obtain a Windows 98 SE CD and attempt the driver installation again.
After that, I attempted to hook up the USB wireless adapter to my own computer. I got this adapter to free my computer from the DSL modem but also to allow me to connect any computer that I might bring home to work on to the DSL modem. It appears that this isn't as easy as it seems it should be. The router won't connect this adapter to the Internet unless I set a fixed IP address and state the router's network IP address in the TCP/IP properties control panel for this adapter. Obtaining an IP address automatically just doesn't seem to work on this thing. But with those settings I was finally able to connect to the Internet using the wireless USB adapter.
Then I had trouble when I disconnected that adapter and reconnected the Ethernet card to the router's 4-port switch. It took a few runs through the Internet Explorer "Internet Connection Wizard" and at least one reboot of the computer to get that back in operation and even then the Internet was slow for awhile before the dust finally settled. I suppose there must be some way to set the TCP/IP addresses, DNS, Gateway, fixed network IP, all that jazz. But it looks like maybe I'll need to make a call to the Linksys tech support to get it all figured out. I won't do it, though, until I have a good solid shopping list of problems needing solutions. There seem to be enough problems to warrant a list.
Then there are the struggles I'm having at the public library. One is simple enough. I replaced an old computer that is used to check books in and out at the front desk. The first problem I encountered was that I couldn't seem to locate a driver for the 15-inch flat panel display. Nothing I tried worked including drivers downloaded from the Samsung website. Somehow I managed to get the computer in a condition where I couldn't switch out of VGA 16 color mode no matter what I did. The solution, wipe the hard drive clean and start over. Fortunately I had another hard drive to copy so that was easy enough.
But then another problem surfaced. Neither the original nor the replacement computers had sound cards but the library software uses bleeping sounds at critical moments of the barcode scanning process. The sounds are made by the system speaker. Unfortunately, the new computer didn't have an actual on-board speaker, only a weak little transducer soldered to the motherboard. It wasn't loud enough for the librarians to hear the warning bleeps.
I got the bright idea that if I installed a sound card and speakers in the new PC, the library catalog software would use that instead of the internal system sound. But even with the sound card installed, configured, and operating, the library software wouldn't pick it up and I couldn't fine any setup to switch it over. So that meant a call for technical assistance. After a quarter hour or more on the phone, we concluded that, as we say here in Maine, "You can't get theyah from heyah." It isn't supported.
My solution, take out the new PC and box it up in the storage room and put the old one back. The librarians are happy. I am happy. Problem solved. But I haven't discussed the solution with the library administrator yet. Maybe it isn't solved quite yet. Is there any way to get Windows to send all the low-level system sounds over to the sound card?
Then there's the Outlook Express or Outlook email client problem. I want to set up a system where the head librarian can access her email on two or more computers, accessing her mail from a common source, a secure shared folder on the main server. Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, forbids this in Outlook Express. According to all sources that I have found, it just can't be done even if the shared folder is mapped to a drive letter. Apparently the Outlook Express designers did this deliberately.
So I needed to find some way to export from Outlook Express, or Import in Outlook, all of the mail, then place the Outlook .pst file in the shared folder and see if Outlook would access that file across the network. I had problems:
1. Figuring out how to export/import to do the upgrade. It is possible but burried several layers deep in Outlook. God forbid that anyone should have more than one profile in Outlook Express too since the Import wizard doesn't seem to provide any navigation tools to locate the desired hard drive location and file set. It just locates a set and does the import no questions asked.
2. Figuring out how to relocate the Outlook mail file, the .pst file, to move it into the shared folder. Once again, Outlook just doesn't have the built in navigation tools to work with file locations. The solution is to move the .pst file in Windows with Outlook not running. Next time Outlook is run it says, to the effect, "Hey I can't find the file. What did you do with it?" Then it lets you browse Windows-style to find the file. What a clever way to accomplish things. Messy too!
3. Figuring out why, after I had succeeded in sharing the one common mailbox location with two computers across this network share, Outlook would not allow me to send or receive mail on the workstation. It keeps complaining that there is some registry problem with Internet Mail and I should remove and reinstall Internet Mail. Huh? Just how do I go about doing that? Neither Windows nor Outlook nor the books I have about these products nor the help systems give me even a hint what this is talking about or how to solve it. I moved the .pst file onto the workstation's hard drive, but that didn't solve the problem. I deleted and recreated the mail account but that didn't solve it. So it goes deeper than that. I am thinking that I might need to uninstall and reinstall Outlook itself. Can I do that without having to reinstall the whole Microsoft Office package? Time will tell. Meanwhile, that problem simmers.
So you see, it's probably a good thing that I don't have complex computer systems to tangle with. Even the simple ones challenge me beyond belief.

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